I'm going to come right out and say it: I support Mad Max: Fury Road to win the Oscar for Best Picture so hard that I have barely paid any attention to the other nominated films. How could I not? Not only is it an incredible action film in its own right, it's not often that a science fiction film gets nominated, and so far not a single sci-fi picture has won. Historically I have always supported any genre (especially sci-fi and fantasy) when they are nominated, but this nomination is different.
This nomination says something important. Mad Max: Fury Road was more than just a high octane action film, it was also a film that starred (and focused mainly on) women. It dealt with the terror of sexual slavery without showing a single rape (or even attempted rape) on camera. The female characters were completely badass, and what's more, they didn't need to be saved by a man. While yes, Charlize Theron's Furiosa deserved at least a nod, the sheer fact that a movie that featured such complex female roles got such attention alone is worth celebrating.
Are you as excited as I am? I hope you are! Even if Immortan Joe is the absolute worst kind of person (and I highly doubt anyone would argue with me on that!) you have to admit, the world that George Miller created is a pretty cool one. So, while I wait for what I hope to be an eventual victory that will land Mad Max: Fury Road not only into the glory of Valhalla, but also to the glory of a Best Picture win, I've compiled 12 post-apocalyptic books to read while I wait. Take a look, and let's hope that this year's Best Picture Oscar is all shiny and chrome!
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
As a father and son walk across a ruined America, they are armed with nothing more than a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bandits that now roam the wastes. Probably one of the most classic contemporary post-apocalyptic novel, and one of the bleakest, this novel is great for those who thought that Mad Max: Fury Road was a little too uplifting, but still loved the idea of a road trip.
2. The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy
150 years after a flu-like virus wipes out civilization as we know it, what few humans remain live in outposts much like the remains of what was once St. Louis, now named The Sanctuary. When a stranger arrives from the wasteland with news of a place where rain falls, crops grow, and civilization still thrives, a small group led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark strike out against the wishes of the Sanctuary to find this new land. For those who were desperately rooting for Furiosa and the wives to discover The Green Place (which is all of us), this re-imagining of Lewis and Clark's historic journey will definitely fit the bill.
3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Did you love the hopefulness of Mad Max: Fury Road? Then you will enjoy Station Eleven. When a deadly flu wipes out most of humanity (as post-apocalyptic novels love to do) and society collapses, 28-year-old former child actress Kirsten Raymonde travels from small town to small town as part of the Traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who perform Shakespeare wherever they go. The relative peacefulness of the ragtag group of artists is swiftly rattled when they arrive at a town called St. Deborah by the Water, which is run by a prophet who digs graves for anyone who tries to leave. Alternating between the post-apocalyptic narrative and flashbacks to when society began to collapse in the first place, Station Eleven is definitely a more cerebral post-apocalyptic novel, but it has loads of heart.
4. The Postman by David Brin
Forget the rather lackluster film adaptation, The Postman centers on wandering apocalypse survivor Gordon Krantz, who stumbles on an old United States Postal Service uniform and decides to wear it for warmth. While society as we know it has given way to a warlord driven society (much like the world of Mad Max: Fury Road), many still respect what his uniform symbolizes, and he quickly realizes that many are willing to give him food and shelter out of a desperate desire to believe in the idea of a "Restored" United States. Much like Max himself, Gordon isn't a hero, he's a survivor.
5. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
Set over a period of 1,000 years, A Canticle for Leibowitz centers on a post-apocalyptic world that is desperately attempting to find itself again after the "Flame Deluge" (aka nuclear warfare) wiped out civilization, spawning a general hatred of knowledge in any form. Told in three parts representing the new Dark Age, the new Renaissance, and a new modern society, all religious teachings revolve around Saint Isaac Leibowitz, a scientist from around the time of the Deluge. If you found the unique religion that the War Boys of Mad Max: Fury Road fascinating, this post-apocalyptic tale of the rise and fall of civilization would be right up your alley.
6. Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
For those who found the preoccupation with legacy and genetics in Mad Max interesting, this book will be a pretty great fit. Narrated from one million years into the future by the ghost of one of the main characters, Galápagos centers on a small group of mismatched people who are shipwrecked on the fictional island of Santa Rosalia just as the world's economy begins to collapse and a plague renders all but the survivors infertile. Since this is a Vonnegut novel, it's told with a satirical voice and a humor that masks not only a deep sadness, but an abundant hope.
7. Sand by Hugh Howley
Did the incredible vast desert setting of Mad Max completely captivate you? Sand is set in a similar post-apocalyptic world. The old world is now over and a new one has been built on top of its shifting sand dunes. Centering on Palmer, a young man who has never been the same since his father walked out on them 12 years earlier, he wants to set out and prove his worth to his remaining family, and plans to do it the only way one really can in this world: sand diving. Convinced that he will be able to discover the old city buried below the sand, and is willing to risk his life to do it. The good news is that if you love this book, this is only one of a series.
8. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Did you love the pacing and and lack of exposition in Mad Max? If you do, Oryx and Crake drops you right in the middle of its ruined world and doesn't let up until the end. "Snowman," one of the last homo sapiens on Earth, lives surrounded by the "Children of Crake," a genetically engineered species made to be passive and physically flawless. As Snowman forages for food and attempts to be caretaker to this new species, he is plagued by memories of his brilliant friend Crake and the woman they both loved: Oryx.
9. Ariel by Steven R. Boyett
Did you love the film but think there should have been more unicorns? I know I did, and imagine my joy when I came across Ariel. Ever since the Change made all technology fail and 99 percent of humanity to vanish, Peter Garey has spent years wandering the world alone, until one day a sarcastic and clever unicorn he names Ariel arrives and becomes his constant companion. She's only one of several magical creatures to appear after the Change, and the two of them must learn how to survive in a world where a unicorn's horn is priceless, and that involves traveling from Atlanta to Manhattan in order to confront the sorceress who wants that horn the most.
10. Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
For those who love the anti-heroes that populate Mad Max, Damnation Alley gives you Hell Tanner, a man who is just trying to survive. Set in a world where the United States has fractured into several nations, and a plague threatens to completely eradicate humanity, Hell is a murderer, and he's facing down a lifetime stuck in a tiny cell until he's offered a chance of a lifetime: drive across the country to deliver a case of anti-serum to Boston, Massachusetts. This will earn him a full pardon, if he can survive the mutant scorpions, the carnivorous beasts, and radiation storms that stand between him and his goal.
11. Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem
Did you love the fact that Mad Max had its own unique apocalyptic style? Meet Chaos, a young man who is living in a movie theater in what was once Wyoming, eating canned food and drinking as much booze as he can find. He's barely keeping it together, and it make matters stranger it seems as though his own apocalypse might not actually line up with reality. Teaming up with a girl named Melinda as they drive across the country in an attempt to figure out not only who broke the world, but how every town seems to have developed its own apocalyptic reality.
12. The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
With a plot that seems like it could be perfect for the next film in the Mad Max franchise, The Gone-Away World begins with a disaster of epic proportions. The Jorgmund Pipe is on fire, and it definitely shouldn't be, given the fact that it was the thing that kept the Livable Zone safe from the monsters outside. This looks like a job for Gonzo Lubitsch and the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, a series of experts who helped build the Pipe in the first place and who team up to save the world every time trouble comes knocking. Facing down a world of pirates, mimes, ninjas, and much worst, Gonzo and his friends need to save humanity yet again.
Image: Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.