While the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects are certainly new to us, pandemics are nothing new in the world of literature. Each novel has its own take on how the world recovers, and many of them are… well, pretty dismal.
Still, there’s something thrilling about immersing yourself in a fictional world that’s reminiscent of the one you’re living in. For some laughs, tears, chills and gripping entertainment, check out these novels set in a post-pandemic world.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This classic novel turned Hulu series recounts life for women in America after a pandemic causing infertility sweeps the nation. The government takes nearly everything away from women — their jobs, their bank accounts and even their names. The women who can still have children after the pandemic are assigned to live with a couple, solely for the purpose of having children for them.
The novel is emotionally dismal and peculiarly frightening, especially for women. It’s eerily realistic and full of that creepy, cult-like crowd mentality that’s rampant in dystopian fiction. Atwood weaves a powerful work that’s an important read for everyone in our society.
- The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
This trilogy, popularized by its movie adaptations starring Dylan O’Brien, technically starts mid-pandemic, though you don’t know it right away. The first book opens with the main character randomly dropped into a man-made maze with no recollection of his past, leaving readers just as confused as he is.
The pandemic doesn’t really appear until the second installment. This world’s virus is called The Flare, and it’s an ugly one. The disease slowly eats away at the brain until the victim essentially becomes a zombie.
Okay, so it’s maybe not the most realistic. But the government conspiracy theories involved in the series keep things convoluted enough to stay interesting. As lovely as Dylan O’Brien is to look at, the movies truly did not do these books justice, so opt for the old-school paperback (or hardcover, if that’s your thing) to really get sucked in.
- The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken
Another young adult trilogy (seriously, how many does the world need?), The Darkest Minds begins with a nation-wide pandemic, but this one only affects children. Many of them are killed, and the survivors develop various special powers, which the government later categorizes by color.
The government fears the powers of these kids, so they’re placed in concentration-like camps, under close surveillance and forced to labor in an attempt to weaken their powers.
Again, not the most realistic, but pretty dark for a young adult series, right? If you’re into action, government revolts, conspiracy theories and children far too mature for their age, this series is definitely for you.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven, a tru beauty of a novel, utilizes a nonlinear timeline to hop between pre-, mid- and post-pandemic. This pandemic is very realistic (maybe a little too realistic??) — a flu-like virus that kills the victim within days of contraction.
Throughout the story, Mandel beautifully and seamlessly weaves together the stories and perspectives of numerous characters from numerous time periods — who are all connected in ways they weren’t even conscious of — all while detailing how the world struggles to hold onto humanity as civilization spirals into destruction. It’s hauntingly beautiful.
While I can’t guarantee these books will be of any comfort in these crazy, unnerving, anxiety-ridden times, I can at least offer some intriguing stories to sink your teeth into.