Why do I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction so much? I read Margaret Atwood’s new book The Year of the Flood (not due out until October–also we’re going to have her for an event!) last week and I finished reading Far North by Marcel Theroux over the weekend. Both imagine the worst, the breakdown of society after the breakdown of the planet in some terrible fashion. Oddly in both novels, a pandemic of some sort causes a cataclysmic failure all over the world. Also weird given the “pandemic” of swine flu we’re supposedly witnessing right now, but that’s neither here nor there. Atwood’s book takes place in a city. People are abundant it seems. Theroux’s book takes place in Siberia–people are few and far between. And whereas Year of the Flood features a large cast of characters, Far North focuses on one, Makepeace, who lives a lonely existence in an abandoned town. They’re both excellent books in their own right and worth reading if you like reading post-apocalyptic fiction.
Why do we read and write about the end of our world? There’s something sordid about imagining our end, but there’s a long tradition of doing it–check out some parts of the bible for instance. Perhaps we need to explore what the human race would do if we had to start over again? Or why the human race has gone so far along a destructive path (nuclear weapons, global warming, continued reliance on machines for food and fuel) that more than likely can’t sustain itself?
There’s a cornucopia of post-apocalyptic fiction out there:
- Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
- Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake
- Richard Matheson’s I am Legend
- James Kunstler’s World Made by Hand
- P.D. James’ The Children of Men
- Philp K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Sarah Hall’s Daughters of the North
That’s just a handful. Can you give me some others?
P.S. Check out the trailer to The Road, due out October 16th.