Monday, 28 January 2008

Ends of the World

Most avid readers have particular areas of obsession: not just crime fiction, or popular science, or biography, but weird little sub-genres that they seek out again and again.

I have a number of them: fiction set during the London Blitz (all those lives being lived as normally as possible, with shopping trips dinner parties and marriages and infidelities, while bombs rain down each night and tear the city apart), Austro-Hungarian Empire novels, campus novels, and end-of-the-world novels.

In fact, few of these feature the actual end of the world (a few notable exceptions include gems like William Gerhardie's Doom or Greg Bear's The Forge of God), instead focusing on the end of humanity, or at least the end of civilisation.

This started when I was a child--perhaps 10 years old--and, having seen the excellent BBC TV adaptation of The Day of the Triffids, I got hold of the book and literally stayed awake all night reading it, gripped, with a torch under the covers: the childhood reading cliche realised.

This is a sub-genre a number of people who normally refuse to read or recognise science-fiction have recently delved into by reading Cormac McCarthy's wonderful The Road.

Now I'm going to inflict this obsession on you, my readers, by starting an irregular, open-ended series of posts on end-of-the-world novels and their covers. These won't be presented in any particular order, and not all of these books are worth reading (I'll point out the duds as we go along), but they have covers worth considering, for good or ill. Enjoy, and remember to play nicely After the Bomb.

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