When our civilization ends, be it with a bang or a whimper, what will follow? The prospect of a post-apocalyptic wasteland ought to be fertile ground for any writer, but very few memorable works have sprung up from its craters: Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, Doris Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor, and a handful of science fiction classics by the likes of Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury.

There certainly has been no shortage of movies on the subject, from masterpieces like Mad Max and Planet of the Apes to mercifully forgotten dross like Def-Con 4 and Hell Comes to Frogtown—in which the professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper must save humanity by rescuing the last fertile women from mutant amphibians. Perhaps there is something so unthinkable about the decline and fall of human empire that it tends to inspire the merely lurid or ridiculous. But it...


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