Cell

Over the years, Stephen King has created a number of fascinating apocalyptic tales. Indeed, most of his stories lead to the end of the world for somebody. It is as though he has some unworldly insight into the apocalyptic realm. Though the specific circumstances may change, his novels frequently share in his apocalyptic vision. For example, Randall Flagg, a character that appears in many of Stephen King’s stories, has a mysterious involvement in the apocalypse. While Randall Flagg is not a specific character in Cell, Stephen King once again shares his unique vision of the end of modern civilization through one of mankind’s most prized possessions, the cell phone. An event that comes to be known as “the pulse” somehow wipes clean the minds of those using a cell phone and transforms them into a type of telepathic zombie that is intent on eliminating those that have been left unchanged. The zombies in Cell share the viciousness of your typical zombie but are able to communicate telepathically and seem to be developing a common agenda. Cell is certainly an enjoyable read and will be quite satisfying for those of you that share in this strange apocalyptic preoccupation.

Also available in audio on Audible through the link below:

Cell (Unabridged)

Alas Babylon

Alas Babylon

Perhaps one of the best known post apocalyptic novels, Alas, Babylon, written by Pat Frank and released in 1959, paints a grim picture of what life might be like after a full-scale nuclear war between the US and former USSR.

The protagonist, Randy Bragg, a relatively carefree bachelor, is forced to take a leadership role in the survival of his Florida town, Fort Repose, which narrowly escapes destruction from the ultimate in nuclear catastrophes.

Surprisingly, many of the issues presented in Alas, Babylon, over 50 years ago, are still very relevant today. For example, Frank’s writing is clearly influenced by the Civil Rights movement that was gaining momentum during the time that this book was written. Alas, Babylon frequently references the still widespread segregation and racist sentiment that still existed in parts of the southern US during the 1950’s. The book portrays the complete collapse of civilization as the ultimate “leveling” of human beings, as each survivor shares in the struggle to stay alive, regardless of skin color, ethnic origin or social class. Though the Civil Rights movement has certainly altered the landscape of the US in a number of ways, racial tensions continue to be high today, especially with the recent death of Trayvon Martin.

From a survival perspective, the issues associated with a total breakdown of civilization remain the same. Without electricity, public water, law enforcement, medical treatment, transportation, fuel, etc, people are forced to accept more personal responsibility for the safety and survival of their families.  

Nuclear tensions have changed in some ways since the end of the Cold War but with more countries in possession of “the bomb” than ever, the risk for a nuclear conflict continues. Alas, Babylon may be a little optimistic in terms of its somewhat “happy ending” but it serves as a reminder to us that we were once very close and that we are never very far away from the ultimate destruction of civilization.

Buy the audiobook through the link below:

Alas, Babylon (Unabridged)

Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo

turkey vulture

Fantastic! Watch the apocalypse through the eyes of a turkey vulture! Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo is truly a “one of a kind” post apocalyptic story, written entirely in verse and told from the perspective of a turkey vulture.

The orderly world of caged animals falls into chaos when the zoo is left unattended. The turkey vulture is left to discover its true purpose as nature’s perfectly adapted scavenger, surviving on the death and destruction that is the apocalypse.

Cathartes Aura, written by Eighty Six, stands as a testament to human imagination, which is most certainly one of our few redeeming qualities.

World War Z

Welcome to the zombie apocalypse. World War Z shows the progression of a zombie apocalypse through a series of interviews that explore the experiences of survivors from around the world. Each interview or chapter further develops the story to paint the larger picture of a worldwide catastrophic event. Zombie fans and those that like post apocalyptic fiction in general will enjoy this book. You could substitute “zombies” for any number of apocalyptic events. It just so happens that zombies are the perfect enemy. A zombie acts on instinct alone, has no fear or conscience and will never stop until their brain is destroyed. World War Z (WWZ) is unique in a number of ways. First of all, the story is conveyed through a series of interviews and shows a wide variety of perspectives from people with different cultures and geographic locations. Unlike most stories in the genre, World War Z is not confined to one geographic location. Max Brooks takes us all over the world from China, Russia, Britain, Siberia, US and even to the ocean’s floor. Another unique feature of WWZ is that it covers the entire war, from the early stages of the outbreak right up until the end where humans develop efficient ways to destroy the zombie hordes and take back much of the planet. WWZ also proposes some interesting ideas. For example, government authorities conclude that they cannot save everyone and that in order to save some people, others must be sacrificed. Although one could criticize the way in which the author proposes that “government authorities” would find and implement a solution for the vast majority, the harsh, pragmatic decision is logical in the context of this post apocalyptic scenario. WWZ is a unique, well written and exciting tale that I highly recommend you add to your list of “must read” post apocalyptic fiction.

