Post-apocalyptic & Dystopian Reads #4

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Lev AC Rosen
Rising sea levels have left a future New York over twenty stories underwater, now a landscape of the towers left behind connected by bridges and waterways. We follow a private investigator as a simple job leads to a much more complicated outcome. I wanted to like this book, but I really struggled through it. I just didn't warm to any of the characters, and I had to force myself to pick up the book after realising I'd not read any for weeks. Personally, I saw far more potential in the actual setting than in the detective plot.

Kenneth Calhoun
Black Moon features a premise which I hadn't come across until fairly recently: sleeplessness. Initially insomnia didn't seem such a terrifying prospect compared to some other post-apocalyptic scenarios. However, Calhoun really plays on the fears and irrationalities of sleep deprivation; the anger the sleepless feel towards sleepers for their ability to rest was frighteningly easy to empathise with. It's dark and violent, but it's also poetic (the way Calhoun portrayed the progressively disintegrating syntax of the afflicted was especially interesting) and engaging; I just wish it had tied itself up a little better.

H. G. Wells
Strictly speaking, The War of the Worlds is more apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic, but nevertheless it's a classic in the genre with a serious reputation. A meteor lands just outside Victorian London, drawing a slightly strangely unpeturbed crowd - until the mysterious creatures reveal themselves to be dangerous. After reading so many contemporary novels recently, the language and tone of The War of the Worlds was refreshing. Despite knowing the plot (as we all likely do) it was a great read, and I even forgave the happily-ever-after(ish) ending which I'd usually hate. Aside from the storytelling, it was also quite illuminating in terms of the geography of the late nineteenth century city.

Octavia E. Butler
Rather than a catastrophic illness or a nuclear war, Octavia E. Butler bases the first of her two-novel series on a quieter, more insidious disaster - the slow collapse of civil society through the neglect of environmental and economic problems. Our protagonist Lauren is relatively lucky in her gated community, but she also suffers from an unusual affliction: hyperempathy, causing her to be severely affected by the pain of others. I found the world Butler created frightening (and worryingly close to a future I can imagine), and I was genuinely interested in the characters, but I mostly cringed my way through Lauren's writing and just couldn't get behind her new faith, 'Earthseed'. However, I am going to give the sequel, The Parable of the Talents, a go.

John Christopher (Samuel Youd)
The idea of a virus which kills off all grass species could seem relatively innocuous, until you consider the fact that they make up a huge part of natural habitats across the world, and make up over 70% of all crops and a fundamental part of the world's economy. John Custance must take his family across an increasingly apocalyptic England to reach his brother's potato farm, hopefully a safe haven. I feel like this book has been really overlooked in the post-apocalyptic genre, which is a shame because although I rolled my eyes a little at some of the gender-based comments, it's fantastic. It has been compared to Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids in the sense that the disaster is plant-based, but this is a darker, less cosy kind of catastrophe. It also left me thinking a lot more closely about the food systems we currently rely on.

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