Skip to content
Answering Your Questions About Reactor: Right here.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter. Everything in one handy email.
When one looks in the box, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the cat.

10 Books to Chase Those The Last of Us Vibes

Reactor

Home / 10 Books to Chase Those The Last of Us Vibes
Books book recommendations

10 Books to Chase Those The Last of Us Vibes

By

Published on March 15, 2023

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

I can’t help it, I have The Last of Us on the brain! Specifically the side story of Bill and Frank living their happy little gay lives together in the post-apocalypse. But also the zombies. Because who doesn’t love stories about the end of times and parasitic possession? Here are 10 young adult and adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels to keep you going until season 2.

 

Wanderers & Wayward by Chuck Wendig

Starting off strong with two 800+ page novels of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction thrillers. In Wanderers, a fungus called White Mask spreads through humans like a deadly plague. At the same time, a group of humans go blank, like mindless zombies, and start walking to an unknown destination. Unaffected humans tag along behind them as the world falls apart. The sequel, Wayward, has our wanderers and the now awake walkers attempting to forge a future out of the ruins of the world. But that pesky artificial intelligence called Black Swan—and the fascist assholes trying to take over the world—has other plans for what’s left of humanity. There’s a little bit of everything in this series for TLOU fans. A man and his surrogate daughter on a quest that takes them across the wasteland that once was America, a delightfully sprawling cast of eccentric and interesting characters, zombies, assholes in their little racist fiefdoms, it’s all there. 

 

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Draco Incendia Trychophyton, aka Dragonscale, is highly contagious and incurable. When spores infect their host, their eventual demise is always the same: spontaneous combustion. Nurse Harper finds herself both infected and pregnant. She eventually finds temporary safety in a camp of survivors, both with and without Dragonscale, including an enigmatic man known as the Fireman. He has found a way to control fire and become one with the spores propagating under his skin. For those who like the horror parts of TLOU the most. 

 

The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed ​

 

Reid lives in Alberta, Canada, after a great climate disaster. She also lives with a parasite infecting her, a fungus that can exert control over her. The parasite, called Cad, has spread across what remains of civilization, but Reid isn’t about to let it get in the way of her future. With a prestigious posting opening at a distant university, Reid decides to leave her home and venture into the great unknown. Her parasite has different plans. Don’t come into this expecting jump scares and body horror. Premee Mohamed ​will lure you in with gorgeous prose and leave you emotionally devastated by the end.

 

Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White

While there’s no possessive fungus in Hell Followed With Us, there is biological chaos, young people battling fascism in the post-apocalypse, and mutant creatures roaming the land and slaughtering everyone they encounter. Plus a ton of queer characters. Benji, a trans boy, escapes the sadistic cult where he grew up. The cult unleashed a biological weapon years before that killed off most of humanity, and now they plan to use Benji to finish the job. Benji is rescued by Nick, a teen in a local queer group, but there is no peace to be found. The group’s leader is shady and scheming, and Benji might have just traded one danger for another. This is YA horror at its finest.

 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Let’s jump from the future to the past. Noemí heads to High Place, a grand estate near the mountains in rural Mexico, at the behest of her newly married cousin. When she arrives, she discovers her cousin greatly altered, as if haunted by something in the house. The Doyles, wealthy white colonizers who gained wealth by extracting it from stolen land, are tight knit yet cold. Something very wrong (and very fungus-y) is going on in that house. It’s horror, it’s historical, it’s gothic, it’s razor sharp and anti-colonial. 

 

Dread Nation & Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

The Dread Nation series blends alternate history and undead cannibals into a crackling young adult duology. Jane, a queer Black teen, has spent most of her childhood training to become an Attendant, part servant and part bodyguard to rich white people. It’s one of only a few options in 1870s America where the Civil War ended not through battles but when the dead rose and started killing the living. Jane and her nemesis Katherine end up in rural Kansas where they find out first hand that there are things worse than being torn apart by the living dead: unchecked and encouraged misogynoir.

 

Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole

Switching gears a bit, how about a book about falling in love after the world is destroyed? This is the second book in Alyssa Cole’s post-apocalyptic romance trilogy Off the Grid. Radio Silence and Mixed Signals are great, too, but Signal Boost in particular will scratch that Bill and Frank itch. John and his family have survived the day all technology stopped working, but the arrival of hot astrophysics student Mykhail throws a wrench into John’s life. They set out to find the university where Mykhail thinks he can help right what’s broken and fall in love along the way.

 

All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown

Speaking of queer dudes falling in love while traversing the post-apocalyptic US, this YA novel is both thrilling and charming. Most of the global population has been killed off by a plague, leaving Andrew and Jamie alone. When the two of them meet, they’re not used to trusting strangers, but once they have to go on the run together, things heat up. Their world is dark and terrifying, but at least they have each other.

 

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation isn’t set in the future and it doesn’t involve fungus taking over people’s brains, but it does have people who aren’t fully people and biology gone haywire. The first book in the Southern Reach series is a beautiful, brutal meditation on love, grief, truth, and humanity. We follow the unnamed Biologist in the twelfth group to enter Area X, a strange zone of mutated organisms that is quickly spreading across Florida. The Biologist’s partner was in the last group to enter, and whatever he was when he came back wasn’t the same as the man who went in. What the Biologist finds in Area X will unmake her world. The second and third books, Authority and Acceptance, are set 30 years in the future. 

 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Alright, so this is a bit out of left field, but hear me out. Knowledge and books are strictly monitored, and queer Esther makes a desperate bid to escape a lifetime of brutal patriarchy. She stows away in the wagon of Librarians Bet, Leda, and Cye, who teach her that resistance comes in all shapes and sizes. Upright Women Wanted has a sort of TankGirl-minus-the-mutant-kangaroos crossed with a Western vibe to it. It’s the future and everything is old school. Why is it on this list? Because it gives me that same sense of quiet yet unrelenting hope that TLOU has. Things seem bleak now, but maybe they can be better one day.

 

Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).

About the Author

About Author Mobile

Alex Brown

Author

Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), bluesky (@bookjockeyalex), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).
Learn More About Alex
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments