One of the reasons I started this blog was the overwhelming choice and recommendations of books out there. Sites like Goodreads are great but, in my experience, you can’t beat a personal recommendation. The ‘post-apocalypse’ genre has been around since at least the end of the Second World War and the dawn of nuclear weapons, and its popularity shows no sign of abating, evidenced by hit TV shows like The Walking Dead and movies including Mad Max: Fury Road. Post-apocalyptic novels appear to be in even greater abundance. I’m not a particular fan of the genre but have read a few good books, a couple of which I’d highly recommend.
The first is Station Eleven, a 2014 novel written by Emily St. John Mandel. The novel deals with the aftermath of a flu pandemic which wipes out over 95% of the population. The novel, like others in the genre, follows the trials and tribulations of a diverse core of individuals and jumps back and forwards in time in the process, allowing us to understand the characters in more depth. The novel also adopts a common device in that it links the individuals in clever ways, weaving a rich tapestry which is natural in its telling. While I read the book a number of months ago, one poignant moment which comes to mind is the establishment of a ‘Museum of the Civilization’ within an airport – which has become a centre of civilisation itself. The museum includes objects of no practical use in a world with no electricity, including cell phones and, god forbid, iPads. It’s well written and constructed, has interesting and likeable characters, and is a thoughtful perspective on life.
The second of my recommendations is Max Brook’s, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Some of you will be familiar with the 2013 film World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, which is based on the book. I enjoyed the film but, as is so often the case, it pales in comparison with the book and presents only one strand within the books many. The title of the book is a fair summary of what you get: it’s not played for laughs and is written as a serious treatise on humanity’s battle with zombies. The strength of the book isn’t in its characters – the book is made up of a series of interviews – but in its painting of a multifaceted picture of zombie war. One of the enjoyable aspects of the book is that it makes you think, ‘oh, yeah. I didn’t think of that’, such as how the zombie virus is spread, e.g. through bureaucratic ineptitude, people and organ smuggling, etc. The development of military tactics is another interesting aspect of the book, as zombies, as we all know from our day-to-day lives, aren’t great respecters of military hardware. It’s a real page turner which you’ll be glad you read come the zombie apocalypse!