There is nothing like a bit of Apocalyptic / Post-Apocalyptic fiction to get the motor going. Two seconds after reading you’ll be out there planting a vegetable garden, stock-piling canned goods and reinforcing your house with plywood. Well, at least if the book was good.
The thing about Post-Apocalyptic fic is that it is sometimes misconstrued for dystopian. Call me a purist, but to me there is a huge difference between dystopian fic and PA fic. Well not that huge, but I think it might all be a matter of perspective.
Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic cover man’s struggle to battle Earth shattering events, their quest for survival and they usually remember life before the event. Whereas, Dystopian fiction covers man’s struggle against an oppressor, whether it is a governing body or enslavement.
A lot of Dystopian novels can be classified as Post-Apocalyptic or vice versa because a lot of writers use an Apocalyptic event to transition into a Dystopian society. Novels like 1984 and Uglies linked ecological disasters to the societies gaining control. Others link war, alien invasion, global warming as the start to the worlds downward spiral. But, in a Dystopian an Apocalypse does not necessarily have to happen. It is just usually the just case, based on the fundamental principal that a scared society will relinquish control for safety. Which brings us to the basis of my argument. A Dystopian can be a Post-Apocalyptic novel, but just because a book is Post-Apocalyptic does not mean it is a Dystopian.
Dystopian is a societal state. It is the opposite of Utopian. It is a degraded society that devolved into a repressive and controlled state, usually under the label “For The Good of the People.” There is usually a dictator or “all ruling” body in charge of Dystopian societies that restricts individual freedoms. Dystopians usually cover one hero or heroine and their struggle against that oppressive society. The books normally make a political statement and are used as warnings, “Look what can happen if we don’t pay attention.”
Struggles for survival after an Apocalyptic event are not considered Dystopian. These are survival stories. They do not make political statements. This is why I think a few books labeled dystopian shouldn’t be in these lists and discovered this when I was putting together my dystopian list. Let me know what you think.
My List of the Best Post-Apocalyptic Novels
- Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Survivors Series)
This survivor series covers an Apocalyptic event where an asteroid hits the moon and disrupts the Earth’s environment. The three books of this series covers what it takes to survive in a world without sunlight, food and freezing temperatures. There is hardly any government to repress the people – but I’m sure fifty years in the future there could be. This is a very straight forward Post-Apocalyptic Series.
- The Stand by Stephen King
This one is a lot of times labeled dystopian. I might have even labeled it as dystopian at some point. But, on further thought, I would label this a Post-Apocalyptic Novel. THE STAND covers events occuring on Earth after a SuperFlu wipes out most of the population. Most of the novel is the traveling of the survivors as they make their way to Boulder and the last Free City. Where the confusion comes in is that there is another city forming. Las Vegas is a den of evil, a supernatural force is in charge and he doesn’t have good intentions. The survivors have to battle this evil. Good vs. Evil, survivors, but I wouldn’t say an oppressive society.
- Sun Storm (series) by Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter
This is a good series that I read a few months before I started this blog. I’ve always been a fan of ACC and even though Baxter probably did most of the writing on this one (ACC died in 2008), I gave them a shot. The novels cover the Apocalyptic event of Sun Storms/Spots. The Earth has fair warning so the novel is Pre-Apocalyptic and narrates the time during the event. Fun, futuristic and otherwordly things are discovered during the novels time-arc, so it is not always about the Apocalyptic event, but I would strongly classify this as a sci-fi apocalypse book.
- The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
Aliens come to Earth to destroy. Apocalypse in the making.
- I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (much different from movie)
Often confused with dystopian, but there is no society in these books. There is one man and a crap load of vampires and he has to do everything he can to survive.
- The Host by Stephanie Meyer
This one rides the lines and I’m a bit torn. On one hand you have an Apocalypse – alien invasion. You have the band of survivors, resisting the alien invasion and trying to survive. But then, if you put the aliens as the oppressive society and Wanderer as the rebel you could necessarily have a Dystopian. I think if this book develops into a series, which rumors are saying it might, then it would most likely be a Dsytopian. But, taken as it is right now, I’m leaning for PA.
- Gone (Gone, #1) by Michael Grant
Another up for debate. The reason I’m leaning towards Post-Apocalyptic on this one is because there really is no oppressive society. It is a bunch of children fighting to survive. Now, granted deeper into the series it could progress into a dystopian if the children are being “held” by something (similar to The Maze Runner plot-arc) but right now it is a good vs. evil, survival story.