Cartoon depiction of a ruined cityscape

Pandemic Fiction. Not Satiated Yet?

by Lisa Navidi, Davis Library

What is everyone talking about, thinking about, and watching? The pandemic of course. So why not read about it as well? Some of these novels are much worse, I hope, than what we are experiencing and others present the virus as just the backdrop of their story. Either way, here are pandemic related stories: the good, the bad, and the just plain scary.

Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

This iconic novel set the tone for techno thrillers for 50 years. After a space probe returns to earth carrying a deadly microbe that kills an entire small town, Project Wildfire is called in to contain the virus. But can they?

The Stand by Stephen King

This dystopian novel chronicles what happens after a Department of Defense computer error effectively ends the world’s population, leaving only 1% of humans to choose which side they want to join: the light, Mother Abagail or the dark, Randall Flagg. If you have a lot of time on your hands, try the new uncut version, 1300+ pages.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Against the backdrop of death, Marquez brings us the love affair of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who, through marriages and affairs, finally come together after fifty years.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Arthur Leander, a famous actor, dies of a heart attack on stage during a performance of King Lear. Within a week, 99% of the population of Earth has died from a flu pandemic of unprecedented virulence. Told through the voice of each character who either knew or met Arthur, we learn what life becomes and how they adapt. It’s a fascinating examination of both the current and dystopian view of our society. 

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

What if the Black Plague had not destroyed a third of the population of 14th century Europe, but had instead killed 99%? This alternate history changes many of the precepts of the world, including the domination of Buddhism and Islam over Christianity. Narrated by major and minor players: the rulers, the slaves, and the philosophers, we get a complete look at how the world might have been.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The first in Maddaddam trilogy, Atwood takes us on a journey to a dystopian world where Snowman finds himself alone with only his memories of his friends Oryx and Crake. He wanders through what once were cities and now is wilderness. We learn about his life and it becomes clear that bioengineering has played a big role in what has killed so much of the population.  

Severance by Ling Ma

Finally, a little humor among these grim pandemic novels! Candace is a self-involved millennial, who is barely aware of the plague that sweeps New York and the Shen fever which quickly follows, wiping out a large chunk of the population. When joined by a group of survivalists who promise her a new start, she hesitates, knowing something they do not.