With ‘The Last of Us‘ becoming everyone’s favorite live-action adaptation of a video game franchise, I fondly remember playing the game years ago along with related apocalyptic/zombie favorites like Resident Evil, Left4Dead etc. Trying to survive the hordes of the undead and boss fights after a long day of work was a trip back in the day ( and mostly less stressful than dealing with race conditions and deadlocks!) . Thanks to a full schedule (aka life), my gaming schedule has taken a backseat over the years (though with the arrival of the Steamdeck, this has seen an uptick recently). 28 Days Later rebooted the genre in the big screen and set the template for things to follow. TV Series like the Walking Dead (which I abandoned after 2 seasons once it became apparent that the story wasn’t really going anywhere), Black Summer, Kingdom etc had some good moments. However, post-apocalyptic fiction writing got me interested and playing those games and watching those series/movies in the first place. The genre is rich with amazing books and a lot of mediocre ones as well. The gloomy Seattle weather plays a perfect conduit to huddling up with desolate dystopian stories. Some of my favorites listed below and could be considered essential reading for this genre.
World War Z by Max Brooks – The “oral” history about an apocalyptic war with the undead that almost wiped out the human race as we know it. This reads almost like your favorite travel vlogger visiting various sites decimated by the undead. The book actually offers an interesting commentary of how governments could (mis)manage an event of catastrophic proportions while the world is amidst a meltdown. The movie was nothing great frankly and the book offered a much more interesting and sometimes humorous view of how a society could adapt against the zombie apocalypse.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – One of the most hopeless, desolate, heart-breaking stories in the genre. I’ve read this one twice and its one of those books where the writing is alive and makes you plod till the end with the wretched protagonists despite the utter futility you already know that awaits in the end. A father and son trudging through a devastated wasteland trying to survive against a world that includes diseases, starvation, cannibals and more. Its a road to nowhere with only your humanity to treasure. The movie was one of the rare well-made book-to-TV adaptions and remained sincere to the book.
“Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.” -Cormac McCarthy, The Road
The Stand by Stephen King – Not part of zombie genre but the 1000 page uncut version of the ultimate post-apocalyptic storyline by master of the macabre is essentially reading for this genre. The battle of good versus evil against a background of disease and complex human relationship finally ending with a showdown in Vegas. Nothing not to enjoy on this one. As a huge king fan, I’ve enjoyed most of his books during my teenage and adult life and this one left a big impression on me. This one is due a re-read.
I am legend – Richard Matheson – Post-apocalyptic vampire-like zombies against the last man on earth who locks his doors and prays for dawn every night. This was one of those books where the second read was more enjoyable than the first. The main characters search for purpose and the utter isolation is one of the more enjoyable aspects of this book. Its a lot different than the Will Smith movie where he slaps the zombies around and goes out in a blaze of glory ( in one of the endings at least).
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller – No zombies on this one but the narrator ( a pilot) and his friend protect their abandoned airport from human scavengers in a post-pandemic situation. Things pick up when the main character has enough and starts to search out for civilization. This one deals with friendship, loneliness, trust and the insignificance of mankind against the power of nature.
My reading list here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56952760-vishwanath