It’s Nevil Shute’s birthday this week, born 17th January 1899 so paying homage to ‘On the Beach’ here’s a selection of post apocalyptic fiction from the 40’s to 2014 – all in stock so you can read anything that takes your fancy.
Books from the 1950s tended to reflect worries about communism and nuclear war. In the 1980s, plague and danger from space were concerns. Now, we’re worried about everything: war, viruses, genetically modified humans, natural global disasters, computers running the world. Of course there are lots of Young Adult books in this genre but we’ve just included one in the list.
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart 1949 The story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. Written in at the beginning of the Cold War, ‘it lacks some common post-apocalyptic conventions found in later novels: no warlords or biker gangs (as in Mad Max); there is no fear of atomic weapons or radiation; no mutants and no warring tribes’. Stephen King says Earth Abides was an inspiration for his post-apocalyptic novel, The Stand, see below.
The Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham 1951 A classic of the genre. It traces the fate of the world after most of the world’s population are blinded by a comet shower. The few left with sight must struggle to reconstruct society while fighting mobile, flesh-eating plants called Triffids.
Arthur C. Clarke called it an “immortal story.” Director Danny Boyle says the opening hospital sequence inspired Alex Garland to write the screenplay for 28 Days Later.
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke 1953 Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends–and then the age of Mankind begins…Childhood’s End is often regarded by both readers and critics as Clarke’s best novel and has been described as “a classic of alien literature.”
I am Legend by Richard Matheson 1954 By day, Robert Neville, the last living human being, hunts the sleeping undead vampires. By night he barricades himself in and prays he’ll survive. How long can it be before he joins the undead too.
On the beach by Nevil Shute 1957 Like all the best post-apocalypse stories, the famous and well-respected On the Beach examines ordinary people facing nightmare scenarios. In this case, a mixed group of people in Melbourne await the arrival of deadly radiation spreading towards them from the northern hemisphere following a nuclear war. Sad at the end
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. 1959 This is Miller’s first and only novel, but he didn’t hold back: it spans thousands of years, chronicling the rebuilding of civilization after an apocalyptic event. Despite early reviewers that called Miller a “dull, ashy writer guilty of heavy-weight irony,” it’s never been in print for over 50 years and made the Best 23 Science Fiction Books of All Time list.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 1963 A satiric look at the arms race, religion, technology, and just being human, it features Vonnegut’s famous creation, ice-nine, a special kind of solid ice that turns all liquid water it touches into more ice-nine.
Writer and critic Theodore Sturgeon gave it one of the best reviews of any book, ever: “[A]ppalling, hilarious, shocking, and infuriating…this is an annoying book and you must read it. And you better take it lightly, because if you don’t you’ll go off weeping and shoot yourself.”
The Stand by Stephen King 1978 First came the days of the plague, then came the dreams. Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil. His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood 2004 Atwood doesn’t consider Oryx and Crake to be Scifi because it does not deal with “things that have not been invented yet.” Instead, she categorizes it as “adventure romance.” !! It features the effects of genetic engineering, climate change run wild, and primitive semi-humans. Oryx and Crake’s sequel is The Year of the Flood
World War Z: an oral history of the zombie war by Max Brooks 2006 It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. A world still reeling from bird flu and limited nuclear exchanges had had enough of apocalypse. Based on interviews with survivors and key players in the fightback against the horde, this title brings various traditions of American journalism to bear on an incredible story
The Road by Cormac McCarthy 2006 A nameless son and father wander a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth. The novel won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and critics have called it “heartbreaking,” “haunting,” and “emotionally shattering.”
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 2009 It’s YoungAdult but rated 5* by over 100 Leeds readers. 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before and survival, for her, is second nature
Sleepless by Charlie Huston 2010 Parker T. Haas is a straight-arrow LAPD cop whose cast iron sense of right and wrong has made him a lone wolf on the force. But when a plague of sleeplessness attacks Los Angeles and the world beyond, his philosophical certainties are tested to destruction
Wool by Hugh Howey 2011 In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.
“The biggest influence on me was probably Fraggle Rock. As a kid, I couldn’t get enough of the intro to that show, which revealed an entire world underground.” – Hugh Howey
The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey 2014 Review by filmmaker Joss Whedon: “The story spirals towards a conclusion so surprising, so warm and yet so chilling, that it takes a moment to realize it’s been earned since the first page, and even before. It left me sighing with envious joy, like I’d been simultaneously offered flowers and beaten at chess. A jewel.”
The Remaining by D J Molles 2014 In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the population. The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed. Soon the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his mission: rescue and rebuild
The current Golden Age started in 2004 – The “Pop score” is the number of Amazon stars multiplied by number of reviews