It has been a long time since I had a blog. Like, a livejournal amount of years ago. Back then, I was in my 20s, and what did I know? Ahhh yes... back in the good old days when I was optimistic about humanity being able to solve the climate change crisis. Back then, before it was way too late to save us. But now I'm in my 40s. AND I'm a Gen Xer, so I'm extra nihilistic and salty about it. What's left to do but try to make each other laugh?
I've been thinking about this project for awhile now. I am a huge fan of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction, about which I will now write as though anyone is actually going to read this blog.
My first and dearest love is, of course, Margaret Atwood. She's my literary hero. I know most people end up reading The Handmaid's Tale in school, but have you read the Maddaddam Trilogy? It is absolutely incredible. I listen to the audiobooks every year, and every time I do, something new pops out at me that she has correctly foreseen happening in the US. The Heart Goes Last is another dystopian nightmare of a novel, about a couple down on their luck making a late-stage capitalist, faustian bargain with what amounts to a private prison corporation.
Perhaps the saddest, most gut-wrenching piece of post-apocalyptic fiction was given to us by none other than Cormac McCarthy. The Road, if you have not read it, is so incredibly depressing that part of me wants to tell you not to read it. The film is sad as well, but the book... the BOOK will make you want to hide from humanity for the rest of your life.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Stephen King's classic, The Stand. Epic in scope, it is a creepy, weird, wild ride about the end of the world as we know it due to a pandemic. It is realistic in a lot of ways, but it almost dips a toe into the pool of magical realism. There are actual forces of good and evil at work, attempting to sway the last of America's humanity toward good or evil. There are characters ranging from the absolutely despicable to the nearly unbelievably good and heroic. The nature of the story lends itself to having well-worn tropes retrod, but there are also some unbelievably strange and unique characters that are both disturbing and compelling. Another one of my favorites that I read every couple of years.
Speaking of "Epic," 1987's Swan Song by Robert McCammon is a doozy at 960 pages. Like The Road, it explores a post-Nuclear war America, where nothing grows, and the atmosphere and terrain have been ruined. But also, like The Stand, it takes on elements of the supernatural. This is a hard one to summarize in a paragraph, but if you haven't read it, you should - it's a wild ride!
There are soooo many more that I want to write about... I'm going to list the others I've read here shortly. In the future, I want to write about the impact of some of these books on the zeitgeist and how they have informed our understanding of a "thin veil of humanity" that easily falls away when our society is decimated. Is it realistic that humans will polarize into purely "good" or "evil"? Will most people turn into selfish, cannibalistic, raping, murdering, pillaging animals? Is it more realistic to think that people will be mostly decent and work together to thrive, if not rebuild society? I don't really have a strong opinion either way. We won't know for sure until we experience an apocalypse, but there have been small disasters and crises that give us clues.
Okay, here's that list. These are not in order of any kind; just books I have read which I feel belong in the category of dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, with a very short summary:
1984 - George Orwell - Dystopia - Opinions are bad
A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - Dystopia - Feelings are bad
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - Dystopia - Books are bad
The Xenogenesis Series - Octavia E. Butler - Post-nuclear but with aliens
The Silo Saga - Hugh Howey - Post-nuclear - we live underground now
The Passage Trilogy - Justin Cronin - Vampires but spans like a thousand years
Adjustment Day - Chuck Palahniuk - Overthrow of government but it's Palahniuk
All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders - Evolution but with magic
The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey - Zombie children
The Earthseed Series - Octavia E. Butler - Societal Crumble - let's move to outer space
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel - Post-Pandemic years 1-20 and Shakespeare
Seveneves - Neal Stephenson - The moon shatters - shenanigans ensue
World War Z - Max Brooks - Zombies with interesting narrative structure
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro - Dystopian weirdness that is very sad
The Newsflesh Trilogy - Mira Grant - Zombies but with social media
The Giver - Lois Lowry - Dystopian - Variety is bad
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - Dystopian but with fights to the death that are not well-rationalized but I'm here for it anyway
The last thing I want to say here is that I am not an academic. I have a BA in English from an engineering school, where I graduated with like a 2.9. I'll do my best to be coherent and thoughtful, but cut me some slack. That having been said, feel free to comment and start discussions. Keep it friendly and respectful. - CH