Top five post-apocalyptic novels you must read before you die in a giant gaseous eruption that engulfs and annihilates the entirety of our beloved planet!

A world-shattering apocalypse may not be an appetizing idea in real life, but in the fictional realm, it has made for captivating reading for as long as readers and writers could imagine a society ablaze with horror and impending doom.

The following novels would be a great place to start for the new post-apocalyptic reader (pre-apocalyptic?). and they would also make great additions to the bookshelves of the genre’s fans who may have overlooked these modern classics.

Stephen King, The Stand

It’s hard to imagine a better place to start than King’s 1978 gem that is loaded with the kind of darkly suspenseful premise you’d expect from the best horror writer of his generation. Our nightmarish tale begins with the escape from a biological testing facility from a patient who carries a transmuted strain of a lethal virus that would annihilate nearly all of the planet’s population in less than a fortnight’s time. From there, things only get more loaded with intrigue, morbidity and social unrest. Enjoy!

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

McCarthy’s dry prose isn’t for everyone and the images he traffics in can be a bit trippy and spiritual for some, but if a deceptively simple father-son story of survival fits into your reading tastes, this is tasty stuff. 

This Pulitzer prize winner could not be described as a thrill a minute, but it creates enough tension to compensate for the relative lack of action. 

World War Z, Max Brooks

You’d expect a book by a Saturday Night Live alum and scion of comedy guru Mel Brooks to be chock full of laughs — especially when it’s absurdly titled ‘An Oral History of the Zombie War.’ But Brooks mostly plays it straight, treating a world under siege by subhuman creatures with all the solemnity the real thing would warrant. 

Not as action-packed as the movie, Brook’s novel is more reflective, sad and emotionally drained than anything Hollywood would dare concoct. 

I am Legend, Richard Matheson

Yes, this is the book that movie is based on, but trust me, even if you’ve seen the Will Smith vehicle, you’ve only gotten a nibble of Matheson’s brilliantly chilling read. For all the terror of a world overrun by killer vampires, the true monster here is loneliness, a threat that a lesser scribe would have obscured by cheap jump scares and gimmicks. 

The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle

Not as well-known as the others on this list, but in a perfect world, it would be. Riddle’s thrilling tale evokes a world on the verge of complete catastrophic implosion. The nerdy realm of epidemiology has never made for a more raucous ride. 

Most compelling here is the way the villain keeps shifting, with Mother Nature herself initially seeming to be the culprit until we learn of a sinister cabal of science-minded miscreants who created the viral strain that threatens the earth’s very existence. If you’re a fan of the genre, your collection of PA classics isn’t complete if you don’t own this. If you’re not a fan, this book will help you understand how wrong you’ve been all these years.

This Week’s Prophet of Doom: JK Franks!

Each week we feature interviews with your favorite post-apocalyptic authors, directors, screenwriters and assorted nay-saying troublemakers! (Links in the descriptions may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).

JK Franks

This week’s Prophet of Doom, is a busy man. In addition to being a technologist, graphic designer and business owner, JK Franks crafts captivating science fiction of all genres, but most notably, post-apocalyptic fiction.

Catalyst: Downward Cycle could be thought of as his gateway novel. Not only was it his first published work of fiction, it also serves as a strong portal into his work in the PA genre.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the work and the mind of this week’s Prophet of Doom, JK Franks:

Copper: What was it about the genre of science fiction that drew you into it?

JK | I grew up during the space race and fell in love with everything scientific. I started reading Danny Dunn sci-fi series in school and moved on to Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury, Herbert and others. I found that I loved the stories that were near-future and based on real science the best.

I am a big believer in “What if…” Really great science fiction is a true story, that just hasn’t happened yet. It takes those science facts and stretches them to the limit of believability yet still keeps it grounded in ways that all of us can identify with,

Copper: What about post-apocalyptic in particular?

JK | I like strong characters and action that doesn’t need a lot of build-up. Post Apoc allows us to put characters instantly in extreme situations. That is when the truth tends to shine through, good or bad. I’ve always had a fascination with the post-apocalyptic genre. While most people assume Post Apoc stories are about the catastrophe and the worst of humanity I think the opposite is true. They are ultimately about hope; hope even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Copper: Having been born and raised in the south, would you say there were any southern writers who influenced your style and approach to writing?

JK | Not as many as you might think. My Sci Fi authors were from all over However, my first novel was inspired by both Pat Frank (Alas Babylon) and William R. Forsythin (One Second After) both transplanted southerners. While not Sci-Fi I am also a huge Pat Conroy fan and set one of my books in his hometown of Beuafort, SC. Another of my more recent favorites is Hugh Howey (Wool) who I believe is from Charleston.

Copper Smith: Your books have a cinematic quality to them in terms of their vividness and the urgent sense of storytelling. Where there any post-apocalyptic films that influenced you?

JK | I think I just have a very visual way of thinking and writing. I have to see the scenes and characters play out in my head before I can put them on paper. I could never be a pure plotter/outliner. I do love movies but not to the same degree as books and rarely do I find any post-apocalyptic that I feel are done terribly well. Many tend to focus on the world-ending disaster when what really matters is the characters; what they are willing to do to survive? How quickly can they adapt? Do they need to go alone or join forces? Also, I like smart characters on both side of the moral equation and movies rarely present that level of depth to any of the roles. Two I will mention are The Road and A Quiet Place. I thought they were exceptionally well done.

Copper Smith: And for our most important apocalypse related question, what one song would you like to survive the apocalypse?

JK | If you read any of my books you know I am a huge music fan jazz, blues, rock and I hope (almost) all of them survive, I should go cliché and say Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. I did name my son after a line in the song but staying true to my inner survivor I have to say ‘In the End’ by Linkin Park.

Check out Catalyst, the first book in JK’s Downward Cycle series!

Next week’s Prophet of Doom: author AR Shaw!

Stay in touch, Copperheads!

You’ll get updates and previews of new books, plus links to anything fun, captivating and scandalous related to the post-apocalyptic world!

Post-apocalyptic Non-fiction?

As we lurch further and further into a future of danger, chaos and growing uncertainty, has the idea of post-apocalyptic fiction began to feel less and less fictional? And not just because of the continued threat of COVID, but also the panic and cultural upheaval that has accompanied it. 

It doesn’t help matters that talk of an upcoming vaccine, far from quelling the political storm, has simply nudged the storm in a different direction, spurring on the rhetoric of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and — surprise! — political opportunists

Allow me to move the topic to a selfish place: What does all this mean to fiction writers?

If Amazon’s book charts are any indication, the pandemic’s deadly spread has been a boon to writers of viral apocalypse novels. Apparently, people like reading deadly fictional tales that mirror the real-file horror of our daily lives. Does this make sense?

It’s not usually the case that people like fiction that close to home. I’ve known a few war veterans in my life and none seemed eager to immerse themselves in the fictional accounts of violent conflict. Nor do most abuse survivors relish tales of violence and torture. 

Maybe it’s different when the apocalypse is happening generally to the world, but not to you and your family or circle of friends. 

It seems to me that people like fiction that hits close to home — but not too close. 

What do you think?

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