I’ve discovered two recent apocalyptic novels which I highly recommend: FAR NORTH by Marcel Theroux and THE GONE AWAY WORLD by Nick Harkaway. These are not dark, dystopic fantasies; they are more like Margaret Atwood’s books than Mad Max.
Theroux’s novel is very much like Russell Hoban’s RIDLEY WALKER, in that it is a first person account by a survivor who is focused on staying alive, yet who still wonders if it is safe to hope for more. This novel is set in a near-future Siberian Arctic desert where only one woman, Makepeace, still lives in the small town her Quaker parents had founded when they migrated from Alaska to avoid the world’s drought-baked famine. Her English is conventional (unlike Ridley’s phonetic, pidgin voice in Hoban’s superb novel), her trials and tribulations tough but surmountable, and I felt I traveled back and forth along the Tundra in a world that was all too easy to imagine could be real in a few decades.
Harkaway (a screenwriter and the youngest son of John Le Carre) is a very original story teller. His protagonist knows exactly what Armageddon was like and how lucky he is to have survived. Along the way, there are intricate layers of lyrical descriptions of the horrors which technology has wrought and Taoist mysteries which survive to fight them. The plot often doubles back on itself with confusing (and fantastical) digressions, but in the end, Harkaway makes believable that human beings can reinvent themselves as much more than predator and prey.