Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction Novels

:smack: I love the genre even if I can’t spell apocalyptic.

The Postman* by Davis Brin is another good one. Forget the movie… the book was better.

The Fifth Sacred Thing, by Starhawk ( Industrial civilization has collapsed – not from a nuclear war, but from exhausting resources and overburdening the ecosystem. In California (we never learn anything about the rest of the world), there is a neopagan, eco-friendly, hippielike civilization centered on San Francisco, and a racist, sexist, militarist, technological patriarchy centered on L.A. The former is a lot like Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, but with witchcraft and magic added. (Starhawk is a famous Wiccan.) The latter is characterized by a new religion (based on the belief that Jesus came back at the turn of the Millennium and then washed his hands of the world in disgust), cloning and genetic engineering, chattel slavery, and absolute state control of all water resources. In between them are wild lands peopled by mutants. Kind of pacifist-preachy, but a surprisingly good read with well-developed characters.

The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson: A volume of his “three Californias” trilogy ( Following a nuclear war, most of the few surviving people of Orange County, California, live by subsistence farming, rather like in frontier times; the rest, the “scavengers” who live by gleaning through the ruins of the old cities, are considered wild and insane by the farmers. A very gritty, realistically rendered post-apocalypse. It’s set in 2047 – just long enough after the collapse that the oldest can remember the old civilization, while the younger generation are completely astonished by some relics of it that they come across – e.g., an enormous bridge designed only to avoid a ten-minute detour for cars.

Niven’s Ringworld books are sort-of post apocalyptic, for the Ringworlder’s anyway.

I just started On the Beach this very afternoon.

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt is up next, and it’s also an “ancient ruined civilization” book.

The Crysalids by John Wyndham.

John Christopher wrote a lot of post-apocaypse books for people of various ages. For adults there’s Wrinkle In The Skin and The Death Of Grass. For teenagers there’s The Prince In Waiting trilogy and Empty World.

The Harvest by Robert Charles Wilson is an excellent book. (Wilson is one of the most under-rated authors in science fiction.) It’s about aliens killing off the human race - but it’s not a doomsday book because they’re doing it as a favor.

And I’ll put this one in a spoiler box:

Most of the human race is wiped out partway through Joe Haldeman’s Worlds trilogy..

I haven’t read either The Peshawar Lancers or the 5th Millenium series, but maybe you could help me look for similarities between these books and the ones I have already read. I notice that he sometimes repeats himself almost scene-for-scene, and that certain elements show up in multiple novels. Tell me if you recognize any of these (I wrote these down in notepad for a discussion of Stirling).

“How to kill an elephant with one shot!” - in two novels I have read there is a scene where a charging elephant is killed instantly by a single rifle shot that hits between two particular wrinkles above it’s trunk, that the shooter happened to know was a sure-fire way of hitting it’s brain. Sounds like he heard or read this somewhere, thought it was a neat idea, and forgot that he’d already used it or didn’t care.

I’m guessing that ‘The Peshawar Lancers’ may have something like this too, as elephants are common in India…however, the elephants killed in the ‘Islands in the Sea of Time’ series and ‘Conquistador’ were African elephants.

“Death-shit” - the vast majority of battle scenes will have some mention of the smell of shit that comes from dying men losing control over their bowels. This has been in every book of his I’ve read.

“Kinky Sex” - I can only think of one Stirling novel that didn’t have any kinky sex, and that was ‘Conquistador’.

“Lesbians” - Lesbians appear to outnumber homosexual men by about 10 to none in Stirling novels. They are usually portrayed as manlike except in sex scenes, which I can’t comment on the accuracy of as I have only watched two women have sex once outside of porn. If I use porn as my guide, I guess they’re pretty realistic.

“Evil Russians/Southern Europeans” - Nearly any character of Russian or southern European descent is going to be a bad guy. His omniscient narrator frequently describes the crudeness of their features (apparently not defensible as a character opinion).

“Hates Islam” - I haven’t read anything of his that has involved Islam or Muslim characters, but he has made multiple newsgroup posts where has repeatedly stated that he thinks that it would be reasonable, to preserve the future of Western society, to anihilate all adult Muslims and Westernize their children. I forgot his handle, but if you can find a big thread where people are criticizing him, you’ll find him in it.

Buff Sci-Fi-Reading Survivalists - A seemingly disproportionate percentage of characters share the hobbies of working out, practicing combat and survival skills, and reading a lot of science fiction.

