Recommended Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic books

What is dystopia? Well, you could say it is the opposite of utopia (an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect), and that it is a society characterized by poverty, squalor, or oppression. When not reading fantasy book the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genre is somewhere we often find ourselves.

Recommended Reading

A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food - and each other....

1984 by George Orwell
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George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the most pervasively influential book of the twentieth century, making famous Big Brother, newspeak and Room 101. 'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past'. Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

"1984 is not only a classic of dystopian fiction, but one of the most influential works of fiction ever written." Fantasy Book Review

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky
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The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind. But the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory, the stuff of myth and legend. More than 20 years have passed since the last plane took off from the earth. Rusted railways lead into emptiness. The ether is void and the airwaves echo to a soulless howling where previously the frequencies were full of news from Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires. Man has handed over stewardship of the earth to new life-forms. Mutated by radiation, they are better adapted to the new world. Man's time is over. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on earth. They live in the Moscow Metro - the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. It is humanity's last refuge. Stations have become mini-statelets, their people uniting around ideas, religions, water-filters - or the simple need to repulse an enemy incursion. It is a world without a tomorrow, with no room for dreams, plans, hopes. Feelings have given way to instinct - the most important of which is survival. Survival at any price. VDNKh is the northernmost inhabited station on its line. It was one of the Metro's best stations and still remains secure. But now a new and terrible threat has appeared. Artyom, a young man living in VDNKh, is given the task of penetrating to the heart of the Metro, to the legendary Polis, to alert everyone to the awful danger and to get help. He holds the future of his native station in his hands, the whole Metro - and maybe the whole of humanity.

"I would recommend Metro 2033 to anybody who likes fantasy, sci fi and horror and wants a very well written, immersive story with unnameable and unexplainable horrors lurking round each corner. It is a fascinating and claustrophobic exploration of a terrible future and how human nature adapts."

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
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Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen – from the President of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City – will fight for survival. In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth’s last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artefact in the destroyed Manhattan streets… Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station… And Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan’s gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself...

"In a book of over 850 pages I never once found myself bored, I progressed through the book at a steady pace, reading every day until it was finished. I looked forward to reading it each evening as I cared about the characters and was easily able to forgive the weaknesses (I think McCammon is being a little too hard on himself) as it was all just so damn enjoyable (I know that enjoyable may not be the right word to use when describing reading about the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, maybe gripping would be more suitable). And the mention of Stephen King is also interesting as Swan Song reads very much like a novel he could of written himself and has certain parallels with The Stand." Fantasy Book Review

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
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Snowman may be the last man on earth, the only survivor of an unnamed apocalypse. Once he was Jimmy, a member of a scientific elite; now he lives in bitter isolation and loneliness, his only pleasure the watching of old films on DVD. His mind moves backwards and forwards through time, from an agonising trawl through memory to relive the events that led up to sudden catastrophe (most significantly the disappearance of his mother and the arrival of his mysterious childhood companions Oryx and Crake, symbols of the fractured society in which Snowman now finds himself, to the horrifying present of genetic engineering run amok. His only witnesses, eager to lap up his testimony, are "Crakers", laboratory creatures of varying strengths and abilities, who can offer little comfort. Gradually the reasons behind the disaster begin to unfold as Snowman undertakes a perilous journey to the remains of the bubble-dome complex where the sinister Paradice Project collapsed and near-global devastation began.

"I loved the book's structure. It begins at the end. A haunted man called Snowman, the last human being, living in a tree and hearing voices. What has happened to the world? What happened to the boy that was Jimmy? Well, that is what the book is all about and the finding out always made for compelling reading. It was a bravely written book in that none of the characters are actually likeable and all are flawed, even by human standards, but very real. And Atwood does not judge, even when covering such difficult and emotive subjects as child prostitution and pornography. The hook of the book, and what kept me reading so enthusiastically, was to find out how the Earth had become what it was and who was responsible. It made for a great and eerily plausible story, one that highlighted human malice, greed and stupidity." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo
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Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo was a famous writer and professor before a sex scandal ended his marriage and career. Heading north in search of her new husband, his ex-wife leaves their daughter and her son in his care. If he is to take them to safety, he will need to find a quality he has never possessed: courage.

