From the LA Review of Books:

The apocalyptic novel has many mutations.  In an increasingly modern and mechanized world, the anxiety of the apocalypse permeates arts and culture as much as it does our collective imaginations.  Many authors have thought about what would happen during the rebuilding of the world after an "Event," such as in Brian Evenson's novel "Immobility", reviewed here.

Here are twenty great apocalyptic visions from literature:

Read more at the LA Review of Books

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  • John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up.

    In a dystopian United States, corporation-sponsored government has led to widespread pollution. The people, while originally disillusioned, finally start to riot after disease and starvation take hold.

  • H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

    Credited as the first use of the time machine as we know it, a scientist travels to the deteriorating fictional world of 802,701 A.D. Full of dangerous creatures and harshly social divided classes, there is no hope for survival.

  • Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow

    This science fiction novel takes place in America after a nuclear disaster, technology is to blame and the people regress to a tech-free religious society where stonings are the norm and cities are deemed unconstitutional.

  • Harry Harrison, Make Room! Make Room!

    This 1966 novel explores a growing concern and portrays a 1999 where a drastic increase in population has led to dangerous overcrowding and a lack of resources.

  • Samuel Delany, Dhalgren  

    Dhalgren takes place in the fictional city of Bellona, which has been isolated from the rest of the American Midwest due to a mysterious disaster.

  • Brian Aldiss, Barefoot in the Head

    The Earth is in the midst of recovering from a holocaust of hallucinogenic chemical weapons, reality is never clear in this experimental novel full of nightmares and visions.

  • Brian Evenson, Immobility

    After an apocalyptic event called "The Kollaps," humanity's only hope lies in the protagonist, Horkai, who must traverse the barren landscape in his search for the truth.  

  • Stephen King, The Stand

    A superflu virus known as "Captain Trips" has been released leading to the violent destruction of the world as we know it.

  • Paul Auster, In The Country of Last Things  

    In a decaying world full of crime and homelessness, death is the only means of escape. Until Anna Blume arrives in the city and finds love among the rubbish.

  • Brian W. Aldiss, Greybeard

    In a radiation filled post-apocalyptic world, an aging generation faces the fact that there are no young people and that they are the end of the human race.

  • Jack London, The Scarlet Plague

    A disease known as the Red Death has decimated the Earth's population, and, sixty years later, San Francisco resident James Howard Smith is one of the few people who remember what life was like before the plague.

  • Mary Shelley, The Last Man

    A lesser-known novel by the author of Frankenstein, this book, following members of the English aristocracy, chronicles the downfall of humanity in the late 21st century, as a lethal plague sweeps across the globe.

  • M.P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud  

    In the early 20th century, Adam Jeffson becomes the first man to reach the North Pole whereby a purple cloud is released, killing the entire human race. Jeffson is left to travel the deserted streets of civilization alone.

  • Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle  

    A satirical novel about a fictional island nation, a developer of the atomic bomb, and a substance called ice-nine, which manipulates water on a molecular level, causing it to freeze into a solid, undrinkable form.

  • Cormac McCarthy, The Road

    A father and son journey south toward the sea, across a post-apocalyptic landscape that is devoid of life. The only other human survivors have resorted to cannibalism to stave off death.

  • John Christopher, The Death of Grass

    This post-apocalyptic story, published in 1956, shows a world following the rise of a virus that has killed off all forms of grass, including wheat and barely, causing a massive famine.

  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx & Crake

    A speculative novel that takes place after a corporation driven, genetically engineered apocalypse has left the world in shambles. The hermitic main character snowman searches for answers with the help of a race of human-like creatures, the Crakers.  

  • J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World.

    This novel features a hero who confronts the apocalypse surprisingly--with excitement. Solar radiation has led to a tropical environment throughout the globe, and the protagonist revels in a London made of jungles and lagoons.

  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

    This classic of Science Fiction spans thousands of years as civilization reemerges in the wake of nuclear war, focusing on a Catholic monastery in the American southwest whose monks safeguard the scientific knowledge of mankind.

  • Philip K. Dick, Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb.

    This classic novel imagines foreign diplomacy in the wake of a nuclear accident as some of Dick's most memorable characters navigate a devastated world.


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