The trouble with you people is that you’ve been here for thirty million years and your perspectives are all wrong. You miss so much of the transitory beauty of life.”
― J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World
Civilisation as we know it has ended. Some sort of disaster–natural or man-made–has brought it to a shuddering stop. So now what happens? We have a fascination with destruction and catastrophe, and some of our finest writers and most famous novels explore worlds where the normal functioning of society has come to an end. This is our small selection of the best disaster novels from authors including Kurt Vonnegut, P.D. James, Cormac McCarthy and more. Enjoy!
The children of men / James, P. D.
“The year is 2021. No child has been born for twenty-five years. The human race faces extinction. Under the despotic rule of Xan Lyppiat, the Warden of England, the old are despairing and the young cruel. Theo Faren, a cousin of the Warden, lives a solitary life in this ominous atmosphere. That is, until a chance encounter with a young woman leads him into contact with a group of dissenters. Suddenly his life is changed irrevocably.” (Adapted from the Syndetics summary)
The road / McCarthy, Cormac
“A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against lawless bands, the clothes they are wearing–and each other.” (Adapted from the catalogue)
Planet of the Apes: the devil’s pawn / [writer, Daryl Gregory; artist, Carlos Magno]
“A brand new story in classic movie continuity! The ferociousness of the apes’ plans against humans is revealed. As humans face oppressive tactics not seen in centuries, they choose to fight with newfound viciousness, leading them to commit an act of revolution so severe it will have reverberations for years to come.” (Adapted from the Syndetics summary)
The Day of the Triffids / John Wyndham (ebook)
“Triffids are odd, interesting little plants. What seems to be a spectacular meteor shower turns into a bizarre, green inferno that blinds everyone and renders humankind helpless. What follows is even stranger: spores from the inferno cause the triffids to take on a life of their own. William Masen somehow managed to escape being blinded in the inferno, and now after leaving the hospital, he may be the only one who can save his species from chaos and eventual extinction.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description)
Station Eleven / Emily St John Mandel (ebook)
“DAY ONE: The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. WEEK TWO: Civilization has crumbled. YEAR TWENTY: A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description)
Cat’s Cradle / Kurt Vonnegut (ebook)
“Written contemporaneously with the Cuban missile crisis and countenancing a version of a world in the grasp of magnified human stupidity, the novel is centered on Felix Hoenikker, a chemical scientist reminiscent of Robert Oppenheimer… except that Oppenheimer was destroyed by his conscience and Hoenikker, delighting in the disastrous chemicals he has invented, has no conscience at all.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description)
Drowned worlds: tales from the Anthropocene and beyond / edited by Jonathan Strahan
“A new anthology, featuring stories set in futures wracked by the deluge, from some the best writers in SF, including Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken Liu, Paul McAuley, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Charlie Jane Anders, Lavie Tidhar and James Morrow. We stand at the beginning of one of the greatest ecological disasters in the time of Man. The world is warming and seas are rising. We may deny it, but we can’t hide when the water comes.” (Adapted from the Syndetics summary)
The girl with all the gifts / M. R. Carey
“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh. Melanie is a very special girl.” (Adapted from the Syndetics summary)
For the DVD availability of The Girl with All the Gifts click here.
I am legend / Richard Matheson
“Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth … but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are hungry for Neville’s blood. By day he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilisation. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn. How long can one man survive like this?” (Adapted from the Syndetics summary)