"The Last Man Standing is a must read in the dystopian fiction genre, less bleak but no less moving than The Road and a book that’s ending is nothing short of perfection. A disturbing yet strangely uplifting look at a future we can all only pray never comes to be. A special mention must go to Silvester Mazzarella who has managed to lose nothing in translation and every sentence is precise, crisp and a joy to read." Fantasy Book Review

The Chimes by Anna Smaill
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A boy stands on the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain.

No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment.

No directions, as written words have long since been forbidden.

No parents - just a melody that tugs at him, a thread to follow. A song that says if he can just get to the capital, he may find some answers about what happened to them.

The world around Simon sings, each movement a pulse of rhythm, each object weaving its own melody, music ringing in every drop of air.

Welcome to the world of The Chimes. Here, life is orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that renders people unable to form new memories. The past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphony.

But slowly, inexplicably, Simon is beginning to remember. He emerges from sleep each morning with a pricking feeling, and sense there is something he urgently has to do. In the city Simon meets Lucien, who has a gift for hearing, some secrets of his own, and a theory about the danger lurking in Simon's past.

"The Chimes is one of the most difficult, and yet most rewarding books I’ve read for quite some time. Breaking so many rules of writing to explore its central premise, yet blending together dark poetry, a truly unique post-apocalyptic world, love, music and memory into one great symphonic whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts, and an experience which you won’t easily forget."

The Drowned World by JG Ballard
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Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and primeval reptiles are sighted, swimming through the newly-formed lagoons. Some flee the capital; others remain to pursue reckless schemes, either in the name of science or profit. While the submerged streets of London are drained in search of treasure, Dr Robert Kerans – part of a group of intrepid scientists – comes to accept this submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it.

"As a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction this is a really interesting idea; usually it is a virus of some sort that wipes people out like in Frank Herbert’s The White Plague, or a nuclear-type disaster such as Walter M Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. I found it a shame that it is not discussed how people are living now most of the world is uninhabitable and the apocalypse itself is seemingly fading into the past, so it is a very narrowly-focused book. However, this does suit the increasing self-imposed isolation of Kerans, Dahl and Bodkin, who all seem indifferent to their future, or the future of the human race. Have they resigned themselves to the end or merely adapting to their landscape? This is an excellent example of post-apocalyptic fiction and well deserves to be hailed as a classic." Cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams
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Famine, death, war, pestilence. These are said to be the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse-Armageddon. The End of the World. Whether by nuclear warfare, a biological disaster or an ecological/geological disaster it is in the wake of this great cataclysm that the survivors have to adapt and survive.

"There is not a poor story in this anthology and they are all so different in the way they are written and the themes they cover that everyone will find something to like. Of the five stories I mentioned above it is only George R. R. Martin that I had previously read so I will shortly be going on to read novel-length publications by Dale Bailey, Catherine Wells, Nancy Kress and Neal Barrett. And that is exactly what I hoped to get from this collection. So if you're a fan of the post apocalyptic/dystopia genre then you must add this anthology to your collection as it is simply brilliant and if it still available for £2.99 then it is also an absolute bargain. I loved reading Wastelands and hope that many others do too. Very highly recommended." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

The Crystal World by JG Ballard
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Through a ‘leaking’ of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees metamorphose into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering skins lurch down the river. Pythons with huge blind gemstone eyes rear in heraldic poses. Most flee the area in terror, afraid to face a catastrophe they cannot understand. But some, dazzled and strangely entranced, remain to drift through this dreamworld forest: a doctor in pursuit of his ex-mistress, an enigmatic Jesuit wielding a crystal cross and a tribe of lepers searching for Paradise.

"As readers we experience this transition through Ballard's coruscating language of prose, his fine attention to using a full prism of tropes that assail us with a sense of colour and light, time and time again. It is Louise Perot who idly notes that "when you first arrive here everything seems dark, but then you look at the forest and see the stars burning in the leaves". It is the reader who, at the final page, realizes the stars are Ballard's words, the leaves the pages of his novel, the forest the entirety of his masterpiece." travelswithadiplomat

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
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What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again. Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened. If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

"This is a story that engages you with ideas on existentialism. This is a story that takes a line from Star Trek: Voyager – “survival is insufficient” – and lets it germinate into something special that rings true throughout the story. I think it’s the exploration of this theme from many different facets that I found fascinating, that kept me moving through this book late into the night."

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
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Blindness by Jose Saramago
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An illness spreads through an unnamed city. It has only one symptom: blindness. It comes without fanfare, pain, or warning. One moment a man waits in his car at the traffic lights, the next his world has dissolved to white.

