Post-Apocalyptic Horror

What is Post-Apocalyptic Horror?

Post-Apocalyptic horror focuses on the dread of the protagonist's situation. In this subgenre, the stories' time-frame take place after a catastrophe has wiped out most of the Earth's population. Few survivors are left after the disaster. The survivors tend to be either friendly but hesitant or insane and desperate. Factions can exist ranging from groups of three to entire societies.

Quite often, post-apocalyptic horror novels focus on the plight of a single (often sole) survivor who must survive at any costs in a world where everything is trying to kill him/her (example: I Am Legend, The Postman, The Passage, The Road). The story takes place through this person's eyes. Another style of post-apocalyptic story is one that focuses on a group of survivors rather than an individual survivor wandering through a destroyed landscape.

The catastrophe could be natural causes such as earthquakes, tsunamis, alien invasion, disease, etc. or a mixture of these things. Sometimes it might be a supernatural-style event. However the catastrophe can also be the source of man-made disasters such as nuclear warfare. Supernatural elements can be a result of the factors like radiation fallout or whatnot, an example would be zombies or humans with supernatural powers.


Characteristics of Post-Apocalyptic Horror

Level of Characterization
High amount.

Level of Plot Complexity
Moderate-high. It's usually a sort of tattered survivors trying to eke out an existence in a harsh unfriendly world

Level of Supernatural
Moderate-high. Sometimes contains zombies, mutants, or arcane beings.

Level of Scary

Level of Violence 
High. Survival plays a big role.

Typical Setting
Destroyed urban settings.

Related Fantasy Sub-Genres

Sci-fi, Supernatural, Zombies, Noir.

Post-Apocalyptic Horror Isn’t For You If You Dislike

Desperate characters in destroyed urban settings. An every man for himself sort of survival mentality.


    1. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. In a totalitarian society, young citizens are picked to kill each other in an arena which is televised. 

    2. The Road, Cormac McCarthy. A father and son are armed with nothing but a pistol against the lawless, burned world.

    3. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks. A collection of interviews following the aftermath of a zombie outbreak.

    4. The Stand, Stephen King. A fight between good and evil in a landscape where 99% of the population has been wiped out.    

    5. Swan Song, Robert R. McCammon. Horrifying creatures and predatory armies populate the earth. Survivors are pulled into the Earth's last war.

    6. On the Beach, Nevil Shute. World War III has destroyed most of the world. The few remaining survivors await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way to kill them.

    7. The Postman, David Brin. A survivor wanders the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war and trades tales for food and shelter.

    8. Partials, Dan Wells. Partials are engineered organic beings identical to humans. They have destroyed the population. First book in the Partials Sequence.

    9. The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard. Civilization has retreated to the Arctic and Antarctic circles due to the ice-caps melting.

    10. The Passage, Justin Cronin. Society has collapsed. Amy walks alone, filled with the knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

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