We are wrapping up our Online Book Discussion series – I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far! Today we’re hearing from Deborah, who is our resident Post-Apocalyptic Literature expert. She’s shared with us some of the titles that she enjoys; tell us your favorite in the comments below, and we may send you a coffee mug. (One random winner will be chosen next week.)
There’s still time to enter the drawing to win our Summer Reading Program prizes: a Kindle and an iPad will be given away on August 3! Find the details about our Summer Reading Program on our website.
What is Post Apocalyptic Literature?
Plagues, nuclear annihilation, viruses, environmental catastrophes, electromagnetic pulses, alien invasions, or something unexplained, the result is the same: the end of civilization and its effect on man and society.
What do you like about this genre? Post Apocalyptic fiction focuses on a core group of people and how they survive the consequences of a civilization-ending cataclysmic event. It examines the physical, mental, spiritual, and moral state of mankind when all our safety nets and social conventions are stripped away. While this genre certainly is not for everyone, it is interesting to explore how such a drastic change affects individuals and society. It’s true that the subject matter is grim and can be depressing to some but I look at the event itself as incidental to the story. What really makes this genre interesting to me is the development of the characters, how they react to the event. Books in this genre are also interesting in that they often reflect the overriding fear of the time: nuclear war, plague, environmental disaster.
In the Genre:
What was your favorite book when you were young? I have always been drawn to horror stories, and what’s more frightening to contemplate than the end of the world? On The Beachby Nevil Shute gave me nightmares because at the time it hit very close to home and seemed a very real possibility.
Name one of your favorite books. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006). A man and his son make a treacherous journey through a bleak, lifeless landscape. Almost all life has been destroyed through some unspecified, cataclysmic event. They struggle to survive in a world where most remaining humans have abdicated decency and morality in order to survive. While certainly a relentlessly grim tale, the father’s love for his son and his fierce determination for his son to survive make this a hopeful and moving story. Not for every reader, this book has a few scenes of graphic violence, and some may find the subject matter disturbing. But for those who like post-apolyptic/dystopian fiction, this is a great book. The Road won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007 and was adapted as a film in 2009.
Other books :
Earth Abides by George Stewart (1949) A young man emerges from a mountain cabin to find most of the population wiped out by disease.
A Canticle for Liebowitz by Arthur Miller (1960). Centuries after global nuclear war, an order of cloistered monks in the southwestern desert preserve the remnants of man’s knowledge that survived the holocaust. Considered a classic science fiction novel, it won the 1961 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.
On The Beach by Nevil Shute ( 1957). Australians await the inevitable radioactive cloud after nuclear war has destroyed the rest of the world. This book is chilling in its realism, and characters’ acceptance of their fate, going about their normal lives as much as possible, refusing to flee. As a teenager growing up during the Cold War era, this book and the movie based on it haunted me for years.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954). Richard Neville has survived a pandemic which turned most humans into zombie/vampire-like creatures. Scavenging for supplies during the day and barricading himself inside his house during the night, he must protect himself from the hoards of vampires which try to ways inside his home. This book has been adapted for film several times (1961: The Last Man On Earth, 1971: The Omega Man, 2007: I Am Legend.)
These books are considered classics of post apocalyptic fiction. There are many more, and lists abound; check Goodreads. It’s also a very popular theme in young adult literature. More recent works in this genre include The Stand by Stephen King, Passage by Justin Cronin, and World War Z by Max Brooks.