A world-shattering apocalypse may not be an appetizing idea in real life, but in the fictional realm, it has made for captivating reading for as long as readers and writers could imagine a society ablaze with horror and impending doom.
The following novels would be a great place to start for the new post-apocalyptic reader (pre-apocalyptic?). and they would also make great additions to the bookshelves of the genre’s fans who may have overlooked these modern classics.
Stephen King, The Stand
It’s hard to imagine a better place to start than King’s 1978 gem that is loaded with the kind of darkly suspenseful premise you’d expect from the best horror writer of his generation. Our nightmarish tale begins with the escape from a biological testing facility from a patient who carries a transmuted strain of a lethal virus that would annihilate nearly all of the planet’s population in less than a fortnight’s time. From there, things only get more loaded with intrigue, morbidity and social unrest. Enjoy!
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
McCarthy’s dry prose isn’t for everyone and the images he traffics in can be a bit trippy and spiritual for some, but if a deceptively simple father-son story of survival fits into your reading tastes, this is tasty stuff.
This Pulitzer prize winner could not be described as a thrill a minute, but it creates enough tension to compensate for the relative lack of action.
World War Z, Max Brooks
You’d expect a book by a Saturday Night Live alum and scion of comedy guru Mel Brooks to be chock full of laughs — especially when it’s absurdly titled ‘An Oral History of the Zombie War.’ But Brooks mostly plays it straight, treating a world under siege by subhuman creatures with all the solemnity the real thing would warrant.
Not as action-packed as the movie, Brook’s novel is more reflective, sad and emotionally drained than anything Hollywood would dare concoct.
I am Legend, Richard Matheson
Yes, this is the book that movie is based on, but trust me, even if you’ve seen the Will Smith vehicle, you’ve only gotten a nibble of Matheson’s brilliantly chilling read. For all the terror of a world overrun by killer vampires, the true monster here is loneliness, a threat that a lesser scribe would have obscured by cheap jump scares and gimmicks.
The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle
Not as well-known as the others on this list, but in a perfect world, it would be. Riddle’s thrilling tale evokes a world on the verge of complete catastrophic implosion. The nerdy realm of epidemiology has never made for a more raucous ride.
Most compelling here is the way the villain keeps shifting, with Mother Nature herself initially seeming to be the culprit until we learn of a sinister cabal of science-minded miscreants who created the viral strain that threatens the earth’s very existence. If you’re a fan of the genre, your collection of PA classics isn’t complete if you don’t own this. If you’re not a fan, this book will help you understand how wrong you’ve been all these years.