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5 Books like The Road: The Unthinkable, Thought

Mandy Baldwin itcherWhat is the future when the past has been erased? With prose as spare and bleak as the ravaged landscape it describes, Cormac McCarthy’s 2010 masterpiece is hailed as Nobel prize-worthy. But he isn’t the only writer gripped by this vision. Books like ‘The Enemy’, ‘The Stand’, ‘The Death Of Grass’, ‘I am Legend’, and ‘The Chrysalids’ beckon us into a world which most of us hope we will never see. ~ Mandy Baldwin

Apocolypse Aftermath

The world after the Apocalypse: pitiless, bleak, with our culture in ashes. Every brick in every wall of civilisation is rubble.

It’s the nightmare that seizes the imagination and tears at it like a dog tears at a bone. How does fragile humanity survive the ultimate fire? And what kind of survival might it be?


Books Similar to ‘The Road’…

‘The Enemy’ (Charlie Higson, 2009)

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A teen-book well worth a grown-up’s time – the setting is London, in the present day, after a mysterious virus has ravaged the population.

Only pre-pubescent children survive, healthy and scared as they live by scavenging. They must escape the zombie adults who now see them as prey. Will they be safer at Buckingham Palace, as the rumours say?  Their journey through the jungles of London will test their new, immature society to it’s limits.

You will notice shades of ‘Lord Of The Flies’ as anarchy reigns among the adolescents and they find that survival doesn’t always depend on being the fittest.

Similarity Match: 85%
The same sense of a journey to redemption, but these children have become as feral as their predators.

‘The Stand’ (Stephen King, 2008)

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A lethal virus is accidentally released at a military facility and the plague begins, wiping out most of the population of America. The survivors soon begin to dream of the Dark Man who heralds the Apocolypse… and of Mother Abigail. The living begin to realise that the Plague was just the beginning of their fight for survival.

Read it and you will never forget it. It leaves no stone unturned – horror, mysticism, drama, sci-fi, the supernatural.

Similarity Match: 80%
As in ‘The Road’, there is a nascent future in the process of being built.. but King’s sinister dream figures lend an extra supernatural dimension.

‘The Death Of Grass’ (John Christopher, 1956)

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A virus is destroying Asia.  It destroys rice crops, then it destroys grass, so cattle die, and the hungry millions are rioting.  But Europe is safe: scientists have been working on a cure, and European crops are immune. 

Except that the European governments have been lying.

There is no protection and, as the disease decimates Britain, isolated pockets of surviving humans are reduced to barbarism.

Two families must travel, somehow, to the safety of a remote potato farm, where the disease can be isolated. But surely, it isn’t true that the rump government intend to use Hydrogen bombs against the remaining, contaminated population?

This has elegant, modernist, 1950s prose, raw from the revelations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the terrifying, constant reminder of possibility.

Read it and you’ll never turn down a green salad again.

Similarity Match: 75%
‘The Road’ is straight-talking Sci-fi Apocalypse – but ‘The Death Of Grass’ seems uncomfortably possible.


If You Like ‘The Road’, You Will Like…

The following books show extremes of life after the end of civilisation as we know it.

‘I Am Legend’ (Richard Matheson, 2011)

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Forget the uber popular Will Smith flick; this novel is a dark exploration of the psyche of a man slowly going mad from isolation and exhaustion.

A disease has turned everyone else into a vampire, and for some reason, only one man carried the genetic mutation which saved him.  Now, his life is divided into two parts: by day, he hunts those who want to kill him and by night, he is barricaded in his flat, awake and ready to defend himself against prey which have suddenly become predators.  He grieves for those he loved and the civilisation which is gone forever. So far, he has managed to stay alive.

But how long can he survive – and what fuels the drive for survival, when hope is gone?

To describe this as ‘bleak’ is the definition of understatement.

Both books feature survivors as prey – but ‘I Am Legend’ is all the more terrifying for exploring the effects of total isolation on a single man.

‘The Chrysalids’ (John Wyndham, 1955)

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Thousands of years ago, an advanced civilisation called the Old People was destroyed in a ‘Tribulation’, leaving a few monuments – such as motorways – for the survivors to wonder at. Sailors who travel too far describe glassy, blackened bad-lands, wild regions where deformed people and animals roam, and unreachable cities which glow. These men sicken and die soon after they return.

This is my personal, all-time favourite sci-fi novel – as heartbreaking as it is thought-provoking.

I urge anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of reading it, to lose themselves in this book; it will lull you into thinking you’re reading ‘Little House On The Prairie’ until Father gets the knives out.

‘The Road’ is a nightmare of the future..but with it’s fundamentalist religion in control, ‘The Chrysalids’ takes a turn back to the dark ages.


What If..?

All of these books were written by a special breed of author; people who can write what the rest of us hardly dare to think.

Do you know any book like ‘The Road’? How would you deal with being on a zombie’s menu?

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