I’m on a post-apocalypse novel jag. Maybe it’s because of the weather. Maybe it’s the drumbeat of news about our impending doom from climate change, or pandemic, or what have you. I should be sitting vigils with the Keystone Pipeline protestors, or volunteering to sign people up for flu vaccinations, but baby it’s cold out there.
So, instead of making myself useful, I’m curled up with books about what happens after the collapse of civilization.
Here’s what’s on my nightstand:
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller. Evocative, terse, compelling. I could keep going with the adjectives. This is a gorgeous book. My husband checked it out of the library, and barely spoke to me for three days while he plowed through it. I couldn’t put it down, either. The author, Peter Heller, is a contributor to NPR, Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. He writes like the outdoorsman he is, with spare, almost cryptic prose. Even though the style would ordinarily drive me crazy — no quotation marks, and full of incomplete sentences — somehow, it works. The characters feel utterly genuine. Protagonist Hig flies a small plane across desolate landscapes, hunts, fishes and mourns the loss of trout. Most people, including his wife, have died from a flu-like plague. His companions are a dog and a gun-toting survivalist who keeps the riffraff, i.e. everyone else, at bay. Everything is more or less limping along in an acceptable balance of survival of the fittest, except that Hig is haunted by a mysterious radio transmission that he is dying to check out. Where Cornack McCarthy’s The Road is bleak, Heller’s book balances futility with hope in a way that pulls you almost gently, insidiously, and wonderfully into the story.
Wool, Hugh Howey. Wool is a book for every indie writer’s heart, not just because it was self-published and went on to become a New York Times best seller. It’s gripping. Might as well give up on the chores you’re already putting off and let yourself be sucked in. Picture a devastated, toxic landscape and a community of people living in an underground shelter, a “silo”, hundreds of stories deep. They’ve adapted pretty well, what with grow lights and a pretty good source of energy. The biggest taboo? To ask to go ‘outside.’ The citizens are loosely guided by a mayor, but it quickly becomes clear that she is not in charge. But who is?
As soon as I finished the book, I went right out and got the second in the series.
The Seneca Scourge, Carrie Rubin. Rubin is another indie author and one of my favorite bloggers. She is self-effacing, kind, supportive — and funny. I’m sure she won’t mind if I slip in a link to her Elf on a Shelf post from the holidays. Anyway, in this, Rubin’s first novel, a young infectious disease specialist who finds herself on more or less permanent call during a modern-day plague, discovers a potential remedy, and what appears to be a conspiracy to keep the cure secret. Rubin’s background as an MD makes the story all too plausible, and she spins the story out of the medical thriller genre with a twist of — stop here if you don’t want any spoilers — science fiction. Suffice it to say, I got my first flu shot in 15 years after this one, and now give dirty looks to people who cough on planes. Fire up the tea pot, get out your fleece, put up your feet and settle down to Rubin’s fast-paced thriller. I’m looking forward to her soon-to-be published second book.
What are you reading these days?