We’re drawing closer and closer to the premiere of HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us, and we couldn’t be more excited! A post-apocalyptic drama starring Pedro Pascal as a single adoptive dad? We love to see it.
Aside from Pedro Pascal, we can’t wait to see this gripping, heart-wrenching story about family and survival come to life on-screen after crying over the video game for years (see “babygirl” cutscene). To pass the time until The Last of Us arrives, dive into some of these post-apocalyptic stories about good and evil, survival, family, and, of course, the undead.
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
First on this list is The Road, which The Last of Us writer Neil Druckmann has previously cited as a major inspiration for the game. The Last of Us emulates Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in many ways.
In a post-apocalyptic world covered by ash and devoid of life, a man and his son as they trek across the country in hopes of making it to the coast. What awaits them there is unknown, but it’s better than continually facing the bands of lawless men that stalk them. Driven by their love for each other, the father and son are forced to make tough choices as they navigate the remnants of society and face the worst of humanity.
2. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
What do The Last of Us and The Girl With All the Gifts have in common? A girl with (potentially) the key to saving humanity from a deadly virus that can turn hosts into flesh-eating husks that sometimes bloom into walls of fungus and spores.
Middle-schooler Melanie is a zombie. When her school, which is actually a research facility, is overrun by flesh-eaters, Melanie, her teacher, a soldier, and a doctor go on a dangerous journey through their diseased world. Will they find a cure and save humanity, or will all be lost?
3. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
We can’t talk about stories featuring the undead without talking about the one that arguably triggered pop culture’s zombie obsession in the first place: The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman’s bestselling graphic novels about Rick Grimes and Co. are fantastic reads with plenty of memorable characters, shocking twists, and all-around great storytelling.
If you’ve watched the show, get ready to dive into a story that runs way deeper than what you saw on-screen. If you’re new to this series altogether, get ready to enter the world of The Walking Dead.
4. City of Thieves by David Benioff
Yes, you read that right. Before he wrote for HBO’s Game of Thrones, David Benioff wrote City of Thieves, a funny yet gripping novel of courage and friendship.
Set in World War II, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting during the siege of Leningrad. But instead of being executed, Lev and his cellmate, Kolya, are given a shot at saving their own lives if they can complete an outrageous task. The mission: secure a dozen eggs for a Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake.
Together, Lev and Kolya will go behind enemy lines and through the lawlessness of Leningrad in search of the impossible in this coming-of-age story about survival, war, and bravery.
5. The Passage by Justin Cronin
Justin Cronin’s The Passage features chaos in the wake of a secret government experiment. When a breach at a US government facility releases the product of a chilling military experiment, the world goes to hell. Survivors are faced with a future ruled by darkness and death.
As society crumbles, FBI agent Brad Wolgast and six-year-old Amy, an orphan and refugee from the failed experiment, flee in search of sanctuary. But for Amy, this escape is only the beginning. With Brad’s help, Amy must finish what never should have begun in the first place.
6. The Children of Men by P.D. James
Another inspiration for The Last of Us, The Children of Men is about a crumbling society where no child has been born for 25 years. With humans facing extinction, it’s no wonder Oxford historian Theo Faron is apathetic towards the future— or lack of it.
But when Theo is approached by Julian, a woman who wants an audience with his cousin, the Warden of England, she and her band of revolutionaries just might awaken Theo’s desire to live.
7. The Stand by Stephen King
We’re topping off this list with a classic from the King of Horror. Stephen King’s The Stand is a story about light and darkness, good and evil. In a world ravaged by plague, the few who remain are scared and looking for a leader.
There’s Mother Abigail, a 108-year-old woman who urges peace, and Randall Flagg, the “Dark Man,” who craves chaos and violence. The two amass sizeable followings, but the survivors caught between them won’t just choose a leader— they’ll ultimately decide the fate of humanity.
HBO’s The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, premieres on HBO and HBO Max Sunday, January 15, at 9 pm ET.