I'm currently listening to Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I'm finding it completely and utterly compelling. I only listen when I'm out walking, and let's just say that I'm having joint pain, because I'm ramping up my walking schedule so quickly. But it has me wondering: just what is it that's so compelling about post-apocalypse stories? I know I can't resist them. From The Girl Who Owned a City to The Stand to The City of Ember and The People of Sparks to the Fire-Us Trilogy to the new television show Jericho, I must experience them all.
I have a couple of theories. The simplest is that they make us appreciate what we have. Listening to Life As We Knew It literally makes me hungry, as food supplies dwindle for the characters. I'm so grateful to have chocolate to eat, and wine to drink, and a clear sky overhead. And I'm only about a third of the way through the book - I know that things are going to get worse for Miranda and her family.
But I think it's more than just appreciating what we have, because then any story of deprivation would do. I think that post-apocalypse stories appeal specifically because survival is the priority. All of the day to day problems that we face (too many emails, too many business trips, too high of an electric bill, etc.) simply melt away when compared to basic questions about the survival of our species.
I think that spending time in a post-apocalypse story gives us an excuse to step outside of the rat-race, and feel like all of our current problems will go away. Yes, we know intellectually that it would be terrible to have to struggle for food and basic safety, and to know that millions of others had not survived the crisis. But there's a little voice inside that says "having no electricity or cell phone coverage sure would make my life simpler".
Or maybe that's just me. What do you all think? I can't be alone in my post-apocalypse story compulsion, because the books keep getting published. I'd be interested to hear what you think.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.