The Apocalypse is on everyone’s minds these days. I may sound a little dramatic, but the events of the past year have justified speaking of catastrophic and cataclysmic occurrences with courage and a previous-unused bluntness. Suddenly, the unknown seems to be the expectation. 

One place where drama is usually very welcome, however, is fiction. There’s nothing better to distract you from reality than a book, especially one which is brimming with even more drama than “the new normal” has thrown at us. There’s something comforting in that at least!

These seven auspicious books deal with the aftermath of humans ruining the natural world or order of things and having to come up with ulterior modes of survival; some of which have terrible consequences. We made this mess, but now what? Can we clean it up, and perhaps rebuild better? It’s the hope that sustains us, and comes in a little stronger every day, in our current reality. When armed with (or in an armchair with!) the books below, we’re all winners because we can dive into a completely engrossing — and thankfully entirely fictitious — story in the meantime.

The 100 by Kass Morgan (Little, Brown)

This praiseworthy New York Times bestseller is the first in a series of four books that inspired the popular CW television series spanning 7 seasons and, ironically, exactly 100 episodes. For centuries after a nuclear war destroyed earth, the human race has lived on spaceships far above the radioactive surface in a sanctuary they call the Ark; unfortunately, the Ark is rapidly losing its resources (97 years orbiting the Earth will do that to you) and soon everyone on board will die. The powers that be essentially sacrifice one hundred juvenile delinquents by sending them back to Earth to test the livability of the savage land they left behind. The future of the species rests in their hands. With deeply human and complex characters (even though they’ve recently resided far from our current home), The 100 shows us what we might be in for if we allow ourselves to decimate this planet. The possibility is sobering, but also, admittedly, a highly entertaining concept for some great books.

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Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)

A well-off Manhattanite family looks forward to their summer beach trip to the Hamptons, and they arrive in high spirits. So far, so good. Then they get the news that NYC is suffering a major power outage. Lucky they’re on vacation, right? Then they get the news that things are spiraling out of control in the outside world, with natural and unnatural disasters running amuck. As our central family prepares for the end of the world as they know it, in some ways cleverly and in some ways absolutely nonsensically, an apparently omnipresent narrator drops lines to readers about protocols, politics, and preeminent doom. This carefully crafted novel extends the unknown for an excruciatingly long time, foreshadowing reality with uncanny veracity; it was published in late 2020 right before our real-life unknowns forced us into extended limbo. Can these characters trust the news, the neighbors, or even the person next to them? Can the modern world implode this badly?

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Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (Vintage Publishing)

This intriguing book about robots who take over the world reads eerily close to a terrifying potential reality. The author is extremely knowledgeable about the science behind his subject; he earned a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, so even though his book is fiction, one takes his story seriously. The mastermind-without-an-actual-mind behind the robot uprising, Archos, oversees and manipulates a vast network of AIs and pits them against the humans who created them. Humanity must then put all else aside to conquer an enemy of their own construction, a humbling and horrific conflict that is depicted with detail and drama.

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Breed by Colet Abedi (Rostam LLC)

The year is 2999, and humans aren’t really human anymore. Through every fault of our own, the earth is now almost entirely uninhabitable, and life has evolved to match the new circumstances. One breed of this new species is forbidden, and one seventeen-year-old girl, our protagonist named Siren, is their last hope. To potentially save not only herself but her entire race, Siren must team up with the very man who may simultaneously be her undoing; the powerful reigning king Aedan. Combing science fiction, romance, adventure, and incredibly thought-provoking prose, Breed is a new kind — or, if you will, breed — of book.

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Breach of Contract by Danielle Palli (Skinny Leopard Media)

In Danielle Palli’s Data Collectors series, Earth is the last outpost for a dying breed of beings — humans. Breach of Contract, the second book of the series (which is also available as a multicast audiobook), sees protagonist Lucene Jones abandon the world she knew and survive on the strange planet Erde. Two species, the Peace-Keepers and the Virtruvians, form a tense alliance against the wildcard Royals, and a slightly overwhelmed Lucene is caught in the middle of it all. Needless to say, trust issues abound. Meanwhile, nature itself might be further unraveling thanks to a deal the Royals made with a chaos-loving demon named Jasper Set, which may spell doom for not just the humans but every divergent species. To make matters worse, the Terrestrial Academy of Research and Awareness (TARA) is beginning to notice odd side effects from tampering with Mother Nature, making the Data Collectors seem potentially unfit to continue their research. How can they possibly save the human species when they can’t even save themselves — begging the question: has everyone gone insane? Read our review of the previous book in the series and our interview with the author here.

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The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (DCB 2017)

Global warming has destroyed most of the world, which by itself is quite enough, but now a new crisis is here. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted because their bone marrow carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. A fifteen-year-old and his companions flee these thieves, struggling to survive the forces hunting them down. They attempt to find their loved ones and get away from the “recruiters” who are seeking them out in this story of connection and humanity. Climate change scares us all for many reasons, of course, but this book takes those concerns a step further by investigating the social issues that could stem from environmental ones.

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The Org by Scott Brody

In this timely book, we haven’t destroyed our planet: yet. Fires rage, resources are dwindling (including that especially necessary one, water) and extreme weather ravages on the regular. Due to the present distress and incumbent disaster, the stage is set for a tense political arena, with some of the players desperately attempting to change the course of the future and others malevolently seeking their own gains at the cost of everything else. Out of this conflict rises a political party calling themselves the Org, whose terrifyingly powerful and magnetic leader Lee Beloit’s means to his climate-saving end may be too nefarious to sustain. Read our review of this intriguing thriller here.

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