Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel Station Eleven is one of the greatest—if not the greatest—post-apocalyptic novel of the modern age. Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a finalist for The National Book Award, Station Eleven explores the onset and aftermath of the Georgia Flu pandemic. Specifically, it follows a troupe of wandering actors and musicians known as the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten Raymonde and her fellow performers use classical music and Shakespearean texts to remind themselves, and their audiences, about what it means to thrive and not just survive after the collapse of society. But as the performers make their way across the region once known as the Great Lakes, they are targeted by a power-hungry man who calls himself the Prophet.
If you’ve finished Mandel’s haunting novel and are hungry for similar reads, you won’t be able to put these 7 books like Station Eleven down.
Ashes of the Earth
A haunting apocalyptic mystery, Ashes of the Earth takes place thirty years after a nuclear disaster destroyed much of humanity. In the decades since, survivors have struggled to rebuild a rudimentary society in Carthage, but dissent and in-fighting slow the colony’s progress, and anyone suffering from radiation poisoning is banished. Hadrian Boone helped found Carthage, but now he watches helplessly as the current governor rules tyrannically. Hadrian tries to distract himself with alcohol, but when a prominent Carthage scientist is murdered, he realizes he can't ignore the corruptions and injustice of the colony any longer. Hadrian journeys outside the town limits, visiting the banished victims of radiation poisoning in the wildlands in search of answers.
Like Station Eleven, the Pandora series takes a personal look at the apocalypse, showing how the Pandoravirus horribilis pandemic impacts the members of one family. Emma Miller used to study diseases for a living, but now that she's become one of the countless victims of the Pandoravirus, she's incapable of anything but destruction. Her twin sister, Isabella, is still coming to terms with the fact that the Emma she once knew is gone. Isabel and her brother Noah take refuge at their family's old property in Virginia. But the semblance of safety they struggle to create amidst the apocalypse is threatened by the arrival of their sick sister Emma...and her legions of infected followers.
A white-knuckle vision of the apocalypse that is reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road, Jonesbridge is set in a steampunk iron structure that’s part town and part jail, separated from the rest of the world by a deep moat. Myron is a ‘worker’—effectively a slave—in the Jonesbridge Industrial Complex. When he meets and falls for fellow worker Sindra, Myron allows himself to hope again. Together, Sindra and Myron devise an escape from Jonesbridge. But when Myron is blamed for the death of a guard, the couple must seek help in Jonesbridge’s underground. As the Jonesbridge society dissolves around them, the pair discover more sympathizers with their cause than they would have expected.
A standalone novel by Pulitzer Prize–winner Colson Whitehead, Zone One is an elegiac zombie novel set in post-apocalyptic New York. Mark Spitz was a young man when his family and everyone else he knew from the old world died during Last Night. In the years since, he’s stayed alive through a combination of luck, constant vigilance, and a willingness to cut out when associating with other living humans threatened to get him killed.
But now, the tide of the war has turned to favor the living. Civilization is resuscitated across the country, and Mark is part of a sweeping crew tasked with eliminating the few straggling undead NYC residents from lower Manhattan. Once the city is cleared, New York’s rebirth will be a symbolic victory for the entire world. As Mark settles into his life in Manhattan, he—like Kirsten and other members of the Traveling Symphony in Station Eleven—mourns the various terrible and beautiful aspects of the now-disappeared modern world. Mark and his fellow survivors must also cope with their PASD (Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder) if they are going to fully embrace the dawn of a new day.
Trail of Lightning
The first book in the Sixth World series, Trail of Lightning is a Locus Award-winner as well as a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Award for Best Novel. Set after an unspecified environmental disaster devastated America, Trail of Lightning follows Maggie, a Dinétah monster hunter. Since parting with her mentor and lover, Maggie has kept to herself, prizing solitude except for her friendship with the elder Tah. But when a brush with a monster hints at a new danger on the horizon, Maggie must rely on the help of obstinate and infuriatingly attractive Kai Arviso, Tah's grandson. Together, they must find answers about what this new force of evil is—and how it can be stopped.
Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Cormac McCarthy's The Road is undeniably bleaker than Station Eleven. But like Mandel's book, it explores how love endures even after the world it was created within has been destroyed. The novel, which is dedicated to McCarthy's son, focuses on an unnamed father and son journeying across the wastelands of America years after a devastating event caused mass extinctions. The ailing man knows that the two of them are unlikely to survive the winter, so he and his son are journeying to the sea. Along the way, he teaches the boy to distinguish between the 'good guys' and the bad, and to avoid the cannibals who are imprisoning vulnerable humans along the road.
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Y: The Last Man
Y:The Last Man is an Eisner Award-winning post-apocalyptic comic series which ran from 2002 through 2008. In July 2002, a catastrophic, mysterious global even instantly kills all living organisms with a Y chromosome. The only organisms known to have been spared are a young man named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. Yorick's mother, a politician in Washington, recognizes that her son is a figure of international significance...and possibly the key to humanity's survival. Yorick is suddenly the focus of scientists and militaries from across the globe, but all he wants is to find his girlfriend Beth, who was studying in Australia when the event occurred.
Y: The Last Man manages to be simultaneously funny and sobering, perfectly capturing the melancholy of a civilization reeling from cataclysmic loss. Although the event which kills all males in Y: The Last Man is very different than the Georgia Flu, it's likely Yorick and members of the Traveling Circus would have a lot to discuss if they ever crossed paths on their respective apocalyptic roads.
Featured image from Subterranean Press' cover of "Station Eleven."
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