6 Dystopian Reads During the Current Pandemic

By Naila Alavi

Amidst the roaring realities and uncertain prophesies we often find our minds circling on the edge of a pit so deep and dark- Apocalyptic Fiction.

The end times – the exacting apocalypse – has since quite a while ago caught mankind’s dull creative mind. Is it in light of the fact that the finish of life on Earth is so difficult to comprehend, or that it feels so startlingly close within reach? Disease decimating the entire population of the world, people dying due to hunger and hatred, Corona virus cast us into darkness. The last day, we picked our way through busy streets, mangled electric lines, and rushing crowd. We only had a hunch that soon everyone will be trying to dig out. Everyday life will become a struggle.

Amidst the roaring realities and uncertain prophesies we often find our minds circling on the edge of a pit so deep and dark- Apocalyptic Fiction.

Apocalyptic fiction and dystopian is one of my favorite kind of literature and even in times like these when the whole of humanity is fighting against the faceless enemy, I find myself drawn towards this genre more than ever. Apocalyptic fiction focuses on the end of civilization either through nuclear war, plague, or other global catastrophic risk. “Apocalyptic literature is a genre of religious writing centered on visions of the end of time. There’s also a lot of apocalyptic literature outside the religious text. It was a very popular genre during the Second Temple period (from 530 BC to 70 AD), and so we have a lot of examples of the purpose, form, and style of apocalyptic literature to inform our understanding of how it functions in Scripture.” One thing that really draws people towards this genre is its highly symbolic nature, and part of the reason for that symbolism is to evoke emotion about the message. When you read apocalyptic literature, pay special attention to the symbolism and the emotions it’s intended to evoke.

Let’s take a look at some of the books about vile diseases of cataclysmic global proportions.

1. The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand by Stephen King

My apocalyptic first love. An epic tale about the ultimate battle of good and evil in an America devastated by weaponised influenza.

The Stand starts off with a deadly plague that kills most of world’s population. Told through multiple perspectives, we watch the continued breakdown of both humanity and the planet. A great deal of symbolism could be found to the aspect of light versus darkness here. To give one example from many, with the country being ravaged by the outbreak, the survivors ended up joining either Mother Abagail’s group (the good) or Randal Flagg’s group (the evil). One man escapes from a biological weapon facility after an accident, carrying with him the deadly virus known as Captain Tripps, a rapidly mutating flu that – in the ensuing weeks – wipes out most of world’s population. In the aftermath, survivors choose between following an elderly black woman to Boulder or the dark man, Randall Flagg, who has set up his command post in Las Vegas. The two factions prepare for a confrontation between the forces of good and evil.

Reading almost all the characters’ perspectives and survivor’s tales was fun and I really think if you love a HEAVY theological talk in your fiction, this is a must-read.

2. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

I relate to the plot of this book more than ever this time. I just like thousands of people, have been stranded in a relative’s house for a month longer than expected due to the lockdown. I’m desperate to go home. Similarly, the book starts while the world wavers on the brink of war, struck by terrorist attacks and embargoes, Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to Britain to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three young men close to her age, and their younger sister. Her aunt leaves on business not long after Daisy shows up. The following day bombs go off as London is assaulted and involved by an anonymous foe.

As government fails, and power fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Notwithstanding the war, it’s a sort of Eden, without any grown-ups in control and no standards, a spot where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins develops into something uncommon and remarkable.

In any case, the war is all over, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is obscure in the most frightening, most essential way.

3. The Last Man by Mary Shelley

The Last Man by Mary Shelly

Now and again in my perusing life I’ve run over a book that has shocked me totally—one that compels me to breathe in profoundly toward the end and afterward, breathing out, utter an overwhelmed “Wow.” A cutting edge story of terrible love and of the continuous annihilation of humankind by plague, The Last Man is Mary Shelley’s most significant novel after Frankenstein. With captivating pictures of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, the novel offers a dream of things to come that communicates a response against Sentimentalism, and exhibits the disappointment of the creative mind and of craftsmanship to reclaim the bound characters.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

From time to time, an author might need to carry her society up to a crooked mirror to present a picture of what may fail should the current trend of wrongs and ills continue unabated. If not entirely an apocalyptic piece, The Handmaid’s Tale, originally published in 1985, is a dystopian. It is set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian state, known as Gilead, resembling a theonomy that overthrows the United States government. The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of subjugated women during a patriarchal society and therefore the various means by which these women resist and plan to gain individuality and independence. Its story isn’t one that it’s simply read: it demands to be heard. It beckoned me to see the full force of the situation. The Handmaids, the typical woman, haven’t any discretion or individualism; they’re treated as simple baby producing machines. An oppressive regime is forced upon them, and to deviate from the said standard leads to a slow and agonising death. There’s no hope or joy for them, only perpetual subjugation. I’ve been moved by books in the past, many times, but I’ve never before read a book that has emotionally drained me to such a degree.

5. The Death of Grass by John Christopher

The Death of Grass by John Christopher

In Britain, where green fields are fast turning brown, the Government lies to its citizens, devising secret plans to preserve the lives of a few at the expense of the many. It’s a depressing sack of sadness and exceptional post-apocalyptic story. A virus originating in China attacks and destroys all grain-based crops. This includes everything from wheat, barley, rye, rice and all forms of grass.

Getting wind of what’s coming up, John Custance and his family conclude they should desert their London home to set out toward the farm of his brother’s homestead in a remote northern valley. And so they begin the long trek across a country fast descending into barbarism, where the law of the gun prevails, and the civilized values they once took for granted become the price they must pay if they are to survive.

This book left my feelings dried out and yearning for something cozy and glad to recharge my dry confidence in humankind. I can’t consider this a “fun” read, yet it is eminently composed and a noteworthy encounter.

6. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.

Amidst the coronavirus panic, the chaos humans are doomed into, this book now hits different.

The human life is ending, a dangerous pandemic has left 99.99% of humankind dead, and for those left the undertaking of enduring is ending up being more troublesome than any of them could have envisioned The Georgia Virus has swept across the planet, annihilating the human race. We see the collapse of civilization and the 20 years following the disaster through the eyes of a group of characters centered on an actor, Arthur who dies about 24h before all hell breaks loose.

More than anything, this is a story about the nature of humanity. Resilient but fragile, beautiful but terrifying; the brightest & the darkest parts of being human are what we are left with when crisis strips away everything in between. Emily St. John Mandel blends the future and the past together seamlessly