Favorite (Post) Apocalyptic Novels
I love a good ending-- especially of the world. I know the book that started it. I had just started working at WORD and there was a damaged copy of Peter Heller's The Dog Stars up for grabs. Despite the fact that I thought it was out of my genre comfort zone when I read the back I didn't let that deter me. The dark blue and gold cover was so beautiful I took it home. I can say without a doubt that it will remain a memorable reading experience that I wholeheartedly appreciate. That book, like so many of its kind, is much more about the start of a life than the ending of everything. Hig and Jasper will stay with me forever. Crying for Jasper on the train into work is a favorite story of mine. Since that fateful story I have read many other apocalyptic novels that have been among my, if not actual, favorites.
The thing I liked most about The Dog Stars was its quiet but unbreakable love for the world. A book I felt really mirrored and expanded on that idea was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Her book told the story of how a whole society could be rebuilt even after such major devastation and loss. There was a similar sense of searching for what remains in the face of annihilation. I always pair these two in my mind and I believe that's apt.
My favorite of the apocalypse fiction genre is Mort(e) by Robert Repino. This is not a quiet love letter to the world but rather a war cry for the humanists. A gritty, dark, sometimes brutal look at society at its most vulnerable and disgusting. Yet, the love story at its core reminds us that beauty is all around if you remember to look for it once in a while. There is a perfect balance to the compelling and well crafted story with a clear message about the world as it is. There are some harsh truths in those pages if you are daring enough to go looking.
On the flip side of this genre coin is the pre-apocalypse. I would be remiss if I didn't touch on these. My two favorite of this are Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Both of these play with the idea of the antichrist as the destructor of the world instead of diseases or war. Boom is by far darker and sadder than Omens. But they both mess with the free will contract made with God in most major religions. Omens does it with irony and Boom does it with violence. Equally entertaining and complex, I would recommend these to different types of readers despite having so much in common.
Finally, I leave you with a weird one. A historical novel within a post-apocalyptic novel, Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson. This illuminated novel traces both the future of one family while also outlining a particular incident in the past. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this experimental book. Dodson is a book designer by trade and it is made very obvious here. There are illustrations throughout and a reproduction of a "historical" text along with a letter you really pull out of an envelope at the end of the book. It still reads smoothly and quickly despite all these extras. It never feels too involved with the art piece but always with telling you this very interesting story.