With apocalypse thrillers all the rage at the box office over the past few years (2012, anyone?), it’s easy to forget how many great books are devoted to a modern-day Revelations. Here are five of the best. What are yours?
5 – (Tie) The Road by Cormac McCarthy: The book begins bleakly in a post-apocalyptic world that we can only assume as been devastated by a nuclear holocaust. But that’s far from the worst of it for a father/son team of survivors who battle cannibals and the elements in their quest for the coastline, where they hope they’ll reach the promised land. McCarthy delivers a compact, tight read delivers both on action and emotion.
5 – (Tie) The Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins: This entry earns only average literary marks but is too popular to be ignored. Although virtually unknown to much of the secular and mainstream Christian world, the Left Behind book series is also one of the world’s best selling. While most apocalypse thrillers take ideas from The Book of Revelations, this series uses it as the central core. Many of the faithful disagree with its portrayal of Christian goodness, the Antichrist and (in the last book) Christ himself.
4 - The Omen by David Seltzer: The Omen tells the story of the coming of the Antichrist in the form of a young boy called Damien Thorn, who terrorizes nannies, nurses and his own mother, to death. This novel went on to spawn multiple sequels by other authors as well as several films over a period of four decades. The original film translation, starring Gregory Peck, is one of the greatest horror films of all time.
3 – The Passage by Justin Cronin: The ink is barely dry, but The Passage manages to squeeze in at number three for its frightening portrayal of a blood-based “vampire” virus that manages to wipe out most of civilization after the military’s attempt to weaponize it goes horribly awry (they also try to wipe it out with nukes). Just when survivors manage to make a go of it in the mountains for several months, Cronin proves that he’s not afraid to kill off important. The fact that the book remains a page-turner even as it writes off one protagonist after is a testament to its greatness.
2 - The Stand by Stephen King: Considered one of the high points of the apocalyptic thriller genre, King’s skills are in full force here. A mysterious virus strikes the planet, and King seems to relish chronicling the collapse of world order.
1 - The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells: Released at the end of the 19th century, this popular sci-fi classic about an extraterrestrial invasion has famously been adapted for radio and feature film. The radio performance by Orson Welles had listeners believing they were listening to a report of a real invasion, and promptly panicked, and the Steven Spielberg movie spawned a Universal Studios attraction. If that is not a good reason to place this book at the top of the list, we do not know what is.