World War Z is also available as an audiobook through the link below:

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

The Prepper Trilogy by Ron Foster

preppertrilogyWho knew that an EMP wiping out the electric grid could be so much fun!  Ron Foster creates a truly unique world that is down right hilarious at times. In this post-apocalyptic journey, an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that is caused by a solar flare has destroyed the modern world as we know it, disabling almost everything with electronic components.

The protagonist, David, provides the very unique and often humorous perspective that makes this post-apocalyptic world so much fun.  David doesn’t take himself too seriously and likes to have a good time. He’s no fool though. In fact, he’s a military veteran with a keen sense for survival.

Along with frequent laugh out loud moments, The Prepper Trilogy has a lot of great ideas and practical prepping tips. For me, the laid back, conversational style of the story makes it easy, fun reading. These are very entertaining books. If you can appreciate some “down home”, southern survival fun with a ton of laughs and practical knowledge, the Prepper Trilogy is for you. Ron Foster reminds us that a good sense of humor is an excellent asset in any crisis situation.  

It is refreshing to see some fun and humor in the post-apocalyptic landscape. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. After all, isn’t laughter part of what makes survival worthwhile in the first place?

The Last Pilgrims

The Last Pilgrims by Michael Bunker is a well constructed, detailed account of a hypothetical post-apocalyptic future. The story follows the development of two apparently ethically opposed groups the Vallenses and the Ghost Militia, as they struggle to survive twenty years after the collapse of modern civilization in a post-apocalyptic Texas. The Vallenses are peaceful farmers while the Ghost Militia is made up of a group of military men that in many ways are descendants of present day special forces. While they share a similar belief in God and a self-sufficient lifestyle, they fundamentally differ in their beliefs on how to survive. The Vallenses are pacifists. The Ghost Militia are soldiers. In many ways, The Last Pilgrims plays out an internal conflict that I am sure many of us share. While we may long for a peaceful, agrarian lifestyle, it is hard to imagine a world in which such a society could exist without pressure from the more violently-inclined portion of humanity. As it turns out, the Ghost Militia and the Vallenses have formed an unspoken alliance in which the Ghost Militia protects the Vallenses from the more hostile, violent elements and in return the Vallenses share their abundant food and resources. In the new Dark Age of mankind, The Vallenses and Ghost Militia are under constant threat from The Kingdom of Aztlan which is ruthless in its quest to expand its territory, influence and resources. War, spies, traitors and assassins…give a warm welcome to Michael Bunker, the new Tom Clancy of post-apocalyptic fiction.

Hunter After the Fall

Hunter After the Fall, by John Phillip Backus, is a captivating post-apocalyptic adventure that takes place 15 years after an all out worldwide nuclear war has devastated the planet and killed the majority of its human inhabitants. After surviving the war and subsequent nuclear winter, Hunter, a former special forces operative, has made a home for himself in a long abandoned gold mine nestled into the side of a mountain. The rich detail in which Backus describes Hunter’s rocky mountain home creates the sense that Hunter is truly returning to being one with nature. Hunter’s lifestyle is similar to those that lived throughout North America for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. Much like the wolves and bears that roam the area, Hunter is deeply connected to the mountain wilderness. He is able to sustain himself from the abundant resources that the rocky mountain ecosystem provides. Hunter is content with his life until the arrival of Elise, who is the daughter of Hunter’s former commanding officer. Elise is sent by her father to find Hunter and to seek his help in the defence of their community of New Eden, which is in danger of being overtaken by an army of bloodthirsty invaders. In an effort to repay his former commanding officer for saving his life in action, before the nuclear war , Hunter is quick to offer his assistance. The story follows the many adventures of Hunter and his counterpart, the strong and beautiful Elise, as they fight to save New Eden. In Hunter, the first book in his After the Fall series, Backus combines a unique blend of Native American shamanism and post-apocalyptic action that makes for a very thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining story.

