“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.
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