One year, 36 new fictional apocalypses under my reading-list belt. A few were truly horrible (Barricade, Freakangels) but on the whole, a pretty good crop.
In 2016, I will continue my apocalyptic reading project and Thursdays will remain devoted to my post-apocalyptic column, 1000 Ways to End the World. Post-apocalyptic lit is mired in nostalgia, power fantasies, and a blind devotion to the status quo—all things that make me cringe. But I still love ruins. And survival stories. The genre’s fascination has not let go of me yet. Why do we love this genre so much? Why do I love it so much? Tune in next year as I continue to search for the answer.
I have seen the world destroyed by magic (Bones of Faerie, Radiant), by nukes (This Is How the World Ends, Fiskadoro), by God (Angelfall), by plague (Station Eleven, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang), and by a dying sun (Underground Man). Every book has been interesting, but below you’ll find the best.
Viriconium by M. John Harrison, The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
Surprise! Both of these books made it onto my Best Books of 2015 List, so of course they top the apocalypse list as well. I’ve rambled on about them at length so I’ll hold my tongue and offer links: Viriconium review, The Book of Phoenix review, German Book of Phoenix review.
Life on the Preservation by Jack Skillingstead
A post-apocalyptic, science-fictional, PK-Dickain, ground-hog-day-esque mind fuck. This book deserves hype that it does not appear to have gotten. An all-time-favorite book candidate. At the time I breezed through it in a fit of pleasure and did not imprint my thoughts into the blog concrete.
School’s Out Forever trilogy by Scott K. Andrews
My PA pet peeve is PTSD. Why do so few PA protagonists ever have it? When they do have it, how is it they get over it so quickly? This is one of the genre’s biggest fallacies, and Scott K. Andrews is one of the first post-apocalyptic authors I’ve seen to take it seriously and to put trauma center stage. And he manages it without sacrificing the page-turning glee a reader might experience at, say, a machine gun battle between 12-year-olds and cult members at the end of the world.
From my review (linked above): “While you might have signed up for a pulpy book full of bloody battle (which you will get), what this yarn is about is how violence is stupid and fucked up and psychologically damaging and better avoided.”
Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
This magical post-apocalyptic world felt so real I could feel it through the page. Contains: Engaging mystery, economics, and a complex friendship. Here’s hoping I can finish the trilogy in 2016.
Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simmer
Bones of Faerie is another a magical apocalypse trilogy. A war between humans and faeries has left malicious plants in its wake: crops that attack as you harvest, trees who send out seeds meant to bury themselves in your flesh. The world has been reduced to small, primitive farming communities. Though written for a YA/middle grade crowd, it is s deliciously dark and quick read.
Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Elysium was the most experiment of the PA crop this year, with a complex and satisfying structure and a fascinating reveal. From my review (linked above): “Elyisum was exciting. Not because of edge-of-your-seat action, but because watching an author successfully execute this acrobatic a narrative is absolutely thrilling.”
Runners up: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell and The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy, for beautiful writing.