The Undisputed King of Nothing

The Undisputed King of Nothing is a fascinating new post-apocalyptic comic series by Paul Stapleton. The comic follows a man as he grapples with being the last known survivor of a pandemic that wipes out the world’s human population. Due to his unique immunity to the virus, the protagonist becomes “The Undisputed King of Nothing”. Being the King of Nothing is not easy. The struggle to survive on a practical level is hard work. The loneliness is almost unbearable. Left alone with his endless thoughts, he struggles with his sanity. The Undisputed King of Nothing is survival from a British perspective. You could almost hear Pink Floyd playing in the background, “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”. The dire nature of the situation is tempered with a dry, witty humor that is quite enjoyable. The Undisputed King of Nothing is a thinking man’s apocalypse. In terms of enemies, zombies and violent raiders pale in comparison to a ruminating mind left alone in an empty world.

Apocalypse Law 2

Apocalypse Law 2 by John Grit is the second book in the series following the Ex-Army Ranger, Nate, as he struggles to keep his family safe in a post-apocalyptic world. This is a very fast paced and enjoyable read. Nate is a humble, reluctant hero that in many ways is the post-apocalyptic version of John Rambo. With Apocalypse Law, John Grit brings me back to the action movies of my younger years that I remember so fondly. Being vastly outnumbered and overpowered by an unrelenting, extremely violent group of ex-military raiders, Nate is forced to pull out all of the stops and resorts to using some “unconventional” weapons in defense of his farm. Nate and his female fighting companion, Deni, are truly stretched beyond their limits as they take on this gang of marauders. While you might be tempted to see this story line as cliché, Apocalypse Law 2 is full of surprises and will hold your interest until the end. If there is a post-apocalyptic action sub-genre (which there may very well be, excuse my ignorance), the Apocalypse Law series would certainly rate at the top of the list!

The Old Man and the Wasteland

The Old Man and the Wasteland

The Old Man and the Wasteland, written by Nick Cole, follows a man as he searches the wreckage of the post apocalyptic world for “salvage”.

The story is set 40 years after a nuclear attack which has destroyed modern civilization. References to the attack indicate that it was carried out by terrorists and that most of the cities in the US have been destroyed. The characters have minimal information about what happened to the rest of the world, however, the lack of foreign intervention implies that the rest of the world has suffered a similar fate.

The story is told through the Old Man, whose most treasured possession is Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea which is frequently referenced throughout his inner dialogue. In a quest to restore his injured pride, The Old Man travels far outside of the known territory near his village and enters “The Wasteland”. While I can’t comment much on the references to Hemingway’s book, which I haven’t read, The Old Man and the Wasteland is an interesting story with a number of original, or at least renewed ideas. For example, the Old Man stumbles upon messages or hieroglyphs, that survivors have welded into underground steel culverts, as a guide for future civilizations.  My favorite part of the story involves a modern tank versus a “Horde” of primitive, bloodthirsty cannibals which, in itself, makes this book is well worth reading.

 

Apocalypse Law

Apocalypse Law by John Grit is a very entertaining story about a man and his son struggling to survive on a small farm after an influenza strain kills a large part of the human population. After the last few books that I have read, it was truly fun that the main character in Apocalypse Law, Nate, is a retired Army Ranger that can kick some major ass! (what can I say, sometimes I get tired of the bad guys running the show!:) Naturally, some unsavory types make their way past the farm in the period following the outbreak and Nate is willing and able to defend himself and his son. Apocalypse Law reads more like an action movie. It is fast paced and full of suspense. This is a good book to read after you finish The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You could argue that The Road may be more realistic but Apocalypse Law sure is a lot more fun!

