Six Fantastic Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels
After the World Falls Apart
I have a fascination with postapocalyptic (set in a time after a disaster) and dystopian (set in a time of darkness and desperation) books, and I think it's for the same reason I'm captivated by wartime stories: the books are about characters being pushed to their limits by an incredibly challenging situation, and they show their true selves and abilities.
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. I think I have enough other favorite reads in these categories to make two more Greedy Reading Lists.
Which other postapocalyptic or dystopian books do you love?
01 A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
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.
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 by Kim Liggett
It feels like freedom, but we know it's a lie. This is how they break us. They take everything away, our very dignity, and anything we get in return feels like a gift.
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 their perception of it (and especially the perceptions of the men and women in the society) was particularly haunting.
This was a fast and engaging read.
03 The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
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 felt to me like a dark young adult postapocalyptic novel, and it offered 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 by Peter Heller
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."
05 The Power by Naomi Alderman
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.
In The Power, 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 control and influence--especially damaging when coupled with the certainty that your opinion is infallible and correct.
I found this book fascinating.
06 The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
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.