Fitting with the times, check out these doomsday reads from satire to historic retellings.
Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
This satirical novel comments on the oddity of the arms race and the meaning of religion at the time of the book’s 1963 publication. It follows the story of the narrator who seeks to write a book about the atomic bomb. He goes on a search for Newt Hoenikker, the son of Felix Hoenikker, one of the fathers of the atomic bomb. In his search, he discovers the presence of a deadlier, fictional weapon called ice-nine, which has the ability to solidify all of Earth’s water in an instant. (Available at Target.com)
The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus, Richard Preston
This classic scientific thriller traces the origins of Ebola from its first appearance in a vaccine factory in 1967. The U.S. was never aware of how close it came to having Ebola unleashed in the greater Washington D.C. area. The detailed, non-fiction prose reads as otherworldly fiction in which author Richard Preston effectively parallels the emergence of Ebola, AIDS, and other rainforest viruses as a consequence of ecological demolition in the world’s tropical zones. (Available at Amazon.com)
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, Steven Johnson
Cholera is the star of this book and centers on an outbreak in 1854 London. Authorities were stymied by the very specific lines that were drawn in the epidemic and how it was being transmitted with such geographical precision. Plainly put, with the rudimentary knowledge that came with medieval science, no one knew much about Cholera. A private physician, John Snow, cracked the mystery and identified the disease as water-born while tracking this specific outbreak to a contaminated neighborhood water pump. By doing so, Snow made the world’s largest cities safer places. (Available at Amazon.com)
Black Death, Robert S. Gottfried
This fascinating read traces the progression of The Plague throughout Europe in the 1300s. In his straight-forward account, author Robert Gottfried chronicles not just the main outbreak of 1345 to 1350 but includes the subsequent outbreaks that were often contained to smaller regions with mortality rates as high as 15 to 20 percent (a significantly higher number than today’s COVID-19 global mortality rate). Gottfried delves into how the virus progressed across the continent and its effects on economy, education, and religion. (Available at Amazon.com)
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
As the forces of Heaven and Hell try to bring on the apocalypse, angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley try to interfere with their attempt. A comedic novel, Good Omens follows two friendly foes as they join forces to protect their comfortable, human-like lives on Earth. The main part of their scheme was a successful plan to switch the child of Satan with a normal child to prevent Satan’s son from carrying out his Apocalyptic duties. However, Satan’s son who goes by the name Adam ends up realizing his otherworldly powers. Pratchett and Gaiman amusingly discuss opposing ideologies and human nature in this 1990 novel. (Available at Target.com)
Originally published in Bleu Magazine Issue 67.