One of the short novels in Strange Weather imagines a future in which climate change has taken a particularly nasty turn: the sky has begun to rain nails. In the book before it, The Fireman, I sketched a world in which our society has collapsed into infection and flame. Yeah, okay… my new book may feature some weird weather, but no one is ever going to call me Mr. Sunshine.
Of course, I come by it naturally: many of my favorite reads forecast harrowing, delightfully grim futures. Here are five glimpses of dreadful days to come. Warning… the outlook is for dark and stormy nights.
Speak by Louisa Hall. Lyrical and funny and heart-felt and sweet, Louisa Hall’s Speak tracks the evolution of A.I. from the earliest days of programming and on into an environmentally bankrupt future. Hall envisions a man against machine scenario, in which robots are condemned for their empathy and potential. We simply can’t bear the thought that our circuit board offspring might have more of a right to the world we ruined than we do.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. Louisa Hall imagines a future in which the robots deserve to inherit the earth. C. Robert Cargill gives it to them. In the scenario depicted here, humankind has already gone the way of the passenger pigeon, leaving the remaining wastelands to the talking toasters. The screenwriter behind Dr. Strange and Sinister knows how to make a story move, and Sea of Rust is an absolute rocket, from the first page to the last… you don’t read this book so much as hang on for dear life.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. There have been plenty of stories about the undead apocalypse, but it takes a writer of M. R. Carey’s intelligence, craft, and wit to make you root for the zombies. In Carey’s vision, humanity may mean well but deep down it just doesn’t have the… hunger to survive.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Before it was a hit series for Hulu, well before it won all the Emmys, The Handmaid’s Tale was the most brilliant dystopic novel this side of 1984, as essential as Orwell and as visionary as Wells, one of the keystone works of 20th century fiction. Everyone should read it.
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King. A couple young, up-and-coming novelists here craft a portrait of civilization collapsing, as women everywhere fall into the deepest of slumbers. To wake them is death – for those foolish enough to disturb them. Okay, yeah, I’m not unbiased on this one: I confess the authors are blood. But don’t doubt their power to scare the s@% out of you. Start reading and I promise: you won’t sleep easy.
Author photo credit (c) Joe Hill.