Gene Doucette’s 2021 The Apocalypse Seven is a standalone post-apocalyptic novel.
University student Robbie wakes the morning after a raucous party to find himself alone in the Harvard dorms. He goes out to explore and finds Carol, who is flustered because she woke up and found her seeing-eye dog vanished. They search further. Cambridge appears to be deserted and overrun with wild animals. They eventually find two more people: Bethany (a teen with a talent for picking locks) and Touré (a programmer).
Further finds: Paul (former lowlife turned backwoods preacher), Win (experienced woodsperson), and, much later, Ananda (professor). Now they are the Apocalypse Seven!
Robbie, Carol, Bethany, and Touré are all bright people whose skill sets are completely inadequate to the task of surviving in a seemingly abandoned city plagued by a bizarre climate and overrun with pigs, wolves, and coywolves. Despite stores that seem to have been stripped as the population fled the city, the quartet does manage to scrounge enough supplies to survive, at least for the moment.
Still, it’s not especially surprising when Touré simply vanishes while foraging.
The group fragments. Win rescues Touré and the two are on their own for some time. Paul sends out an appeal on ham radio. Ananda replies and Paul sets out to find her. The survivors eventually manage to reunite.
The seven eventually conclude that a considerable time had passed between going to sleep in 21st century America and waking up in a depopulated desolation. They manage to put together a rough timeline: each of them vanished in the early part of the 21stcentury, the apocalypse happened in the 2040, and they re-awoke in the early 22ndcentury. Everything looks run down because it has had eighty years to fall apart.
However, this leaves a lot of questions, like “where did everyone go?” and “what transported the survivors from their time to the current one?” And most important: “how will the seven react if these questions are answered?”
The eventual explanation for what’s going on is a bit disappointing. The book’s strengths are in the ways in which it deviates from the norms of this well-established genre.
Most survivors of global apocalypses manage to build functioning nuclear reactors using pine twigs and squirrel adrenal glands. This generally takes them a year after the catastrophe. This band of survivors isn’t as preternaturally competent. Indeed, it’s surprising that Robbie, Carol, Bethany and Touré made it through their first winter because their skills are almost entirely irrelevant to the circumstances in which they are now living.
That’s plausible. However, I think the author grossly underestimates what eighty years of human abandonment would do to Cambridge and Boston. The cities should have been much more dilapidated. However, if this bothers you, just tell yourself that it hasn’t been eighty years, just ten or twenty.
The other implausibility: humans are in this work a social species rather than the homicidal loners survivalist fiction prefers. On discovering Carol is blind, the other survivors do not immediately kill and eat her while muttering about lifeboat rules. Similarly, Win does not use Touré as live bait for the pigs; Ananda (despite being a scientist) did not cause the calamity; and Paul, once he shows up, isn’t a deranged religious nut who enlists the whole group in his cult. Slavery is never reintroduced! It’s almost as through the characters did not spend their entire lives hoping for a chance to reinvent the twelfth century BCE. Shocking bad form for post-apocalypse fiction!
So … not for fans of Farnham’s Freeholdor Lucifer’s Hammer. On the other hand, if you’d like to read about survivors who are not smugly searching for excuses to exclude people from their safe havens, this is a work you might consider.