There’s something very intriguing about imagining the world ending. Not that we actually want it to happen, of course, but there’s a reason we’re all drawn to shows like The Walking Dead, or books like Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road: they play out our worst fears in post-apocalyptic worlds, showing us what could potentially happen to humanity once everything falls apart. And it’s rarely pretty.
Here at BookTrib, we’re drawn to those post-apocalyptic worlds and stories just like everyone else. Which is why we can’t wait to dive into M.R. Carey’s The Boy on the Bridge, a prequel to the bestselling The Girl With All the Gifts, which was made into a movie last year (prompting us to plan for a zombie apocalypse!). The Boy on the Bridge (Orbit Books, May 2, 2017), tells the story of what happened before Melanie and her handlers deal with the “hungries” in The Girl with All the Gifts. In The Boy, we see the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, originating in a fungus called Cordyceps and spreading to humans through insect parasites. In the midst of the outbreak is epidemiologist Samrina Kahn and her colleagues, who are traveling around the UK in an RV of sorts (called “Rosie”) looking for a cure. It’s not long before Samrina realizes she’s pregnant, further complicating their quest as they try and save humanity from its approaching doom.
We’re completely prepared for The Boy on the Bridge to scare our pants off, as well as gut us emotionally. We might not know how that zombie apocalypse will eventually work out, but we do know one thing: we definitely don’t want to live there. Actually, there are a lot of post-apocalyptic worlds we definitely don’t want to live in. (Anything with zombies is automatically on the list.)
Here are four post-apocalyptic worlds from recent novels that sound like actual hell-on-earth:
The Book of Joan, Lidia Yuknavitch (Harper, April 18, 2017)
A retelling of the story of Joan of Arc, Yuknavitch’s novel is haunting, lyrical – and completely terrifying. After world wars, pollution and radiation have devastated the planet, humans are forced to live on a hovering platform called CIEL. They’ve evolved too, into hairless, sexless beings who still have the same capacity for violence and power. When cult leader Jean de Men turns CIEL into a dictatorship-style police state, a growing rebellion finds inspiration in the songs of child-warrior Joan, who is somehow still connected to the long-abandoned earth. But things don’t go well for Joan, starting a movement that will change humanity forever. World Wars. Police State. Hairless Bodies. Hovering Platform. None of this sounds appealing in any way, especially considering how Yuknavitch draws attention to the ways in which history continually repeats itself.
The Walking Dead Volume 27: The Whisperer War, Robert Kirkman (Image Comics March 7, 2017)
There’s a reason we’re often peeking through our fingers while we watch The Walking Dead: it’s bloody and upsetting and anyone could be eaten by a zombie (or smashed with a barbed wire covered bat) at any moment. The original graphic novels are just as scary. Maybe even more so. Most of the major villains from the show have come from the graphic novels, including Negan who’s still wrecking havoc for Rick and his friends on TV. But in Volume 27 of the graphic novels, Negan is far in the past and the gang is once again at war. No spoilers, but let’s just say that this is one apocalyptic situation that we want nothing to do with. You know it’s bad when the zombies trying to eat your face aren’t even the biggest threat around.
Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel (Del Rey, April 4, 2017)
Which is worse: zombies or aliens? How about both? In Waking Gods, humanity is threatened by aliens with giant, killer robots ready to destroy anything in their path. NO. THANKS. This is the second book in the Themis Files series; in the first, Sleeping Giants, a young girl named Rose Franklin stumbles upon the metal hand of a giant robotic creature, buried deep in the earth. She becomes a scientist, obsessed with solving the mystery of just what that metal creature could be. But that’s just the beginning. In Waking Gods the rest of the creatures have arrived, and they are certainly not ready to make peace with humanity. It’s up to Rose and her team to crack the codes of this strange alien technology before it’s too late. Let’s hope they succeed. Aliens are bad enough, but giant robot aliens make us want to run away screaming.
The Adjustment, Suzanne Young (Simon Pulse, April 18, 2017)
Sometimes the apocalypse isn’t all about Mad Max-style anarchy. A creepy, seemingly-plausible dystopian future can be just as scary. In Young’s young adult series, The Program, teen suicide has become an epidemic. The answer? A program that wipes your mind, taking away your suicidal thoughts, but also all of your memories. In The Adjustment, the Program has been wiped out – but those who are still without their memories can try a new therapy called the Adjustment, which will implant memories from a donor into the afflicted. When Tatum Masterson’s boyfriend Weston decides to go through the Adjustment, he uses Tatum’s memories in order to regain what he’s lost. But it turns out memories are subjective, and Tatum’s experiences don’t match what he knows he feels. Sure, there are no zombies trying to kill you in this world, but losing the core of yourself just might be an even scarier prospect.