Bad News Comes in Threes: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Summary

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December 18, 2013 by carlywont

Well, folks, the apocalypse is officially over. I think I speak for everyone when I say good times were had by all. We made it through a worldwide pestilence, a nebulous nuclear winter, and a zombie takeover. Not too shabby. I always kind of suspected I’d have a knack for survival.

It’s probably obvious from my previous posts, but I have to say that The Road was definitely the winner here for me. Not only did it give me my favorite doomsday survival tip, it was also the most well written, impactful, and addictive one of the bunch.  Not to say that the other two didn’t have their strong points (I think I already touched upon the portmanteaus in Oryx and Crake as well as my zombie dreams induced by World War Z), but The Road is just on another level.

One thing I loved about these three choices is that they all had completely different storytelling techniques. Oryx and Crake was probably the most traditional narrative structure, with regular flashbacks interspersed with present-day action. The Roadon the other hand, was very urgent with hardly any exposition, flashbacks, or much of anything beyond the task at hand (that is, walking the road and staying alive). Of course, World War Z was so unique in its oral history setup. All were totally enjoyable to inspect from a writerly perspective, but—again—I think The Road’s in-the-moment, keep-reading-or-you’re-going-to-die-too style worked the best for the subject at hand.

The biggest lessons I learned from these books:

1.    If you see the apocalypse coming, be sure to grab a dictionary.

The fear of losing language was very present in both Oryx and Crake and The Road. Snowman was constantly stressed about the many words he couldn’t remember and especially with those he could…they were his comfort. I think the apocalyptic theme of the loss of art/language is a poignant one and I almost wish it was pursued further in both of these pieces. Still, a good reminder for when our own apocalypse settles in.

2.    It’d probably be best to lose any sort of empathy toward other humans.

In all three of these books, fellow humans are to be feared. World War Z’s characters had the most community but that collectivist culture only extended so far. The fact that Snowman forgets to grab the radio on which he’s heard the first confirmation of other human life since the apocalypse is proof enough that companionship isn’t necessarily the goal in post-apocalyptic Oryx and Crake. As I mentioned in my post, the father in The Road is in a constant struggle against his son’s empathetic instincts and is wary of other humans to the point of total paranoia. In the end, however, it is human compassion that saves the boy in The Road—a point not missed.

3.    Invest in weaponry.

This one is pretty obvious. Weaponry is a must for surviving the apocalypse.


These three are not the first post-apocalyptic books I’ve read, nor will they be the last. Gotta keep doing that researching as I quietly stockpile water and guns in our shed!


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