10 Best Books About The End Of The World Update 05/2022

Jim Al-Khalili, scientist and broadcaster, picks his favorite books that handle the Earth in peril, fresh off penning his first sci-fi thriller. I decided three years ago to try my hand at fiction after writing a number of popular science books. How difficult could it possibly be, I reasoned arrogantly? Well, it was more difficult than I anticipated. Despite the lack of zombies, vampires, or teenagers with superpowers, I enjoyed writing Sunfall since it’s exactly the type of book I enjoy reading, so I guess Netflix won’t be buying the rights.

I’ve always enjoyed “hard sci-fi” set in the near future. I prefer plausible science, and I grew up reading Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Larry Niven. So, when it came to write my own sci-fi thriller, I felt confident that I was in a good position to include a lot of science and get it correctly. Setting the scenario two decades in the future allows me to make a fairly accurate prediction of what the world will be like and extend today’s knowledge and technology into a credible future.\

Sunfall also belongs to a hard sci-fi subgenre known as the end-of-the-world novel. This category goes beyond apocalyptic and postapocalyptic fiction to include disaster thrillers in which mankind is threatened, whether or not the threat is mitigated. Science – or, more accurately, humanity’s misuse of it – is frequently the source of danger. Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake, for example, depicts scientists as gods, conducting horrible experiments with viruses and genetic engineering. Science is attempting to save the world in Sunfall.
So, here are my top ten books about the end of the world:

1. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Crichton’s sci-fi bestseller status was cemented with this 1969 techno-thriller. It’s about a dangerous extraterrestrial bacterium called “Andromeda” that’s brought to Earth by a meteor that clogs human blood, killing people in two minutes. Although I disagreed with some of Crichton’s viewpoints, such as portraying science as a threat to humanity (think Jurassic Park and Prey) and his controversial stance on climate change, I cannot help but appreciate the man who brought us Westworld. The Andromeda Strain is a fantastic thriller, as is most of his sci-fi stuff.

2. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

I was astonished by how many of Niven’s books I had when I glanced through my sci-fi collection before preparing this list. Also, I’d forgotten about masterpieces like Ringworld and The Mote in God’s Eye. Niven is a maestro of hard science fiction, and he co-wrote this apocalyptic thriller with Pournelle (another US genius) in 1977. A massive comet collides with the Earth, causing massive earthquakes, massive tsunamis, and the start of a new ice age. Only a few humans are able to live.

3. Moonseed by Stephen Baxter

Baxter is a well-known British hard sci-fi author who has dabbled in fantasy physics. Moonseed was the third installment of his Nasa trilogy, which is classified as “alternative history.” A space expedition brings back a lump of rock carrying a mystery nano-substance known as “moonseed,” which converts all inorganic stuff to moonseed. A gang of scientists tries desperately to save humanity as the Earth begins to collapse.

4. Earth by David Brin

There are connections between this novel and mine. Both are set a few decades in the future, when much of today’s burgeoning science and technology is present. Brin, on the other hand, wrote his book 30 years ago, so if his predictions come true, he will have a greater claim to being a visionary futurologist than I have. We can only hope that the novel’s central incident, in which physicists recklessly drop the little black hole they’ve produced, endangering Earth’s existence, will not be seen.

5. Quantum Night by Robert J Sawyer

This is a fantastic blend of psychology, quantum mechanics, and the meaning of human awareness. It is based on scientist Roger Penrose’s “quantum mind” concept, which he developed in the late 1980s. Scientists no longer take the hypothesis seriously, but it makes for wonderful sci-fi thriller material.

6. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

This is the first in a series of two post-apocalyptic novels. It’s well written and quite fascinating. The novel is set after a global flu pandemic has killed the majority of the world’s population, but it is also a story of hope. A troupe of actors and musicians perform Shakespearean plays in rural locations around the United States. The “cosy disaster” subgenre (a term created by Brian Aldiss) contrasts with the more typical dystopian themes of violence and chaos (think Mad Max or Walking Dead).

7. The Drowned World by JG Ballard

This novel, published in 1962, envisions a post-apocalyptic future in which global warming has rendered much of the world uninhabitable. It is a gloomy and depressing tale of survivors forced to recreate their ethical and moral rules after civilisation falls, in stark contrast to Station Eleven. It is largely considered to be one of the first works of climate-change fiction.

8. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

One of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. Dr. Felix Hoenikker, a scientist, dies after inventing “ice-nine,” a lethal poison capable of freezing the entire world. The eventually unsuccessful search for it begins. Vonnegut satirizes the weapons race and humanity’s ignorance with a dark humour. This is, in many respects, the polar opposite of my work, which emphasizes the good aspects of humanity’s resourcefulness and inventiveness, but I still enjoy it.

9. The Year When Stardust Fell by Raymond F Jones

Another book about a “danger from space.” Civilisation comes to a standstill as a result of the fallout from a mysterious glowing comet, with all transportation and machinery failing and civilization reverting to the stone age. This is high-quality science fiction – a thought-provoking yet fast-paced thriller.

10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

My list comes to a close with a hilarious novel. The end of the world is approaching – next Saturday, right before dinner. While the customary pre-apocalyptic pandemonium unfolds, an angel and a demon who dwell peacefully among mankind join forces to thwart the End Times. Gaiman claims that he started the story as a parody of Richmal Crompton’s Just William books and planned to call it William the Antichrist, but that it became more complex in collaboration with Pratchett, with several subplots involving the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and a 17th-century witch named Agnes Nutter.

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