The Atomic Library

(CW: The Atomic Library is set in a post-apocalyptic society, and the most recent mini episodes deal with a pandemic. A further content warning for allusions to COVID-19 is above the penultimate paragraph of this post.)

Sometimes you find a show when you’re going through a bad time, and it becomes a comfort listen. That’s what happened with me when I started listening to The Atomic Library in October 2019. Considering my love of post-apocalyptic stories, I was late to the game, as The Atomic Library had launched six months prior. 

The Atomic Library is created by Chriss Chaney (who also plays Hazel and Sheldon) and Lara Tabri (who plays Marjorie). The Atomic Library does what it says on the tin, it’s a post-apocalyptic story set in a library – the Orson Welles Community Library in Haven Hollow, Texas, to be exact. The intro to each episode gives a quick run-down of the ‘allpocalypse’, which explains how basically everything happened to catapult the world towards its current post-apocalyptic state. Five years later, and society has adapted to the changes that have been forced upon it, straws are used as currency, and patrons are still frequenting their local library. The Atomic Library is very much a workplace comedy, there are various patrons to deal with, and tension between colleagues, with some being more…argumentative than others.

The show opens with the library needing to do an inventory for IT – even though, as we discover, at least two of their computers are beyond use, there are constant power surges, and the remaining person from the IT department is wandering around town aimlessly. Yet Hazel (who is the Library Operations Specialist, not a secretary, thank you very much) insists that it has to be done. There’s story time, where we discover that children in this irradiated world aren’t quite what we’re used to… There’s also a band of young marauders who live upstairs. That too. Oh, and we also discover in episode 2 that the second floor bathroom is haunted. Yup, very haunted.

Episode two kicks off an arc that develops throughout the show’s first season – the City Manager, a big fan of bikes, plans to build a new bike trail. That goes through the library. A big glass tube that would transport riders through the library, to be precise. The City Manager talks to Hazel about his grand plans, who’s horrified at the idea – a glass tube would take riders right through the library, with no chance to actually visit it. What’ll happen to her beloved library if the City Manager’s plans go through?

One of my favourite aspects of the show, and something that always puts a smile on my face, is the in-universe adverts by the library’s resident ghost – that one that haunts the second floor bathroom. They’re typically in the format of what you would expect from a lot of podcast adverts in our world, complete with coupon codes, just with a…post-apocalyptic twist. They’re a light-hearted way of providing some more insight into this world, outside of the library itself.

Of course, being set after the allpocalypse, things are definitely not always fun, and the dark reality of life can’t always be avoided. The Allmas (this universe’s version of Christmas) episode from 2019, as sad as it was, was also an example of how tender and emotional the show can be, and showed a very different side to one of the characters than what we usually see. 

(CW: Covid-19)

As with many other podcasts, The Atomic Library team have been unable to record full cast episodes during the current pandemic, but they did release three ‘Shutdown’ mini episodes in April and July. If the Allpocalypse weren’t enough, the citizens of Haven Hollow have to deal with a new strain of cretaceous mange, and have been ordered to stay at home. The library is closed, and these mini episodes are mostly told through voicemails and phonecalls.

The Atomic Library is currently on its second season, and the team is also working on a new show, titled Recycled. From the casting call, it promises to be a dark comedy about the corporate side of the afterlife, and I’m very excited to hear it!

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