Archive for Book Review

The Passage: a tale of two novels

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Title: The Passage
Author:Justin Cronin
Year published: 2010
Genre: Post-apocalypse (near/far), thriller/horror.
Threat: Vampires.
Two words: Long term.






Justin Cronin’s dabble with the apocalypse has met with wide critical celebration, as he blended numerous genres: starting out as a thriller, it progresses to some sort of action horror when transported to its post-apocalyptic adventure resting place. Wedging together the ever-popular theme of genetically modified vampires (thanks, I Am Legend) with wasteland survivors and a prodigal child with superpowers, it’s a recipe for epic adventure. And you’d think it a very impressive thing for an author to pull off. But does he? Read more

The Age of Miracles: a child’s view of impending doom

the age of miracles novel

Title: The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Year published: 2012
Genre: Apocalyptic, young adult/drama.
Threat: The Earth rotation slows.
Two words: Suburban .






A very different entry in our lists, this novel is devoid of much of the horror, or drama, that pervades most post-apocalyptic fiction, focused more on the development of childhood emotions and the family lives of ordinary people affected by a worldwide cataclysm. The Age of Miracles is a light read, with all the hallmarks of pulp book-club entertainment, though it sets its simple tale of an awkward girl’s advance into adolescence against a dramatically altering world, spiralling towards the apocalypse. Read more

The Road: brilliantly bleak literary fiction

the road bleak novel

Title: The Road
Author:Cormac McCarthy
Year published: 2006
Genre: Post-apocalyptic (near), literary.
Threat: Unknown, but it’s very cloudy.
Two words: Brilliantly bleak.







Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has been made especially well known and popular thanks to the superbly ported movie of the same name, but it was doing well long before that. Its won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2007), and brought the post-apocalypse to attention of serious literary critics. Unlike many of the books in our listsThe Road isn’t exactly sci-fi or horror. It’s a harrowing emotional journey, and though it’s set amongst dangers of the apocalypse and the savage survivors, it’s really the story of a father and son. Read more

I Am Legend: genre defining

I am legend novel

Title: I Am Legend
Author:Richard Matheson
Year published: 1954
Genre: Post-apocalyptic (near), horror.
Threat: Disease, vampires
Two words: Utterly influential.






Rarely in history has a book had such a profound impact on its genre as I Am Legend. More than half a century after its initial release, it continues to influence the countless zombie apocalypse, vampire society and lonely wasteland wanderer stories that now pervade popular culture. Themes that we now consider cliché, like the scientific origin of the paranormal disease, and the sole survivor turned hardened hunter, were novel and original when this book was first released. Testament to how successfully Matheson captured these ideas, they are now over-used and over-familiar. But if you’ve never read the original, rest assured it still stands the test of time. Read more

Z for Zachariah: two people, one valley

z for zachariah

Title: Z For Zachariah
Author:Robert C. O’Brien
Year published: 1974
Genre: Post-apocalyptic (near), young adult/drama.
Threat: Nuclear holocaust, nerve gas.
Two words: Tense adolescence.







Z for Zachariah is often bandied as a children’s post-apocalyptic book, concerning a young lady’s survival after a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, it was partially finished by O’Brien’s daughter, released only after his death, and it’s a text at least previously studied in schools. Something you read and reread and pick apart in class until you find it mind-numbingly banal. But there’s a reason it was worthy studying, and it’s a perfectly mature tale – it’s a great character study, with a purposefully subtle story. Read more

In the Country of Last Things: dystopian despair

paul auster in the country of last things

Title: In the Country of Last Things
Author:Paul Auster
Year published: 1987
Genre: Dystopia, literary/drama.
Threat: A society abandoned and left to rot.
Two words: Scavenging survival.







As dystopian novels go, In the Country of Last Things is about as apocalyptic as they come. Somewhat out of character for contemporary chronicler Paul Auster, it is the story of a society that has fallen apart, and the people who continue to inhabit it, struggling to do nothing more than survive. The world Auster has created is a substantial and vivid vision – while the nature of the setting and the story give a sense of timeless decay.

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Metro 2033: horror in the Moscow underground

metro 2033 novel

Title: Metro 2033
Author:Dmitry Glukhovsky
Year published: 2005 (Russia)
Genre: Post-apocalypse (near), action/horror.
Threat: Nuclear holocaust, mutated monsters
Two words: Underground horror.







Metro 2033 has become more popularly known internationally thanks to the success of the computer game, though the novel is novel entertainment in its own right. Combining elements of paranormal horror with real-world locations, it’s a dark saga with vivid action and well-realised varied settings. But for its charm (and I did essentially like the book) it is far from perfect. If you’re after a dark romp through a creepy apocalypse, you could do worse, but you could also do a lot better. Read more

Wool: an e-publishing triumph

wool ebook adventure

Title: Wool
Author: Hugh Howey
Year published: 2011 (first story)
Genre: Post-apocalypse (far) / Dystopia, action/thriller.
Threat: Unknown; the outside world is lethally polluted.
Two words: Claustrophobic brilliance.







Hugh Howey‘s Wool has been around for a few years, first starting as a series of short stories and novellas, before reaching its ultimate omnibus form. The accomplished and affecting story is darkly confined to an immense underground silo, with the outside world uninhabitable. Perfectly capturing the brutal conditions of isolated communities long after an unidentified apocalypse, the characters are stuck in a perpetual loop of maintaining the silo, only occasionally stepping outside to clean the sensors that look to the desolate world outside. The atmosphere alone is worth soaking up, but the story of determined characters unravelling the truth about their confinement is well worthy of the setting – it’s dark, tense and uncomfortable, but brilliant, reading. It’s also a marvel of independent success from a highly respectable author. Read more

Wixon’s Day: accepting responsibility in a leaderless world

wixon's day post apocalyptic canal journey

Title: Wixon’s Day
Author: Phil Williams
Year published: 2012
Genre: Post-apocalypse (far) / Dystopia, action/steampunk.
Threat: Unknown; lack of heat and sunlight cause lasting problems.
Two words: Canal warrior.







Wixon’s Day is a slow-paced saga rife with philosophical musing, in a grimly realised bleak setting. Far in the future, the cause of the world’s current state is unknown; in fact, very little about the world’s history is known. This makes for a brooding drama where survival is the first order of business, and questions of morality, power and progress are very much ignored. By removing the sense of history and purpose from characters who are drawn into vast wars, it raises questions about exactly what everyone is fighting for, and what it takes to motivate someone to make a difference. Read more

Riddley Walker: total immersion in the far apocalypse

riddley walker post apocalyptic book

Title: Riddley Walker
Author: Rusell Hoban
Year published: 1980
Genre: Post-apocalypse (far), literary.
Threat: Distant nuclear holocaust
Two words: Immense immersion.






Guaranteed, Riddley Walker is like nothing else you have ever read. Rusell Hoban has created something truly unique, by placing himself, and us as the reader, fully in the place of a reformed society, centuries after the devastation of a nuclear bomb. Unlike most works of post-apocalyptic fiction, or of any fiction that looks to a different era of time, Hoban gives us a story from the perspective of people completely removed from our society. They don’t have our norms: they don’t even use our language. It makes it a difficult read, but a massively rewarding experience, placing you in a completely different world. Read more