Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It’s the End of the World

I’m almost finished with the Hunger Games for the second time, but I’m not planning to hit the movie on opening night, so I probably could have slowed way down on reading them. If you haven’t figured it out by now, though, I’m an absolute sucker for end-of-world dystopian books. I’ve read Stephen King’s The Stand at least a half-dozen times and Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma is in my top 20 book list.

There’s this thing that happens in most of the dystopian books where the chaos and horror of so much death renders each individual death meaningless. The characters are watching as 90% of the world dies, and even the loss of your mother or spouse becomes secondary to the need to find someone else alive and not be alone. After the mass casualties end, though, death becomes meaningful again and individual losses can be mourned as they happen. I really don’t have any idea if there’s a philosophical reasoning behind this, or if it’s artistic license that each author uses as a shortcut to get to the action sooner, but I think it’s interesting. It makes me wonder if older wartime, when your entire group of brothers-in-arms might not make it back with you, was like that, too.

I really mostly love the parts where the characters work to figure out what parts of modern life they don’t want to lose and try to get them back, like lights and antibiotics. (Or twinkies – Go Zombieland!). King’s characters work to restore safety and security, while Coupland’s try their hardest to pretend the whole thing isn’t happening, like the girls of Night of the Comet. It’s like a choose your own adventure – What would you work your hardest to not have to lose? I would somehow figure out the secret formula and become the local Coca-Cola producer and just have to hope that somebody else learned how to hunt. And do dentistry.


emily said...

yes, it's the other side of my knowing that if I were somehow sent back in time, I would be of no help to anyone. "Um, we had this thing-- internet... yeah, I don't know...."

Kate said...

I KNOW. I used to know how to fish. And cook french toast over a sterno can ala Girl Scouts, but I would be totally useless on the whole.

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