The Official Blog of Iain Rob Wright: Top 10...Apocalyptic Novels

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Top 10...Apocalyptic Novels

10.  Cell, by Stephen King

I was really excited when I heard King was going to tackle 'the zombie novel' but, in all honesty, Cell did not turn out like that.  It has its own premise, for better or worse, and that leads to this being a very unique story for both King and the zombie genre.

The story follows what happens when a pulse signal is sent to every mobile phone on earth with a subliminal directive to kill.  The book starts quickly and strongly and the author creates a very real sense of desperation that continues throughout most of the book.  As with all King's stories, the characters are real and we care about them.  The only downside in my opinion is that the book gets somewhat ambiguous once the infected develop a 'hive mind'.  Not one of King's worst endings, but certainly not one of his best.

9.  Plague Year Trilogy, by Jeff Carlson

Again,a totally unique entry into the world of apocalypse.  Here we see a world where a 'nano-plague' has distinguished all life below 10,000 feet.  We get to see the survivors eek out a sorry existence in the harsh, barren enviroment of mountain tops, unable to travel below the 'threshold'.

The story is more technothriller than horror, but the feeling of isolation that the characters feel is really well done.  In the later novels, the story becomes more epic and happens on a global scale, with international conflict between nations.

8.  Darkness on the edge of town, by Brian Keene

This is actually not one of my favourite books from Keene, but I feel the sense of hopeless doom in this novel is very well done.  I hardly ever had hope that the world would make it and I had to keep reading just to see how long the characters could go on for.

The premise of darkness consuming the world is a good one and it brings out some really unique situations for the characters to face up against.  The character of Des is particularly well portrayed.

7.  Blood Crazy, by Simon Clark

Absolutely love this one.  Clark's imaginary world falls apart as all adults attack children under the age of seventeen.  Almost a coming of age drama as the main characters are forced to grow up earlier than they would have liked, and as you would expect not all of the children handle independence the same, leading to lots of conflict between the various groups.

The uncomfortable dynamic between the protagonist and his longtime enemy/turned reluctant ally is a particular highlight.

6.  Monster Island trilogy, by David Wellington

A really orignial writer that creates a really original zombie-ocalypse.  The world is unique in that anyone that died whilst still supplied with oxygen to the brain turns into a 'sentient zombie' retaining all of their personality.  This begins with the character of Gary and ends with the Lich, a russian prince of the dead who tries to control the earth.  The whole epic story arc is varied and colourful and contains some always memorable characters.  Each novel is vastly different to the others but somehow manages to keep to the overall mythology of the trilogy.

5.  Domain, by James Herbert

Been a while since I read Herbert, as I feel his work went less horror-orientated and more porn-obssessed as he got older.  I always remember this story from my youth though and still use it for inspiration.

The final part of 'The Rats trilogy' features a nuclear attack on London that leads several survivors to an underground government bunker.  They intend to wait out the nuclear fallout and re-establish society, but what they didn't expect is the rise of a new species of giant rats.

The feeling of claustrophobia is really well done here and the infighting amongst the survivors is as exciting as any book I have ever read.  Check it out before you try any of Herbert's later works.

4.  The Stand, by Stephen King

If you can stomach 800 pages then this is an epic odysee of the human spirit.  After a brilliantly-described flu epidemic called Captain Tripps that kills 99% of the world, we are left with two sets of survivors.  Each represents the dichotomy of good or evil (the Las Vegas group obviously being the ones prone to sin).  The vast book then follows the conflict between Mother Abigail's 'goodies' and Randall Flagg's 'baddies'.  It's E-P-I-C.

Too bad the crappy Deus Ex Machina at the end ruins its chances of being my number 1.

3.  Clickers 2, by J F Gonzalez and Brian Keene

I chose the second entry specifically because it's the only one that could be classed as 'apocalyptic'.  It features the attack of The Clickers, huge crab-like creatures, as well as their masters, the dark ones, who resemble Lovecraftian fish people.  The characters are great and varied, while the story takes place from several points-of-view, which makes the story feel much more far reaching than the other two entries in the series so far (the 4th will be Clickers vs Zombies!).  You'll find the old retired general a great character to root for.

2.  World War Z, by Max Brookes

Not strictly apocalyptic because the world survives, but only just.  If you haven't read this book yet, go and buy it now!  Go on, I'll wait here while you do....Got it?  Good.

The book is written as a documentary, pennedby a travelling journalist interviewing survivors of a zombie apocalypse.  The accounts are so detailed, varied, and realistic that you could actually be tricked into thinking the events had actually happened for a moment.  The story charts the zombie outbreak from it's first victim down to its last, and the journey between is just mesmerising.

1.  The Rising/City of the Dead, by Brian Keene

My Brian Keene bias is probably showing by now, but I believe he deserves the number 1 spot for these two novels, if only for helping to ressurect the zombie genre.  I believe that The Rising and its sequel need to be taken as one whole for it to deserve its place here as the story isn't quite as epic otherwise.

This was the first work of Keene's I read and I have been a consumate fan ever since.  The story starts small and builds to a creshendo of bloodshed as the survivors make it to a high-tech, 'Gremlins 2 Clamp' type of building that was made into a fortress by its paranoid owner.  There the survivors take refuge against 'Ob' and his merry band of demon-possesed zombies.  The fact that the undead are actually demons adds far more versatility to the plot and makes life even harder for the survivors.  Also, the animals are succeptable to the possession too, which makes life pretty much impossible.

For me, The Rising was my entrance ticket to the rich and involving world that Keene creates throughout all his books, and really this is just the beginning chapter in a life long plot that the author is creating.  Welcome to the Labrynth; you'll never want to leave.

As always, let me know what you think of my choices, and let's have a row if you disagree.  Cheers.


Kat said...

I felt exactly the same way about Stephen King's "Cell" novel. It started out great and really interesting, but as it went on and the "infected" began communicating and whatnot it just went downhill. If you could ignore that aspect then it was a pretty good "zombie" sort of book

Iain Rob Wright said...

I have always found that the first half of a King novel is the best. I always seem to lose interest after the midway point.