I’m Stacey, a girl from London, England who blogs about books and works in the book industry. NoveList Plus, a readers' advisory service, which provides access to 155,000 fiction titles, with features such as: Author read-alikes, Book discussion guides, Reading lists and more. Novelist K-8 Plus,Booklists, recommended reads, book discussion guides, author biographies and award winners for ages 0-18. This best-selling 1997 novel details the approach and aftermath of a comet striking earth with disastrous results.
Probably the earliest (1957) post-apocalyptic science fiction novel to truly achieve mass distribution.
Published before On The Beach in 1949, what is posited here is a global epidemic that makes the Black Death look like last year’s winter cold. This novel won the 1961 Hugo award and is widely considered an outright classic, even outside the science fiction genre.
We start with nuclear war in the recent past, but this novel is quite different from most such. For years, I’ve been wondering why dystopian and post-apocalyptic books are so popular, especially with teens. Let me explain. Often, books (and movies) become popular when they respond to a deep-seated social need or anxiety. I think teens are particularly aware of this, perhaps because they’re not so invested in the status quo. In some ways this is similar to the Greek notion of catharsis, but it’s not quite the same thing. Granted, a post-apocalyptic world makes for some great fiction, since there are plenty of ways to amp up the conflict and put pressure on characters. Also, I think something else the genre offers is hope, because many of these books (though not all), show how we can face our worst fears and survive. I think I missed some of your focus on zombies in my original reply, but want to say, after your reply, that I think I agree with you again. I think that it may be a relief for us teens to see what our lives could be and then work to apply it in our day to day lives.
I am a 56 year old and I love these books and am hoping to get my almost 13-year-old son into them. Is it possible that in our post-Christian society, people don’t know what to do with death anymore? 10% of all author royalties are donated to non-partisan organizations seeking to protect our oceans, coral reefs, rain forests, and other endangered ecosystems.
I love taking photographs of books, exploring London and visiting new bookshops and coffee shops. When you find the book you would like to read, just click on the link to check the Library catalogue to see if it is available or place a hold! It may have even already happened in our past (the vast majority of cultures have a Great Flood in their mythos). Here then are 10 science fiction novels dealing with humanity’s response to overwhelming devastation. A large number of disparate characters are well-drawn and the book essentially focuses on the changes in their lives. That said, for anyone who is not Catholic or interested in that religion, it can be an extremely difficult read. And no wonder, for the movie failed to emotionally capture the central theme of the novel: that people, faced with a holocaust, will cling to anything that strikes of normalcy. About a thousand years from now, after a huge plague, humanity exists in isolated pockets with essentially Amish-type technology (and a concurrent insular social structure). Taking care of the movies first, the best adaptation of this 1954 novel was 1971’s The Omega Man. It is without doubt one of the best-imagined depictions of the aftermath of nuclear war for a small community that gets somewhat lucky regarding the fallout pattern. When I talk with teens, I often ask them what books they’ve read recently that I should check out.
I think this is especially true of fantasy and sci-fi books which act as the dreams of our collective unconscious.
And inevitably, no matter how hard everyone tries not to rock the boat, crap is going to hit the fan (sorry for the mixed metaphor there — picture a ceiling fan on a boat).
But this alone doesn’t explain why post-apocalyptic and dystopian settings are so appealing, especially for teen audiences.


I started noticing the apocalyptic craze back when the millennium turned, and it’s been going strong ever since. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. Regardless, what is perhaps amazing is that within the time frame of verifiable history, to include more than 60 years of nuclear capability, no such calamity has occurred.
Though widely taught in high schools around the world during the 1960s and 70s, when concerns about the Cold War were as rampant as they were in the 50’s, the book is not a treatise on the triumph of the human spirit. However, ruins and trashed roads remain — the Roadmakers, as the ancients are called, have plenty of visible reminders of their existence.
But while the movies maintained many of the core concepts of the novel (time-dilation, division of ape culture into military, judiciary and science based on race, degradation of humans, etc), most folks will be surprised that the book is quite different from what we normally think of as the Planet of the Apes saga.
About half the time the book they recommend is dystopian or set in a post-apocalyptic world. And right now, we know on some deeply unconscious (or maybe even conscious) level that we’re screwing things up. Either we deny that things are good, or we deny that there are underlying problems with our society and the contradiction goes away.
The whole Y2K anxiety revealed how insecure people feel about the stability of our civilization. In essence, the whole theory is about how to have your own soul well-governed, but the argument uses the metaphor of the state to establish what virtue and what virtuous governance is.
For a good 40 minutes or so, we watch as survivors in the mall revert to a kind of zombie-consumer like state of denial about the world that surrounds them (outside the mall). It is the same concept that if you look somewhere dark for a while, the light seems all the brighter.
And science fiction wasted no time in examining the possible effects (there were speculative stories in print well before the Manhattan Project was even conceived). Many believe that there is a place known as Haven where the secrets of their technology remain to be discovered. As for TV, well, chances are that every single Twilight Zone episode you ever loved was written either by Richard Matheson or Rod Serling himself — with Matheson getting the nod most often.
In fact, an argument could be made that this book does not fit within the title of the list at all!
The protagonist gets a little bit of warning, due to the fact that his brother works for SAC. Now, I’m generally a very optimistic person who believes we can create a good future. Things spin out of control, and when they do, even though it’s bad, it can also be a relief. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic books offer us a vision of the world gone wrong (sometimes in a hyperbolic way) so that the problems that must not be mentioned in our real lives can finally be confronted. As any teacher will tell you, most teens have an uncanny ability to sense when someone is being insincere (or phony, or fake, or a poseur…). Because our computers were confused about the calendar date, people were buying guns, beans, rice, and bottled water for an apocalypse that never happened.
So, for Plato anyway, utopia is about facing our deficiencies and bettering ourselves (which also results in the perfect state). I think you’re absolutely right in noting that most dystopian novels pit the freedom of the individual against a so-called utopian society. I agree that zombies often seem a hyperbolic representation of mindless consumerism (after all, all they do is stumble about and consume things, and turn others into consumers). New social mores are developed through necessity, as humans are put in the catch-22 of having to band together while being able to trust no one.
But the characters, for the most part, do not wallow in self-pity… they just go about their business. It was founded by one Leibowitz, who had converted from Judaism (this is an extremely religious-themed novel). What makes this book excellent is that the protagonist gradually morphs into a real version of the facade he adopts. A group of teenagers do their work, but also take jaunts to places they probably should not go. It would be fair to say that Matheson’s foremost work was in his insanely extensive television credits. So what is it about corpse-ridden zombie-sucking industrial wastelands that appeals so much to readers and writers?


