When the worst has happened and the world as we know it has ended, but somehow a few have survived, there comes a time when it is no longer possible to stay still—when the risk of remaining in the place that has kept them safe thus far becomes greater than the risk of venturing out into the unknown. Enter the post-apocalyptic travel novel.
In these books parents and children, men and dogs, artists, friends, and potential saviors have survived cataclysmic events from pandemics to climate disasters and must now embark on harrowing journeys in the hopes of finding a better life. If your book club is looking for something that reminds us of our shared humanity and forces us to wonder, what we would do in their shoes? Would we make it? They can’t go wrong with one of these reads.
Not Alone by Sarah K. Jackson
“Not Alone kept me breathless with tension… [A] gripping adventure story.” —Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of Room
Five years ago, a microplastic storm wiped out most of the population. No infrastructure. No safe havens. No goodbyes. Since then, Katie and Harry have lived in isolation in their small flat outside London. After years without human contact, Katie and Harry are shocked by the arrival of a threatening newcomer, just as Katie’s persistent cough seems to have taken a turn for the worse. But this proof of life beyond their familiar environment spurs Katie to undertake a previously unthinkable journey, in search of her fiancé, Jack, who never came home the day of the storm, and a different kind of life for Harry.
Outside of their protected bubble, Katie and Harry encounter an altered world, full of new dangers, other survivors–both friend and foe–and many surprises. Katie’s resources, energy, and parenting abilities are pushed to the brink, as Harry’s life and safety waver in the balance, knowing that the further they get from their flat, the harder it will be to return if things go wrong. Sarah K. Jackson combines beautiful language, palm-sweating adventure, and a deep, true-to-life parent-child bond that transcends its post-apocalyptic setting, in a debut that emphasizes the importance of resilience, hope, and sustainability today.
“A superb novel . . . [that] leaves us not fearful for the end of the word but appreciative of the grace of everyday existence.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
“Her shuddering post-apocalyptic vision of the world . . . summons up echoes of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess and Aldous Huxley.” —The Seattle Times
The first volume in the internationally acclaimed MaddAddam trilogy. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey—with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake—through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.
“The Road offers nothing in the way of escape or comfort. But its fearless wisdom is more indelible than reassurance could ever be.” —The New York Times
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
“This end-of-the-world novel [is] more like a rapturous beginning. . . . Remarkable.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Hig’s wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.
But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.
“Fascinating, suspenseful, and morally provocative.”—Chicago Sun-Times
The year is 2021. No child has been born for twenty-five years. The human race faces extinction. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
“A deeply researched scenario-play of a novel told in brisk, unsparing prose. . . . There’s a compulsive thrill to reading a book which grazes, and then runs off with, our increasingly ungraspable reality.” —The Guardian
At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When epidemiologist Henry Parsons travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will have staggering repercussions. Halfway across the globe, the deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security scrambles to mount a response to the rapidly spreading pandemic leapfrogging around the world, which she believes may be the result of an act of biowarfare. And a rogue experimenter in man-made diseases is preparing his own terrifying solution.
As already-fraying global relations begin to snap, the virus slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions and decimating the population. With his own wife and children facing diminishing odds of survival, Henry travels from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia to his home base at the CDC in Atlanta, searching for a cure and for the origins of this seemingly unknowable disease. The End of October is a one-of-a-kind thriller steeped in real-life political and scientific implications, filled with the insight that has been the hallmark of Wright’s acclaimed nonfiction and the full-tilt narrative suspense that only the best fiction can offer.
“[The Stand] has everything. Adventure. Romance. Prophecy. Allegory. Satire. Fantasy. Realism. Apocalypse. Great!” —The New York Times Book Review
A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.