Best Places To Be If You Want To Avoid An Apocalypse

It seems that most apocalyptic novels I read are either about:

a) zombies created by some mutated virus

b) a natural or an environmental disaster of some kind

So it was with interest that I came across this list of the Ten Safest Places in the U.S. from Natural Disasters:  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/top-10-safest-u-s–cities-from-natural-disasters-183608693.html

Maybe apocalyptic readers can create a Top 20 List, since this only covers places safe from some natural disasters and not from other factors….food for thought.

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The Reapers Are The Angels

The Reapers Are The Angels is the book that Flannery O’Conner would have written had she been born during a zombie apocalypse. I studied Flannery O’Conner at university and the way she phrases dialogue and describes things has a certain style; I wonder if Alden Bell, the author of this book, is a scholar or fan of hers.
The language of this book is devastatingly beautiful and pierces through the otherwise grim story. It’s that difference that keeps me comparing it with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which for me was so grim that it was a disturbing read – this coming from someone with a blog on dystopian and apocalyptic fiction!
Temple is an uneducated teen with the soul of an artist who never knew the world prior to zombies, or meatsacks as she calls them. She lives independent of adults and haunted by a dark moment in her past, she roams the ruined United States of America. Although she comes upon various people and settlements where she could put down roots, a dark restlessness drives forward on the road.
During a brief sojourn at a settlement, she has an encounter with a man that will determine her fate. On the run, she meets a mentally disabled man who raises an emotion in her which makes her decide to bring him along on her journey. They briefly find respite at a mansion protected from the outer horrors by an electrified fence housing an eccentric family who live and speak as if the zombie apocalypse never happened. She briefly experiences a short-lived companionship and understanding before she must flee the refined household.
Temple sets out on a mission on behalf of her disabled companion, for she is a fearless killer who is able to keep both of them safe from the meatsacks and other disturbing creatures, the one person she is not safe from is herself. Haunted by her past, she doesn’t feel sufficiently pure to accept the offers for help or a home that come her way along the journey.
Readers may have mixed feelings about how the story ends, but the one thing everyone will agree on is that this is a book that will linger in the hearts and minds of readers.

My Library at LibraryThing

Mystic City

I get a little concerned when a post-apocalyptic or dystopian book adds additional element. My thinking is that isn’t an environmental disaster or totalitarian government enough to provide action, suspense and an interesting storyline?  So when I started reading Mystic City by Theo Lawrence I was prepared to be bothered by the additional element of mystics and magic – yet overall it worked.

Aria Rose is the daughter of a sort of mafia family that controls half of New York in a not too distant future.  The city is divided between the 1% like Aria’s family, and the 99% who eke out a bare existence in the old city…all the rich have moved into skyscrapers called the Aeries.  It was the mystics with their magic powers that saved the cities of the U.S. by building the Aeries and other infrastructures, it is explained that people with magic have always existed but been feared as demons or burned at the stake like witches, so they kept themselves out of the public eye until global warming got bad enough that they felt they must use their powers to save the country.  Yet they have been banished to the Depths and are forced to have their magic drained from them.  During the Conflagration before Aria was born, the mystics supposedly set off a bomb that killed innocent people.  Not all the mystics register as they are supposed to and have their powers drained, some have become rebels.

Aria recently woke up in the hospital experiencing memory loss.  She has been told she had overdosed on Stic, a drug made from mystic power.  She can’t remember any of her relationship with Thomas Foster, her fiancée and the son of New York’s other powerful dynasty, who until the engagement was her family’s biggest enemy.  Aria does her best to be the dutiful daughter and to slip back into her Sex and the City lifestyle with her closest friends, but something feels off.  She is troubled by the mysterious locket in her possession and a piece of paper on which the word ‘Remember’ is written – that’s the problem, she can’t remember any of her secret affair with Thomas and feels like a phony posing for photo ops by the press since the story of the two families uniting through her marriage is the biggest headline of the day. 

