The 50 Greatest Apocalypse Novels Literary Hub

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The top of the world is rarely actually the top of the world—at the very least not in fiction. In any case, somebody should survive to inform the story. And what tales they’re. People have been pondering the top of existence for so long as we’ve been conscious of it (most likely, I imply, I wasn’t there), and in consequence we now have a wealthy assortment of apocalypse and post-apocalypse literature to learn throughout our planet’s senescence.

I’ve finished my finest to restrict this record to books in which there’s—or has been—some form of literal apocalypse, excluding dystopias (like The Handmaid’s Story) or just bleak visions of the longer term. We might argue all day about what really constitutes an “apocalypse”—2020 is checking numerous packing containers, as you could have seen—so for essentially the most half, I’ve gone with my intestine.

See more: Top 50 apocalyptic books

In fact, there are loads extra nice apocalypse and post-apocalypse novels that didn’t match on this record, and I haven’t learn sufficient books in translation on this style, in order ever, please add by yourself favorites within the feedback.

(And keep secure on the market.)

the day of the triffids john wyndham

John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (1951)

It feels mildly ridiculous now—or possibly simply gentle—however Wyndham’s killer-plant-cum-blindness-inducing-meteor-strike apocalypse is a basic for a motive: it’s terrific enjoyable. Even Arthur C. Clarke referred to as it an “immortal story.” And it’s not fairly as well-known, however enable me to slip in his 1955 novel The Chrysalids right here too, as a b-side.

Richard Matheson, I Am Legend (1954)

At this level, Matheson’s pandemic/vampire/zombie novel is extra well-known for being supply materials than for being precise materials, most likely as a result of it’s overflowing with concepts. It’s generally superior and generally boring; jury’s nonetheless out on whether or not it actually works as a novel, but it surely completely will get factors for affect. And verve.

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Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2014)

Your favourite novel by which a flu pandemic wipes out civilization in a matter of weeks (yikes) and a band of entertainers wander the decimated land, placing on Shakespeare performs for the survivors. It’s about as feel-good as tales in regards to the apocalypse get.

Wilson Tucker, The Long Loud Silence

Wilson Tucker, The Lengthy Loud Silence (1952)

Every thing east of the Mississippi has been destroyed by a nuclear assault; the scant survivors have been dosed with a bioweapon that has contaminated them with the plague (simply to be secure, I suppose). A army border is about up alongside the river to maintain the illness from spreading west, however this can be a border that Gary is set to cross. Notably unusual and unhappy studying for a nation in quarantine—and proof that breaking it may well convey disastrous results.

Ling Ma, Severance (2018)

The plague that ends the world in Ma’s wonderful debut is further scary as a result of we’re all midway there: while you catch Shen Fever, you proceed going about your routine, doing all of your rote duties, not that rather more of a zombie than you have been in life, till ultimately you rot away. Is Shen Fever really simply weaponized nostalgia? Or consolation? No matter it’s, Candace is without doubt one of the few who finds herself immune, and documenting New York Metropolis because it crumbles round her till even she is pressured to flee.

david mitchell cloud atlas

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)

In fact Cloud Atlas isn’t fully a novel in regards to the finish of the world, and actually of its six storylines just one could possibly be thought-about post-apocalyptic (one different is squarely dystopian). However contemplating the novel’s insistence on the interconnectedness of time and house (and other people) and the centrality of the post-apocalypse it does evoke (situated on the pinnacle of the novel’s distinctive construction), I feel it’s solely truthful to rely it right here.

Nevil Shute, On the Beach

Nevil Shute, On the Seashore (1957)

It’s 1963, and a nuclear conflict has devastated a lot of the planet. In Melbourne, comparatively untouched, a handful of survivors await the winds to convey the radiation to their shore, occupying themselves roughly usefully, if such a factor might be mentioned to have any that means on the finish of the world, as others examine what could also be a message from a survivor in Seattle. A shifting, if not significantly scientifically sound, basic.

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)

After civilization has been principally worn out by nuclear conflict, the few survivors grow to be devoted Luddites, purging themselves of all information and eliminating any who would share or unfold it. The one individuals trusted with science are the monks within the Albertian Order of Leibowitz, who’ve pledged to guard it till humanity is prepared for it once more. The novel spans a number of thousand years, and the ethical is: we’ll at all times destroy the earth regardless of what number of precautions our ancestors took. Oh properly.

Tatyana Tolstaya, tr. Jamey Gambrell, The Slynx (2000)

It’s 2 hundred years after “the Blast,” and in Moscow the snow is at all times falling. Benedikt is simply glad to not have any main mutations, and a job, which is to transcribe the “speeches” of the wasteland’s chief, which are literally plagiarized from previous books, not a single one among which Benedikt has ever learn. Till, that’s, he meets the Oldeners, whose secret libraries will change every little thing for him.

Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Dying (2010)

Actually a fantasy novel (if these style distinctions matter, which they don’t), however set in a post-apocalyptic Sudan into which Onyesonwu is born, a toddler of rape and genocide, and hones her magical powers till she will strike again towards her father. A placing, grand novel that everybody ought to learn.

Hanna Jameson, The Final (2019)

We regularly consider the apocalypse as one thing that occurs to everyone on the identical time—however what about these in distant locales that stay untouched initially? On this novel, the world ends whereas Jon is at a Swiss lodge, far-off from everybody he is aware of and loves. So what does he do? Get busy fixing the extra instant drawback: the useless physique on the premises. In fact.

Colson Whitehead, Zone One (2011)

Colson Whitehead, Zone One (2011)

The preeminent trendy literary zombie novel, by which everybody left in Manhattan is both a zombie, feral skels or morose stragglers, or a human affected by PASD (post-apocalyptic stress dysfunction) and our mediocre hero is without doubt one of the band despatched to filter out the stragglers. A zombie novel for individuals who don’t learn zombie novels and a literary novel for individuals who don’t learn literary novels.

J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962)

My favourite Ballard: a heady quasi-adventure novel set in a future by which all the planet has been remodeled right into a sequence of sweltering lagoons, a neo-Triassic panorama that horrifies and in addition transfixes the survivors, who’re suffering from goals and unusual impulses.

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Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)

Chances are you’ll argue that The Handmaid’s Story is simply as a lot of an apocalypse novel as Oryx and Crake, and in some methods I’d agree with you—an apocalypse of thoughts and morality as an alternative of physique and planet. However and I each know what we’re doing right here. Plus, Oryx and Crake, whereas considerably much less celebrated, is simply pretty much as good, a frighteningly believable world destroyed by our relentless pursuit for happiness in a bottle. Oh, and trusting companies. In fact.

leave the world behind

Rumaan Alam, Depart the World Behind (2020)

Alam’s current blockbuster hit slash literary darling has what stands out as the quietest apocalypse on this record, at the very least from our viewpoint. We see virtually nothing, get solely hints of the destruction that descends on the world, and as an alternative are targeted on the rising nervousness of two households, thrown collectively by likelihood, as they attempt to make sense of what’s occurring. Which . . . might be how most of us will expertise the apocalypse, when it comes. Understanding this truth makes the novel all of the extra chilling.

Stephen King, The Stand (1978)

A basic, and possibly King’s finest novel (don’t come for me) is a behemoth (famously impressed by The Lord of the Rings) with many threads and characters, all set in a world ravaged by a pandemic attributable to a weaponized pressure of influenza that’s deadly to 99.4% of those that encounter it. So you could not need to learn it proper now!

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wittgenstein

David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988)

This isn’t often mentioned as a post-apocalyptic novel, and certainly it is determined by the way you learn it, however let me current my case: when you take the narrator’s phrase for it, she is the final girl alive on earth, typing alongside to maintain herself occupied, with no hope of ever encountering one other soul once more. So one thing will need to have occurred. The issue is: can you are taking the narrator’s phrase for it? Both means, the novel takes up the identical themes as most of the others on this record, albeit in its personal experimental, literary vogue: what’s left when nothing is left? How ought to the survivors reside? What did our artwork, our science, or civilization imply? Did it imply something in any respect?

cormac mccarthy the road

Cormac McCarthy, The Street (2006)

The very first novel you (most likely) consider when somebody says “post-apocalyptic,” by which a person and his son journey throughout a blasted-out nation that ever will get defined. Weirdly punctuated, unforgettable, and one thing of a departure for McCarthy—besides in its unyielding bleakness.

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993)

The perfect and worst factor about this novel is how shut it feels to being attainable (it’s set 4 years from now). Unchecked local weather change, wealth inequality, and corrupt management have destroyed society for most individuals—who now reside in guarded settlements or scavenge in roving bands—and the new new drug that makes you into an arsonist is simply an additional enjoyable element. In fact our narrator is bothered with the worst attainable factor you would have in such a situation, and in addition the factor that may save everybody: hyperempathy, that means she feels the ache of others. A literary page-turner of the very best order.

blindness

José Saramago, tr. Giovanni Pontiero, Blindness (1995; English publication 1997)

It doesn’t take a meteor or a nuclear missile to destroy civilization; all you want is a shock epidemic of blindness, and women and men will destroy it themselves. Regardless of the compelling, experimental prose, components of this really feel like a horror novel, however in contrast to a lot of the books on this record, it ends on a observe of hope, which makes it a very good one to learn proper now.

jemisin fifth season

N. Okay. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (2015)

That is one other guide not squarely within the post-apocalyptic style—there are components of fantasy in right here, and science fiction, although as we all know all of those borders are porous. What is bound, nevertheless, is that the occasions of the guide happen post-apocalypse. Really, they happen submit a number of apocalypses, every one a devastating flip of climate that wipes out a wholesome chunk of civilization. The characters on this guide and its sequels try to outlive post-apocalypse, positive, however they’re additionally attempting to forestall the inevitable subsequent one.

Mary Shelley, The Final Man (1826)

Shelley’s early novel of a twenty first century world scrubbed practically clear by bubonic plague was launched as if it have been merely a set of prophetic writings that she discovered and compiled right into a novel. Her contemporaries hated it. “It’s as if the critics have been attempting to annihilate with their rhetoric the very risk of writing a novel on this topic,” wrote Morton D. Paley. “The writer’s gender was in fact not spared.” It was described as “a sickening repetition of horrors,” and “the offspring of a diseased creativeness, and of a most polluted style” . . . which ought to make any trendy reader excited to choose it up. Good factor time goes on (for now).

The Country of Ice Cream Star

Sandra Newman, The Nation of Ice Cream Star (2014)

In post-pandemic Massachusetts, cabals of youngsters run wild—youngsters being the one people left, as everybody now dies from a illness referred to as “posies” by the age of 20. Except, that’s, our younger heroine Ice Cream, can observe down the remedy. It is a massive, troublesome, and impressive novel informed in an invented apocalyptic language—it is probably not for everybody, however for me it cements Newman’s standing as an underrated genius.

max brooks world war z

Max Brooks, World Conflict Z (2006)

Everybody’s favourite metafictional zombie apocalypse novel by Mel Brooks’ son, whose framing gadget—Brooks as agent of the United Nations Postwar Fee and his personal precise/fictional survival information, interviewing survivors—give it a polyphonic resonance. Don’t choose it by the film, which takes severe liberties, and isn’t nice.

Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker

Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980)

This basic, extremely influential for its use of invented dialect, is about in England, some two thousand years after the top of civilization as we all know it—when what society is left is uncomfortably reliant on “Punch & Pooty” reveals. A layered, Joycean masterpiece that’s as a lot in regards to the energy of story and delusion as it’s in regards to the finish of the world and every little thing after.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1994)

All proper, technically this can be a manga sequence, however I’ve it as a field set, and I’m counting it. I like Miyazaki’s post-apocalyptic world—a lot of the world is roofed in poisonous forest, often called the Sea of Corruption, which is itself overrun by big, mutant bugs, and which is encroaching—and his heroine, a curious princess turned battle captain with a deep respect for the pure world, corrosive as it might be.

Waubgeshig Rice, Moon of the Crusted Snow (2018)

It’s virtually winter, and on the reservation of a small Anishinaabe group in northern Ontario, the ability has gone out. Not simply the ability both, however the telephones and the web, leading to full isolation. And it’s chilly. Then the outsiders start to seem. Worry and chaos reign, as Evan Whitesky, father of two, seems to the previous, to custom, to attempt to rebuild his group’s future. Chilling in additional methods than one.

Edan Lepucki, California (2014)

Edan Lepucki, California (2014)

Lepucki’s debut might be most well-known for being the guide Stephen Colbert made well-known, but it surely’s additionally a beguiling novel about love on the finish of the world—although we by no means actually be taught what precisely tipped our current into this factionalized and urine-coated future. Might be something, I assume.

Justin Cronin, The Passage (2010)

Justin Cronin, The Passage (2010)

Among the best and largest up to date vampire novels can be among the best and largest apocalypse novels. All of it begins in a lab, by which a virus meant to create tremendous troopers really creates a plague of monsters—93 years later, the people left huddle in colonies, hiding from the hunters exterior the partitions. However can the world really be saved in spite of everything?

Anna North, America Pacifica (2011)

Some 70 years from now, North America is frozen. The survivors of the newest Ice Age are clustered on a Pacific island; solely the eldest bear in mind life on the mainland. However when her mom goes lacking, Darcy has to uncover the secrets and techniques of the previous world with a view to parse the disruptions of the brand new.

Pierre Boulle, tr. Xan Fielding, Planet of the Apes (1963)

Pierre Boulle, tr. Xan Fielding, Planet of the Apes (1963)

You don’t discover out that Planet of the Apes is a post-apocalyptic novel, and never only a science fiction novel about one other world, till the top of the guide. (Sorry for not warning you about this spoiler, however look, you had virtually 60 years.) What was the trigger? Oh, laziness, actually…

the end we start from

Megan Hunter, The Finish We Begin From (2017)

Parenthood is a form of apocalypse, sure, however—properly, so is an underwater London. No meals, no energy, no web; society begins to interrupt down, however even this will barely distract a brand new mom from the magic of her youngster. Hunter’s sparse novel asks what to make of the primary yr of a life (and the primary yr of motherhood) on the finish of the world.

Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren (1975)

Is it really a post-apocalypse by which our one-shoed protagonist drifts? Or are we coping with a distinct actuality fully? Both means, it has the sensation of a land gone to seed, with bombed-out, disconnected cities, monumental crimson suns, inexplicable, countless fires. And both means, it is without doubt one of the bizarre greats, a broadly influential and troublesome—even impenetrable—cult basic.

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Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home (1985)

Ursula Okay. Le Guin, All the time Coming Residence (1985)

“The individuals on this guide is likely to be going to have lived an extended, very long time from now in Northern California,” is how this guide begins, in slippery Le Guin vogue. The apocalypse in All the time Coming Residence occurred so lengthy that none among the many Kesh bear in mind it—not even their songs know what induced it. Principally, what’s left is styrofoam. This isn’t a straight narrative, however a practical anthropological examine of a fictional individuals, the Kesh, compiled and annotated by a researcher named Pandora. In some methods, it’s a minor work in Le Guin’s oeuvre, however an interesting one.

