Top 10 Apocalyptic Books

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 1:03 PM By Simon , In , , , , ,

...for me, anyway.

10) The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Come on, how could I not have The Road on here? Yes, it's so very obvious, but it deserves it's notoriety, damn it! So, I compromised and put it at the end.

9) Amnesia Moon by Jonathon Lethem
Now, is it so wrong to think the best books have no plot? In his sophomore book, Lethem creates a world where nobody can agree on anything except that there was a disaster. There are maybe hundreds of different little worlds, all disconnected from each other, all in their own flavor of post-apocalyptic. We follow a man named Chaos (or is it Everett?) as he escapes his Book of Eli town with a mutant girl, and, as he coasts the landscape of what was once America, he struggles with his own memories, or lack thereof. This may not be one of the obvious books one would use to question your own reality, but it does make one question just how sure they are of their memories. Trippy, beautifully trippy, opaque, creative and sometimes darkly funny.

8) Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
It doesn't start out as an end-of-the-world thing, and it might be a tad spoilerish to say so, but oh-fucking-well. We follow the lives of a group of close, 70s friends after pill-popping, maybe-prophet Karen, the eponymous girlfriend of Our Hero Richard, who is also the father of the baby the two conceived the night before she OD'd. The baby is born without a hitch, and we now have another main character to survive an apocalypse where, just a few weeks after Karen wakes up from her 18-year sleep, everybody in the world falls asleep and dies, in a few chapters of glorious chaos. The way the book does it's heel-face-turn is slightly reminiscent of From Dusk Till Dawn, but at least here it's foreshadowed in the claims by Karen, both pre and post coma, that she's been having dreams that she's upset someone on The Other Side. Also, their dead friend Jared serves as an otherwordly sometimes-narrator during the entire eighteen years. So, yeah, it's that kind of book. This is a strange book, jumping from coming-of-age story with a bunch of hopeless chumps (but in an endearing way), to supernatural, to post-apocalyptic, to redemption story. But throughout, there is a constant crawl up your spine...a certain ominous feeling that this is not it, there's more, some shit's going cetera.

7) Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Not technically apocalyptic, more dystopian. A YA novel about a world where, in a compromise between pro-lifers and pro-choicers, the government allows children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen to be signed away by their caretakers to be 'unwound'--their organs (or 99.7% of them) harvested as transplants (because as long as the organs are technically alive, it's not murder, or something). The book follows three teenagers all signed away--one by his parents for his rebellious attitude, one by her orphanage for not 'living up to her potential', and one in a religious ritual. They escape and go on the run from government for the right to keep their souls. I read this a long time ago, but it's always been one of my favorites for it's unique look on how far these arguments could escalate, and the characters, who are all well thought out and entertaining. Sure, you could get hung up over the question of "Who the fuck thought this was a good idea?" but I try not to.

6) Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum
Borrowed from my darling sister Danielle, this follows a man during the zombie apocalypse, who's army he quickly joins. An interesting perspective on a cliched scenerio, both in the lyrical poetry and the POV of a zombie, who are apparently not so mindless, just very, very hungry. Became heartbreaking at times as he described the carnage and chaos around him with the apathetic monotone of a starving dog watching his friends take down a cat. He is no longer capable of apathy for this race he's no longer a member of, and his vague memories of humanity leave no hesitation in him.

5) Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
Again, it's not immediately obvious that this is at least dystopian. It's made like an oral biography of the late Rant Casey, a farm boy turned Party Crasher, a loose-knit group of Nighttimers (people who can only go outside at night, or get fined) who crash into each other's cars, with a set rule system. There are many interesting thoughts in this book--the subject of time travel, how to become immortal, an ultimate type of segregation, but seperating people into timecodes. But maybe the most interesting aspect is the dead protaganist. Though not there, we are taken through his life step-by-step, the both foreshadowing and mysterious circumstances around his birth, his obsession with animal bites, his many conquests, the rabies infection he unleashed both in his town and in the city he moves to, where he is immediately placed as a Nighttimer, and all thereafter. Even as one reads him growing up, he still remains the stuff of legend, thanks to the many different perspectives given through the chronologically-placed interviews from people who knew him, experts in fields, people who were affected by him, and simple bystanders who've heard of him. It's not dystopian, but this book is still reall fucking good.

4) The Compound by S.A. Boden
A YA about a teenager living in an underground bunker with his family, sans twin brother and grandmother, after a supposed nuclear holocaust. After years underground, supplies begin to run low, and tensions rise between the family and their obscenely rich and possibly insane patriarch, who may not be telling the whole truth. Far from the usual post-apocalyptic nuclear novel, in which the protaganists will either have been underground, but came out before the start, or were just pretty damn lucky, this takes place mostly in the decked-up bunker, leaving no pot elements but the character's interactions with each other. On top of the main thriller storyline, the main character, Eli, also toils over his last moments with his brother, in a way that's only slightly whiny-emo.

3) Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
Divided into three parts, the first being the originally published novella, the other two being related attachments. About a slightly dystopian future in which genetic engineering as become a reality, and an experimental proceedure is put on 21 fetuses. If successful, they'll never have to sleep in their lifetimes. Shocker, it works, and the twenty (one baby was thrown out the window by it's sleep-deprived mother) grow up to be geniuses far more advanced by their normal classmates. The youngest of them, Leisha, is our hero for the first book. As they age, and multiply, they find themselves facing discrimination for their intellect and advantages. In the first book alone, laws, one by one, are passed, further discriminating against the Sleepless, until they are finally demmed non-human. A sci-fi classic, I think.

2) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
A comedy and quasi-parody novel about the birth of the son of Satan, the upcoming Armeggeddon, and the attempts of angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley to stop it, along with a wide array of supporting characters. All of my thoughts and feelings toward Good Omens can be summed up with: "Someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist..."

1) The Oblivion Society by Marcus Alexander Hart
The trials of a group of inempt twenty-somethings as they try to navigate the newly-nuked United States, fighting off mutant rats and trying to not freeze to death. Absolutely my favorite book ever. I think I reviewed it at some point.


Anonymous said...

Girlfriend in a Coma - I like the sound of that! Nice to see Gaiman getting a mention. My last Gaiman-related purchase was the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book.

May 14, 2010 at 3:49 PM
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December 1, 2012 at 11:59 PM