Six Fantastic Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
01 A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
And there may be no law left except what you make of it, but if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you. If we’re not loyal to the things we love, what’s the point?... That’s a kind of death, even if you keep breathing.
The thief came and shattered what was left of young Griz's life. Now Griz and his dog are making their way through the world. Griz is capable of fury and revenge, but also great love and loyalty, bravery, and creativity. He's a fantastic character I loved.
This great book by C.A. Fletcher was tough to read at times because of the frequent reckless, life-and-death, sometimes ill-advised decision-making in a postapocalyptic world.
Fletcher somewhat frequently hints at later events in the book in the middle of early scenes, which added to my anxiety. But the main protagonist Griz is tough as nails and determined and wonderful, and things do ultimately improve in satisfying ways. I thought this was wonderful.
02 The Grace Year
The Grace Year is the type of book I could’ve stayed up all night reading. I was totally hooked by this Lord of the Flies-esque situation of trapped girls devolving into paranoia, mayhem, fury, and destruction, with a wonderfully strong and imperfect heroine trying to upend the situation.
I felt as though the later sections glossed over some major issues (consorting with the gruesomely brutal enemy; the prospect of folding back into the world that created the horrific system of oppression, control, torture, and death—even with a promise of
potential change; fast emotional movement past the
loss of a beloved character), but there’s hope for the slow but significant evolution into a new era.
I thought the teen girls’ “magic” and its perception by the girls themselves (and especially by the men and women in the society) was haunting.
03 The Girl With All the Gifts
Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
I didn't have a clue what this book was about going in, which worked wonderfully for me.
This is listed as an adult title but feels to me like a dark young adult post-apocalyptic novel with several twists.
I found this engrossing, really interesting, and also character driven, which feels unusual given one of the aforementioned twists. Some of this is odd, other parts are disturbing, and there are some wonderful implausibly amusing standoffs. And M.R. Carey's story is also hopeful, but not in the way I might have expected.
If you like this one, you're going to also want to read Carey's The Boy on the Bridge, which is a standalone book in the same series, is fantastic, and is also on this list.
04 The Dog Stars
Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.
Then Hig gets an indication that he is not alone and that there is life out there after all. He must
decide if he'll risk a one-way journey to seek out
the good, bad, and ugly that may be awaiting him. It's a true life-or-death dilemma for a man with
two stark options: safety and loneliness or
potential danger and finally making contact with others. And he just might find himself questioning his decisions either way.
My initial review of this book was "I loved this book. Nerve-wracking and beautiful, unconventional, real. I love this author. Love."
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I'm in for reading anything Peter Heller writes (e.g.,The River and The Painter, both of which I loved, and neither of which is post-apocalyptic).
05 The Power
It follows that there are two ways for the nature and use of human power to change. One is that an order might issue from the palace, a command unto the people saying “It is thus.” But the other, the more certain, the more inevitable, is that those thousand thousand points of light should each send a new message. When the people change, the palace cannot hold.
Naomi Alderman offers a dark and fascinating look at a world where the traditional male-female and old-young power structures are turned on their heads.
The Power explores the destructive nature of the greed for power, especially when coupled with the certainty that your side of the issue is infallible and correct.
I found this book fascinating.
06 The Boy on the Bridge
Months into their save-the-world mission, the soldiers and scientists on the Rosalind Franklin (a tanklike RV with flamethrowers that's nicknamed Rosie) are close to retrieving all of the samples their predecessors left throughout Scotland during an earlier expedition to try to find a cure for the plague.
But it begins to become clear that idealistic Dr. Samrina Khan, the head epidemiologist; single-minded young Stephen the wunderkind; gruff, bighearted Colonel Carlisle; and the others on board may not have been meant to succeed in their grand mission after all. Political machinations meant that some of their party needed to be out of the way for corrupt power plays back home.
Against enormous odds, the team may just be finding some of the lifesaving answers they were sent to discover. But bringing back their surprising findings might very well mean the wholesale rounding up and destruction of those affected by the plague.
The Boy on the Bridge offers adventure, twists, turns, love, scientific exploration, betrayal, and an odd twist of hope.
This is the second M.R. Carey book on this list, but I couldn't help myself. There's a character in common between the two books; this person appears at the end of The Boy on the Bridge but is a main character in The Girl With All the Gifts.
What are your favorite post-apocalyptic or dystopian books?
This category also includes the Hunger Games series, the Insurgent series, Station Eleven, The 5th Wave, The Chosen Ones, The Road, and The Handmaid's Tale, among other excellent titles. A New Wilderness, published in August 2020, looks like a great dystopian novel too. Which other books along these lines should I be reading?