Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture, by Laura Barcella (nonfiction)

book cover of The End 50 Apocalyptic Visions by Laura Barcella published by Zest Books
Global warming.
Mutant diseases.
Alien attacks.

Seems like humans have been trying to figure out how the world will end almost since its beginning. Fifty apocalyptic visions from pop culture are analyzed in this new book (published today) which has many of the usual (Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast and Dr. Strangelove) and several lesser-known exemplars.

I'm intrigued by Steve McGhee's painting "The Big Swallow" which portrays an enormous storm and whirlpool consuming Sydney harbour (I climbed that bridge, so I don't want it to disappear!) and a 1912 novella "The Scarlet Plague" by Jack London (read here free).

Ask for The End at your local library or independent bookstore and decide which movie, book, song, or artwork has it right. How do you think the world will end?

Book info:The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late / Laura Barcella. Zest Books, 2012.   [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Climate catastrophe or zombies? Alien invasion or the Four Horsemen on earth? People have long pondered how the world might end. Go behind the scenes of fifty apocalyptic endings from the past five centuries of art, film, theater, books, and music in this fascinating book.

Michaelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” and Durer’s 1498 “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” translate Biblical “end time” words into stirring pictures. Sandow Bok’s 1995 painting “Course of Empire” shows Los Angeles fractured by ultimate destruction of unknown origin. 

“It’s The End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. is a spotlighted song, as is Barry McGuire’s performance of “The Eve of Destruction”. The peppy tune of “99 Luftballons (99 Red Balloons)” by Nena might hide this Cold War protest song’s strong lyrics from casual listeners.

Barcella highlights important early books The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (1909) and Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, which Stephen King acknowledges as a huge influence on his work, like The Stand, discussed here as a television miniseries. Alan Moore’s dystopian graphic novel series V for Vendetta and Watchmen are analyzed, as is Brian K. Vaughn’s 60-issue comic book saga of Y: The Last Man.

Almost a third of the book covers movies from “12 Monkeys” to “Waterworld,” with aliens, asteroids, melting ice caps, zombies, atomic war, and other disasters leading to the end of life on earth. Quotes and Unforgettable Moments from every play, book, and movie give the flavor of each one’s style.

The author consulted experts about “the Reality Factor” of The End proposed by each movie, song, or book (almost all are quite improbable) and also lists the impact of each creative work on subsequent popular culture.

Thought-provoking and entertaining, this book gives readers much to think about as its alphabetical list of titles covers the many and varied ways that The End might emerge slowly or drop suddenly from above. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.