“In my opinion, 2011 has been the high-water mark thus far

in this new Golden Age of apocalyptic fiction.”

– Paul Goat Allen

 

I’ve been a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction ever since I can remember. As a kid growing up in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it seemed like the end of the world was not only inevitable but also imminent. The Vietnam War was in full swing, the steaming pile of political defecation that was Watergate hit the rotating oscillator forcing Nixon’s resignation, the energy crisis and economic recession were making daily existence for most an ulcer-inducing nightmare, and let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the Cold War.

 

 

 

I miss that era – and those classic novels – but, fortunately, the last few years have brought about a new Golden Age of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Beginning with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), the last five years have produced a cornucopia of wildly diverse end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it stories. From Victor Gischler’s sardonic Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse (2008) to David Oppegaard’s brilliant debut novel The Suicide Collectors (2009) to Ken Scholes’ epic Psalms of Isaak saga (Lamentation was released in 2009), the last few years have been loaded with exceptional and highly innovative apocalyptic fiction.

 

 

What does this renaissance of apocalyptic fiction tell me? Readers – and writers – are, once again, becoming increasingly fascinated by various end-of-the-world scenarios: the causes, the implications, and the aftermath. The specific reasons readers are attracted to apocalyptic fiction releases varies from person to person but for me at least, I think it’s all about comfort and hope. Reading these books and envisioning the nightmarish, end-of-days horrors described within makes me realize just how well off we have it. Yeah, I drive an 18-year old car and sometimes it’s a struggle to pay my bills but at least I have food to eat and a roof over my head. After reading about a world inhabited by masses of starving nomads (Ziegler’s Seed), an America overrun by zombies (Littlefield’s Aftertime), and a world where millions have simply disappeared after a Rapture-like event (Perrotta’s The Leftovers), my life seems pretty good!

 

I know it sounds paradoxical but reading apocalyptic fiction generally leaves me with a sense of hope – hope that we can somehow avoid the mistakes made in these novels and right the wrongs before it is really too late.

 

The bottom line is that 2011 was an extraordinary year for apocalyptic fiction and the novels listed below are the crème de la crème.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 

 

 Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!

Comments
by BrandieC on ‎12-29-2011 08:39 AM

Wow, Paul, your top release blog posts are really highlighting for me the type of books I've been drawn to lately.  I've read 6 of your top 12 picks, with another 4 already on my TBR list before you posted your list.  I didn't realize how much apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction I have been reading; I'll have to give some thought as to why this genre is so attractive to me at this point in my life.

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎12-29-2011 09:29 AM

Wow Paul, once again you wow me with not just your picks, but how you put into words why I Love Apocalyptic fiction and I quote  

 

"I know it sounds paradoxical but reading apocalyptic fiction generally leaves me with a sense of hope – hope that we can somehow avoid the mistakes made in these novels and right the wrongs before it is really too late.

 

That is how I feel about reading this varied and interesting genre.

 

The Colson Whitehead has been on my want list for awhile and it's now going in my pile

 

Thanks Paul

Happy New Year

Deb

by Chomp on ‎12-29-2011 10:42 AM

Paul, I share your love of this genre, as you know, and I think you have hit upon a few of the reasons the genre appeals. Growing up on the 60's and 70's, living through the Bay of Pigs and doing emergency drills of hiding under desks at school, gives one a sense of the very real fear of what could happen. One of the reasons I enjoy apocalyptic fiction involves the "what if" questions while at the same time the stories can be seen as cautionary tales.

 

I love Canticle and A Clockwork Orange, and Doctor Bloodmoney by Phillip K. Dick remains one of my favorites, along with Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.

 

Thanks for the great list -- now I have even more titles to add to my wishlist. :smileyhappy:

Carol  

by on ‎01-02-2012 12:15 AM

Thanks for this list Paul. I've read and really enjoyed some of the books you've enumerated, and I'm going to read Soft Apocalypse in the next couple of months. I bought it because of your glowing blog review of that book, and I've just been waiting to come into an apocalyptic frame of mind. Perhaps taking down the tree and putting away the Xmas decorations will inspire just such a mood. Or, maybe it will be the partisan political views expressed ad nauseam on just about every commercial news channel. 

by jeffyo ‎02-28-2012 02:48 PM - edited ‎02-28-2012 02:52 PM

I'd be more than pleased if you'd check out my new novel The Eye of the Archer.  MesoAmerican apocalypse in the modern age.  Indian gods return to battle for the Sixth and Final World.