Hi and welcome to the end of the world! I don’t know about you but this Corona virus thing is giving me the heebie-jeebies. I assume most people who are feeling a wee bit anxious try to stay away from dystopian literature, lest they get a lot anxious. I on the other hand have found myself drawn to end-of-the-world books these past few weeks (that’s just the kind of wayward person I am, I guess) and have read not one, not two, but three dystopian books (and started a fourth!), which I would love to tell you a little more about today. They all have in common that they are extremely thought-provoking, especially in the light of the current international health situation, and they are rather uncomfortable reads. Still, I loved them all. It is so interesting to see how different characters react to a dystopian situation, and equally interesting to ponder what you would do if it happened to you.
The first dystopian story I read this month was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Last year I was on the blog tour for A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. I loved that book to bits, and it came highly recommended to people who enjoyed Station Eleven. I hadn’t read that one but since I loved A Boy so much, I put it on my TBR, which is where it stayed for months and months until I read this brilliant review on Don Jimmy Reviews and decided I needed to read it ASAP.
In Station Eleven the end of the world as we know it is caused by a highly contagious virus, which kills off the majority of the world’s population. The story goes back and forth in time, showing us the before and the after, and it flows easily enough, but what I most enjoyed was the character study, I couldn’t help but root for these people (most of them anyway), and I loved how the author manages to create characters who all start out at the same place but end up at totally different ends of the spectrum in an entirely believable way. Terrifying and tragic, recommended!
This week I listened to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Years and years ago I watched I Am Legend on TV. At the time I had no idea that the movie was based on a book, but when I found out, I couldn’t be bothered to pick it up, since I wasn’t very impressed with the film. Until The Write Reads’ blog of the day was this excellent post here, stating that the adaptation ruined the book and both Paul (@BagEndBooks) and Sue (@brownflopsy) convinced me on Twitter that the book is way better than the movie. They were absolutely right!
In I Am Legend the end of the world as we know it is also caused by a contagious virus, but this one turns people into vampires. Protagonist Robert Neville is desperate to find out what happened, what drives the vampires, why they are afraid of garlic and mirrors, etc. This is not a vampire story, this is the story of the end of mankind, and the struggle of the last man standing. First published in the 1950s, I Am Legend is still surprisingly topical. Bleak, dark, recommended!
I spent last week reading Cadáver exquisito by Agustina Bazterrica. It was put on my radar by Danielle @ The Reading Closet, who reviewed the recently published English translation Tender is the Flesh (ICYMI). Since one of my 2020 goals was to read more Spanish, I decided to treat myself to the original Spanish (Argentinian) version. This one was without a doubt the most uncomfortable read by far. It doesn’t show us the end of mankind, but it does present us with an end of the world as we know it scenario. In this scenario, it’s not man who is threatened by a virus, it’s the animals – livestock and pets and wild animals alike. And mankind is left without meat to eat. One might think: well that’s not so bad, we’ll all go vegan! But no, in Tender is the Flesh a “special” kind of meat has been made available, and yes, I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now: it’s human flesh. There’s this kind of controlled cannibalism going on, with a certain part of the population being kept as livestock. There are some very VERY difficult scenes here, some that I found really hard to stomach and one scene that I read on my break at work and I had to literally pinch myself to prevent myself from crying. I could only expose myself to this one in small dosages, not on account of the Spanish like I thought, but because of its harrowing nature. Saying I enjoyed reading this one, that I loved it, that I recommend it, seems wrong, yet I did and I do. Pitch-black, harrowing, heart-breaking, recommended!
Thanks for joining me at the end of the world! Have you read these or do you have other dystopian recommendations? Let me know!