Decoding Apocalyptic Fiction

When it comes to modern literature, there are various distinctive genres that have emerged and have succeeded in making their way among the most read genres of today. One such genre is the Apocalyptic fiction. To quickly acquaint you with the meaning of the term (if you don’t know it already), here’s a brief definition for it:

Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is a subgenre of science fiction, science fantasy or horror fiction literature in which the Earth’s technological civilization is collapsing or has collapsed.

The apocalyptic event in Apocalyptic Fiction may be climatic (climatic changes like global warming), natural (like impact event), man-made (nuclear warfare), medical (plague or virus outbreak) or imaginative (alien or zombie invasion) and the plot involves either attempts to prevent the apocalypse or dealing with the impact and consequences of it and surviving.

Post-apocalyptic Fiction is set after an apocalyptic event and its plot deals with the aftermath of the apocalypse, the turmoils and the psychological sufferings of the survivors, the emotional pain of recuperation after an apocalypse and, in some case, building the society again from the ashes.

Apocalyptic Fiction often tends to bear a pessimistic view towards the present and its language and plot aspects tend to be a little esoteric.

Apocalytic Fiction works are said to have originated from 200 BCE with Jewish works. Some of the well known Jewish works are Book of Daniel (chapters 7-12) (167 BCE), Book of Ezra (c 100 BCE), the first book of Enoch (c 200 BCE), and the second and third books of Books of Baruch (c 100 BCE). Gradually, Christian apocalypticism surfaced in their sciptures. However, in the Middle Ages, this genre disappeared, only to be revived in the Contemporary Age with modern takes on the genre in a broader sense.

Some of the popular contemporary Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic novels include:

1. The Stand by Stephen King


This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.
And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

2. The Handmade’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner


If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run.

4. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War  by Max Brooks


Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.
Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy


A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

There are so many more books that have been adored by the genre readers and have been made into major motion pictures and series. The genre is quickly making its way as one of the most loved genres and we, as readers and publishers, support this genre to no end.

What about you? Do you read Apocalyptic Fiction? Is it your favourite literary genre?

Tell us why do you love this genre and share with us your favourite apocalyptic novels in the comments below.

Happy Reading!