Themes in post-apocalyptic fiction

Themes in post-apocalyptic fiction

Post-apocalyptic fiction is a twist on the survival-against-all-odds story. We can look back as far as Homer's Odyssey to see themes of courage, creativity, and endurance in the face of epic disaster and brutal challenges.  Post-apocalyptic stories are full of explorations into questions of morality, ethics, and what it means to be human.

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"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano [PG Review]

"Wither" by Lauren DeStefano [PG Review]

Many fictional dystopian societies are rooted in science-gone-wrong, and genetic manipulation tops the list of ways that science tries and fails to perfect humanity. In Wither, the results are a world in which the life span of males is 25 and only 20 for women.  Desperate attempts to preserve the future of the human race include males of the first generation taking multiple young brides to bear children until an antidote can be found.

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"Where She Went" by Gayle Forman [PG Review]

"Where She Went" by Gayle Forman [PG Review]

Although Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, it worked just fine on its own for me, since the story line of the first book was explained through flashbacks. If I Stay is told from Mia's point of view, while Where She Went continues the story from Adam's perspective.

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"Abandon" by Meg Cabot [PG Review]

"Abandon" by Meg Cabot [PG Review]

Abandonment is a common theme in YA literature.  Story after story revolves around a protagonist who is orphaned in some way; either by the literal death of their parents, or the lack of parental care or involvement in their lives.

Synopsis of Abandon

Pierce Oliveria is 'orphaned' by her neglectful parents. They are completely preoccupied with their own pursuits. They can't even come together to help her cope with the repercussions of being revived after she drowns in her father's swimming pool. And they certainly aren't able to deal with who or what has followed her back to earth from the Underworld.

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"Tempest" by Julie Cross [PG Review]

"Tempest" by Julie Cross [PG Review]

I've never met a time travel story I didn't like. There is something about being able to change the past or see the future that is intriguing, and the possible mechanisms for time travel are fun to contemplate.

As with any time travel story, you must suspend disbelief on page 1. Explaining the theoretical  'science' behind it, or the reason why there are not multiple paradoxes or an immediate meltdown of the universe would take more pages than any publisher is willing to print, and the reader would be bored to death. Except maybe for me, because I love hard science fiction and I don't care how many pages of geek I have to read. But I digress. . .

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"All Good Children" by Catherine Austen [PG Review]

"All Good Children" by Catherine Austen [PG Review]

In a world that doesn't seem too far removed from our own, Max, along with his mother and little sister, deal with class warfare, infertility, genetic screening and manipulation, the aftermath of a flu epidemic, and behavior modification with pharmaceuticals.

Not too shabby for a novel of only 300 pages. All Good Children could have easily become a 'kitchen sink' story, but these issues are related and woven together effectively, so I didn't feel bombarded with a mish-mash of controversial topics.

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"Ashes" by Ilsa J. Bick [PG Review]

"Ashes" by Ilsa J. Bick [PG Review]

Alex goes camping alone to say goodbye to her dead parents by spreading their ashes, and to try to deal with her personal demons. But an electromagnetic pulse (the Zap) changes the world as we know it, by suddenly destroying all electronic devices, and reprogramming humanity into 1) crazed zombies 2) survivors, some with new abilities 3) millions of just plain dead people.

Alex eventually meets up with others, and life is reduced to the trials of day-to-day survival and trying to figure out who is still human, who wants to tear your throat out, and who has other twisted plans for those who have survived. 

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