The 11 Best Apocalyptic Science Fiction Books of The 21st Century
If you’re a fan of apocalyptic science fiction books, then this list is for you. Apocalyptic novels about the future and other worlds have been popular since the late 19th century. These stories often explore how different cultures might react to disaster or if we will be able to save ourselves from extinction. Some of these titles are classics that all readers should experience, while others may be less well-known but equally as captivating as their more famous counterparts.
These 11 21st century apocalypse novels offer diverse perspectives on life in an uncertain world—and what could happen when it’s over:
1) The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012)
The story takes place in the near future and covers a period of about two years. Most people have died of a flu pandemic and all that’s left is a pilot named Hig and his dog Jasper, who live on an abandoned airfield in Colorado with their plane. They run out of supplies soon after the novel begins, so they head into town to scavenge for more. Along the way, they have to deal with a group of violent criminals who have set up camp in an abandoned high-rise building and a boy who thinks he’s a superhero.
2) World War Z by Max Brooks (2006)
This non-fiction book has been compared to Studs Terkel’s The Good War. It is a collection of individual accounts from survivors of a war against zombies that nearly destroyed civilization as we know it. Woven throughout these personal stories is the account of a United Nations employee trying to track down the origin of this mysterious virus.
3) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)
A father and his young son travel a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of a place where they might be able to survive. They carry very little with them, but their quest is filled with dangers both human and inhuman. This novella was written for the author’s son, whom he taught how to read at a young age. As such, it is a deeply personal account of the lengths a parent will go to in order provide for their children.
4) Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)
Margaret Atwood is perhaps best known as one of the most famous feminist writers of our generation. However, she has proven that not all her novels and short stories must be concerned with gender equality and other social issues. In this one, a man named Snowman is the sole survivor of a human race brought to extinction by genetic engineering. He is searching for answers about his past in a world gone mad.
5) The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (2009)
This is a companion novel to Oryx and Crake and follows the perspective of two fully developed characters. In this post-apocalyptic world, genetic experimentation has caused most people to become infertile and violent toward one another—unless they are members of an organized religion. This story explores a different aspect of the same world as Atwood’s other novel, but it is equally as vivid and haunting.
6) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
Station Eleven takes place in an alternate reality where a famous Hollywood star dies of a heart attack onstage at the end of Arthur Leander’s last performance. Three weeks later, most of the world is destroyed when the deadly Georgia flu sweeps through the population. Twenty years after this global catastrophe, a traveling theater company makes their final tour across Canada.
7) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (2014)
This novel is told through the perspective of a man who has lived and died many times previously. It takes place in an era where technology allows people to relive their past life experiences and correct mistakes they’ve made. The protagonist follows their own unique path to change the world for good, while also dealing with the physical limitations of repeatedly dying young.
8) Wool by Hugh Howey (2013)
This novel falls somewhere between science fiction and dystopian literature. A community of people scrape out an existence in a series of underground silos that are meant to protect them from the harsh elements outside. The only problem is that everyone must remain underground for their entire lives, or risk being killed by robotic “silo-dogs.”
9) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)
This novel is set in a dystopian future where most of humanity spends all their time engaged in an online game that is meant to bring people together. OASIS is a virtual world that gives its users the ability to be whomever and whatever they want to be. The creator of this virtual reality has recently died, leaving behind a hidden quest inside of OASIS itself.
9) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (2014)
The main character in this novel is a woman, but the majority of the story follows several different protagonists. The Bone Clocks takes place across several decades and alternates between two worlds—one being modern-day England, and the other being an afterlife where souls are harvested for their energy.
10) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008)
The Hunger Games is a post-apocalyptic novel with strong social criticism pertaining to the nature of reality television and state control. In this world, North America has been taken over by a totalitarian regime that forces teenagers to fight to the death in a televised event called “the games.” Katniss Everdeen volunteers to become one of the participants, to save her younger sister’s life.
11) The Maze Runner Trilogy and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (2009 and 2010)
The Maze Runner follows a group of teenage boys who live in an experimental community that is enclosed in a large, ever-changing maze. An organization called the WCKD controls this place, while also experimenting on its inhabitants with genetic mutations. One of the boys, Thomas, becomes determined to find a way out of the maze with his group.
The best apocalyptic science fiction novels are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Whether you love to read about the end of the world or would prefer not to think about it, these books will provide a captivating reading experience.
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