"As fascinating as this novel is, be warned: it is not for the faint-hearted. I am not just speaking of the intense horror and sexual violence, but of sentences that stretch unbroken for over a page, and dialogue absent quotation marks. The style is rhythmic, reflective, playful, brutal, and poetic. Either you have the patience for this sort of thing or you don’t. Usually, I don’t. But there was something about the intensity of Saramago’s vision which sucked me in despite my reservations." Caroline Norrington, Fantasy Book Review

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
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Spensa's world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity's only defense is to take to their ships and fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what's left of the human race.

Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father's - a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa's chances of attending flight school somewhere between slim and none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is still determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They've doubled their fleet, making Spensa's world twice as dangerous... but their desperation to survive might just take her skyward...

"Skyward captivated me unlike any other book has in the past decade. It not only left me wanting more, but left me concerned for people who, in my mind at least, truly exist and who are beautifully special. Skyward is Brandon Sanderson’s greatest work in years, possibly ever, and reminds us of his capacity to inspire us to aspire to be more, to be better – to claim the stars."

The Seven by Peter Newman
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The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody
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""A major work of fantastic imagination. Through the breadth of her vision, the depth of her characters, and the strength of her language, Carmody has created a world completely realized in all its details and completely persuasive." Lloyd Alexander 

"When you put your mind to considering some of the greatest writers of the English language, it is a source of continuing pity that Isobelle Carmody’s name is not up there along with some of the greats like Tolkien, Lewis and Hemmingway." Fantasy Book Review

In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. But for Elspeth Gordie, born with enhanced mental abilities, it is also dangerous. Survival is only by secrecy and so she determines never to use her forbidden powers. But it is as if they have their own imperative and she is brought to the attention of the totalitarian Council that rules the Land. Banished to the remote mountain institution of Obernewtyn, she must throw off her cloak of concealment and pit herself against those that would resurrect the terrible forces of the apocalypse. Only then will she learn most truly who and what she is... Elspeth is determined to uncover the plot and so, accompanied only by her cat, Maruman, embarks on a terrible adventure full of danger, the conclusion to which promises not just uncertainty about her safety but also that of many around her.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
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God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe... Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is just trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnant of mankind who have survived, at times, seem to retain little humanity themselves. This is the world she was born into. Temple has known nothing else. Her journey takes her to far-flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization – and to those who have created a new world order for themselves. When she comes across the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right, if she can just get him back to his family in Texas then maybe it will bring redemption for some of the terrible things she's done in her past. Because Temple has had to fight to survive, has done things that she's not proud of and, along the road, she’s made enemies. Now one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the one thing that makes sense…

"The Reapers are the Angels is a real triumph, a literary fantasy where the zombies are mostly window-dressing. This is a novel more concerned with people and their relationships, with the human spirit and all its flaws and frailties. It's a story driven by the characters' needs to establish some sort of order in their lives, some sort of goal to cling to, and all the pitfalls that arise because of this need. It speaks of resilience and belief, of hope and sorrow, and the need to look for the beauty in life, no matter how hard that might be. An instant post-apocalyptic classic." Speculative Horizons

"A haunting and beautifully written vision of fractured humanity that may soon be regarded as a classic within its genre" Fantasy Book Review

Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan
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Darren Shan seems like your average boy--he likes playing football with his mates, passing notes in class and loves spiders. Then, one day, his best mate Steve gets tickets for a banned freak show and Darren starts experiencing things that no average boy would dream of. At the Freak show he sees a limb-chewing wolf man, a woman who can grow a beard in front of your very eyes, a snake boy and a goat-eating tarantula called Madame Octa. But what about the mysterious people in blue-hooded robes whose faces you never see? And is Mr Crepsley really a vampire?

"Personally I would love to give this book a 22 out of 10 mark. It for boys and girls who love being terrified out of their wits. It has Blood, Guts, Vampires, Killer Spiders, Poison and characters with oomph... This story is about a boy called Darren. Darren loves Spiders. This is where the trouble starts. After getting a present of a spider from his parents, he accidently kills it when it ends up being sucked up the vacuum cleaner. He saw this on TV and it looked hilarious. Except that the TV spider came out alive. Darren was gutted. He now had no pet and his parents had said that he was never getting a pet ever again." Amy Dwane, Fantasy Book Review

Legends of the Red Sun by Mark Charan Newton
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An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur. It’s a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshees wail and cultists use forgotten technology. And beyond the now besieged walls, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra. When the Emperor commits suicide, his heir, Rika, is brought home to lead the Jamur Empire. But the corrupt Chancellor has his own designs on the throne. Meanwhile, a senior investigator in the city inquisition must solve the savage murder of a city politician, and a charming rogue manipulates his way into the imperial residence with a hidden agenda. Then one crime leads to another and a plot is uncovered that could mean genocide for thousands of citizens. It seems that, in this land under a red sun, the long winter is bringing more than just snow...

