If there has been a point in the past few years when you have honestly felt as though the world was embarking on its own apocalypse, trust me, you are not alone! When viewing images such as huge swathes of north west American and Canadian forest burning down, its flames turning the sky of San Francisco orange; when hearing how the impact of climate change will become ever-more devastating; when living through a lockdown caused by a global pandemic (and all its accompanying conspiracy theories), it’s clear we have been living through a time when the idea of a total apocalypse could easily be conceived. So, if you find yourself feeling the news is a little too much to take, then why not lose yourself in a fictitious apocalypse, just to put everything back into perspective for a page or two.
PD James’ 1962 novel Children of Men offers up an alternative to what the horrors of 2021 might have looked like. With a tyrannical government and a largely apathetic population facing the end of all humanity, things look a little bleak. Whilst the threat of mass infertility is what looks set to end all mankind (making this a perfect recommendation for anyone who loved Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale), the novel’s main theme of political corruption is what we might understand to be the true danger.
In another classic, John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, we experience desolation and threat at every turn. Most of the human population have been blinded and carnivorous plant life has spread out of control; we watch as London’s streets become dangerous places to be. Dealing with the fall-out of failures in bioengineering, this book could be seen as a reminder that humankind’s faith in their ability to be in control might just be misplaced.
Emily St John Mandle’s Station Eleven, first published in 2014, has fast become a cult hit, and with a HBO miniseries adaptation planned for release, now is the perfect time to read it! Dealing directly with a deadly flu pandemic known as the ‘Georgia Flu’ that ends civilization, the story moves back and forth in time between the world as it once was before Year Zero and the places where small remnants of humanity still survive 20 years on. However, rather than being simply a story of death and destruction, Station Eleven is one about faith in the face of it and the ways that our links to the past are things that cannot be broken, which makes it a something of a more hopeful read.
Another book that weaves the past and futures of the narrative together impressively is Jannette Winterson’s The Stone Gods. This cli-fi (climate-fiction) novel moves throughout history from the 18th century to a dystopian future with stories highlighting the damage that humanity might cause to Earth. Each individual narrative involves choices being made by humans that come to affect the future of the planet. There is a theme of love that runs throughout all this, with the suggestion given that an openness to others and potential new ideas offers the hope that we so desperately need.
Finally, if you find yourself wondering just how you might tackle the end of the world as you know it, Ray Bradbury’s short story The Last Night of the World presents a warming insight into what the conversations in our homes might look like as we face the final hours for our civilization. For anyone feeling a bit hopeless about the enormity of the problems our world is currently presented with, it may act as a reminder to take comfort in the relationships we have as a source of strength to see us through.