“Super Kung Fu” - Eastern martial arts are treated as as almost supernaturally effective and superior to everything else. Every book will have a scene of someone using martial arts to humiliatingly defeat a supposedly powerful warrior. In one particularly horrible example, a small middle aged woman whose exposure to martial arts had been the coast guard and a strip-mall dojo is able to easily defeat the towering veteran Bronze-Age warrior that is sent forward as a champion to duel her. The way I saw it, people who had been using the same weapons for thousands of years and spent all their time fighting neighboring tribes would be at least as skilled of warriors as most equivalent samurai, and this woman’s training in kendo and something else was described as a hobby for her.

“‘BLAAAAAAAAM!’ AND 'SHHRAAAAACK!'s” - Onomatopoeia with a lot of repeating vowels. Probably easier than finding new ways of saying ‘the gunfire/explosion/whatever was really loud’.

"“We Have Title!’” - The title of the book is usually part of a line somewhere in that book.

“frying in olive oil” - Not that bad, but he describes someone making french fries in olive oil in Conquistador. That bugged me because you can’t get olive oil hot enough to deep fry without it starting to smoke.

Caught him propagating an urban legend debunked on this site - a supposedly knowledgeable character corrects a friend who calls him ‘kemosabe’ by telling him it means asshole. See -

This was a character in the book making this claim and not the narrator, so there is the defense that Stirling intended for the character to unknowingly repeat an urban legend. Problem with that is I’d think the author would have the fact corrected at some later point. I could even see a few contexts in which it could have come up later - there are lots of Indian killing scenes later in the book, the factoid could have come up in front of a character who would then correct him, and maybe give him a character flaw, but I see nothing that indicates that Stirling did not truly believe it, and didn’t bother to check the fact.

Baker: You can buy that radio show as an audiobook from Fictionwise or PaperbackDigital - amongst other places - for about $4.

And another:


I love this genre!

I submit Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper. It has a pretty feminist slant - but I absolutely loved it!

Yes, a lead character in Snowbrother is – I think her name is Shara, or something like that – an enthusiastically bisexual leader of the Strateke Commanza, a tribe of nomadic warriors (descended, apparently, from a Strategic Command of the U.S. armed forces, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains). Her clan captures a groups of “Ecafreeks” as slaves, and she immediately takes both their leading woman and her son as concubines. Shara (now exiled from her people, for reasons never stated) appears again in the sequels Saber and Shadow and The Cage, in which she forms a stable lesbian relationship with fellow adventurer Megan Whitlock. In The Peshawar Lancers, one of the bad guys has a taste for pubescent girls, which is used to blackmail him.

In The Peshawar Lancers, the main villain is the Russian Count Ignatieff, a truly evil and formidable dude. Evil even by the standards of his Russia, which turned to Satanism in despair after the cometfall (assuming this was proof that God had abandoned mankind). Other Russians pay lip-service to the Peacock Angel (Satan), but Ignatieff really believes.

Islam is never mentioned in the Fifth Millennium novels. In TPL, one of the hero’s allies is a Muslim warrior from Afghanistan. Rather bigoted, always calling his Sikh companion “child of misbelief,” but basically a good guy.

The rest of the Stirling leitmotifs you mention, I can’t remember encountering anywhere in TPL or the Fifth Millennium books.

Davy by Edgar Pangbourn is, with Canticle for Lebowitz, the best post-apocalypse novel ever written. It’s a damn shame it’s difficult to fine.

I’m not sure if this counts as a post-apocalytic book or not, but Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake is about a healer in a post-nuclear-holocaust society that has become divided between roaming desert tribes and insular, isolated cities. It’s pretty light reading, but it’s an interesting story.

Thanks for replying to my hijack! I appreciate it.

Through Darkest America, by Neal Barrett, Jr., has been one of my personal favorite examples of post-apocalypse writing for a long time. The idea is that America reverts to a life like the Old West after a nuclear war kills off most humans (and animals too). Very brutal, not uplifting, but it has a weird grip on me for some reason.

Not exactly post-apocalypse, but Warday by Whitley Streiber and James Kuselka describes America after a limited nuclear attack – limited, but still enough to destroy the federal government and the corporate power structure; the U.S. breaks up into several regional states. (Less a dire warning than an exercise in wishful thinking, IMP.)

Devil’s Tower by Mark Sumner (and its sequel Devil’s Engine) could be considered post-apocalypse novels, albeit very atypical ones. The apocalypse in this case was the sudden emergence of magic in the 1860’s. The subsequent chaos and destruction caused organized civilization to collapse and by the late 1870’s the American west consists of a handful of isolated towns that are dominated by their “sheriffs” - local wizards who are strong enough to protect and claim their own domain.