One night she decides to spend some time alone with Thomas, but since her parents are so overprotective she plans to sneak out and cross the city through the Depths before ascending back into the Aeries to Thomas’s family home.  With her expensive clothes is an easy target for some rough teens who recognize her and resent her pampered lifestyle.  As they attack her she finds herself rescued by the mysterious Hunter, who obviously is one mystic who hasn’t had his powers drained and she warms to him despite the fact that they should be enemies.  Hunter makes sure she safely returns to the Aeries and Aria arrives at Thomas’s home only to be caught by her father and subjected to another mysterious visit with a doctor, though she thinks she may be recovering as she is beginning to feel memories of Thomas coming back, but there is something odd about them.

The truth about Aria’s past and how she ended up in the hospital is something you will have to read the book to find out.

 

 

 

                                                                               

Monument 14

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne reminded me a bit of a story I loved as a child, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler .   I don’t remember all the details of that story, but the part I loved was how the kids were living in the museum at night having the run of the place.  In this story, a mixed group of elementary, middle and high school students take refuge from a monster hailstorm in a Colorado superstore.  The hailstorm is just part of a chain reaction in an environmental disaster.  An exploding volcano caused a megatsunami that has triggered severe weather conditions across the U.S.  The adult bus driver who got the kids into the store safely has gone to find help advising the students to not let anyone in the store.  At first being barricaded inside a megastore doesn’t seem so bad, there is plenty of food, toys, and clothes available that make everything seem like an entertaining adventure.  However, in Colorado, where the kids are, these storms have caused the leak of chemical warfare agents from nearby NORAD.  The chemicals affect people of each blood type differently and suddenly the danger of the situation is elevated.

For the main character Dean, life inside the superstore initially bears a close resemblance to high school.  Dean is not one of the popular kids, his demeanor is calm and he loves to write.  He is the opposite of Jake, the popular and handsome high school quarterback who just happens to be in a relationship with captain of the swim team, Astrid, that Dean has a huge crush on.  Brayden is also an athlete and spoiled, Josie is a hippie-activist, and lastly there’s introverted Niko.  The two junior high kids are Dean’s younger brother Alex and Sahalia, a budding Lolita.  Each of the elementary kids also has a strong personality which was unexpected.  There’s bratty Chloe, sanctimonious Batiste, Ulysses who only speaks Spanish, adorable twins Henry and Caroline and finally Max, eight going on forty with the funniest salacious stories. Jake and Brayden pick on Dean just like they do in school, Chloe’s more worried about getting her way than the world falling apart, Dean and Alex fight like brothers do and Sahalia is playing a dangerous game trying to fit in with the high schoolers.

In addition to dealing with each other, the kids have to cope with people trying to get into their safe haven, wondering whether their families are alive and substance abuse.   When I was in high school I remember reading Satre’s No Exit and I have found myself in a number of situations in life when hell is being trapped with people you don’t like, but the relationships that form between this group trying to survive the disaster is the heart of the story.   

 

 

 

 

 

The Forsaken

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse will appeal to people who enjoyed The Maze Runner, Quarantine, Variant, and Lockdown.    The Forsaken has similar Lord of the Flies aspects and even elements of the TV series Lost with its mysterious island and unnatural enemies. 

Alenna Shawcross is only ten when her parents are snatched in the night by the secret police of the UNA and orphaned.  Even before their abduction, Alenna’s world has been turned upside down.  The UNA, or United Northern Alliance was formed just a few years earlier uniting Canada, the U.S. and Mexico after a global economic meltdown caused food shortages and violent crime waves in an effort to restore order.  However, the citizens of the united countries were not happy about the alliance resulting in first demonstrations, then riots, then armed rebellions until a four-star general appointed himself prime minister for life and closed the national borders and snatched away all freedoms including cell phones, computers and the Internet.

All high school juniors must take the GPPT, a test that determines potential future criminals, people with a propensity for violence and psychopaths.  Anyone who fails is designated an “unanchored soul” and shipped to a desolate prison island where the average life expectancy is only eighteen years of age.

The day before her test, Alenna’s class visits a museum where the students can view live footage of the island via cameras placed there.  When a blue-eyed boy appears desperately trying to communicate, Alenna feels a strange connection to him before he is attacked by a monstrous hooded figure and the camera malfunctions.

