I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the apocalypse. I’m both fascinated and horrified by the idea of some cataclysmic event, which will undoubtedly launch us into a crazy dystopian world where everyone wears leather and teens battle each other to the death in improbable arenas.
From a storytelling standpoint, the apocalypse is a treasure-trove of redemption tales, horrifying choices and messed-up love affairs. This is probably why I gravitate toward stories like this, and why I can not wait for the new The Walking Dead spin-off on AMC, Fear The Walking Dead, which premieres August 23. If you haven’t heard of it, check out the trailer.
If you like apocalyptic stories as much as I do, here are three shows – and one book! – to binge on until Fear the Walking Dead hits the small screen this Sunday.
The Walking Dead
I resisted the lure of the zombie apocalypse for a while. I didn’t get into The Walking Dead until it was just starting its fourth season. But, oh man, did I fall hard after that. The seasons are uneven (let’s not mention Season 2 and the farm of boredom), the dialogue can be laughable (“Stuff, Laurie… and things.”), I regularly want to punch Carl in the face (JUST STAY IN THE HOUSE, CARL!), but none of it matters, because when The Walking Dead is good, something magical happens. The characters have depth and growth that we rarely get to see on TV, the post-apocalyptic world is horrifying in its stark realities, and there’s a sense of hopelessness that permeates every shot. It’s the standard for which other apocalyptic shows should be reaching for, as far as I’m concerned.
Hot off The Walking Dead marathon, my sister and I were looking for something similarly post-apocalyptic. We stumbled across Survivors, a BBC One show that was canceled in 2012 after only two seasons. It tells the story of a group of, well, survivors, who make it through a devastating plague that kills almost all of the world’s population in only days. The people who are left have to fend for themselves, find food and form tentative alliances. As society breaks down even more, so does their trust in each other. The show is a little ridiculous at times — mostly when hinting at larger conspiracies about the “virus” — but it still captures that sense of impending doom that any good apocalyptic story needs.
Usually, I want my apocalyptic entertainment to be as dark as possible: to know what it’s like when people are pushed to the brink of civilization and forced to confront the darkest parts of themselves. But sometimes I also want to laugh in the face of that darkness. The Last Man on Earth, which premiered on Fox last year, is the perfect blend of the two. It stars Will Forte as the last living survivor of a virus, who does things like talk to a collection of balls with smiley faces, has a love affair with a mannequin and decorates his house in priceless art. But of course he isn’t the last man on earth, and as more people slowly infiltrate his corner of the world, it becomes clear that, spoiler alert(!), he’s not actually that good of a guy and the results are hilarious. Not many people could carry a show like Forte does, while still injecting heart into a relatively bleak concept.
One Year After: A Novel, by William R. Forstchen (Forge Books, September 15)
In this sequel to his bestseller, One Second After, Forstchen returns to the town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. It has been two years since nuclear bombs destroyed the U.S., but the residents of Black Mountain are just starting to put their lives back together again. Faced with two years of starvation and death, they finally have hope that the world will eventually return back to normal. But then the new government rolls through, demanding people join a “draft” that will send them hundreds of miles across the country, to where the fighting and wars are at their worst. Can administrator John Matherson save the people of his town from the looming dystopian nightmare? Find out when One Year After is released on September 15.