"It's a long, long time since reading a book and series from a new author has made me this excited. How he manages to fit it all into one book is amazing. The style of writing is so clean, no paragraph is wasted. This is such a pleasure to read. It's slightly mad in places as Mark gets into transforming everything in sight, but that just adds to the fun of reading this book. I really believe in years to come we will be talking about new authors, and asking, are they the new Mark Charan Newton?" Stephanie Gelder, Fantasy Book Review

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before - and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

"Collins is a fine writer worthy of her craft, and the book is compelling all the way through. I don't usually stay up late reading novels, but this time I did. It is a massive whirlwind of enjoyment and insight. It does not pull its punches, and for this reason The Hunger Games is also not free of controversy. Some religious groups have denounced the books as unacceptable for its presentation of violence and for the ever-present theme of looming death. Such readings are in fact misreadings, these groups having missed the obvious point of the series, which is that violence, while very real, is not a viable response. Katniss throughout the book avoids killing where she can, and only does so regretfully, in self-defense. The books are about how violence and vengeance destroys and lowers human life. Far from being a pro-violence or blood-letting message, the books end up being a strong anti-war tract by subverting the honor-warrior-noble-battle trope common in many stories today. Ultimately, the books are about self-sacrifice and the ability of love to overcome the might of totalitarianism, cruelty, and hatred. I do not believe I can recommend them highly enough." Fantasy Book Review

The Return Man by VM Zito
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The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead to deliver peace. Now Homeland Security wants Marco, for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again. But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you...

"I don’t really like Zombies and although I have managed to read a few books based around the subject I generally prefer the comedy takes on Zombies at the cinema. So with that clarifying statement I picked up this book, which sounded post-apocalyptic, and was just cryptic enough to not make me think “zombies”. And I’m glad I did as I found this book to be compelling, captivating and at times hauntingly scary." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

The Stand by Stephen King
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First came the days of the plague. Then came the dreams. Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil. His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms. For hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King's gift. And those who are listening to The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

"I first read The Stand in 1989 and I was completely blown away by it. The story, the characters, the tension - I had never read a book of its size so quickly. So, 23 years later I decided to read it again, finding that although I was able to remember certain parts, almost everything other than the memory of loving it had been forgotten. I found it interesting that King himself said, in the forward, that he doesn't think The Stand is amongst his best books, but the one he is asked most questions about. I would agree with the author here as books like It, Salem’s Lot and The Shining are better-written books but there is just something about The Stand, and if the reader connects with it they are in for a thrilling ride." Fantasy Book Review

Gilded Cage by Vic James
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A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything. Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

"In the end I was left emotionally spent and wanting another book to read immediately so that I can find out more about this amazing world that Vic James has envisioned. Extremely impressed is all I can really say. I recommend this to everyone regardless of what genre is your favorite. Even though it would be classified as Dystopian, the story is so well-written and compelling that any reader can appreciate and enjoy it."

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
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The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
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Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined.

"I’ve read a great deal in this genre over the past 30 years and I’ll put The Dog Stars up there with the best. And what makes it a more fulfilling read for today’s audience is that it is current and all the more believable for it. I guess the easiest (and arguably laziest) comparison I can make is to like this book to a cross between Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s The Stand. I should point out that its length is very much the former and not the mammoth size of the latter."

The Malice by Peter Newman
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The Long Walk by Stephen King
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In the near future, where America has become a police state, 100 boys are selected to enter an annual contest where the winner will be awarded whatever he wants for the rest of his life.
The game is simple - maintain a steady walking pace of four miles per hour without stopping. Three warnings and you're out - permanently.

"For fans of dystopian fiction who want to get into the heads of some wonderfully flawed characters being put through the ringer in genuinely frightening way, The Long Walk is definitely worth taking."

