Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Lists

The Universal Solution for when Society Breaks Down

If what you’re looking for are emotional and intense reads, dealing with a society breaking down, global warming, wealth disparity, turning to religion in time of crisis and generally dealing with big societal problems, I have some books for you!

If you follow me on social media, you know I’ve read a lot of Apocalypse/Post-apocalypse books. I’ll talk about some of them in more detail, but what I’d really want to talk about is why I think they are important and why you need to read them, too. I’ll talk about what they have in common and what I love about them.

In the last years, especially during the pandemic, they have become increasingly popular. With everything that goes on in the world, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. We always turn to books for advice, escape and finding ideas with which we resonate. When pandemic hit, then war hit, it was no different. Apocalypse and post-apocalyptic books give us a sense of preparedness, because we feel better knowing what’s coming. Even when what’s coming is not pretty, it’s still better than not knowing. There are endless apocalyptic book with endless different scenarios of how the world might end and of what will come after.

The best ones understand what people actually need from them and they always provide it in some form or other and that is the idea of community and higher purpose.

We see this in “Station Eleven” where ” Survival is not enough” and, in the middle of chaos, people still need art. We see it in “Parable of the Sower” and “Parable of the Talents” where the idea of community is strong and the larger than life goal of again reaching the stars is the seed for a new religion. It is what makes people strive more, a lot more than those lacking a higher purpose. We also see it the “After” series by William Forstchen where the community is stronger when uniting around the classical American values. We even see it in “The Road”. Of course, there we have the father-son relationship that prevails, not the community, but the fact that some are willing to die of hunger rather than become cannibals says it again – values matter more than survival, principles matter more than survival.

These are, in a way, religious – moral values. All of them. And these books return us to other times when society crumbles, comfort disappears, food as well any small infection become a life and death problem. When all that happens, right and wrong change their meaning and their importance.

If we see that, we see why they’ve become more popular. People need to debate more important ideas. They need to find deeper meanings to everything. When faced with a scary reality, they want books to stimulate their imagination as well as to wake up their conscience. They need to think more about what they would do faced with difficult decisions and they need to think they will be better persons. All these feelings are provided by the rich apocalyptic literature which has another great thing going for it as well, and that is the fast pace. All these books don’t give you room to breath. They keep you glued from start to finish.

So now, when things are starting to cool off…is reading Apocalypse fiction still a good idea? I would say, absolutely! Even more so. It is one of my favorite genres and my opinion is definitely biased, but these books make me feel good! They make me more appreciative of everything I have and more grateful I don’t actually have to live through such horrors. They move me and make me think more. They make me understand how easy it is to live a good life during good times is. We practically have no excuse for not helping others or not contributing to our communities. We simply have it so easy! We need these books to remind us how vulnerable we are and how fast our life can change.

So if you want to start with something in this genre, I’m going to talk about my favorites.

  1. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, the story of a band performing plays by Shakespeare while traveling around America post a deadly virus that killed most of the population. This one was very special. It is, in fact, my first read this year and what prompted me to read more apocalyptic literature. I feel it was well written, hopeful and engaging.
  2. “EarthSeed” series by Octavia Butler was the most impressive I read in this genre. It touches on extremely many topics and it is written from a black – 18 year-old woman’s perspective. The voice of the narrator is the voice of the “Earthseed” cult – Lauren Oya Olamina and it accomplishes the creation of a strong role-model. Olamina is intelligent and visionary. She has a gift of hiper-empathy which makes her both powerful and vulnerable. She is a perfect leader, even though she makes her own mistakes. The book is the perfect portrayal of a religion is born, how people turn to it and how it provides, more than anything, a community spirit and a higher purpose.
  3. After” series by William Forstchen is a griping story about American society returned to Dark Ages after an EMP blasts all electrical devices. This is the one whose information is the most precise. William Fortschen is a history professor and that shows in the book a lot. It is one of the books that actually showed me how important learning and understanding history really is. People don’t actually change. Without good laws and those to enforce them, the return to anarchy is always one step away. The idea of a united community is also strong here. Only united do most people stand a change of surviving.

As a bonus, I also highly recommend “The Road”, which is the story of a father and a son travelling in a post-apocalyptic America. I’ve talked more about it here.

If you want more interesting conversation topics, these books are definitely the way to go.

Happy reading!

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