This Is the Way the World Ends

Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Post-Apocalyptic Fiction:


Mary Shelley wrote The Last Man eight years after Frankenstein, on returning to England from Italy after her husband Percy's death. It is the twenty-first century, and England is a republic governed by a ruling élite, one of whom, Adrian, Earl of Windsor, has introduced a Cumbrian boy to the circle. This outsider, Lionel Verney, narrates a tale of complicated, tragic love, and of the gradual extermination of the human race by plague.

The Last Man also functions as an intriguing roman-à-clef, for the saintly Adrian is a monument to Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his friend Lord Raymond is a portrait of Byron. The novel offers a vision of the future that expresses a reaction against Romanticism, as Shelley demonstrates the failure of the imagination and of art to redee her doomed characters.


An instant classic upon its original publication in 1949 and winner of the first International Fantasy Award, Earth Abides ranks with On the Beach and Riddley Walker as one of our most provocative and finely wrought post-apocalyptic works of literature. Its impact is still fresh, its lessons timeless.

When a plague of unprecedented virulence sweeps the globe, the human race is all but wiped out. In the aftermath, as the great machine of civilization slowly, but inexorably, breaks down, only a few shattered survivors remain to struggle against the slide into barbarism...or extinction.

This is the story of one such survivor, Isherwood "Ish" Williams, an intellectual loner who embraces the grim duty of bearing witness to what may be humanity's final days. But then he finds Em, a wise and courageous woman who coaxes his stunned heart back to life and teaches him to hope again. Together, they will face unimaginable challenges as they sow the seeds of a new beginning.


The Chyrsalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God’s creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction—unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes, that Wild Country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work. David grows up ringed by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.

At first he does not question. Then, however, he realizes that the he too is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce h im to a new, hitherto unimagined world of freedom.

The Chrysalids is a perfectly conceived and constructed work form the classic era o science fiction, a Voltairean philosophical tale that has as much resonance in our own day, when religious and scientific dogmatism are both on the march, as when it was written during the cold war.


Via Wikipedia:

The Giver is a 1993 soft science fiction novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the previous receiver—the "Giver"—he is confused in many ways. The Giver is also able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and lying to people of the community. As Jonas receives the memories from the Giver, he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they don't know of a better life but the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community, his family living a shallow life without love, color, choices and knowledge or should he run away to where he can live a full life?


Once the safest, most prosperous place on earth, the United States is now a barren, lawless, scantly populated wasteland. Across the country, families have packed up their belongings to travel eastward toward the one hope left: passage on a ship to Europe.

Franklin Lopez is only days away from the ocean when an injury forces him to stop. He comes upon an isolated hovel, where he finds Margaret, a woman suffering from a deadly infection and confined to The Pesthouse to sweat out her fever. The two join forces, and make their way through the stark ruins of old America.

A compelling novel that imagines an America devastated by disease and famine, where the only hope for survival lies in passage overseas.


Nevil Shute’s most powerful novel—a bestseller for decades after its 1957 publication—is an unforgettable vision of a post-apocalyptic world.

After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from somewhere near Seattle, and Captain Towers must lead his submarine crew on a bleak tour of the ruined world in a desperate search for signs of life. Both terrifying and intensely moving, On the Beach is a remarkably convincing portrait of how ordinary people might face the most unimaginable nightmare.

This is also a really, really good movie starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.


The searing, post-apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-—and each other.The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.


Via Novelist:

For all Robert Neville knows, he may be the last nonvampire in the world. He does know he is immune to the bacterium that has transformed seemingly everyone else. Assuming he can't be the only one who is immune, he reconnoiters for other normal humans by day and staves off the vampires in his barricaded house by night. If this plot sounds familiar, that is because George A. Romero adapted it to create the first postmodern horror movie "Night of the Living Dead."


Remember remember the fifth of November / Gunpowder, treason and plot. / I see no reason why gunpowder, treason / Should ever be forgot...

In an alternate future in which Germany wins World War II and Britain becomes a fascist state, a vigilante named "V" tries to free England of its ideological chains.

And if you'd rather not read the graphic novel, then check out (if you haven't already) the very good (shut up, Mr. Moore) movie adaptation starring Elrond - erm, I mean - Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman.


An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl—and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

Click here for my review of The Passage.

Comments

Great list as usuall mate...loving the last man, a real must read :)
DeepBlue said…
And I thought I was a bulimic reader!!! ;)
Writer said…
Apparently, a coworker did a presentation at KPLA (library thing) on post-apolocaplyptic fiction, so now we're getting a lot of it in. Today we got Day of the Triffids, dhalgren, and something by Larry Niven. Enjoy, David. :)
Writer said…
I don't know if I count as bulimic, DeepBlue: I tend to have more checked out and on hand than I ever actually read. :)

Popular Posts