Near-post-apocalyptic fiction concerns the adaptation and ongoing trials of those who have survived an apocalyptic disaster. This is perhaps the most popular genre concerning the apocalypse, as the set-up is immediate and universal: ordinary people must adapt to extraordinary circumstances. These books can include the events of the apocalypse, or be set in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, and often have reflective flashbacks to times before.
Title: The Day of the Triffids
Author: John Wyndham
Threat: Blindness and carnivorous plants.
What it’s all about: A classic work of science fiction, where sudden blindness drives London into apocalyptic chaos. Pitting man against nature, John Wyndham gracefully explores how easily society crumbles with the loss of a simple sense.
Title: I Am Legend Author:
Richard Matheson Year:
Vampiric disease What it’s all about:
Remade many times over into TV and film productions, I Am Legend
follows sole human survivor, Robert Neville, as he attempts to make sense of a plague that has turned humanity into vampiric monsters.
Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
What it’s all about: In this Steven King classic, there’s a Biblical battle of good vs evil underlies the epic tale of human survival after a superflu wipes out 99% of the human race.
Title: The Road Author:
Cormac McCarthy Year:
Unknown disaster What it’s all about:
Both a story of survival in a bleak wasteland, and a coming-of-age tale, The Road
is as miserable and haunting as you could want from a post-apocalypse, as father and son struggle to reach the sea after an unidentified disaster that’s choked the world.
Title: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margret Atwood
Threat: Unknown (genetics)
What it’s all about: Marget Atwood’s tale follows Snowman, a seemingly mad character who appears to be the last surviving human on Earth. Piecing together his memories of a world previoulsy rife with genetic experimentation, and his lost love, this is as much a romance as apocalyptic survival.
Title: The Postman Author:
David Brin Year:
EMP attacks What it’s all about:
A drifter travels across America in the aftermath of worldwide chaos caused by weapons of mass destruction. A story of rebuilding, savagery and, above all, symbols.
Title: Z for Zachariah
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Threat: Nuclear holocaust, nerve gas
What it’s all about: A teenage girl, her family gone, must survive in a small valley somehow protected from the radiation of the wider world. Her struggle is complicated when a stranger arrives, and his aggression collides with her immaturity for a tense, claustrophobic tale.
Title: Y: The Last Man Author:
Brian K. Vaughn Year:
All the men are dead. What it’s all about:
A graphic novel posing the question “what if all the men suddenly died?” Only half of the world’s population are missing in this post-apocalypse, but it still makes for a chaotic and exciting ride.
Title: Metro 2033
Author: Dmitry Glukhovsky
Threat: Nuclear war, paranormal monsters
What it’s all about: With a colourfully original setting, this is the saga of Artyom as he navigates the Moscow Metro, years after the last bastion of civilisation has been driven to survival underground. Plagued by nightmarish monsters, this is equal parts apocalyptic and horror.
Earth Abides Author:
George R. Stewart Year:
Disease What it’s all about:
“Ish” Williams and his partner attempt to rebuild a community in California after a deadly disease destroys civilisation. Though an epic covering themes of population control and Biblical rebuilding, Earth Abides
is a product of its time, an early Cold War novel, and a long haul.
Title: Alas, Babylon
Author: Pat Frank
Threat: Nuclear war
What it’s all about: A small community try to rebuild after a nuclear war. One of the most lasting, and haunting, of Cold War paranoia tales, Alas, Babylon remains influential today.
Lucifer’s Hammer Authors:
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Year:
Comet What it’s all about:
A comet crashes towards Earth, encouraging the superpowers to blow each other up. With the end of civilisation and a battle for survival in the future, military rule and cannibalism are rife as the survivors rally.
Title: The Quiet Earth
Author: Craig Harrison
What it’s all about: Waking alone, John Hobson, a geneticist who was working on some wild experiments, discovers everyone has gone. He starts to wander abandoned New Zealand, with no signs of life, trying to explain what happened to all the people. When he meets another man, tensions quickly mount.
Roadside Picnic Authors:
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky Year:
Alien anomalies What it’s all about:
Following extraterrestrial invasions, a number of Zones appear across the Earth containing strange anomalies that cause strange disturbances. And lead to a subculture of stalkers
who go scavenge the Zones. Though not exactly a post-apocalypse, the wasteland settings have all the hallmarks of an apocalyptic tale.
Title: The Martian Chronicles
Author: Ray Bradbury
Threat: Atomic war
What it’s all about: Ray Bradbury’s novel is actually more a collection of short stories that tracks from the early stages of a declining Earth and the eventual atomic destruction of human life through to colonisation and conflict on Mars. A little different to most post-apocalypses as the human race graciously takes the wasteland to another planet.
The Last Ship Authors:
William Brinkley Year:
Nuclear war What it’s all about:
Caught out at sea during a nuclear war, the crew of the USS Nathan James must now drift across the world in search of a new place to settle. Currently being adapted to a TV series.
Title: The Last Man
Author: Mary Shelley
What it’s all about: Something of an upstart, Lionel Verney gradually learns to appreciate civilisation. As it is coming to an end. Widely attributed as the first modern post-apocalyptic novel, you can download it for free here.
Planet of the Apes Authors:
Pierre Boulle Year:
Apes What it’s all about:
Blurring the gap between the near and far apocalypse, and dystopian social commentary, the novel that inspired a whole film franchise chronicles how the complacency of man could bring about animal replacements.