'The Country of Ice Cream Star' And 8 Other Books That'll Make You Scared For The End Of The World

When describing The Country of Ice Cream Star, Sandra Newman's newest novel, it's hard to know where to start. Do you begin with the narrator, a ferocious 15-year-old leader whose name gives the book its title? Or do you lead with the author's invented language, a bold, futuristic, and all-together remarkable creation? There's so much compacted into the audacious 640-page work that narrowing it down to just one element is impossible. Yet in any description of the book, one thing must be made clear: that Ice Cream Star, despite its post-apocalyptic setting, is not your typical dystopia. It's so, so much scarier.

Because in the world that Newman so thoroughly created, it's 80 years in the future, and a plague has swept the world and killed everyone over the age of 20. Civilization's started up again, but it's run by bands of teenagers and children, all of whom know they won't make it to adulthood because of the "posies" that'll take each of them down, one by one. Ice Cream Star is the leader of her tribe, the nomadic "Sengles," and when her older brother starts showing the disease's tell-tale symptoms, she sets out to find a rumored cure.

What she encounters along the way — war, sexual violence, betrayal, pain — is terrifying, both due to the events themselves and the fact that even in this futuristic setting, the threats Ice Cream and her fellow children face are frighteningly relevant. Yet while Ice Cream Star's vision of the world's end is certainly disturbing, is it the scariest of all post-apocalyptic books? Here's how it ranks:

9. Divergent

Apocalyptic Cause: Unknown.

What Was Lost: Free will, the option to declare an "undecided" major.

What The Survivors Face: Getting placed in factions, possibly never seeing their families again, getting forced into poverty if they're not in the mood to jump off trains.

Fear Level: Not too high, if you're unaware of the whole "government conspiracy to keep the population under control" thing. 

8. Station Eleven

Apocalyptic Cause: A massive, deadly flu.

What Was Lost: Functioning cities, the Internet, public transportation.

What The Survivors Face: Safety threats, supplies shortages, traveling Shakespeare troupes.

Fear Level: Not too bad. This is a doomsday with a happy-ish ending.

7. The Hunger Games

Apocalyptic Cause: Unknown.

What Was Lost: Freedom, childhood, normal-looking clothes.

What The Survivors Face: Poverty, dictatorship, sending their young ones off to their deaths for "entertainment."

Fear Level: Not too bad, unless you're a parent or a teenager. Then, you're pretty much screwed.

6. World War Z

Apocalyptic Cause: Zombies! Well, really a plague that turns people into zombie-like creatures, but that's not nearly as interesting.

What Was Lost: Pakistan, Iran, world peace.

What The Survivors Face: Deadly wars, zombie attacks, a country called "The Holy Russian Empire."

Fear Level: Pretty bad, since everyone's zombies and all. It helps if you're Brad Pitt.

5. Life As We Knew It

Apocalyptic Cause: A meteor that knocks the Moon closer to Earth, causing earthquakes, tsunamis, and major chaos.

What Was Lost: Coastlines, hospitals, millions of people.

What The Survivors Face: Constant natural disasters, food shortages, the knowledge that things are only getting worse.

Fear Level: Relatively high, as this is one apocalypse that could very well happen. 

4. The 5th Wave

Apocalyptic Cause: An alien invasion.

What Was Lost: Billions of people, blind trust. Here, anyone could be the enemy.

What The Survivors Face: A "kill-or-be-killed" world, unwanted independence, a trigger-happy military. 

Fear Level: Pretty high, especially considering that, as the narrator notes, cleanliness and body care come pretty far down the list of one's priorities.

3. The Road

Apocalyptic Cause: Unknown.

What Was Lost: Most life on earth, all sense of civility.

What The Survivors Face: Cannibalism, homelessness, a wide-spread loss of hope.

Fear Level: It's a "kill-or-be-eaten" world. It's bad.

2. The Country of Ice Cream Star

Apocalyptic Cause: A plague that killed for generations, wiping out practically everyone over the age of 20.

What Was Lost: Adults, major cities, birth control.

What The Survivors Face: Warfare, slavery, the knowledge that no cure has been found in 80 years and that they'll all die when they're barely out of their teens.

1. The Stand

Apocalyptic Cause: The accidental release of a weaponized flu.

What Was Lost: 99 percent of the population, a functioning military, any sense of order.

What The Survivors Face: Uncontrollable grief, tyrannical governments, violence from every side.

Fear Level: High. Very, very high — as high as it gets. Either you're dead, you're dying, or you're about to die.

Image: Didier Bonnette/flickr

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