Here’s an intriguing opening scene: a young girl rides her bicycle and falls into the earth. She wakes up inside what looks to her like a square shaped hole whose walls glow with intricate carvings, but the people rescuing her see her resting on the palm of a giant metal hand. This is the beginning of Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. Stop there: wouldn’t you want to know what that was all about? Wouldn’t you be eager to keep reading? Of course there’s more to the story: years later, the world doesn’t know much more about that giant metal hand than they did when the girl (Rose Franklin — hmm, do you think the name was chosen deliberately?) discovered it by accident in the first place. Where did it come from? What is it? What does it mean? Rose, now a physicist studying the artifact, is coming close to figuring the thing out, but will it prove to be a boon to humanity, or a weapon of unfathomable mass destruction?
A South African writer, Fred Strydrom, has written a different kind of post-apocalyptic novel in The Raft. Instead of the usual zombies/disease/nuclear war scenario, Day Zero in this book was when every human being on earth lost his or her memory. Nobody can mourn, nobody can heal, because nobody knows what happened. Indeed, to most people it’s not clear that anything did happen (all right, admit it: you’re already intrigued by this premise; I certainly am). In the aftermath, society has begun to re-form, with people living in isolated communes run like dictatorships. One man, Kayle Jenner, finds himself on a remote beach, haunted by memories, or something like memories, of his lost son. When he sets out to try to find his son, he runs into allies and enemies, and slowly begins piecing together what happened on Day Zero, and what that truth means for those who remain. And of course, for those of us doing the 2016 Reading Challenge, this counts as a post-apocalyptic novel: just one more reason to try it!
If you’re interested in the bigger picture of speculative fiction, why not dive into the Nebula Awards Showcase 2016, edited by Mercedes Lackey? The Nebula Awards are voted on by members of the Science FIction and Fantasy Writers of America and are given for best novel, best short story, best novella and novelette, and every year this collection provides readers with the nominees in the short story and novella categories, with excerpts from the nominees in the longer categories. Find out what speculative fiction writers believe is the best of the best for this year: check out the Nebula Awards Showcase 2016 and expand your horizons.