Updated: Mar 6, 2018
Authors have done a pretty bang up job figuring out how miserable the world will be when it all comes crashing down.
Out there among the masses are people that are convinced the world will end any day now. The media has made it abundantly clear we're all doomed. I think the normal reaction would be to grab your family tight and enjoy those final days.
Instead here's a list of books you can read to ignore your loved ones when fire and brimstone is lighting your backyard on fire.
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road follows the post apocalyptic journey of a father and son as they struggle to survive against what the world has become. The author cleverly leaves the reasons behind why the world ended vague and instead focuses on the struggles faced by a single father.
The madness of the world has the father searching for ways to keep his boy alive as they follow the road (see what McCarthy did there?) south to avoid dying in the brutal winter. The book covers their trek as the fight off marauders, avoid being eaten by cannibals and in one poignant section of the novel, take time to enjoy life in a bunker. Considering his son was hunkered down in his mother's womb while the end of times came, hot water was an illusion to him.
The book is tragic and a brutal reminder of the difficulties of the world and mental illness. A fearful look into what the world might devolve into should everything we know and love collapse.
It's a tough read, not because of difficulty, but because of it's hard when not every ending is a happy one.
You can pick up a copy of The Road here.
2. The Stand by Stephen King
Stephen King pumps out books at a rate that no author could ever hope to match while producing only the rare stinker. His 1978 novel, The Stand, is one of his best. What makes The Stand stand out...er...is the fact that the plot line changes depending on the edition. That isn't entirely unique to Stephen King, but the changes are noticeable.
I'll focus on the 1990 version. The story begins when a weaponized strain of the flu, known as Project Blue, gets released into the atmosphere killing off 99.4% of the world's population. The plot follows several characters including an evil being known as Randall Flagg. Flagg tyrannically leads a group of survivors that is
diametrically opposed to another group in the Free Zone. As is the custom of the trope, the two groups face off in a final stand (hence The Stand).
The story lines go beyond simple good and evil. Each character explores the post apocalyptic world and the impact of violence on society as a whole. These characters become increasingly intertwined through mysterious circumstances.
The Stand is really, really like ridiculously long, but if you're stuck in vault for the foreseeable future it's a good time killer. Oh and there was a half baked mini-series staring Gary Sinise, but my advice is to stick to the book. It wasn't like it was terrible but as is the case in most of the time, the book is better than the video.
You can find The Stand here.
3. World War Z by Max Brooks
The full title of this 2006 zombie is World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and that's preciously what it is. Brooks does a great job not only detailing the suspense of a zombie apocalypse, but also provides an excellent social commentary of how the world would probably handle the situation.
Phony vaccines, black market goods, human traffickers and even celebrities are using the zombie war to their financial gain. It's not as though humanity's proclivities to immorality would just disappear. Through a series of interviews, the reader gets to learn about how the war started, how humanity reacted and how things progressed.
It is a quick read because it's just too damn good to put down. Also, there is an amazing audio book version that uses a host of celebrity voices including Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) and John Turturro (Transformers).
You can pick up World War Z here.
4. City of Savages by Lee Kelly
Think Red Dawn without Patrick Swayze's glorious mug gracing the screen. City of Savages probably would've been banned during the height of the Red Scare, but lucky for us folks who live in the 21st century an invasion from the Red Allies isn't a cause for alarm.
It's cause for entertainment. Those Commies are a real laugh riot.
City of Savages takes place twenty years after the Red Allies defeated the USA (pssh, em I right?) and turned Manhattan into a prisoner of war camp. Under the iron rule of the woman Rolladin, Skyler Miller and her sister Phee struggle to survive and upon discovering their mother's journal soon realize that the world is not as it seems.
Armed with this new found knowledge, the sister forge new alliances, explore a devastated New York, fight off cannibals (which is a theme in a post apocalyptic world) and
escape insane cultists in the Meatpacking District.
Lee Kelly is a relative newcomer to my world, but she's totally worth a look see. Find City of Savages here.
5. The Last Man by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley? Like the woman who wrote Frankenstein? Yes, that very same author. In 1826, the book was greeted with brutal reviews, but the modern reader can appreciate what Shelly was trying to accomplish. Considering how many dystopian and post apocalyptic novels are on the market today, it is easy to understand why.
The story takes place far into the future (even for us present day folks) after a plague has killed off most of the world's population. The Last Man is told through the narration of a present day person reflecting on the stories passed to her and through translation of ancient documents. What makes the book unique is that it doesn't just dive right into the world is over, but starts out as a romance-drama reminiscent of the time period.
After the romance dies, the novel becomes dark and powerful. A plague sweeps over the Western world leaving few alive in its wake. Humanity can't help but do anything it can to survive including unspeakable acts of horror. Yet, Shelley manages to make the bleak end hauntingly beautiful.
It's an oldie but a goody and you can find it here.
The Hunger Games
I Am Legend
The Children of Men