Confident that she has obeyed all rules, studied hard and doesn’t stand out in any way from her peers, Alenna takes her test – and fails, waking up on the island near a boy named David from her city.  Attacked by drones, the island psychopaths, a warrior girl appears to help them, though only Alenna and the girl manage to get away from the drones.  Alenna is taken to the girl’s village where she learns more about how the island is divided into sectors, which includes the mysterious gray sector that just might hold the key to getting off the island IF she can survive the drone attacks and the mysterious sickness affecting many of the teens.

 

Slated

Do our experiences, and thus our memories, make us who we are?  Or are we born with innate personalities?    This is one of the questions raised in the thrilling book Slated by Teri Terry. 

In the not too distant future after a series of demonstrations that led to riots and some terrorist acts, England is now controlled by a dystopian government.  Any adults who commit a crime are imprisoned or killed, but children and teens are given a ‘second chance’ by ‘slating’ them, which is a process that completely wipes their memories clean.  It’s not just that they don’t remember their names, families and where they are from; they awaken from the process almost like coming out a coma and have to even learn how to walk and speak again.   Their rehabilitation process not only includes basic functions, but they are taught to think the way the government wants them to, before being sent off to live with their new moms and dads, who are strangers.   In order to make sure they are truly rehabilitated, the Slated wear Levos, which go much farther than a home monitoring device that tracks where they are.  The Levos monitor their emotions.  If a Slated gets too distressed, sad or angry, the number on their wristband drops.  If it drops to a certain low number, they face a severe headache or will blackout.  If they hit the most dangerous number, they will die.   And like any good rehab, the Slated, must attend group therapy sessions weekly where they share their emotions and experiences with other Slateds.

From the very beginning there is something different about Kyla.  At night she experiences severe nightmares that make her wonder if it’s a nightmare or memories of her former life and although her Levo numbers drop when she is sad or distressed, when she is angry they actually go up, a fact she realizes would put her in danger and so she hides it from her new mom, dad and sister, as well as her psychologist and even her new love interest, Ben, another Slated.  And there is much for her to be angry about, from mistreatment by other non-Slateds, to her realization that other kids are disappearing who have not committed criminal acts Kayla struggles to hide her reactions.  Her biggest fear however, is herself – just who is she?  Is she a terrorist who was responsible for killing other kids?  Or is the truth even worse than that?

This was a real page-turner.  My only criticism is that I have to wait for the next book in the series.

The Math of a Zombie Apocalypse

When I started this blog I was more into The Hunger Games and Divergent type of YA dystopian/apocalyptic stuff. Somewhere along the way I found myself reading a lot of zombie novels, so when I came across this article from LiveScience.com I was intrigued…math was never my strong subject in school but the topic was interesting enough that I read it through thinking, “now if only my school math teachers had used examples like this, I may have done better in math class.”

This equation could spell your doom: (bN)(S/N)Z = bSZ. That is, if you ever found yourself in the midst of a zombie pandemic.

That’s because the calculation describes the rate of zombie transmission, from one walking dead individual to many, according to its creators, Robert J. Smith?, a mathematics professor at the University of Ottawa who spells his name with a “?” at the end, and his students. Smith’s work has inspired other researchers to create zombie mathematical models, which will be published with Smith’s work in the upcoming book, “Mathematical Modeling of Zombies” (University of Ottawa Press, 2014).

Though of course done tongue-in-cheek, Smith’s study demonstrates why zombies are the viruses of the monster world. Their likeness to viruses makes the creatures ideal subjects for theoretical epidemiological analyses, which can be used to capture the public’s imagination as well as explore scientific principles, Smith said. [Zombie Facts: Real and Imagined (Infographic)]

As for a zombie apocalypse, Smith’s model shows that a zombie infection would spread quickly (with N representing total population, S the number of susceptible people, Z the zombies, and bthe likelihood of transmission). It also shows that zombies would overtake the world— there’s no chance for a “stable equilibrium” in which humans could coexist with the undead or eradicate the disease.

Only coordinated attacks against the zombies would save humanity, the model shows.

Epidemiology and ‘WWZ’

Models of disease outbreaks, like the one Smith developed, play a prominent role in real-life epidemiology, Smith said.

“Unlike most popular monsters, zombies are inherently biological in nature,” said Mat Mogk, founder of the Zombie Research Society. “They don’t fly or live forever, so you can apply real-world biological models to them.”

