Post-Apocalyptic Books: The End of the World … or the Dawn of a New One?
Guest blogger J. Cameron “Cam” Potts
What is the appeal of post-apocalyptic books? So many of the stories end in a dystopian society or no society at all.
Could it be a macabre obsession in that we all recognize the possibility and are drawn to potential results? Are we hoping to find a glimmer of hope in the mounds of charred ashes? Do we see the potential of imagined disaster and hope to do something now to prevent it from becoming real?
Perhaps. In the end, each of us must reach our own conclusion.
That said, I want to share a few of the classics of the genre with you, each with a different slant. Though it is my favorite, I will take up Battlefield Earth last. After all, I hope to leave you uplifted and eager to read. This can be a challenge when discussing one of the darker fiction genres—apocalyptic literature. (However, if you don’t want to wait, you can download a sneak preview of the first 13 chapters for free.)
The first, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, is a masterpiece of wordsmithing. It is a chilling and emotional read about the perils of nuclear war and is considered one of the most important books of all time (not just apocalypse books).
Its screen adaptation is also considered one of the most important movies of all time.
The story has special meaning for me since I lived during the Cold War while my father rode the tip of the spear as an Air Force interceptor pilot. (Definition: tip of the spear refers to the combat force that is used to puncture the enemy’s initial lines of defense.)
While I agree with all the accolades, I just don’t like endings that make my eyes sweat.
Next, Stephen King’sThe Stand, was another truly awesome read. I hated the whole thing, but I couldn’t put it down. ’Nuff said.
Yeah. It creeped me out so much, I’m having trouble getting into the book. For the first time ever, my imagination has been overrun by special effects. So, I think I’ll pass on the movie but will persevere with the book.
You’ve been warned.
Following a nuclear holocaust, pandemic, comet strike, extraterrestrial invasion, or zombie apocalypse, my hope is for a better and more productive society to rise from the ruins. A society where ethical people enjoy universal human rights and the freedom to flourish and prosper.
Some would say I want utopia, but that’s not true. Utopia is perfect, which could get boring. Maybe a bit too homogeneous. Perhaps a bit too trusting. And, too few games.
What? Too few games? How could that be?
Well, life just wouldn’t be life without games. Without obstacles and opponents. Without family and kids. Without dreams and goals and groups of people we want to join, and others we want nothing to do with.
Confronting all the challenges of life’s games and overcoming them is what makes life exciting and worth living. I like stories that embrace this theme.
When there is an apocalyptic event, it is important to look at what can be done about it.
What rays of hope are there that a “game” can be restored, society rebuilt, etc.
What can make a difference? What does it take to instill hope?
How many people are needed to get the ball rolling?
Just one. One with courage and determination.
However, it might take a little while for that one to show up.
Maybe even a long while.
In the interim? Yeah. Dystopia probably. Still, hope springs eternal.
And that is a perfect segue to the introduction of my all-time favorite post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth.
L. Ron Hubbard has been called a pulp fiction writer, an adventure writer, a mystery writer, a western writer, a science fiction writer, a suspense writer, and even, under a feminine pen name, a romance writer. And make no mistake, he was all of these.
He was meticulous about research and wrote compelling stories in all of these genres, but the secret to his success was his understanding of, and passion for writing about, people. The common denominator in all of his stories is people.
People in trying circumstances.
People who said, “That’s it! We’ve got to handle this situation!”
People who had or developed courage and determination.
People like Jonnie Goodboy Tyler.
Battlefield Earth immerses you in Jonnie’s world. A world wiped out by a superior alien race leaving humankind virtually extinct, and the survivors’ access to technology barely above that of the cavemen.
Still, in Jonnie’s world, you can feel the power of the human spirit, even when it’s been knocked down.
So begins a powerful tale—one of my favorites. You can actually read the first 13 chapters free (but you probably won’t want to stop there.)
Jonnie was born about one thousand years after humanity’s apocalypse at the claws of the alien Psychlo invaders. He had heard stories about how Man was almost wiped out by monsters, but there was no formal history. Only myth obscured by legend and superstition that, frankly, made no sense to him.
What did make sense to Jonnie was that his village was dying. Food was scarce. The weather could be harsh. Many of the people were sickly. The population was dwindling. Everything outside their mountain meadow was taboo.
And, though he couldn’t bring himself to admit it, he was in love with a lovely young woman he did not want to lose.
Something must be done! The situation had to be handled.
Jonnie was the best hunter, the best horse wrangler, and the strongest man in the village. He decided to find a way to make life better. Besides, even if nothing came of it, the quest would be a great adventure.
Of course, as another famous author, Louis L’Amour, was fond of saying, adventure is just another word for trouble and Jonnie was soon up to his ears in it. Yet, with stubborn resolve, he starts to get a picture of what is going on and how it might be changed to give his village a better chance at survival.
Battlefield Earth is a far-reaching story told with vigor, wit, and a dash of satire. It tells of how Jonnie Goodboy Tyler learns to confront an apparently invincible foe by attaining knowledge from the invaders themselves. He then inspires others to shake off their fear, dust themselves off, and help. Eventually, they band together. Their struggle will determine if this is the end of the World, or the dawn of a new one.
But, as humankind finally lifts its eyes to a loftier goal, their view of the confrontation shifts. They begin to see the alien hold on the galaxy is far more complex and dangerous than could ever be imagined.
With that, the action accelerates from merely post-apocalyptic to full-scale space opera.
Humankind must confront increasingly numerous and difficult challenges. Each one must be overcome in a way that forwards their vision of a better and more productive galactic society where everyone, human and alien alike, has the opportunity to survive and flourish.
Definitely consider the fabulous audiobook. It sets a high bar in the realm of science fiction audiobooks. Audiobooks of any kind, really. In fact, it is audio theater at its very best! With numerous talented actors, amazing voices, and incredible music, it’s like IMAX for the imagination. The kids will love it and so will you! Here is a short video of how they did it:
Cam was born the son of a career Air Force fighter pilot, Cam grew up all over the world. Combined with life as an international airline and charter pilot, he fluently speaks “aviation.”
His flying background is seasoned with work experience as an aircraft performance and flight test engineer, airline dispatcher, ground instructor, and check airman.
He is a lifetime aviation enthusiast with fifty-three years as an active pilot and 24,000 hours since first solo in gliders at age fourteen.
Cam flew as Captain for thirty-three years, with twenty-four of those on heavy-jet international freighters throughout Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe. He has made over 500 oceanic crossings.
He and his wife Nan have lived in Palmer, Alaska. They have two children, Mandy and Ken, along with five grandkids–Eva and Macey in Mandy’s family and Hailey, Hazel, and Emmett in Ken’s.