Monday, September 7, 2009

Bookmonkey's top 5 books in a Post-apocalyptic setting

Last week I took a look at Guillermo Del Toro's The Strain, a 2009 horror novel focusing on the beginnings of a vampire apocalypse and stated that the Post-apocalyptic sub-genre is one of my personal favourites. So now I guess it's proper Internet etiquette to hold up my top choices for you to compare and judge (be gentle!).

So here we go:

5. The Stand, by Stephen King
My own personal first taste in the sub-genre, this massive story (over 1000 pages - yes I know I was all on about how giant books like this are the death of genre fiction, but come on - It's The Freaking Stand!), did a lot for me, it made sure I take getting the flu seriously, ensured I would be law abiding - nothing would be worse than being trapped in a jail cell when everyone else died, and heightened my already healthy fear of underground tunnels. For those of you who don't know, Marvel is doing a great adaptation of this series, it's totally worth a look.

4. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
To be fair I liked the movie (more than Omega Man, and not quite as much as The Last Man on Earth), but the best part of the book comes down to two words - Ben Cortman. Ben is a former friend and neighbour of the protagonist, Robert Neville and spends most of the novel being a HUGE thorn in his side, as Robert spends most of his days hunting for his former friend/Vampire nemesis. Unlike the 2007 film, the vampires in the book are sentient, smart and still have all their human memories.

3. Swan Song, by Robert R. McCammon
For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. McCammon's work, I would actually suggest starting with Boy's Life (a winner of the World Fantasy Award), but if you want some great post-nuclear disaster, good versus evil, hint of magic type stuff, than this book is definitely for you.

2. The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke
Probably the only pure SF book on the list, This story takes place when a city of people who have survived generations after an apocalypse and are basically immortal, bring to life a young clone (they are all clones) who has the drive to go outside of the city, and what he finds out there changes the world forever.

1. Earth Abides, by George Stewart
This book probably deserves its own review (coming soon), but it is hands down my favourite SF book of the '40s (sorry 1984), and definately my favourite post-apocalyptic book period. It starts by following the life of a Berkeley graduate named Isherwood (Ish for short) Williams, just after WWII, follows him through the apocalypse (a plauge like in The Stand) and then continues to follow his life for the next 4o years in the post-apocalyptic world! Books that follow people through an apocalypse probably make up 80% of the sub-genre, books that take place generations after the apocalypse make up 15% of the sub-genre, but a book that takes the long view definately stands out on its own. Put simply - buy this book.

Now I know I've missed tonnes of peoples favourites in this sub-genre, but believe me, this category is one of my fav's - I could do a top five comics, top five young adult books, top five of classics, the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, and that doesn't even touch movies, TV series or Anime. I'm just talking novels and even with a category this narrow I had to think long and hard about which books would make the cut.

Honourable mention: Children of Men, The Long Tomorrow, A Canticle for Liebowitz, The Handmaid's Tale (I am Canadian after all) - I'm sorry, I'll stop now.


  1. Just curious if you've heard of and/or read John Christoper's Wrinkle in the Skin I've been trying to track down a copy for awhile now but have always stopped just short of buying it.

  2. I've actually never heard of it, but you can be sure I'll add it to my list of books to read - thanks!

    You can actually check out my book collection at

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. "I Am Legend" really is terrific - and I agree with you, the Vincent Price movie version ("The Last Man on Earth") is the best, most faithful film adaptation.

    Ironically so - Richard Matheson worked on the screenplay but had his name removed when they changed his ending... but up until the end it's basically his book! The recent Will Smith version only keeps some of the concepts and spirit of the book, but changes many of the details... and we won't even get into "The Omega Man" (except to say "any resemblance between it and the book it is allegedly based on is purely coincidental")!

    Which is to say, I think Mr. Matheson may have been a bit hasty in his decision to disown what has turned out to be the only faithful movie version of his classic vampire apocalypse!

  4. hey I have a couple of blog posts like yours: and

    glad to see another fan!!

  5. Oh yes... you left out World War Z!!! My favorite and I can't wait til the movie next summer.

  6. "I've actually never heard of it, but you can be sure I'll add it to my list of books to read - thanks!"

    Excellent! I looked at your Library Thing list. Good stuff there. I was discussing Post-Apocalyptic books with a friend online and he had been reading a spate of them, some classic, some new. He said Wrinkle In The Skin was the one he had enjoyed the most. It was published in 1965, the year before I was born. Apparently John Christopher and other British authors of the time, e.g. John Wyndham, wrote a bunch of the End of the World novels, some of them quite good.