What do you do when you want to end the world? The truth is, authors have probably destroyed the planet in just about every interesting way that you can think of, leaving the rest of us to scramble for unique disasters of our own. Still, there’s something to be said for going back to the classics. Here are some of the best ways anyone has ever decided to end the dominion of man.
1. The Stand
Who needs a flu shot?
What if we threw a pandemic and everybody came? It’s like every public health lecture ever, all coming home to roost. Stephen King’s sprawling epic wipes out most of the human race without breaking a sweat, and then goes on to deal with the cold realities of bodies clogging the streets and the inevitable fighting between survivors. Fun for the whole family.
Call the exterminator
We often say that the world would be better without bugs. Well, what if that actually happened? Do you know how much the bugs in your life do for you? Breaking the food chain is an excellent way to destroy the world, collapse civilization and really learn to regret all those mosquitoes that you’ve squashed during your lifetime. Best read in a sterile room, because bugs.
Zombies vs. superheroes, round one–fight!
What happens when the zombie apocalypse starts up in a world full of superhumans? Will they fight and win against the undead menace, or will we be dealing with zombies who can fly? How about both? In this first volume of the ongoing saga of the superheroes of Los Angeles vs. the living dead, Peter Clines turns the zombie genre on its ear, and does it brilliantly. Highly recommended.
When everyone is beautiful, we’ll be happy
I’m cheating a little here, because Scott Westerfeld’s ingenious Uglies series begins after the downfall of modern civilization, in a time where everyone has everything they could possibly want, including an operation that guarantees equal, perfect beauty for all citizens. But what is the cost of perfect conformity, and what happened to the world we know today? Nothing is free.
5. Sea Change
Sharks aren’t the scariest things in the sea
Again, cheating a little because, while this book has a very high body count, it doesn’t result in the end of mankind. That said, it has a clever setup and a terror of a type I have not encountered before or since. It’s well written, scientifically sound and pretty darn chilling–especially if you read it while you’re at the beach.
6. I Am Legend
Forget the films
In this short story collection, Richard Matheson destroys the world in a variety of exciting and original ways. There’s a reason his stories have been adapted for film so many times. Find out what that reason is, and come to appreciate just how much more powerful the written word can be.
7. The Swarm
There are no words
Really. There are no words. This book could be used as a murder weapon. It’s half oceanography, half things exploding and completely worth your time, if only for the use of lobsters as grenades. Any further description would spoil things. Go forth, and encounter “The Swarm.”
Mira Grant is the author of the Hugo-nominated Newsflesh trilogy ( “Feed,” “Deadline,” “Blackout”), as well as the forthcoming “Parasite,” which she describes as “the American Dream in pill form.” Her fascination with medical science fiction, body horror and destroying mankind has made her an expert at extinction events, and a fun person to have dinner with (although she, like her books, is not necessarily for the faint of heart). When not writing her science fiction thrillers, she also writes as Seanan McGuire, urban fantasy author, and cultivates an undying obsession for Disney Parks. Find her online at seananmcguire.com and on Twitter @ seananmcguire.