With a bang? With a whimper? Or a plague or nuclear bomb? Or asteroid? What happens when the world begins to end, or a cataclysmic event changes our civilization so radically and so quickly that vast numbers of people cannot adapt? This week I’ll explore five books that envision such scenarios.
The first is a young adult novel by Susan Beth Pfeffer titled Life As We Knew It. Miranda is a sophomore in high school who keeps a diary about her friends, her divorced parents, her pregnant stepmother, her classes and assignments. She is aware that there is talk in the news about the possibility of an asteroid hitting the moon, knocking it out of its orbit. All of her teachers talk about it and it’s on CNN day and night, but she doesn’t quite grasp the significance. “I guess Ms. Hammish thinks this moon thing is historical, because in history that’s what we talked about,” she writes.
When the asteroid hits, it sends the moon closer to the earth. Cell phones and cable tv no longer work, and Miranda realizes that civilization may indeed be changing. The family learns from a network station that tsunamis have caused widespread destruction along the eastern seaboard, and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.
Miranda’s diary entries from then on describe the changing, colder climate she and her family endure, the increasing gas prices, the scarcity of food, the lack of electricity and lack of heat as the world gets colder and colder. Sick neighbors die when they can’t get to doctors. There is looting and crime. Neighbors trudge through the snow to help each other. The library stays open as long as it can, but eventually it has to close.
Life As We Knew It had me thinking about the paltry supplies my husband and I keep in case of a hurricane or ice storm. They would last a week or two. We would need to learn new skills, as Miranda does, and adopt new ways of looking at the world, in order to survive. This is a great novel for anyone twelve and older.