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Apocalyptic fiction has lessons for surviving the pandemic

Two YA novel series, The Maze Runner and Gone, narrate the kind of story we are already a part of..

A world where society struggles to survive, where massive changes ravage the planet and challenge humanity. Seem at least somewhat familiar? Maybe? 

The colossal span of dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic fiction creates stories of broken or strict societies, about planets falling to pieces, about disasters splintering the word into fragments. Many of these books have lessons relevant to our place in the world, especially recently. We’re all locked inside, and when we go out it’s masked and distant. We’re in the middle of a long, widespread disaster. 

So, are we living out a dystopian, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic narrative?  

Dystopian novels and stories are generally structured around well-established cultures and societies. An apocalyptic novel, however, tells a tale of a large disaster, change, or even the end of the world. A post-apocalyptic novel tells the aftermath of said disaster or change. Novels under these genres typically follow general themes such as survival, governmental control, environmental disaster, as well as general disaster scenarios. 

In a way, COVID could be seen as an apocalypse. As I’ve stated earlier, an apocalypse doesn’t have to be the end of the world – it could mean a massive change, a disaster, a terrible event. Such as, you know, the ongoing pandemic that’s changed everything and shut the world down. Almost 100 million people have tested positive with the virus, and over 2 million have been confirmed to have died. (as of January 20th, 2021) As I’ve mentioned earlier, these books fall under particular themes, one of them being survival. Are we trying to survive? Yes. But we’re not dying to a rampaging crowd of zombies, we’re dying to a virus slowly wiping out the world. 

Perhaps we can learn from these books, take lessons told through stories and apply them to our world today. Two post-apocalyptic books series – The “Gone” series by Michael Grant, and “The Maze Runner” series by James Dashner have lessons we can apply to our current situation.  

The “Gone” series by Michael Grant is a sequence of novels following a set of teens as they try to survive in a new environment where everything is constantly changing, and almost everything is trying to kill them. The books have one consistent theme: If you don’t work together, it’ll tear everything apart.”  

Again, and again, plans fall to pieces and people are lost due to the fact that others decide to go off on their own, instead of working with each-other. This could apply to the pandemic, in the sense that If we don’t work together to self-isolate and abide by guidelines, we’ll never get rid of it and more people will die every day. 

The more well-known Maze Runner series, by James Dashner also follows a set of teens, this time as they struggle to survive in a world ravaged by the sun and viruses, all while attempting to keep ahead of the organization trying to keep them boxed in. This series tells us that persistence is key. If you give up, you’ll fall down dead. This is mirrored in a way that after almost a year of lockdown, the pandemic isn’t gone. And it won’t be gone if we give up now. 

COVID has a fair bit that’s reflected in these books when you look at it. Perhaps it’s because we’re in the same situation, a massive change ravaging the world. 

Hell, maybe one day we’ll be reading about ourselves, stuck inside for a year, perhaps even several years. But regardless of what anyone writes in the future, we are already the subjects of an apocalyptic story. 

Cover image: 20th Century Fox

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