Imagine the end of human civilization and enter a world similar to ours yet completely unlike the one we know. From economic collapse to massive flu pandemics, the dark settings of post-apocalyptic fiction offer cautionary visions of bleak yet beautiful worlds. This week’s #FridayReads feature four dystopian novels geared towards adults.
Hig, a pilot, takes refuge in an abandoned Colorado airport after a flu pandemic swept the world nine years earlier. With only pockets of survivors left, Hig lives with Bangley, a gun nut, and his dog Jasper. To forget the past, especially his pregnant wife Melissa who perished in the outbreak, Hig hunts, fishes, star gazes, and flies his 1956 Cessna in the “safety zone.” However, he’s haunted by a radio transmission he heard three years previous. Now, packing up enough supplies for the journey, Hig sets out to find the voice he heard. Embedded with quiet emotion and action, Heller gracefully writes with measured prose highlighting hope over heartbreak.
After pandemic and climate change, civilization collapses, leaving a class-divided futuristic America. B-Mor (formally Baltimore) now exists as a “New Chinese” labor settlement to grow food for the elite living in charter villages. Sixteen-year-old Fan is a diver working in the fish farms, but she leaves the safety of her position and B-Mor after her boyfriend, Reg, vanishes. Embarking into the great beyond to find him, Fan encounters people and a world much unlike her own. From a taciturn healer to backwards acrobats, Lee’s world-building skills illuminate the sense of adventure and social disintegration of a brutal, surreal world that rings true of fresh, original writing and conceptualization.
With Los Angeles crumbling in decay, Cal and Frida make their way to the neighboring countryside to escape the social breakdown of the city. Back in the woods, they inhabit an abandoned shack, and live off the land and each other until a secret develops between them—Frida is pregnant. After weighing their odds, the couple decide to travel to the nearest settlement to seek assistance, but they soon learn that their neighbors have secrets, too; the community may provide security for Frida and Cal, but danger as well. In a character-driven plot, California illustrates the tensions between the inner workings of family combined with outside influences while warning us of a future that could very well happen.
A Shakespearian actor dies on stage, and shortly thereafter the world begins to dissolve as a massive flu pandemic travels the globe. Fifteen years later, a group of actors and musicians known as the Traveling Symphony tour the Great Lakes region performing at local settlements, but connections, unbeknownst to the characters start to emerge. Station Eleven jumps backwards and forwards to capture the lives of Arthur Leander, the actor that died on stage; Miranda, Arthur’s wife who designed a stunning graphic novel; Jeevan, the man who tried to resuscitate Arthur; Kirstin, a performer with the Traveling Symphony; and Clark, Arthur’s best friend. Throw in a cult leader and a twist of fate, and Station Eleven will show you why “Survival is insufficient.”