The End of the World As We Know It

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The End of the World As We Know It

Different ways the world could end

Whether with a bang or a whimper, people have been speculating about how the world will end since it began. Literature is no stranger to this speculation and offers up many scenarios for how our society as we know it will come to an end -- and how what’s left of humanity will deal with the aftermath. Here are a few of the possibilities. 

World War Z by Max Brooks
One of the favored world-ending ideas in pop culture is a zombie apocalypse, and literature is filled with stories about how this will happen. World War Z explores a zombie apocalypse in a unique way. The story is told in an interview format, with the premise being that Max Brooks is interviewing people a few years after the crisis and putting together a report about what happened. The stories come from all over the world and from all walks of life, covering the initial outbreak, the chaos in the beginning, and how different groups adapted to a new way of living afterwards. The book is also available as an audiobook, which is a great way to experience the story.

American War by Omar El Akkad
This story starts with a family living on a small section of land in what is now Louisiana. They are right on the water, but the coastline of the country is not what it once was. Whole areas are now underwater, including all of Florida. The use of oil has been outlawed causing tensions between different parts of the country, which is now divided. The Second American Civil War breaks out when Sarat, one of the children in the family, is six. When her father is killed, the family ends up in a camp for displaced persons. Sarat grows up shaped by the circumstances she now lives in and the people she meets, leading to devastating consequences.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Written in 1959, this book explores what happens after nuclear war. The Cold War escalates, and the United States is devastated by a nuclear attack. Tens of millions of people are killed, and society as it once was is now gone. The residents of a small town in Florida, of all backgrounds, must come together and struggle to form a new society and protect themselves from new dangers in their changed world. 

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
It starts in Russia, and at first most people think it won’t affect them, but soon it has spread around the world. People are going about their lives and then suddenly -- snap -- killing those with them and then themselves using any means at their disposal. It is determined that the people are seeing something, though nobody knows what, directly before their violent acts. Soon people are isolated in their houses with all the windows covered. When they do decide to venture outside, they must accomplish all that they need to do blindfolded so they won’t see what they shouldn’t see. The story follows the experiences of a woman named Mallory and jumps between the immediate aftermath as she starts living with a group of strangers while pregnant and four years later as she tries to get herself and her two children to a place of supposed safety down the river blindfolded.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
One of the first in this genre, The War of the Worlds is the story of Martians invading Earth. Cylinders crash into the Earth, starting in England, and at first they only evoke curiosity and excitement. Then the Martians emerge from their cylinders and, in tall metal tripod machines armed with heat rays that kill everything in their path, proceed to devastate the English countryside and then converge on London. The story is told from the perspective of a man living in the town where the first cylinder lands as he is witness to all that follows as he tries to escape the onslaught.

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
Twelve contestants of a reality show are isolated in the woods where their survival skills and endurance are tested in multiple challenges. Unbeknownst to them, while they’ve been cut off from the rest of society the world has suffered a deadly viral outbreak, too quickly for the producers to inform and extract all of them. One of the contestants, who the producers have nicknamed Zoo, stumbles upon evidence of the destruction but believes that it’s all part of the game. As the days go on with no contact from those in charge, Zoo must use all the skills she’s acquired to survive -- as she also begins to realize that what she’s seeing and experiencing is no longer a game but is true reality.