X-isle by Steve Augarde
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Ever since the floods came and washed the world away, survivors have been desperate to win a place on X Isle, the island where life is rumoured to be easier than on what's left of the mainland. Only young boys are in with a chance, the smaller and lighter the better. Baz and Ray are two of the lucky few to be chosen, but they soon discover that X-Isle is a far cry from paradise. Ruled by Preacher John, a dangerous religious fanatic, it's a violent, unpredictable place where terrible things can happen at any moment. The boys hatch an extraordinary plan in order to protect themselves - the construction of a mighty weapon of defence. But can they complete this weapon in time, and are they really prepared to use it in order to secure their freedom?

"X-isle is a captivating and well written book of rare depth. Highly recommended for young adults, both male and female." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick
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Imagine that a few years from now England is covered by water, and Norwich is an island. Zoe, left behind in the confusion when her parents escaped, survives there as best she can. Alone and desperate among marauding gangs, she manages to dig a derelict boat out of the mud and gets away to Eels Island. But Eels Island, whose raggle-taggle inhabitants are dominated by the strange boy Dooby, is full of danger too.

"Floodland is a challenging novel for older readers who will be captivated by a vision of the future that is not so unbelievable." Fantasy Book Review

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
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Women are dying in their millions. Some blame scientists, some see the hand of God. As she watches her world collapsing, Jessie Lamb decides she wants to make her life count. Would you let your daughter die if it would save the human race? The Testament of Jessie Lamb is the story of one daughter's heroism and one father's love.

"By far the most moving of all the 138 Booker entries" Chris Mullin, Evening Standard

This is the perfect book for a parent-child book club. Be warned – it has virtually no action and is a character and plot driven novel. I found it to be extremely compelling, expertly written, and very insightful in a non-preachy way. But it is not easy and not intended for children under the age of 13 or so. It is a novel that needs – and deserves – to be discussed after it is read." Brian Herstig, Fantasy Book Review

Wool by Hugh Howey
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The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the people who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

"Written in a warm style that never attempts to get too clever, this is the kind of terrific read that's both respectful towards and transcendent of its own genre." Sydney Morning Herald

"Howey cranks up the suspense and tension, making this one of the most gripping and profound sci-fi novels I have read. All I can say is get a copy and read it before it hits the big screen." Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review

The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters
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What's the point in solving murders if we're all going to die soon, anyway? Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There's no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job - but not Hank Palace. He's investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week - except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares. What's the point in solving murders if we're all going to die soon, anyway?

"The Last Policeman makes for compelling reading, there is a pleasant feel of detective noir infused into proceedings and I struggle to remember many investigators sporting moustaches in the times between Magnum PI and Hank Palace. Winters instils his book with a grand sense of melancholy and his characters display the sadness and defeatism one would expect under the circumstances. I felt richer for reading this intriguing mix of murder mystery and dystopia and highly recommend The Last Policeman to fans of either genre." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

No Return by Zachary Jernigan
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On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists--only what his intentions are. Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon--a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle--warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Tchootoo, on the far side of Jeroun's only inhabitable continent. From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Manshep, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Tchootoo, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow. On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas--which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.

"I haven't read a book this deep in quite some time. No Return is a book of contrasts, a book that not only shows the extreme ends of an argument, but all the shades of grey in between. If you are looking for a fun Sunday afternoon read then you might want to keep looking, but those who are looking for an entertaining yet challenging book, I think you will love No Return." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami
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The year is 1984. Aomame sits in a taxi on the expressway in Tokyo. Her work is not the kind which can be discussed in public but she is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. She agrees, but as a result of her actions starts to feel increasingly detached from the real world. She has been on a top-secret mission, and her next job will lead her to encounter the apparently superhuman founder of a religious cult. Meanwhile, Tengo is leading a nondescript life but wishes to become a writer. He inadvertently becomes involved in a strange affair surrounding a literary prize to which a mysterious seventeen-year-old girl has submitted her remarkable first novel. It seems to be based on her own experiences and moves readers in unusual ways. Can her story really be true? Both Aomame and Tengo notice that the world has grown strange; both realise that they are indispensable to each other. While their stories influence one another, at times by accident and at times intentionally, the two come closer and closer to intertwining.

