Apocalypse Day - Defcon Booklist

Our own Doomsayer, Nate McKenzie, gives us his definitive list of books to read while the world burns around you...

The Apocalypse is a terrifying premise. Devastation, death, suffering - all major themes within stories about the world, and us, it's inhabitants, perishing. Will the dead be looked upon with envy? Is there any amount of foresight than can deviate us from impending doom? What form will our killer take? A plague? A meteor? Another race of beings? Or will it be the result of our own ill-thought decisions and apathy? Worldwide catastrophe brought on by the results of global warming? Perhaps, the whim of a vengeful god? Ominous is the soundtrack that plays in our heads when we ponder these thoughts.

Terrifying, yes, but the thought of an apocalyptic event is fascinating and in many ways a romantic and emboldening escape from our daily lives. We each think "Surely, I am one of the few meant to survive."

This genre of entertainment and art, the end of the world, is my personal obsession. So much so that I am writing a story of my own on the subject. I have always been drawn to the despair of Armageddon and there has never been a drought of content covering the subject for me to devour.

For the record, my list includes only End of the World stories. If I were to include Dystopian novels, Ready Player One would be my #2. If you have an issue with any of the books I've chosen, feel free to write me a strongly worded email or Twitter rant that I will completely ignore.

My list of favorites from the genre (in no particular order, save for my #1 at the bottom):

Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
The Stand, Stephen King
World War Z, Max Brooks
The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey
Sand, Hugh Howey
Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells

Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson

You know the story: humans create Artifical Intelligence, AI deems humans moot and attempts to eliminate them. The Terminator might be the genre standard for robot/computer related end of the world stories, but Robopocalypse is every bit as foreboding and entertaining. A fast-paced read, Robopocalypse still tells an intricate story with real-world allusion and obvious technological savvy. The A.I. antagonist, Archos R-14, is fascinating because it is intrigued by humans while simultaneously wanting to kill them all. The idea that this sort of scenario is possible in our modern world is one that has been talked about at length. After reading Robopocalypse, the one thing I feel compelled to say is I TRUST AND WELCOME OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS.

The Strain, Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

I had no idea what to expect from The Strain when I started reading it. Quickly, I realized that it was a good thing I had no expectations... because del Toro does what he wants and he does it better than almost anyone. The entire book is a bloodbath. Hogan and del Toro together create a version of vampires that is wholly original. They are the stuff of nightmares. There is no romanticizing the creatures of The Strain; from beginning to end it is macabre, ghastly, violent, and brutal on a plane that resembles the stories of the most deranged psychopaths.

Wool, Hugh Howey

Wool was originally a stand-alone story, but eventually stretched into the Silo Series. It is one of the most unique takes for an end of the world book that I've ever encountered.

Imagine living in a 144-story building with hundreds of other people, completely shut off from the outside world due to an apocalyptic event that turned the air toxic. Now imagine that you can't even see outside save for one monitor in a communal area. Now, imagine that is the case because this building is underground. That is the world of Wool.

Howey creates a world in Wool that is so tangible, so believable, that I almost believe the book is the true fate of our world and he is a time-traveller sent back to guide us away from that end. You more than fall in love with the characters, you empathize with them, smelling what they smell, feeling the burn in your legs as they run up and down the spiraling staircase, and gasp for air when they breathe deeply. Others, you hope suffocate in horrible ways. Sometimes you get what you wish for; other times, you don't.

The Passage, Justin Cronin

The Passage can be called a vampire story but it is so, so much more than that. Now a trilogy (The Twelve, City of Mirrors), the first book (and the best of the three) begins in 2016 and spans more than 90 years following the breakout of a mythical virus. The world, of course, descends into chaos and darkness.
As with The Road, there is a story of love. but not the clammy, cliche type that involves snarling and sparkling teenagers; the love story in The Passage is between a mysterious, special little girl and the man destined to be her protector. Justin Cronin miraculously tells this story devoid of any Lolita-esque undertones, instead showcasing a pure and innocent devotion. Cronin beautifully renders the characters and narrative with a prose that is some of the most magical, poetic writing I've ever read. Of course there is plenty of butchery and bloodshed but those moments are vastly overshadowed by the connection between the girl and her guardian along their journey.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's story of a man and his son surviving the stark, gray post-apocalyptic world is unyielding in its hopelessness. McCarthy cares not for how he makes you feel, or what he makes you feel; he only cares that you do feel. The Road evokes complete and utter depression. But the love that the narrator (the man) feels for his son shatters the veil of despair like a mountain of Zoloft and the warmth from one-thousand suns. There is no book I recommend more often or more emphatically.

Images - Nate McKenzie and Amazon

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