Apocalypse can be understood as a social process masquerading as an event. The process in question for many contemporary narratives, according to Brent Ryan Bellamy's engaging new study, is the decline of US power on the global stage. Indicated by a turn away from the industrial economy that drove mid-twentieth-century prosperity and a consequent rise in militarization, US decline, as Bellamy understands it, triggers widespread cultural anxiety together with a literary “form of wish fulfillment that, in many cases, stages the imaginary collapse of the United States to narrate its return to the days of promise” (2). In postapocalyptic fiction, in other words, the systemic instability of the US-dominated capitalist economy is reduced to a singular event, such as nuclear explosion or an epidemic, that leaves in its wake a devastated social landscape in which small bands of human subjects attempt to survive.

Bellamy refers to the primary means of...

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