Now is not the best time to run a list of the Top 10 Pandemic and Virus Outbreak novels, but ... hey, when is? Let's get down to it. These are the best novels about the end of the world via some sort of pathogen. Viral post-apocalyptic calamities in what we hope are not omens of our future. No covid here, thank goodness, but there are some really nasty human bugs and viruses.
1 - The Andromeda Strain - by Michael Crichton. Published in 1969, it chronicles an outbreak of a virus that was accidentally brought back from space. The extraterrestrial microbe wreaks havoc on the world. Written in the style of a documentary report that only Crichton (Jurassic Park) could pull off.
2 - Earth Abides by George R, Stewart. The world succumbs to the deadliest of diseases. Written in 1949, this is the grand-father of post apocalyptic stories, the first of its kind. Society falls after the outbreak of a deadly virus. This book chronicles three generation of rebuilding the world..
3 - The Stand by Stephen King This was an obvious one. The world ends when the devil himself comes to the surface and unleashes an unholy virus called Captain Tripps. It's an 800-page brick, so be ready for an ensemble cast and deep plot lines. Well, maybe not so deep ... but long. A fan favorite.
4 - Blindness by José Saramago - A city is infected by a white blindness, and those afflicted are put into "prisons" of sorts, similar to mental hospitals. It's an interesting take on how we treat our sick and dying as the world collapses around us.
5- I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Not sure if a disease that morphs one into a vampire counts, but ... it's here! Published in 1954, this book laid the ground for many movies to come (including: Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and I am Legend). It was also the inspiration for many zombie movies, and for The Walking Dead. We owe a lot to Richard Matheseon. Give this book another read. Although the villains here are more vampire than zombie - they got that way through a virus - they do play the same role and provide the same amount of fright.
6 - The Plague (La Peste) by Albert Camus. A plague sweeps across Algeria and wipes out much of the population, threatening to take on the world. An existential classic.
7 - World War Z by Max Brooks - A deadly virus turns us into, yep, zombies. There's a silver lining, if you get bitten, you can't die. Or uh....
8 - Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. In the Great Lakes regions, survivors of a world-ripping flu struggle to survive.
9 - The Last Man by Mary Shelley (yes, that Mary Shelly, of Frankenstein fame). It describes a devastating pandemic in the 21st century (oops, was she Nostradamus?) — and the fall of civilization is the wake of such. Sound familiar? Well, she was the first.
10 - The End of October by Lawrence Wright. A bit of espionage thrown in here with our viral outbreak, and a conspiracy to spread it. It rings a little close to home and steals some of its material from the news, but it works.
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon - Swan Song gives us the end of the world via nuclear war, not a virus - directly. But diseases do break out. Some of the pathogens are scary as hell. The months following nuclear Armageddon are not much fun for the few survivors. This would have ranked higher, but honestly it should have been a 300-page novel instead of an overblown 800-page tome. It needs an editor, badly. Yet, it still packs a punch.
Worst world ending novel: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. While McC is a good writer, this one fully misses the point. As in "it was pointless." Stay clear and avoid it as if it were the plague itself!
Best non-fiction pandemic book: Pale Rider by Laura Spinney, based on the 1918 Spanish Flu.
Also: Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
See also: Top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Novels
(not only virus-borne; everything from asteroids to world war III)
Stay safe and sane, and keep a mask handy.
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