We might not accept the science of climate change, but we can’t ignore all the droughts, floods, super storms, forest fires, heat waves and other signs of a world spinning out of balance. However, most post-apocolyptic novels these days focus on the imperfections of society, or a past society. The book is noteworthy for making us actually care about the characters we come to know, even though there are dozens of them. The main story is that of a United States submarine being placed under the command of Australian authorities (the northern latitudes become uninhabitable first).
Anyway, the book’s nominal main character comes across a cache of writings and stuff that appears to have belonged to Leibowitz himself. This in turn serves as the foreground of humanity in very trying times desperately attempting to rebuild communication and a sense of community. There is a very fascinating depiction of folks from various lifestyles and communities coming together for a combination of trade and carnival. Ultimately, fudging had to occur to include POTA, because otherwise the comments would have been overwhelming regarding its absence.
The amount of wealth and luxury people have, when compared to other times in human history, is staggering. So children in alcoholic families learn at a young age to pretend that there isn’t a problem and act like everything is fine. Essentially, the more perfect our state is in theory, the less perfect it is for individuals on a deeper level. I think books like FEED represent a shift away from earlier dystopian books like Brave New World in that the focus is more on broad social ills than the action of an individual. Although it certainly made an impression on millions of young adult readers back in the day, and is widely considered a classic, the list author views it as the weakest science fiction novel on the list.
A lot of that part is very interesting, in detailing why and where power either stays on or fails, what happens to critters and plants, that sort of stuff.
Of course, there are those who opt to go in the other direction and take what they can — and the Postman becomes a critical player in that essentially good-vs-evil conflict.
Anyway, we have another plague-story (biological weapons rather than nature, this time around). Perhaps the books you’ve mentioned are helping to bring us out of our denial so that we can begin to confront these frightening issues head on. So in fiction, at least, where forty or fifty years ago there was an obsessive focus on the individual escaping an oppressive society, not there seems to be more of a focus on society being inescapable, and the individual being culpable. But it does tend to drag, and when the protagonist finally hooks up with a woman, that part starts to drag as well. But, distopian ideas allow us to expose a deep character defect in us–the more perfect we are collectively, the less perfect we are as individuals.
Well, there are also naturally-resistant folks, but who can’t stand light as a result, and they form a cult. Depictions such as a little girl figuring out out how to put fish on the table when they aren’t biting due to oppressive heat, and folks realizing that an actual expedition to find salt (of all things!) is critical to survival, combined with superb characterizations, make this one the best of all. In other words, we appear to give up personal individual freedoms and autonomy for social harmony, and distopian novels will not settle for that.
All with the usual politics and backstabbing you would expect in such a cycle involving the Church, of course. At least, I have yet to read or see one that does not champion personal individual freedom. The novel could be considered an allegory of the role of the Church from the Dark Ages to the Industrial Revolution. One particularly cantankerous relationship is between our protagonist and his father, a cold, stern man of importance to the community who oversees the fishing operation.
Subplots which actually help (for once!) get woven in, and we end up with a fine example of the absolute mastery that was cranked out continually by Matheson over a long and storied career. And then the author went ahead and wrote two more books of two completely different possible futures of Orange County.
For me, distopian novels bring the first steps of this path to light, allowing us a glimpse at what must be, in order for us to live well together.



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Rubric: Emergency Preparedness Survival



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