The thought of the apocalypse is frightening, and not only for the usual reasons — death and danger — but also because the end of the world also means the end of everything we’re used to in this life. Our daily schedules, the people we interact with, our jobs, our families, our bedtimes — it all goes away when society crumbles. Thus, reading post-apocalyptic fiction gives us a thrill that horror and mystery stories cannot: the thrill of an unreliable future, of men embracing their animal natures, and a world without civilization or humanity. Those who’ve read the best standalone novels in the genre are sure to enjoy these five post-apocalyptic fiction series:
The MaddAddam Trilogy
The first two books in the MaddAddam trilogy follow two separate perspectives before, during, and after a man-made virus wipes out humanity. The final book in the trilogy takes place after these events. All three books are wonderful studies in social structure, and how these structures develop within the blank slate of a ruined world. Much like other great novels that let the reader watch as dystopian worlds develop in reaction to the environment (Lord of the Flies, Blindness, Animal Farm), the MaddAddam books are especially chilling because they give us a glimpse into the dark potential of human nature.
The Drive-In Trilogy
Joe R. Lansdale
Joe R. Lansdale transforms the largest drive-in theater in Texas into the setting for one of the most bizarre end-of-the-world stories I’ve ever read, featuring mass murder, cannibalism, and a popcorn monster. The next two books in the series turn up the insanity with an increasingly horrific road trip across the destroyed countryside and the series of plot twists in the third book provide a fitting end to the fever-dream of the entire journey. Lansdale’s writing is rife with dark humor and violence in an obvious homage to the low-budget exploitation and horror films of the 60s and 70s. The Drive-In is a great series for those looking for a twisted, but deeply entertaining post-apocalyptic thrill.
- The Drive-In: A B-Movie with Blood and Popcorn, Made in Texas
- The Drive-In 2: Not Just One of Them Sequels
- The Drive-In: The Bus Tour
Emberverse (First Trilogy)
S. M. Stirling
As it happens often with anything that overstays their welcome, The Emberverse books stagnate and loses its charm by the 5th or 6th entry in the series, but the first trilogy is excellent and well worth the read. In the first book, Dies the Fire, all electronic devices suddenly cease working, throwing society back to the middle ages. The people who survive this cataclysm are those better-equipped to deal with the sudden loss of technology: Renaissance fair nerds, survivalists, soldiers, and those who will do anything to survive. S. M. Stirling draws upon meticulous research of numerous subjects — including bowmaking, blacksmithing, Pagan religions, Scottish history, and Sioux mythology — to make the series an entertaining, yet educational read.
- Dies the Fire
- The Protector’s War
- A Meeting at Corvallis
The Silo Trilogy
Hugh Howey self-published Wool as a short story and added more stories as the series gained readers, combining the entries into an omnibus. As the series got more traction, he expanded the Wool universe to include Shift and finally completed the Silo Trilogy with Dust. The Silo Trilogy is a few things: a story about humanity struggling in underground structures in post-apocalyptic world, a commentary on society in a dystopian survivalist culture, and a thrilling mystery with conspiracies and secrets that threaten the existence of everyone in the Silo universe. It is also a great set of books with a perfect ending.
The Passage Trilogy
Justin Cronin’s Passage Trilogy is an investment of time and effort — nearly 2,000 pages worth — that pays off several times over. The epic story takes us through the beginnings of a mutant-creating epidemic that destroys society, then follows survivors through a post-apocalyptic wasteland as they fight against threats both human and mutant. It is a series that will leave you exhausted from a journey spanning hundreds of years with a large cast of characters and cinematic battles. It’s one of my favorite book series, and I think it should be yours, too.
- The Passage
- The Twelve
- The City of Mirrors