"At times the book is shocking in its sexual brutality and violence given life in Aomame, at others breathlessly poignant in Tengo's elegance; yet, for all that this is a novel that left me slightly dis-satisfied. It satiated my craving as I flicked through the pages, left me not particularly wanting more as Aomame and Tengo climbed back up the ladder to the Expressway. I would encourage people to read it, which might be slightly odd as I believe you will put it aside with a sense of losing a moon, but there is no denying the beauty of the prose, the deft handling of the characters, the futility of their motives." Fantasy Book Review

Contact by Malorie Blackman
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In a post-apocalyptic world where everyone wears Non-Contact suits to survive and where you can never touch another person directly, Cal and Jenna have formed a football team. Not virtual - real football, with real contact. But Jenna's horrible twin Jacob is suspicious and it looks like they're headed for disaster...Can the team reach out to Jacob and convince him that making contact is also what makes us feel alive?

"Malorie Blackman draws us into her world of technology; of liquid food piped straight into the stomach using a tube as eating normally would be unhealthy. Cal wonders what it would be like to chew his food, taste it and enjoy it, among other things he would like to do that he can't and as a result of this he feels he can't enjoy his life. But it's not all bad news there is a nice twist to it at the end."

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
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Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour. Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane -- a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed. For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey...

"This is a very detailed book with lots of comedic and dark moments hidden within this seemingly idyllic world. If you have never read anything by Jasper Fforde this may be a good book to start with." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

Wolves by Simon Ings
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Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.

"Wolves is about how each of the characters perceives the world and as Michel invites Conrad back into his life, and his mother’s possible murder once again rises to the surface, it become clear that reality is far more complex than we might first think. If you are looking for something a bit different, definitely give this book a go." Cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review

Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter
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Sharp-eyed Marianne lives in a white tower made of steel and concrete with her father and the other Professors. Outside, where the land is thickly wooded and wild beasts roam, live the Barbarians, who raid and pillage in order to survive. Marianne is strictly forbidden to leave her civilized world but, fascinated by these savage outsiders, decides to escape. There, beyond the wire fences, she will discover a decaying paradise, encounter the tattooed Barbarian boy Jewel and go beyond the darkest limits of her imagination.

"Heroes and Villains juxtaposes between who are heroes and who are villains; can anyone ever be defined by one term without the other? Each individuals' view will be different from another's, which we see in the very survivors of the future. What we would call society is split between two groups of Professors and Barbarians. The Professors have tried to stick to the old ways; still ploughing fields and living behind barricades; the Professors hold the knowledge of the past, but are living a regimented life. The Barbarians on the other hand have taken to the land, living a nomadic life and raiding the Professors’ villages to gain the food they need to augment their diets." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

Lock In by John Scalzi
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Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves 'locked in' - fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. 1% doesn't seem like a lot. But in the US that's 1.7 million people 'locked in' - including the President's wife and daughter. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, 'The Agora', where the locked-in can interact with other humans, whether locked-in or not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing those who are locked in to occasionally 'ride' these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse...

"This is an inventive sci-fi story, with so many ideas buzzing around that you should feel disorientated and yet it is so well written that you never feel frustrated or lost by what has not yet been revealed. For speculative fiction the technology levels are not beyond our comprehension and at least communication-wise we seem to be heading in that direction. The political and business aspects that are based on power struggles work really well in this context. If you have never read anything by John Scalzi, I recommend going out and getting yourself a copy of Lock In as quickly as possible." Michelle Herbert

High Rise by JG Ballard
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Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on ‘enemy’ floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for riots and technological mayhem.

"One of Ballard's finest dystopian novels, High-Rise, takes a community of a forty floor apartment block and narrates the collapse of its middle-class British social ethics and morality, evolving into a renascent primal violence fuelled both by the sub-conscious urge to destroy all trappings of modern civilization and create a protectionist, yet isolated, commune." travelswithadiplomat

The Vagrant by Peter Newman
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The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape. As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defences of a once great civilisation are crumbling into dust. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

"There is a truism in the reading of the Vagrant, that people are the same regardless of whether they are Demon tainted or not, that they will survive by any means and resist even when the idea of hope is just that - a dream long forgotten, secreted away within their heart. Why are these concepts true? Because we are human and Newman has captured this attitude and portrayed it well."

The Silence by Tim Lebbon
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In the darkness of an underground cave system, blind creatures hunt by sound. Then there is light, there are voices, and they feed... Swarming from their prison, the creatures thrive and destroy. To scream, even to whisper, is to summon death. As the hordes lay waste to Europe, a girl watches to see if they will cross the sea. Deaf for many years, she knows how to live in silence; now, it is her family's only chance of survival: To leave their home, to shun others, to find a remote haven where they can sit out the plague. But will it ever end? And what kind of world will be left?

