February 12, 2013

Love of Reading: End of the World? I'll Take it!

I also have a sneaking fondness for dystopic fiction, but usually of the YA variety. Ahem. Check out Nikki Steele's amazing round-up of more highbrow post-apocalyptic fiction. (I love what she says about "poor cardio endurance" - me to a T!) Make sure to check out Nikki's blog: BookPairing; and don't forget to read the rest of the Love of Reading Week 2013 posts.

I love post-apocalyptic novels.

It’s a pretty basic recipe: take a superflu/virus/infection that may or may not be created by the Army or a natural disaster that, likewise, may or may not have been created by the Army and you have the beginnings of a post-apocalyptic novel.

No matter how straightforward the catalyst, the post-apocalyptic genre just scratches that perfect reading itch for me every time. The genre in itself is terrifying, atrocious, brutal, and yet, as a self-proclaimed optimist, I love them. Why?

I think it started with Watership Down. You know that book with the cute rabbit on the cover with the golden sunset? Totally post-apocalyptic. When I read that book in 6th grade, I first felt like a grown-up reader. It was about rabbits, yes, but they were doing heroic things, making decisions based on personal rabbit-y values of integrity and trust, and being pushed to their limits every time.

I read post-apocalyptic novels now because, while I don’t like reading the violence, it does make the true strength and goodness that is inherent in people shine out more brightly with the contrast. As Stephen King so brilliantly shows in his post-apocalyptic epic, The Stand, those horrid situations would create sides where people have to choose between “good” or “evil.” Like most of the post-apocalyptic authors, I tend to think the good side squeaks ahead every time.

Besides this, these novels demand other questions: What ingenuity would we have to tap into to live in a world destroyed? How would we choose who to trust? Would we lose the people we had been before? Could I make it with my meager knowledge of canning food and poor cardio endurance?

If this is all sounding pretty good to you, may I suggest a handful of recommendations? There are the classic post-apocalypses (The Stand, I Am Legend, Alas Babylon, and A Canticle for Leibowitz) but for some more contemporary choices, try out:

  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller: One man journeys from his safe area in Colorado to contact a person he heard broadcasting on the radio three years ago.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Absolute complete destruction of the human race told from the tight focused perspective of a father and his son.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: Genetically modified animals and humans run amok in the world created by Crake and now tended by the last man alive, Snowman.
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin: While many of the world’s people are turned to vampires, small batches of people left alive fight against them…for centuries.
  • Blindness by José Saramago: A quick-moving, unexplained blindness sweeps through a city that is then quarantined before whatever is causing it can escape into the rest of the world.

What are your favorite post-apocalyptic reads?

Pssst: don't forget that you can link up your love-of-reading posts in only 2 days! What are you going to write about? Also, this post contains Amazon affiliate links.