Monday, October 3, 2011

Apocalypse

Ever notice how nothing pretty ever happens in the future? Robots take over the world. Some disease wipes out everybody--or maybe World War III does it, or an asteroid, or a bunch of trash, or too much shopping--as if all the ills of the world as we know it now are multiplied in their use and extremity until we're either mostly destroyed or living lives of desperation.

Yet so many novels seem to look forward to this time, too. Armageddon. The surreal point in time when all the stuff from Revelations--stuff that can be only cryptically analyzed, at best--starts falling into place, showing us that THE END IS NEAR.

We've got another one of those dates coming up. But a whole league of novels have sought to depict the end of days, some with more clarity and success than others.

I can't say I'm a fan of this kind of books, in general. I love books with a spiritual or religious element--I was a big fan of Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments as a child, and I still gravitate to mythic literature--but I've found it difficult to accept the plausibility of most fictional works depicting the apocalypse. Am I a skeptic? Probably.

When I received my copy of Lis Wiehl's Waking Hours in the mail--for free, from Thomas Nelson publishers--I actually didn't know what to expect. I am not a typical thriller reader, but I love the paranormal, and mysteries often captivate me. The book was certainly exciting to read. Good characters--especially Dani and Tommy, who were both complex and sympathetic--interesting events, a chilling murder and a bunch of suspects, and I finished it at record speed. I literally kept talking myself into reading the next chapter, for the chapter breaks usually held enough suspense that I didn't want to stop.

Some of the paranormal elements were truly creepy, too. And I've researched creepy stuff before, but a few events really chilled me. Medieval literature has several of the elements Wiehl uses, adding to the authenticity, and the way some of the plot elements were discovered made them even creepier. It was a good read, a really good read.

Only the apocryphal bent to it--one that will be fleshed out further in the two future books of the East Salem Trilogy--didn't quite work for me. Perhaps it's my own skepticism, but so many things can be used at any point in history to point to Armageddon that I had a hard time seeing some of these events as unique. The Christian emphasis worked better, and yet even for readers who aren't particularly religious, these elements are not too obtrusive to be distracting. Overall, a very good book. I would definitely read the next book in the series.

What apocalypse have you seen depicted best? What's the worst version you've read or seen? (I'd have to say the film Armageddon is my least favorite. Awful, awful movie.)

8 comments:

  1. You’re correct the future doesn’t look so bright.

    I love Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments… I watch them once a year-- Charlton Heston Rocks!!

    I have to disagree with you about Armageddon; I love that show, it funnier than hell, plus it’s a little emotional at times. The plot might be a little contrite; I enjoyed it nonetheless.

    Deep Impact: was the worst one for me. Or even: The Book of Eli

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  2. I do like the destruction stories where things are saved in the end. I guess I don't read books along this line. Rather I can only think of movies and they mostly deal with weather... hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. You got me thinking now.

    Lou

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  3. I have to completely agree with Jeff...Book of Eli was just a waste of time!

    I loved '28 Days Later'...the virus idea mixed in with that 'The Road' type desperation! Or 'Children of Men.' That one felt so plausible and so incredibly scary!

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  4. I love disaster and apocalypse movies and books! The most recent one I saw that springs to mind is 2012! Love it :)

    By the way, I've emailed you about our anthology blog :)

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  5. I'm not a big one for apocalypse movies either. I've read a few books. The Stand was one of the more outstanding of these, but I hate it when my favorite character dies early. And they're rarely cheerful (movies might work out - books rarely do). Plus, I haven't given up on us.

    Better than apocalypse movies, however, I like thrillers where the end of days is threatened but avoided in a James Bond sort of way. There ought to be a movie about Stanislov Petrov, who actually saved the world, quietly and without idiotic fanfare.

    However, of the few of I've seen, I'm with you on Armeggedon - it's so bad, so wrong (especially on everything space related) so stupid...I can't stand that movie. I hate that NASA let them use their meatball all over it (and some of our facilities).

    Ironically, I have to really disagree with Jeff. I really respected Deep Impact. Came out the same time as Armegeddon, but was thoughtful, realistic, pointing out that hard choices aren't quite as romantic as we'd hoped, that solutions aren't always tidy and sometimes heroes go quietly to do what must be done with no fanfare. I guess, if I'm going to watch an apocalypse movie, I'd prefer one that felt like it was "real" rather than one specifically (and hysterically) orchestrated for feeling good without making a lick of sense.

    But I do like happy endings so I tend to steer clear of the whole genre.

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  6. Ever consider that Armageddon is a personal event in the life of ones own world? A karmic collision between truth and retribution for acts perpetrated upon others? I doubt very seriously the Jews are going to tear down the Dome of the Rock in order to rebuild any temple that Jesus might return, although if you really read the bible in one way it says he has already come back a second time...and that while the second temple was still standing.

    Seriously man does not need any form of divine intervention to get universally fucked up. We do well enough n our own and then forget where we laid the keys to our survival down.

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  7. Jeff, glad you agree with the Heston movies. I still can't go with ARMAGEDDON, though. Too thoroughly stupid for me. I liked DEEP IMPACT far better, even if its title stank.

    Lou, it seems like much of the destruction we imagine is environmental. Perhaps this is because, with all of our scientific information, we can still only examine the weather, but not stop its destruction.

    Elizabeth, I've been wanting to see CHILDREN OF MEN. What I know of it reminds me of THE HANDMAID'S TALE, though I admit I liked neither the book nor the film version of that story. I want so much to like Margaret Atwood, but though her ideas are appealing, I detest her narrative style. Can't explain why.

    Suz, I haven't seen 2012... though it's on my list to see, as well. And I did get the e-mail. Only now do I have some time to catch up on my writing tasks.

    Stephanie, I prefer the happy endings, too. I just saw the last 2/3 of a film with Viggo Mortenson in it... a father and son trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world, everybody starving and going mad. Too hard to watch, really. Not my idea of a good time. I don't mind unhappy endings. I detest meaningless unhappy endings, though.

    Walking Man, I think we do plenty to destroy our world and each other, and I find the idea of us causing our own destruction more plausible than just a freak cosmic calamity. I'm reminded every day of man's capacity for creating ugliness and mayhem.

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  8. I am drawn to apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories! I'm not sure why, especially because they aren't realistic. If the population of the world was mostly wiped out and those that remained had to restart, people have a way of stepping up. It wouldn't be anywhere near as bad as the stories suggest, imo.

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