7 Popular Fiction Books About Pandemics
I’m a sucker for a good fictional pandemic story. There’s something page-turning about a story where something as small as a virus can wipe out almost all of humanity. But now that the real world is battening down the hatches because of the coronavirus, these fictional stories about pandemics don’t feel so fictional anymore. Still, they’re no less entertaining to read. Here are a few favorites, according to this list at Goodreads, plus a few pandemic novels I’ve read that I couldn’t put down.
Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Elison
This was one of the best books I read in 2019, and the book that put Meg Elison on the map. It not only addresses what the world would be like if a virus wiped out most of the world, but also covers gender roles and sexuality in a way that isn’t preachy at all. I find Meg Elison to be one of the most inclusive, diverse writers of our time, and an author everyone should know.
Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population — killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant — the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power — and the strong who possess it.
A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.
After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.
Pandemic, by AG Riddle
This story encompasses all aspects of a pandemic, including the discovery of a life-changing science experiment in a sunken submarine, the Ebola-like outbreaks’ first responders, the spread of the disease around the world, and the man who may have accidentally caused the outbreak in the first place. The story is fast-paced from beginning to end, and is pretty true to how the CDC and government reacts to virus outbreaks like these. It’s definitely a timely read.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
(synopsis from Amazon)
The Things That Keep Us Here, by Carla Buckley
In my town, one woman who was possibly exposed to the coronavirus has been forced to remain indoors with her child until official are certain she isn’t infected with the virus. Divorced, she’s forced to rely on her ex-husband to make sure there’s groceries and other out-of-house necessities are taken care of.
It’s so similar to The Things That Keep Us Here, it’s uncanny.
Here’s the synopsis, from Amazon:
Everything seems quiet on Ann Brooks’s suburban cul-de-sac. Despite her impending divorce, she’s created a happy home and her daughters are adjusting to the change. She feels lucky to be in a supportive community and confident that she can handle any other hardship that life may throw her way. But then, right before Thanksgiving, a crisis strikes that turns everybody’s world upside down. Suddenly her estranged husband is forced back onto her doorstep, bringing with him his beautiful graduate assistant. Trapped inside the house she once called home, confronted by challenges she never could have imagined, Ann must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where the simple act of opening a door to a neighbor could jeopardize all she holds dear.
The choices she makes will impact the lives of those around her irrevocably and linger in the reader’s memory in this marvelous first novel, written with authority, grace, and wisdom.
Hell’s Children, by John L. Monk
I heard about this book when Monk was on a podcast. This was his debut book, and it sounded so interesting because it was about a bunch of kids who survive a pandemic that wipes out every adult in the world. Think Lord of the Flies meets end of the world. This book was definitely a thriller, and there were times I had to keep reading just because the danger was so stressful. This is the first book in a two-book series.
Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
It happened in a year: starvation, gangs of kids with guns, and every adult in the world dead from the Sickness. Houses are now mausoleums. Civilization lies in the hands of children who’ve never had to feed themselves or survive a winter without gas or electricity. Most will die. Others — a bare few — will tread a different path.
Fourteen-year-old Jack Ferris is a survivor — because his parents raised him that way. Leveraging qualities rare for his age, he must lead his desperate companions to a secret refuge. Too late, he learns that safety is a mirage, and that the high price of hope is paid in blood.
The Stand, by Stephen King
This is probably one of Stephen King’s best and most famous works. The Stand tells about a flu strain developed by the military that wipes out 99% of the population. Survivors make a choice about which leader to follow — “A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail — and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.” (Amazon)
The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton
From the author of Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Sphere comes a captivating thriller about a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism, which threatens to annihilate human life.
Five prominent biophysicists have warned the United States government that sterilization procedures for returning space probes may be inadequate to guarantee uncontaminated re-entry to the atmosphere. Two years later, a probe satellite falls to the earth and lands in a desolate region of northeastern Arizona. Nearby, in the town of Piedmont, bodies lie heaped and flung across the ground, faces locked in frozen surprise. What could cause such shock and fear? The terror has begun, and there is no telling where it will end.
(Synopsis from Amazon)