"The Silence is a dark, foreboding tale of what can happen when curiosity gets the better of us. It takes some real guts to read this novel all the way through as Ally and her family might not reach their destination."

Nod by Adrian Barnes
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Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no-one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no-one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand can still sleep, and they've all shared the same golden dream. A handful of children still sleep as well, but what they're dreaming remains a mystery. After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises.

"For me, the story is excellent, dark and doom laden enough to encourage me to read on to the very last page, the characters well created and fleshed-out, this is one for those who like their doom extra dark and disturbing."

Rig by Jon Wallace
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‘My nanotech is dead. By definition I am no longer Ficial. On the other hand I don't experience your emotions. That makes me inhuman. Like I said: neither one nor the other.' Caught in a world that is too busy destroying itself to care for anything except how to exploit the weak, Kenstibec is the ultimate outsider: he used to be invulnerable but now he's just a killer with no-one to kill for. But when the old world is ending everyone needs a reason to live, someone to live for. Kenstibec is on a quest. A quest that will take him across a freezing ocean and into the cold heart of a new world order.

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J Walker
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Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside. But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves...

"The Last Dog on Earth is a book I would recommend highly as it is at turns funny, disturbing, moving and thought-provoking. Walker is an excellent author who creates great characters and in Lineker he has excelled himself. A dark yet life-affirming book ideal for those who enjoy reading within the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre."

Without Warning by John Birmingham
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March 14, 2003. In Kuwait, American forces are lock and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a cover agent is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a sailboat manned by a drug runner and a pirate is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, everything will change. A wave of inexplicable energy slams into the continental United States. America as we know it vanishes. As certain corners of the globe erupt in celebration, others descend into chaos, and a new, soul-shattering reality is born.

"All in all, Without Warning is a gripping, edge of your seat stuff that you can easily read instead of going to the cinema to watch an action movie, it is delivered right there in front of you. This book never goes dull for a moment and actually puts you to thinking “What if?” The thought experiment of John Birmingham has paid out fully. And it leaves you on quite the cliff-hanger, another great book to be recommended." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

The Girl with all the Gifts by MR Carey
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Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh. Melanie is a very special girl.

Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell
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The Reapers are the Angels was one of my favourite books of 2011, and is indeed one of my favourite books within the entire dystopian/post apocalyptic genre. I have two things to thank its author Alden Bell for: Firstly for writing a book I enjoyed so much and secondly for introducing me to the work of Cormac McCarthy, whose influence on Bell and his writing is evident in both these works. Any who have read McCarthy's The Road and fallen under its sparse and poetic charm will delight in the two books Bell has produced.

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Recommended reads by sub-genre

Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.

High fantasy books
High fantasy

Fantasy set in an alternative, fictional world
Epic fantasy books
Epic fantasy

Fantasy with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery fantasy books
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery

Fantasy with heroic adventures
Contemporary / Urban fantasy books
Urban fantasy

Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fiction / Alternate history books
Historical fantasy / fiction

Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Parallel worlds.
Parallel universe

Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science fantasy / Speculative fiction books
Science / Speculative

Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Children's fantasy books
Children's Fantasy

Fantasy for ages up to 12
Young adult fantasy books
Young Adult

Fantasy for ages 12+
Adult fantasy books
Adult Fantasy

Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian fiction
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic

Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Image derived from Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns book cover
Monarchy / Empire

Fantasy books with empires at their core
Gothic fiction books
Gothic Fiction

Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Vampire fiction
Vampire Fiction

Fiction with vampiric characters
Werewolf fiction
Werewolf Fiction

Fiction with werewolf characters
Steampunk books
Steampunk

Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Dragon fiction
Dragon Fiction

Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Wizards / Magicians

Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Lore, Legend and Mythology

Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Military Fantasy

Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Praetorian cover image
Roman historical fiction

Explore the ancient Roman Empire
An image of Darth Bane, taken from the cover of a Star Wars book
Star Wars

Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
An image taken from the front cover of The Wind in the Willows
Animal fantasy books

Fantasy with sentient animals
An image taken from the front cover of Giant Thief.
The Thief / Assassin

Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
An image taken from the front of hush, hush.
Supernatural

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
An image portraying manga art.
Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows
Horror

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
An image portraying comic fantasy.
Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh
An image of J. R. R. Tolkien
Inspired by Tolkien

Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The Time Traveller's Almanac
Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies

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