Thursday, May 17, 2007

And I Feel Fine

I have a thing about end of the world books. I have a thing about the end of the world in general, actually, particularly when it comes about via environment-altering events (nuclear war, for example) that make even the basics of survival virtually impossible to manage, never mind surviving the collapse of civilization. Or zombies. Zombies I think are a close second in fear to environmental disasters, and they only really make it into second because I'm pretty sure they're fictional. I think zombies are scarier, but they're less likely than, say, nuclear war, or global warming, or the moon being knocked out of its orbit.

Speaking of which, I just finished an excellent book called Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It's YA, and not nearly as depressing as it could have been. William Goldman once said in one of his screenwriting books that audiences love a good how-to, and I find that's definitely true. Really well-written stories about the mundane details of something like this are just wonderfully engaging. It's about storing food and running out of it, chopping firewood, boarding up windows, swimming, running water, Christmas presents, snow, distant volcanoes, etc.

Really, I think the book's main flaw was what also made it tolerable--it was upbeat. Well, not downbeat, anyway. It's not the heartwarming family togetherness that bothered me--that actually made it quite palatable. It's the lack of violence or human danger. It's not about society collapsing so much as disappearing, as though the system that keeps our world running the way it does--which is really so artificial and tenuous--didn't just collapse into a shambles, but slowed down a great deal, almost to a stop. Civilization was still there, it was just operating at a very low efficiency level.

This isn't much of a review; I'm just processing this and thinking out loud. It stuck with me, though, and I really enjoyed this book. I just checked out another one, an end-of-the-world book called Z for Zachariah, I can't remember the author's name. I don't think this one will go over as well for me. It seems darker, just based on the blurb. Although I will say, as long as the environment is intact enough that, say, food will grow, I'm willing to fight off the zombie hoards from inside my walled fortress. That's just the kind of girl I am.


Anonymous said...

I read Life as We Knew It several months ago and I am haunted, HAUNTED by it still. I mean, to the point where I was scruntinizing my pantry and wardrobe all winter, wondering if I had enough food and clothes to stay alive/keep warm. It doesn't help that I live in PA, where the book was set. I read on a kidlit librarian blog that Pfeffer is planning a companion novel, which I am both frightened of and dying to read.

I also read my first Bill Bryson book last week (his memoir of growing up in Des Moines). I liked parts of it, but overall was not impressed enough to search out another. Does he exaggerate/use hyperbole that much in all of his works?

LibraryLady in PA

LibraryHungry said...

A SEQUEL? Or even just a companion book? Oh, that's awesome! Thanks for the info!

I'm usually iffy on Bill Bryson; I think I wouldn't like to read his books, but they make pretty good audiobooks, actually. There's a difference in what I'm looking for in one vs. the other. I loved the audiobook for A Short History of Nearly Everything. But yeah, if you weren't impressed, I don't know if trying another will help.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the specific blog entry where I read about the companion book:

Have you read A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren? That's an apocalypse/plague story that I still think of, years later. And it definitely has the gritty stuff that Pfeffer left out of Life As We Knew It.

I'm just incredibly geeked out to think there's someone else out there who enjoys Nun books AND post-apocalypse fiction!