Semi-Apocalyptic Stories (books, TV, movies)

There’s quite a lot of apocalyptic stories where the heroes are either trying to save the world or trying to survive the apocalypse, and then post-apocalyptic stories about people surviving in the wastelands and ruins of bygone civilization. What well-known stories are about an apocalypse that doesn’t quite destroy everything but hits so hard the whole humankind reels from the impact of the event?

The only one I could come up with quickly (I have bad memory, though) is World War Z (the book) - it recounts the zombie apocalypse and how humanity muddled through with great losses. Most of the material is about the apocalypse itself but the point of view is from a post-event society that’s gotten stable again and that has mostly retained science and the ability to produce technological goods.

Not trying to be snarky, but after I read The Road, I realized that almost all other apocalyptic novels were semiapocalyptic. Most fictional apocalypses see humanity surviving the experience. It’s a lot harder to come up with a list of novels that take their apocalypse seriously.

The Stand
NK Jemisin’s Stone Sky trilogy
The Passage
Parable of the Sower
Hunger Games
etc. etc.

I was about 10 years old when Frank Bonham’s The Missing Persons League was published; I prolly read that thing 40 times in the next 2 years. It’s about a world on the decline, with the descent gaining speed every day. It’s a YASF novel, so it’s not that gritty, but to my young imagination it was pretty powerful stuff.

Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoners trilogy is about a post-event world where the event has reshaped some people, some of the geography of the planet and all of society… ALL societies, everywhere. Another YASF series.

Phil Dick’s Ubik is in a time when our planet is pretty screwed up (like, inching closer to being uninhabitable) ecologically.

And of course, Fred Pohl’s JEM is told from the point of view of the first humans settling a new planet just before and after people on Earth nuke themselves into cinders.

metrophage by Richard kadrey its basically what the world would of ended up like 100 years after everything America was paranoid about in the 80s came true its sort of sci fi noir tho … AND very oddly very revelant today

I believe the first Mad Max is set right before the apocalypse that all of the other films in the series as set** after**. I’m not sure this is what you mean though.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute is a prime example of complete apocalypse.

A Canticle For Leibowitz would be an example of multiple apocalypses; I forgot to mention it in my earlier post.

There are a series of books by Paolo Bacigalupi, some explicitly connected, but all set in versions of the same nearish future. Some parts of the world are devastated by global warming, including parts of the US where water has become the source of inter-state warfare [Water Knife] while others are flooded tropical lands [Wind-up Girl, Drowned Cities]. Its clear in the stories that while the settings are places where things are bad and getting worse, elsewhere there are others who have the resrouces to keep the elements and the hard-done-by at bay.

Mick Farren’s Song of Phaid the Gambler, published as two paperbacks, Phaid the Gambler and Citizen Phaid, depict Earth as post-collapse of some kind, maybe even more than one, but with a functioning society still intact and scraping by.

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is about an alien invasion of Earth where Earth suffers major damage (billion+ dead) but civilization survives.

Peter Clines’ “Ex-Heroes” series deals with a world during and after a zombie apocalypse.

Jim Varley has “Slow Apocalypse” where a nano-virus is released that gradually destroys all the fossil fuels, sending civilization into a downward spiral.

The video game series Deus Ex takes place in a world “2 minutes from the apocalypse” as the plot (at least for the original) takes place in a 2052 where the entire world is basically on the brink of collapse from global warming, a new global pandemic, widespread terrorism and succession movements, mega-corporations are fleecing and a secret NWO-style government readying to usurp complete control from the few remaining stable national governments.

The interesting part being that the United States is so weakened that entire regions are under perpetual martial law with United Nations soldiers patrolling the streets of New York City.

Ditto Niven and Pournelle’s ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ which deals with the ongoing results of a cometary impact. Wham.

Jack McDevitt had an interesting on called ‘Eternity Road’. A few millenia after the collapse, North America has put itself together as a small-town style civilization where ancient books are prized for knowledge but actual knowledge of 20th centurty society is very limited. They refer to the elder civilization as ‘The Roadmakers’ as there’s still decent roads left as remnants of the interstate highway system and no one knows why.

Darn, I was going to mention that one!

Instead I’ll say “Orion Shall Rise”. A tour of the world a few centuries after a nuclear war, with some areas relying on remnants of the old technologies to maintain their influence, others powers have arisen based on developing new technologies, and others that just sort of muddle along.

The “Plausible Dystopias” thread just reminded me of another one:

The “Daybreak” series. By John Barnes. “Daybreak Zero” is actually the middle one, but deals with the post-apocalyptic events from the first novel.

I would have mentioned them, but they get progressively more ridiculous with each book and I didn’t want to appear to condone that sort of thing.

Earth Abides written by George R. Stewart and published in 1949 is one of the earliest ones.

In Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Earth gets exterminated by a nuclear war. The colonies on Mars are almost deserted, but Mars itself is unscathed, and the few remaining people start to rebuild.

Or, if zombie apocalypses are yawningly old hat, you could go for a VAMPIRE apocalypse in Justin Cronin’s trilogy (The Passage, The Twelve, City of Mirrors).

It’s your basic vampirism-as-virus which coincidentally destroys 99% of society (except the obligatory plucky band of photogenic survivors) yarn, but it was actually a pretty fast, fun read.

John Varley, not Jim.