Monday, December 04, 2006
Beyond the end of the world
The apocalypse, and the attempt to cope with what remains of the world, has often been fodder for storytelling -- particularly in recent years.

In the late '50s and early '60s, there was Nevil Shute's "On the Beach," about a group of Australians waiting for a radioactive cloud to reach them; the northern hemisphere had already been destroyed by nuclear war. Walter M. Miller Jr.'s "A Canticle for Leibowitz" was about a world awakening from the dark ages long after a nuclear conflagration.

In the early '80s, "The Day After" -- which showed the effects of a nuclear explosion in graphic detail -- became the highest-rated TV movie of all time. In the theaters, there was "Testament," in which Jane Alexander tried to keep her family together after, yes, a nuclear war. "The Quiet Earth" (1985) showed Bruno Lawrence as, perhaps, the last man on earth.

This decade, we've already seen "The Day After Tomorrow," which showed the disastrous effects of a new ice age, and "A.I.," which takes place in a world afflicted by global warming. The TV series "Jericho" shows a Plains town coping with a nuclear war's aftereffects. And, of course, there's the whole "Left Behind" series, an expansive version of the Book of Revelation.

But probably the bleakest of the bunch is Cormac McCarthy's new novel, "The Road." In McCarthy's telling, a father and son struggle to make it to the Gulf Coast after a presumed nuclear war has decimated the country. Animals and birds are practically non-existent. So are humans: Anyone who remains could be somebody else's dinner. It's always cold, it's always gray, and a layer of ash covers everything that hasn't been washed away.

It's tough stuff, and yet the book is as gripping as a ghost story told around a campfire. It's even moving at times, with the warmth coming from the father's obvious love for his boy and his determination to survive.

Still, if reading the book is worth it, one wonders if a post-apocalyptic life would be. I'm reminded of an old science fiction story about some people who send a message into the far future. But by then, humanity is long gone. What's left? Insects. And they can't hear.
there was also Paul Auster's wonderful "In The Country of Last Things" which was about the end of the world.

It's worth pointing out that the manipulative propaganda of the "Left Behind" series is about armageddon, too.
End of the World scenarios are always scary (just ask Al Gore). I much prefer the shows that talk about what happens after the end of the world.
What's most scary about these apocalyptic "tales" and especially Mr McCormac's new book, is that we have never been closer to that scenario coming true. As a country that fails miserably at planning ahead, i.e.Don Rumsfeld planning for what would happen after we got there, I would hope policy makers take into account the very real possibilities of what life will be like for most of us if the man-made end comes. If they have any heart or conscience, they will do everything in their power to make sure it never happens.
Manipulative propoaganda? Do you honestly think God loving Christians have an agenda enough to have an actual propaganda machine in place? My word, paranoia sure is rampant in this country isn't. I guess you find The Chronicles of Narnia propaganda as well? Trutfully, all we want to so is make it to heaven and take as many people with us as we can. Kristin, May Jesus lift the veil of deception from your life and may you hear his gentle tapping at your door inviting you to life eternal.
Steven King's "The Stand" was horrifying as well! The list of ways for the world to end seems to be growing everyday... it's scary to read the plausible ones.
The best apocalyptic tale is the British miniseries THREADS. All else, especially the DAY AFTER pale in comparison.
This genre has also made it's way into Machinima (video game driven film). At www.robotbigfoot.com, there is a film entitled THE WIND, which has a production underway that features an end of the world scenario from the prespective of high school students. It seems to be in the air.

This story is inspired by the mindset that leads to this type of scenario, found in such books/films as Lord of the Flies and The Crucible; where fear and intolerance lead to the demise of the innocent. Great images there too!
Another "end of the world and after" book was "SWAN" by Robert MacCammon. It was a real page-turner
Don't forget "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank.
My favorite apocalyptic book would have to be Kurt Vonnegut`s "Cat`s Cradle," in which Vonnegut creates his own existential calypso religion.
i would say the true master of post-apocalyptic fiction has to be philip k dick - "the world jones made", "dr. bloodmoney", "the penultimate truth"...no other author more accuratley or fascinatingly extrapolated the nuclear paranoia that permeated life during the cold war.
I read the book and it is so depressing. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The only redeeming quality in the book is the child. Still it was a struggle to finish it. why I kept reading? I thought is HAD to get better. It doesn't!
One more comment: you can know how the world will REALLY end! Read Revelation from the Bible. You don't need fiction. You've got the read deal there.
Another good one is "The Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler
"The Road" is a difficult book, but one well worth reading.

As for other "end of the world" books, the "Forge of God" by Greg Bear is a fascinating read.
If you're going to mention the wave of nuclear war movies in the '80s, you've gotta mention "Threads", the brutal BBC movie that makes "The Day After" seem like a romantic comedy.
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