Zombies are walking representations of a contagion, because they depict flesh-devouring monsters who spread their affliction by gnawing on the healthy. Some recent zombie flicks, notably “28 Days Later” and “Zombieland,” even explicitly portray zombieism as a virus.

“A zombie is a bit like giving a virus legs and teeth,” said Ian MacKay, a virologist at the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, University of Queensland, who bloggedabout “World War Z.” “This is basically a virus taking over a host, and spreading very quickly and efficiently. … It’s an extreme virus-transmission event, if you like.”

In “World War Z,” Brad Pitt plays a U.N. inspector searching the globe for the origin of the zombie outbreak, paralleling the quests of many real-life virus hunters, Mackay said. “Trying to find the index case, or case zero, bears quite a resemblance to conventional epidemiology,” Mackay said. The movie is (somewhat loosely) based on Max Brooks’ novel of the same name, which included unprecedented, true-to-life detailabout the political, medical and sociological ramifications of a zombie outbreak, earning the thriller a spot on a U.S. Naval War College reading list. [Outbreak! The 5 Most Likely Real-Life Contagions]

Math tackles the hordes
World War Z: The Real Plan for Apocalypse – DNewsPlay video.”
World War Z: The Real Plan for Apocalypse – DNews

Analyzing zombies adds a couple of new wrinkles to traditional disease modeling, Smith said: Dead people can be resurrected as zombies, and humans will attack the infected. “Usually, the dead aren’t a dynamic variable,” Smith said. “And people don’t try to kill the people who have an infection.”

Those elements — infections and attacks on zombies — made the model more complicated, because they introduce two nonlinear factors, or factors that don’t change at a constant rate, said Smith, who has modeled outbreaks of HIV, malaria and West Nile virus. Most disease models include only one nonlinear element: disease transmission. Having two nonlinear factors makes zombie math extremely sensitive to small changes to parameters, Smith said.

The most important parameter, however, was the infectivity of the zombie disease. In zombie movies, the affliction spreads fast, Mackay said. In “World War Z,” for instance, Pitt’s character counts out the seconds from bite to zombification, whereas most infections take days, months or even years in the case of HIV to manifest.

That high infectivity makes the zombie epidemic unstoppable in most cases, according to Smith’s model. “Because it only takes one zombie to overtake a city,” neither quarantine nor a slower disease progression could stop the Zombie Apocalypse — only delay it, Smith said. Only frequent, increasingly effective attacks against humanity’s transformed brethren would win an actual zombie war, he said. [End of the World? Top 10 Doomsday Fears]

To model that kind of human-zombie tangling, Smith used a relatively new mathematical technique called “impulsive differential equations,” which show how abrupt shocks affect systems. Commonly used to model satellite orbits, the technique didn’t appear until the 1990s, whereas most mathematical tools date back centuries, Smith said.

Zombies IRL

Applying such techniques to the flesh-devouring masses provides more than geeky entertainment, Smith said. It also serves an educational purpose, with a number of colleges and even high schools using the paper to introduce mathematical modeling to students, he said. “Teachers say it’s the first time they’ve gotten their kids interested in math.”

Tara Smith, an infectious disease professor at the University of Iowa, uses the paper to show how math models can predict the effects of quarantines, vaccines and other public health measures.

The zombie model’s methods have already proved useful in at least one real-life analysis. While working on a model of HPV (human papillomavirus), Robert Smith’s team noted that transmission via both gay and straight sex introduced two nonlinear variables to the equation. Fortunately, the zombie model had already blazed this path, demonstrating how to handle multiple nonlinear factors.

That real-world relevance in part explains the pop-culture resurgence of zombies over the last few years, Mogk said. As epidemics and emerging diseases like SARS and swine flu have grabbed the headlines, zombie fictions like “Walking Dead” and “28 Days Later” have brought the undead a new cultural cachet, he said.

“With increasing urbanization, you’re getting all these new diseases,” he said. “It’s almost a disease of the week or disease of the month now.” And those flesh-hungry viruses-with-teeth are poised to reflect the public’s pandemic-related anxieties.

Follow Michael Dhar on Twitter @mid1980. Follow us @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.