Apocalyptic Fiction 101

August 25, 2015 Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 31

Greetings Bookworms!

Today I’m putting on the professor hat I will likely never wear otherwise and curating a list of books for my pretend syllabus. This is all the fault of The Broke and the Bookish who prompted the book blogosphere to create a syllabus for their imaginary master class in a certain genre. Or something like that. Let’s go back to school with some apocalyptic fiction, y’all. It’s Top Ten Tuesday!

Now, before I get to the listing, I would like to point out that this list of books has to do with apocalypse scenarios and the immediate aftermath. This DOES NOT include dystopian societies. All the scary government rules, policed reproduction, oppression, and death sports will be covered next semester.

apocalyptic fiction

1. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (review): This book is the perfect primer. It was written during the Cold War and deals (unsurprisingly) with the aftermath of a nuclear war. A poignant view of the human condition, Frank’s classic totally holds up. A lack of electricity is truly the great equalizer.

2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (review): I’m toting out the big guns early in the semester because this level of bleakness explored after daylight savings time ends is a recipe for severe Seasonal Affective Disorder. We never really learn what disaster befell humanity, but McCarthy’s stark portrayal of the aftermath is haunting.

3. The Stand by Stephen King (review): Any list of apocalyptic novels that doesn’t include The Stand will get the side eye from me, I’ll tell you what. Far and away my favorite King novel, the story of Captain Tripps and what lies beyond is masterful. Even if it does stray a little into the supernatural. A lot of apocalypse tales do. Stay tuned, folks.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (review): This book was the darling of the literary world for good reason. In case you needed more of a reason to stock up on hand sanitizer, another flu pandemic decimates the world’s population. Mandel’s novel takes a fascinating look at the role of art in rebuilding society.

5. California by Eden Lepucki (review): Just when you think it’s a good idea to go completely off the grid and fend for yourself in the woods, California offers a troubling portrayal of societal breakdown and the fact that it’s nearly impossible to escape.


6. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (review): I know it’s fully supernatural. Vampires happen and ONE DUDE is left. There’s a reason this book has been around for as long as it has, you guys! And seriously, don’t judge the book based on the movie in this case. I mean, I love Will Smith as an action hero as much as the next gal, but it wasn’t a great adaptation.

7. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (review): It’s not the flu and it’s not a monster that takes aim at humanity this time. It’s Earth. The rotation of the planet decides to slow the heck down which wreaks utter havoc on the fabric of society. Told from the perspective of a 12 year old girl, this novel will hit you in the feels.

8. The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey (review): Yes, more supernatural stuff. But only because it’s AMAZING. Zombies and evolution and science and disease and WHOA.

9. MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood (review): You didn’t think this list would be without Atwood, did you?! This trilogy is insanely good what with the human foibles ultimately leading to their own destruction. This is a wee bit of a hybrid because the society pre-breakdown was traipsing into dystopia territory, but the aftermath was pure apocalypse. Seriously, check it out.

10. World War Z by Max Brooks (review): I know I talk about zombies and this book in particular a lot, but it’s simply one of the best of its kind. When your friends and neighbors suddenly think it’s a good idea to feast upon your flesh, crazy shiznit is bound to go down.

apocalypse2Tell me, dear Bookworms, did I leave anything excellent and apocalyptic out of my syllabus? Also, what haven’t I read in this genre that I should? 

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31 Responses to “Apocalyptic Fiction 101”

  1. Erin

    Great list! Still haven’t read California, but obviously I need to get on that. A few more suggestions: Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, Far North by Marcel Theroux, and The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. All very different, but equally amazing.

    • Words For Worms

      I read The Dog Stars and liked it but didn’t looooooooooove it. I’ve been meaning to tackle The Earth Abides and holy cow an Octavia Butler? That’s going on the TBR right this minute.

    • Words For Worms

      Interesting, I don’t delve much into YA because it’s so cluttered with dystopias- are those titles awesome? I assume they are or you wouldn’t have recommended them, right?

    • Words For Worms

      I had it on the list originally, but swapped it out for The Girl With All the Gifts. I still haven’t read The Twelve, I want to wait until the final installment is released so I can binge!

  2. Megan M.

    I just haven’t read any apocalypse novels. I read a YA zombie novel called This Is Not A Test, but it was just okay for me. I guess the Wayward Pines trilogy would count, too, although I’ve only watched the show.

    Did you watch Fear the Walking Dead? What did you think?

    • Words For Worms

      I totally watched Fear the Walking Dead. I was underwhelmed. There were some elements I liked, but there was so much exposition it was kind of boring. I know a lot of people complain that there’s too much talking and not enough brain eating in TWD, but I’ve never felt that way and I still thought FTWD was boring. I’m hoping the show just got off to a slow start. I’ll keep watching it for a while anyway. I mean, it’s not like there’s anything else on right now anyway.

      • Megan M.

        Yeah. Same. They’d already said that FTWD would have a slower pace than the original, but it was still pretty meh. It’s only gonna be 6 episodes I think, so we’ll probably watch the whole season but I’m not excited about what we’ve seen so far.

  3. Rhian

    Oh dear, I’ve only read 4/10. I’m hoping for some extra credit with the following suggestions.

    On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I read this around the same time as Earth Abides and was slightly down for a while.

    The Postman by David Brin. I haven’t seen the movie, but this is a classic of the genre.

    The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant. With zombies!

    Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Technically apocalyptic, but really hard sci fi and really long.

    The Ark by Annabel Smith. Unique storytelling style and Aussie (oi, oi, oi!)

    Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey. As well as an interesting story, I like the way the trilogy is constructed.

    Vanishing Point by Michaela Roessner. Supernatural elements and the Winchester Mystery House.

    Emberverse I Trilogy by S M Stirling. Very Society for Creative Anachronism, the series extends beyond the first three books but they stand quite well on their own.

  4. Trish

    I didn’t realize that some of these were post-apocalyptic! I guess that’s the bad part of not reading book summaries before reading the book. 😉 I think I have the audio for Age of Miracles and I really need to catch up with Atwood’s trilogy. I just listened to one called A Gift Upon the Shore that would fit the bill–talked a lot about religion and how different sects formed after a nuclear winter. Good stuff!

  5. Lost in Literature

    Oh my gosh! The Stand! I still have such a reaction to it!

    You’ve listed a handful that have been on my TBR for a long time. Now I’m all inspired. The Road is coming up soon!

  6. Samantha

    I NEED to get to the MaddAddam trilogy soon. Margaret Atwood is just brilliant anyway and I’ve heard such good things about it.

    The Stand is one of my favorite books of all time. It is so well-written and the characters…that’s something that Stephen King does REALLY well in his books. I also recently read Station Eleven, and it was funny that Station Eleven reminded me of The Stand, but it’s also so different on its own. Love the list!

  7. AMB

    Station Eleven really does sound amazing. I haven’t read it yet (despite my husband’s recommendation!).

    Great list!

  8. Jenny @ Reading the End

    PATRICK NESS’S CHAOS WALKING BOOKS. I know you aren’t doing YA apocalypse novels, but if you WERE you would definitely want to include Patrick Ness on that list. God I love those books.

    • Words For Worms

      I loved this series! I didn’t really think of it as apocalyptic because of spoiler specific reasons, but it was so wonderful I’m glad you mentioned it!

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