 

Swan Song

Swan Song by Robert McCammon is a chilling story that takes place following an all out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union (The book was released in the late 1980’s, near the end of the Cold War). The earth is plunged into a nuclear winter and is a complete wasteland, devoid of plant life. The story is told through a number of unique characters ranging from a New York City “bag lady” to a pro wrestler and changes perspectives frequently as they struggle to survive. Good verses evil is a strong element throughout and the evil is certainly abundant. The bad people in this book are really bad…like Stephen King bad…in fact, one of the characters is the devil himself. Swan Song delves a little more into “supernatural” territory than I like and it is also a little on the long side but it is definitely exciting. While Swan Song wouldn’t be at the top of my list of good apocalyptic fiction, it is certainly worth reading and will provide hours of entertainment.

The Road

theroadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy is a dark story about a man and his son on a quest for safety and hope in a post apocalyptic world.

The cause of the disaster remains a mystery throughout the book and there are only some brief, non-specific references to the event itself. Whatever the cause, much of the world is set on fire and the smoke and debris blocks out the sunlight causing everything to die.

Having watched the movie prior to reading the book, I was surprised to see how closely the movie follows the story. The darkness in The Road is vivid and relentless. In fact, the smothering effect of their environment is much more impressive than the raider-cannibals that are a constant threat. The Road is based entirely on the struggle of the man and his son. While they are physically striving to get “south” to a safer,warmer place, mentally and emotionally they are trying to keep “the fire” of goodness and hope alive. Unlike many of its counterparts in the genre, The Road is a very well written novel and has a great deal of depth and substance. It is clear that The Road surpasses most of the other books that I have listed here in terms of its literary merit but I also found it to be a little more bleak and less inspiring than some of the other books that I have read recently. Perhaps some of what draws me to this type of fiction is a fascination with the human will to survive and our ability to adapt to and prepare for difficult situations. The dark, lifeless world that Cormac McCarthy creates in The Road leaves one wondering if survival would be a good option which is perhaps his driving point.

Patriots

Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, written by James Wesley Rawles tells a story about a group of people struggling to survive a drastic collapse in the financial system which leads to the worst depression in history. JWR is certainly one of the pioneers in economic collapse fiction and is perhaps one of the best known “preppers” in America. In some ways, Patriots is used by James Wesley Rawles as a pulpit where he is able to express his views on issues such as gun control and organized militias. However, if you can get past the long legal/political rants throughout the book, there is a good deal of useful information. In fact one of the criticisms about the book is that the characters are constantly going into great detail about the weapons and equipment that they use. If you approach this book with the intent to learn something about how to prepare for a disaster, you will get more out of it than if you are looking for a work of fine fiction. The characters in Patriots are developed on a very shallow level and lack any depth whatsoever. I would recommend this book only to those that are looking for information on ways that they could prepare for a disaster. The lack of character depth and the extensive politcal ranting left me less than satisfied in terms of entertainment value and fictional merit.

Click Here for the Audiobook Version

The Passage

The Passage is an ambitious apocalyptic novel written by Justin Cronin that begins in the near future and spans almost one hundred years into the future. It is similar to Stephen King’s The Stand in that a virus that is being engineered in a secret government lab is released into the world. The government is working with a newly discovered virus trying to create “super soldiers”. This virus is unique in a number of different ways and takes on a life of its own through the death row inmates that are used as “guinea pigs” in the experiments. Obviously, the plan to create these “super soldiers” goes awry and the virus actually turns the victims into powerful, vampire like creatures that feed on the blood of other humans and animals. These vampire like creatures are responsible for both the spread of the virus and the destruction of the human population. The Passage is a haunting story that definitely left an impression in my mind. It is difficult to forget the armored steel passenger trains that are built during the crisis to transport survivors to safety. The Passage is a long story that is well worth the time. While some of the creations in The Passage are not new, Justin Cronin’s depiction of vampires versus survivors in a post apocalyptic world is entirely unique and satisfying.