Friday, December 21, 2012

Books for the apocalypse

As anyone who knows me or who follows my blog postings, I'm a fan of the apocalypse. No, I'm not looking forward to it, nor do I believe in it*, but I am a fan of all the books that have been written about the subject.

There's been a wave of books that take place in some sort of future dystopia, places and worlds where, after some great cataclysm (known or unknown) humanity has remade itself. Many of these new books are written for young adults, but by no means limited to them.

I could go on, but since we're supposedly facing the end of the world this Friday, here are some highlights from some of the best apocalyptic fiction I've read this year:

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War & The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks - I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of zombies. I avoid books and movies about them, since they tend to emphasize the gore factor a bit too much for my taste. But then I heard that a movie was being made based on the book, and that fans of the book were up in arms about it. I had to read it.

World War Z (the book) is told, true to it's subtitle, as an oral history. Divided into chronological sections, the story is told through interviews with survivors of the war. The people interviewed range from military to doctors to ordinary people, and follow the spread of the plague, the governments' responses (or lack thereof) and how people managed to survive and, ultimately, beat back the zombie hoards. The first-person narration is gripping and brings you to the heart of the crisis. The raw terror, the helplessness and the desperation are tangible, as is the toll both the war and the terrible solution that won it took on what remains of humanity.

Brooks' companion nonfiction book, The Zombie Survival Guide, is referred to a few times as a "civilian survival manual" during World War Z and is written as such. Offering practical advice from where to go to what to bring with you, the guide is written in the same world as World War Z. It also offers more information about the virus that causes people to turn and a retrospective of recorded attacks dating back to 60,000 B.C. to the attacks that set off the global war. I'd recommend reading it after you've finished World War Z, as the history, advice and scenarios will hold more meaning.

Wool: Omnibus & the Shift series by Hugh Howey
The Wool series began as a one-off Kindle single by science fiction writer Howey. But, as the novella became a best seller, fans demanded more. Wool: Omnibus collects the five novellas that have been published so far. Howey has also written two short stories in a planned trilogy (the Shift series) that fill in the history of the world of Wool. Once the third book is published, Howey has promised to continue with Wool 9, and the Shift series should definitely be read after Wool: Omnibus. As a bonus, the Kindle edition of Wool 1 is now free!

Wool takes place in an underground silo where generations of people have lived after an unknown global catastrophe made the surface of the planet uninhabitable and deadly. The story of Wool 1 begins with the sheriff of the silo, Holston. Beyond that, it's difficult to describe further without giving major spoilers. One hint, though: people do leave the silo for "cleaning," however, they do not come back. And often times, they volunteer.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster - Written in 1909, this short story is amazingly prescient. Forster imagines a world in which people live in vast underground structures and have lost the ability to live independently. People are dependent on the Machine, which cares for their every need, and the vast majority of life is spent in isolated cells. Exile from the Machine means death and very few question the Machine's existence or actions. The story follows Vashti and her son Kuno, who wants to see the world outside of the Machine. And, as the Machine begins to malfunction, Kuno might get his wish. It's a great story, especially considering it was written 103 years ago, and it's available for as a PDF EPUB or Kindle book. (Hat-tip to Mike for recommending it!)

Good luck and happy reading!

~ Allison, Adult Services

* Although if anyone wants to buy me a spot in one of these, I won't object.

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