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Archive: Five examples of great literature - fantasy, alternate history and post-apocalyptic stories
When it comes to literature I will read just about anything. However I have grown to love fantasy, alternate history and apocalypse-based stories.
This post is a selection from the aforementioned categories that really stand out for me.
To put a caveat on this list - it isn't meant to be my top five of all time, but five from these genres that fully deserve the recognition they have received.
I Am Legend Richard Matheson
"The novel charts the every day life of Robert Neville, the apparent sole survivor of a pandemic which resembles vampirism and destroyed mankind."
A relatively short book by modern standards, it brilliantly portrays Robert Neville's struggle to maintain a grip on reality as he attempts to simply survive each day and, more importantly, each night. These are depicted in a bleak but engrossing fashion that has inspired two of the most influential men of modern storytelling: author Stephen King and director George A. Romero.
The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham
"Bill Masen wakes up blindfolded in hospital to a bitter irony in his situation. Carefully removing his bandages, he realizes that he is the only person who can see: everyone else, doctors and patients alike, have been blinded by a meteor shower."
As with I Am Legend, a novel also written in the 1950s, Wyndham creates a timeless world, with a wonderful confusion for the reader. Without wishing to spoil too much this book is brilliant at obscuring the true danger to Bill Masen and the people he meets along the way. For further kudos, director Danny Boyle has stated the initial hospital scene inspired Alex Garland to write 28 Days Later.
World War Z Max Brooks
"Following a decade long war against zombies, a UN sanctioned journalist collates the stories of those who survived. From rumours of the outbreak and a global pandemic, to survivalism and the fightback"
Perhaps the least traditional book on this list, as it's written as if it actually occurred to the author in the from of numerous interviews with survivors. It's brilliance lies in the drip-feed of information from the differing eyewitness accounts, and the creation of fear and uncertainty in the reader as the stories unfold.
Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
"The Starks of Winterfell are pulled into the politics of the Seven Kingdoms. It's thirteen years after a civil war deposed the Targaryen Dynasty from the Iron Throne, and after years of summer, winter is coming."
Arguably the long awaited heir to Tolkien's genius, Martin creates a world and a story unlike any other seen before. If the characters and the locations aren't enough to satisfy your needs, the numerous interweaving plots will keep you hooked (and guessing) throughout. Nothing is predictable.
Watchmen Alan Moore
"It's 1985, masked heroes are now outlawed, Watergate never happened, the Doomsday Clock moves ever closer to midnight, and a Comedian is murdered in New York City."
It's unique for a graphic novel to typically appear on these types of lists, but Watchmen deserves the recognition. A fantastic alternate reality story, which combines political and socio-economic themes with the engaging characters, and a storyline that appears ever more bleak. A story to behold, even if you aren't a typical fan of the graphic novel genre.