David Brin, The Postman (1985)

The guide begins sixteen years after the apocalypse (“It hardly mattered anymore what had finished it—an enormous meteorite, an enormous volcano, or a nuclear conflict. Temperatures and pressures swung out of stability, and nice winds blew.” A lot has modified for the survivors, however one factor has not: the authority conferred by a uniform. Or so discovers Gordon Krantz (aka Kevin Costner, when you’re one of many 8 individuals who noticed the film adaptation), a wanderer and one-time drama pupil who dons a uniform and mail sack present in an deserted Postal Service truck and begins to play the function of an officer of the “Restored United States of America,” bringing hope to a populace attempting to tug itself again from the brink.

By the way in which, David Brin had one thing to say about Donald Trump’s current assaults on the USPS. “We’re within the center proper now of an tried worldwide oligarchic push to reinstall feudalism, the dismally-failed governance mannequin that dominated 99 % of societies on six continents for six,000 years,” he informed EW. “The Postman, each the film and the guide, speak about how important it’s for us to recollect the issues that knit us collectively. Small city America is particularly coming to appreciate that actually the submit workplace is the middle of city, however will they understand it in time to make a distinction? I don’t suppose Trump cares any extra if the Republican social gathering is torched in November. I feel chaos is the objective.”

Peter Heller, The Dog Stars (2012)

Peter Heller, The Canine Stars (2012)

On this surprisingly uplifting post-apocalypse novel, a contagious illness referred to as “The Blood” has worn out most of civilization and left those that stay determined and territorial (to not point out six toes aside from each other). “”Those who’re left are principally Not Good,” says Hig, our mild hero. Hig lives in an previous airplane hangar along with his canine and grunty good friend Bangley, who guards the perimeter, however after listening to an odd dispatch on the radio, he ultimately goes out searching for different survivors, a remaining grasp at a greater life.

leave the world behind

Lidia Yuknavitch, The Ebook of Joan (2017)

In 2049, the world has been destroyed by world warming and conflict, and what people are left orbit their one-time house in a colony referred to as CIEL, led by the tyrannical Jean de Males, drawing no matter they will from the rock by way of “invisible technological umbilical cords.” One girl on CIEL, who will quickly flip 50 and due to this fact be decided pointless and euthanized, tells the story of Joan of Dust (for this can be a riff on the Joan of Arc story), who’s attempting to avoid wasting the world.

Lauren Beukes, Afterland (2020)

In Beukes’ fifth novel, it’s 2023, and a pandemic has left fewer that 1% of the world’s male inhabitants alive. One in all these is Cole’s 12-year-old son, Miles, whom Cole should defend in any respect prices—contemplating what nefarious minds, like her sister’s, may do with a boy proof against the virus—and they also go on the lam, Miles going as Mila, hoping to get house to Johannesburg. Like all of Beukes’ novels, it’s enjoyable, good, and barely sickening.

Heroes and Villains

Angela Carter, Heroes and Villains (1969)

Years post-nuclear conflict, the world has forested over its wounds, animals run free, and humanity has cut up into factions, if not variations: the Professors, the Troopers, the Barbarians, and the Out Folks. Marianne is without doubt one of the Professors, and lives in a literal ivory tower together with her father—till she sneaks out to expertise life as a Barbarian. As you may count on from Carter, this can be a terse, mythic, twisted tackle the top of days.

George R. Stewart, Earth Abides

George R. Stewart, Earth Abides (1949)

One of many classics of the style, by which a pupil, Ish, emerges from a interval of isolation and sickness—he was bitten by a diseased rattlesnake—and steps again into the world to search out virtually nobody left alive in it. However people, like every invasive species, will discover a means, and so Ish meets Em, and so they construct a group of survivors, new and previous—however as an alternative of rebuilding the world they knew, they need to watch because the youthful era adapts and begins to construct a brand new society primarily based on the world that’s left.

Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium (2014)

Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium (2014)

On this surreal novel, two characters on the finish of a world destroyed change genders, roles, and relationships to 1 one other as their lives are repeatedly rebooted by a mysterious—and corrupted—atmospheric laptop program, which is wanting (possibly) for a savior.

