Closer Than You Think by S.A. Barton

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Closer

 

Ebook

Published December 24, 2016 by Smashwords Edition

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Writing dystopian fiction in this day and age poses many challenges, not the least of which is this: how do you keep up? Many of the dystopian premises we see in literature are already popping up in the news — in some form — and often, as Lord Byron famously observed, truth is stranger than fiction.

That was my reaction this week when the media revealed, not for the first time, that employers are microchipping workers. (One of my dogs has a microchip. But if I hired someone to work for me, I would trust them not to wander off and get lost.)

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In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

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In a Perfect World

Paperback, 326 pages

Published: October 6, 2009 by Harper Perennial (1st published September 23, 2009)

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Jiselle, a thirty-something flight attendant with an open heart and naive nature, falls for a pilot. Mark seems perfect — he’s handsome, charming, and sexy. Jiselle quickly agrees to marry him, quit her job, and raise his three motherless children. Do you sense trouble coming?

The story of Jiselle’s marriage is one layer of this novel. In the background of her life, the “Phoenix flu” is killing indiscriminately, and no one understands why or how to prevent or treat it. Furthermore, the United States is blamed for this growing worldwide epidemic. We see society change gradually around Jiselle, beginning with occasional electrical blackouts and shortages and ending with a world that is almost unrecognizable.

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Children of Men (2006)

large_pGksHILD8UljwU1J3ZLPPRgyvF8Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, & Hawk Ostby, based on the novel by P.D. James

Theo (Clive Owen) has given up political activism and is simply trying to get by in a bleak dystopian world. As women have become infertile, and the youngest humans are now 18, the end of humanity is — to quote 28 Days Later — very fucking nigh.

Britain has become a police state continually battling violence. Official propaganda boldly states that the rest of the world is now in ruins, but “Britain Soldiers On!” The government has launched a Naziesque crackdown on illegal immigrants, and a domestic terrorist group called The Fish is fighting back. Oh, and the authorities are helpfully distributing suicide kits along with rations, encouraging people to go ahead and get out of the way before the eleventh hour. (But marijuana is still illegal — go figure.)

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28 Days Later (2002)

28Written by: Danny Boyle

Directed by: Alex Garland

Setting: England

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

When several well-meaning activists break into an experimental lab to liberate the chimpanzees, they unleash a mysterious, incurable virus that provokes mindless rage in its sufferers and quickly decimates the population.

Victims of the virus essentially become undead, but they are not the slow, shambling zombies of Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead. They are fleet-footed and driven by uncontrollable fury.

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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

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Series: MaddAddam #1

Kindle Edition, 400 pages

Published: March 30, 2004 by Anchor (1st published 2003)

Setting: Future North America

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2003), Orange Prize Nominee for Fiction Shortlist (2004), Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (2003)
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Snowman lives a life of solitude, struggling, from day to day, to survive. The world has been decimated by global catastrophe and drastically reshaped by climate change and unchecked genetic engineering. As far as he knows, Snowman is the sole survivor of the original human race.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Published: September 9, 2014 by Knopf

Kindle Edition, 354 pages

Setting: Toronto, Ontario and Michigan

Literary Awards: Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (2015), PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Nominee (2015), John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015), British Fantasy Award Nominee for August Derleth Award (best horror novel) (2015), The Rooster – The Morning News Tournament of Books (2015), Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2015), National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2014)

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Like Stephen King’s The Stand and In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke — two other books I love — Station Eleven explores the aftermath of a global pandemic. This cataclysmic illness, dubbed the Georgia Flu, has decimated the human population. We see the myriad ways people survive and make meaning of the remnants of the world they once knew.

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World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

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Kindle Edition, 352 pages

Published: September 12, 2006 by Crown (1st published January 1, 2006)

Literary Awards:  Audie Award (2007), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2012), Multi-Voiced Performance (2014)

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Regular readers of this blog know that one of my son’s primary educational goals is preparing for the zombie apocalypse. He’s talking about college and career goals too, just in case society remains intact for another five years or so. Because, you know, it’s always wise to have a “Plan B.”

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