Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Planning to write a postapocalypse novel?

Then this might come in handy: Best countries to survive an apocalypse.

Let me see, let me see . . . ah ha, looks like New Zealand, Australia, and Iceland.

Well, those look like more or less reasonable choices to me, given that you’re starting with the belief that some countries or areas will survive. Not a huge meteor impact or the Earth going into “snowball Earth” mode or anything like that, but a pathogen-based apocalypse. Okay, that makes sense. Evidently the criteria included a large enough population to sustain a decent technological base, so the people who compiled the list preferred island nations with populations of over 250,000 and a decent base of food and energy.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but I think big countries like Australia and for that matter Iceland have borders which are too porous for, say, infectious diseases carrying a zombie plague or some awful nanotech grey goo weapon. An awful lot of flights go through Reykjavík these days. Even with a relatively slow-moving pathogen, there is, I estimate, a 100% probability that government officials would dither much too long to shut the borders and thus the pathogen or whatever would certainly be carried into the country, after which everyone would be zombified or turn into grey goo or whatever.

Not that one couldn’t make it work in a novel. Anything, no matter how implausible, can be made to look practically inevitable if you do it right. New Zealand might be a better choice than Australia just because it’s smaller and has less border to defend and, I assume, fewer government officials. You could start with a couple specific people in positions to make a difference who are unusually decisive and willing to take risks and go from there.

Lots of fine post-apocalyptic stories out there based on a pathogen-style apocalypse. Let me see if I can get to ten. No order, just as they occur to me.

1.Station Eleven. This is a literary post-apocalype novel. I liked it a lot. Beautiful writing and elegant plotting.

2. Newsflesh trilogy. Great zombie trilogy, flawed by several plotting issues, of which the worst is the . . . spoiler . . . magic clone. Still a great trilogy, though.

3. The Stand. I strongly prefer the version King’s editor trimmed down. All the parts King put back in later were better taken out, imo.

4. The Girl with All the Gifts. I loved this book, despite (a) a completely unnecessary romance, or at least sexual, subplot that was both gratuitous and unbelievable; and a completely predictable ending that I, at least, saw coming ages before I got to the end. Great voice, though.

5. Black Tide Rising series. Despite the somewhat wooden characters and sometimes uninspired sentence-level writing, an amazingly compelling zombie apocalypse. Zero nations survived in this one. All survivors were either on boats or in tiny, highly defensible locations on land.

6. Dies the Fire. This is one where we get a magical technology-just-stops-working apocalypse. I really like SM Stirling’s series toward the beginning. As he progresses through a series, the points of view multiply and disperse and I start to lose interest. But I really loved the first few in this series.

7. Ariel. Another one where technology stops working. In this case, certain kinds of magic start working. An excellent YA-style post-apocalypse story, with a unicorn.

Okay, I have to acknowledge that I have diverged from plague-type apocalypses. Sorry. Let me see if I can think of a few more that really belong on this list.

Okay:

8. The Country of Ice Cream Star. Dark, dark, dark story where a plague causes everyone in the US to die as they reach the age of about 18, so a new child-focused society — set of tiny, tribal societies — has arisen. Did I mention this is an extremely dark story? I loved the use of language in this story.

9. Clay’s Arc. You know, you can make a case for this story by Octavia E Butler, can’t you? This book shows the very opening moments of a plague-based apocalypse. We know, because of books set much later, that this plague does bring down the world as we know it. Very different from a zombie type of plague, though.

10. Andromeda Strain. Okay, once I thought of alien plagues, this classic leaped to mind. Crichton has a slower-paced style and this is not a story I found especially compelling, but still. Now I’m thinking of a number of classics:

11. Earth Abides

12. Emergence. This one is especially fun if you enjoy over-the-top competent protagonists. And if you like macaws.

And hey! When I put in the link, I noticed that the sequel, Tracking, is now available as an ebook! Definitely check out Emergence and then you can get Tracking if you like. The latter does not exactly tie off everything, but it ties up enough loose ends that the ending is pretty satisfying.

There, that’s twelve, to make up for including a couple tech-goes-away stories that don’t technically fit the plague-apocalypse theme.

If you’ve got a favorite apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic story that fits the theme, drop it in the comments!

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