Post-apocalyptic & Dystopian Reads #5

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cormac McCarthy
I've written about The Road before, but I recently revisited it and couldn't exclude it from my post-apocalyptic series. It was one of the first books in the genre that I encountered and remains one of my favourites across the board. Following a father and his son as they journey across a devastated America, The Road produces some of the most realistic, thoroughly frightening moments I've come across in post-apocalyptic fiction - but it was the simple, heartfelt portrayal of a father and son's devotion to each other which made this book so fantastic. 

Hari Kunzru
Hundreds of years in the future, a magnetic storm has wiped out all modern infrastructure and society is now ruled by a group who enforce a culture of 'forgetting' - no reading, writing, or art is permitted. Memory Palace tells the story of a man imprisoned for the crime of remembering, in an unusual format. The story originally shaped an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where Kunzru's short, experimental tale was accompanied by artwork interpreting the narrative; a totally immersive and wonderful way of experiencing this future world. Since the exhibition is finished, the experience is slightly different, but the tale is still compelling and thought provoking (and you can see the artwork here).

P. D. James
The year is 2021, and it is twenty five years since a baby has been born on earth. Rather than a catastrophic event or plague, James' apocalypse is the slow extinction of humanity, as people the world over watch themselves age without hope of continuing the species. The doll industry has boomed as childless couples seek a surrogate, the population must submit to fertility testing to aid scientists, and most chillingly the elderly are required to report to the 'Quietus' to remove themselves as a burden. The premise is what had me hooked, but I just couldn't find myself caring much for the characters, especially our principal character Theodore. He was tiresome, self-involved and unlikeable, and made a lot of the book heavy going - I finished feeling like any other character would have been preferable as a narrator!

George Orwell
The novel on every school reading list and the metaphor rolled out whenever increasingly dubious surveillance laws are approved, no post-apocalyptic and dystopian reading list would be complete without it! Written in 1949, Orwell imagines a world tightly controlled by Big Brother, where every action and word is monitored to ensure adherence to the doctrine of the state. Our disillusioned narrator works for the Ministry of Truth, revising history as the regime sees fit, but becomes interested in the truth of the past and embarks upon a course of action which could see him punished with death. I really enjoyed this book on my first reading years ago, and a re-reading was just as entertaining: great, unnerving stuff.

Margaret Atwood
I've not yet encountered an Atwood book I haven't enjoyed, and the MaddAddam trilogy didn't buck the trend. I actually read these books 'out of order', first coming across The Year of the Flood soon after it came out in 2009. The novels deal with a future not too difficult to imagine: a world run by multinational corporations, sharply divided into the safe compound areas and the deprived neighbourhoods surrounding them, characterised by genetic experimentation - and its eventual destruction through a mysterious epidemic. Unsurprisingly, Atwood has created a fascinating world and compelling characters; it's imaginative, rich and exciting in a way which makes the reader question where this dystopia begins and ends.

See all my reviews of Post-Apocalyptic & Dystopian Reads here!

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