Since my upcoming book For Those In Peril On The Sea is a post-apocalyptic novel, I thought I would put together my top ten post-apocalyptic stories. These have not necessarily influenced my own writing, they are just the ones I like best. Here they are in descending order:
10. Dawn Of The Dead (2004 film remake rather than the 1978 original): Proving that a remake can, on rare occasions, be better than the original. The inclusion of fast zombies upped the action, and the rather bleak ending for those who stayed through the credits was a nice touch. This is also probably the first true ‘fast’ zombie movie – or at least the first major one (see later entries for more on this).
9. Children Of Men (2006 film): An interesting take on the post-apocalyptic world. There’s no big threat (no aliens, zombies, killer viruses, terrorists, nuclear bombs or diseases), just human infertility. It emphasises how little it could take to tip the civilisation that humans always seem so proud of over the edge.
8. Zombieland (2009 film): Really great tongue-in-cheek zombie movie. Stands up well as a story in its own right, as well as poking fun at zombie films in general. Great cameo by Bill Murray too.
7. Kraken Awakes (1953 book): One of two John Wyndham books on my list. This one is a slow burn, building tension as unseen aliens invade the Earth and try to take over. There are some really nice bits that appear to predict modern environmental concerns, including the melting of the ice caps and sea level rises.
6. I Am Legend (the 1954 book, and definitely not the 2007 film of the same name): One of the original post-apocalyptic stories, and an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic situation. It poses the interesting question: If you are the only one left unaffected by a global disease outbreak, is it you that is no longer normal?
5. Dead Set (2008 TV series): Written by Charlie Brooker, this one came out of nowhere. I think it is fair to say that there has been nothing like this before, but then again before about 2000, its basic setting (that of the TV series Big Brother), didn’t exist either. It is as much a critique of modern society, and especially reality TV shows, as it is about surviving a zombie outbreak, but it’s still a great zombie story in its own right.
4. Shaun Of The Dead (2004 film): Simon Pegg, the writer of this film, described this as a Zom-Rom-Com. It manages to be a great contribution to the zombie genre as well as a good comedy, a critique of the modern world and a homage to classic zombie movies.
3. War Of The Worlds (1898 book, or indeed Jeff Wayne’s 1978 album, but definitely not the 2005 film of the same name): This is the grand-daddy of all post-apocalyptic stories and one that is still worth reading today. While I’m usually not a fan of alien invasion stories, but this one works for me.
2. 28 Days Later (2002 film): In many ways, this movie rejuvenated both the post-apocalyptic genre and the zombie sub-genre. Credited with being the first modern movie to use ‘fast’ rather than ‘slow’ zombies, the enemies in this aren’t actually zombies, but instead are infected, since they were not really dead. In many ways it’s a homage to the number one on my list.
1. Day Of The Triffids (1951 book, or 1981 TV series, definitely not the 1962 Hollywood film, or the 2009 TV mini-series): Head and shoulders above any other post-apocalyptic stories (at least in my opinion), and the one that set the standard that so few have even come close to since. The premise of moving, flesh-eating plants as enemies sounds so bad, yet it works so well, but that is because they are only bit-part players in an ensemble cast of threats that include blindness, disease and different groups of humans with different ideas competing to try and survive. It emphasises how fragile human society is, and how easy it can call apart. It also proceeded modern worries about genetic engineering by almost half a century.
So that’s my top ten, but there are a few close runners-up that only just missed out. These include: The Mad Max series of films, Twelve Monkeys (film), Dying To Live (book), World War Z (book and upcoming film, hopefully), 28 Weeks Later (film), Doomsday (film), The Walking Dead (TV series), and, rather controversially, Waterworld (film).
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK, and available as an ebook and in print in the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.