Peng Shepherd, The Ebook of M (2018)

This novel contains one of many stranger epidemics in apocalypse fiction: the Forgetting, which has devastated the world by separating these bothered from their shadows—and their reminiscences, which causes them to behave erratically, even violently. As society breaks down, Ory and Max (one shadowless, one not) attempt to discover solutions, and one another.

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World (2008)

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World (2008)

In the event you like your post-apocalypses just a little ludicrous, you could take pleasure in Harkaway’s take, by which the “Go-Away Conflict” has left three-quarters of the Earth’s inhabitants useless—or, extra particularly, “gone-away,” i.e. nonetheless there, however stripped of knowledge—till it is available in contact with a survivor’s thoughts, that’s. Our hero is a kung fu trucker named Gonzo, and naturally, he should save what’s left of the world.

Michel Faber, The Ebook of Unusual New Issues (2014)

On this novel, a pastor goes to a different planet to unfold Christianity, leaving his spouse at house; what outcomes, amongst different issues, is that the apocalypse on this novel is telegraphed to the protagonist at a distance, by more and more alarming and unbelievable missives, whilst he finds himself drawing additional away from the life he used to know and the girl he used to like.

Daniel H. Wilson, Robopocalypse (2011)

Daniel H. Wilson, Robopocalypse (2011)

For just a little aid from nuclear conflict and pandemics, enter the robopocalypse—which, by the way in which, is strictly what it appears like. It begins, in fact, with a superb scientist and a sentient laptop program, Archos, which kills its creator and decides that its function for being is to avoid wasting the planet from the human race. Archos spreads to machines all over the world, which kill or enslave people—till a couple of start to combat again. One other breath of recent air: this novel is informed from the opposite aspect of the apocalypse, a reminder that these items might be reversed, at the very least generally.

Pat Frank, Alas, Babylon (1959)

Pat Frank, Alas, Babylon (1959)

On this basic of nuclear holocaust fiction, when a lot of the USA is destroyed by the Soviet Union, one small Florida city survives, adapting to their new lives in a radioactive wasteland.

M. R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts (2014)

M. R. Carey, The Woman with All of the Presents (2014)

When this novel begins, it’s a couple of decade after the zombie apocalypse has left solely a handful of uninfected people in Britain—the remaining are useless or contaminated, “empty homes the place individuals used to reside” often called “hungries.” It’s been lengthy sufficient, although, for there to be a second era of hungries: youngsters who’re preternaturally good, absurdly robust, and succesful (possibly) of human empathy. Except they odor a human, that’s. Then they need to eat it. The human scientists who’re left are torn: attempt to crack open the eponymous Melanie’s mind to determine the way it works? Or deal with her like a toddler and hope she will lead the world again to humanity that means?

Robert R. McCammon, Swan Song (1987)

Robert R. McCammon, Swan Track (1987)

A horror novel and an apocalypse novel in a single—as if surviving nuclear holocaust wasn’t sufficient, now there’s a demonic entity often called The Man with the Scarlet Eye, aka Doyle, working round. Typical.

Sarah Pinsker, A Track for a New Day (2019)

Oh, bizarre, a novel by which a string of terrorist assaults, mass shootings, bombings, after which a pandemic, has resulted in widespread concern, consolidation of company energy, and the top of all public gatherings. So unrealistic, amirite? As a substitute of Zoom, although, Luce and her band-mates must deal with StageHolo, principally a holographic pay-per-view for concert events, and their expertise scout Rosemary, who by no means actually knew the world Earlier than. Like all one of the best apocalyptic fiction, that is really a guide about human connection—the truth that it’s additionally a cool, queer rock and roll novel is only a bonus.

C.A. Fletcher, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (2019)

C.A. Fletcher, A Boy and His Canine on the Finish of the World (2019)

Simply what it says on the tin. The boy (Griz) and the canine (Jip) are among the many survivors after the “mushy apocalypse” often called the Gelding, which neutered a lot of the world. When Griz’s different canine (Jess) is stolen, Griz and Jip should make a rescue mission by the ruins of Scotland.

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