Prepare for a 2012 apocalypse with scary beach reads

Local booksellers share their favorite end-of-the-world tales

Christopher Alvarez, manager of Big Brother Comics, prefers an illustrated apocalypse.

Christopher Alvarez, manager of Big Brother Comics, prefers an illustrated apocalypse.

Photo By william leung

80. Prepare for a 2012 apocalypse with scary beach reads

We suggest Lake Natoma or Discovery Park for a long afternoon spent reading about the end of the world before it happens. Of course, now that archaeologists have found a new Mayan calendar that goes beyond 2012, we don’t need to worry quite so much. Think of it as more time to read.

We reached out to local booksellers who might know a thing or two about what constitutes a great apocalypse story. Richard Hansen, proprietor of The Book Collector, located at 1008 24th Street in Midtown, doesn’t hesitate.

“The first book that comes to mind is Alas, Babylon,” says Hansen. “In the book, that phrase ‘Alas, Babylon’ is the code someone on the inside uses to warn someone on the outside of what’s coming—which is the nuclear war.”

Hansen and his wife Rachel put that code to use at the shop. “If my wife was alone in the store, for instance, and someone came in and she felt uncomfortable or frightened, she would call me and all she had to do was work the phrase, ‘Alas, Babylon,’ into the conversation and I knew to come running,” Hansen says.

That’s one way to signal the apocalypse.

At Big Brother Comics on 1722 J Street, manager Christopher Alvarez settled fairly quickly on The Walking Dead. That’s the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, not the TV show, which changed up some plot elements.

The Walking Dead is a zombie story that is not about the zombies,” says Alvarez. “It’s focused instead on what would actually happen. It’s a human drama, a more realistic take.”

Finian Scott, a bookseller at Time Tested Books at 1114 24th Street, had a more unusual take on the best apocalyptic novel. “Even though it’s not the first one people think of for apocalypse, I think that Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is the most apocalyptic book I’ve ever read,” Scott says. “Even though it takes place in the past, it’s apocalyptic in the biblical sense that things are ending and the world’s bleak and violent.”

McCarthy also wrote the more traditionally apocalyptic novel The Road, and Scott also suggested The Hunger Games as a sort of “hybrid of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.”

Of course, I couldn’t leave a discussion of apocalyptic fiction without adding my own favorites. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood; and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut top my list. And let’s not forget Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!, the novel on which the movie Soylent Green was based. Speaking of which, don’t forget to bring a snack to the beach.