Please recommend some post-apocalyptic fiction


I don't see J G Ballard at all on the list.

His early novels (The Drowned World; The Wind from Nowhere; and The Drought) are definitely post-apocalypse novels, as is his later novel (Hello America).


Oh, and to actually contribute to the thread, I'll toss in Snow Crash by Stephenson. It's probably more dystopian than post-apok, but I still think it qualifies.

Here is a question for the hive-mind. When I was a kid (1970s) I read a story about a small group of sea-faring survivors after some earth-shattering event or another. This apocalypse was followed by intelligent octopodes rising from the depths riding on plesiosaur-like creatures to threaten the heroes. I want to say it was written by Andre Norton, but nothing in her bibliography seems to ring any bells. Ideas?


Yeah, I'm torn. I mean, I appreciate someone trying to create a logical framework that would explain "traditional" zombie behavior, but Grant's world is frankly just not believable (yeah, I get the irony given that we're talking about a zombie novel, but this is not a stellar example of quality world building).

I still read to the end (hey, it's zombies, how could I not?), but, yeah, it makes me despair for my fellow man that this gets so much positive buzz. There were some bright spots though, and the actual action scenes/zombie attacks were fun to read.


Have you read World War Z or the Zombie Survival Guide? I think that's basically the gold standard for "scientific" zombies.


I picked up Zombie Survival Guide at the bookstore for a quick skim - I dimly recall that it wasn't really a narrative and didn't seem to be my cup of tea. World War Z might be worth a look, though...


ZSG is basically Brooks' world-building notes for WWZ published in self-help form. I think it's a neat book, but it's fundamentally a bit of a novelty; WWZ, on the other hand, is just a great story.


I picked up ZSG at a friend's and the bits about weaponry triggered my nerd rage hard enough that I set it right back down.

Elaborate? I was oblivious to this.


Erg. I'll have to dig the book out of the electronic bit-pile I shoved it in and root around in it.

I have some vague memory of a news conference and something about a public health care and another similar scene about gay rights. I can't recall the details, but in both cases the conservative viewpoint and arguments were ludicrously weak; they are so far over-the-top even by today's standards that they fail to be even credible as arguments. I'm sure Grant felt that she was clever when her Mary Sue protagonist was able to pick apart the constructs, but knocking over a house of cards isn't tough, and reading about it isn't very exciting.


Possibly of interest;

Martin H Greenberg has an anthology entitled The End of The World which collects stories around this theme for $.99 via Kindle. They're older tales, some of which have been around the block so you may have seen some of these. The reviews are not that great, but the people who hated it look like they were expecting something different than what they got.

Story list from the most helpful review:

"Kindness", Lester del Rey (1944) -- The last man on earth is retarded - at least compared to the homo intelligens which have replaced us homo sapiens. Tired of their condescension, he makes plans to escape to space.

"Flight to Forever", Poul Anderson (1950) - Anderson's story of a time traveler doomed to press ever onward into the future and see how none of man's and alien's works ever last.

"'If I Forget Thee O Earth ... '", Arthur C. Clarke (1951) - The frequently anthologized tale of man in exile from the radioactive ruins of Earth.

"The Wheel", John Wyndham (1952) - The survivors of an unspecified apocalypse are so fanatic about the threat technology poses that they even ban the wheel. But, of course, there are always a few who are interested in such things.

"The Underdweller", William F. Nolan (1957) -- The underdweller hangs out in the storm drains of Los Angeles, fearing discovery by the horrible creatures that have inherited the Earth.

"The Store of the Worlds", Robert Sheckley (1959) - More of a fantasy tale than science fiction. All your possessions will buy you the opportunity to experience your deepest desires.

"Lucifer", Roger Zelazny (1964) - The last man on Earth struggles to relight a city.

"The Big Flash", Norman Spinrad (1969) - Rock and roll and a secret Pentagon propaganda campaign get way out of hand. A tour-de-force of style with its multiple viewpoints.

"When We Went to See the End of the World", Robert Silverberg (1972) - Unlike the other stories from the 1970s here, this one doesn't feature nuclear war. But there is plenty of other mayhem - presidential assassinations, plagues, and earthquakes. But it's the real and final end of the world the resolutely trivial partygoers of this farce care about.

"Jody After the War", Edward Bryant (1972) - The subtle physical and psychological damage a limited nuclear war has wrought on a man's lover.

"Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels", George R. Martin (1973) - Five hundred years after a nuclear war, some explorers from the moon come across what man has become in the ruins of the New York City subways.

"The Feast of Saint Janis", Michael Swanwick (1980) - The weakest story in the book. It's hard to believe that, even in 1980, Janis Joplin was really popular enough to imagine her the centerpiece of a strange, annual rite in a ruined America. Ignore that bit of Baby Boomer silliness, and it's an interesting echo of Fritz Leiber's "Coming Attraction" and Norman Spinrad's "The Lost Continent".

"Salvador", Lucius Shepard (1984) - One of Shepard's tales of warfare in a near future Central America. A good story but in no way does it conform to the book's stated theme.

"Storming the Gulf", Gregory Benford (1985) - A nuclear war limited by a version of the Strategic Defense Initiative, but there is still much horror around the Gulf Coast for survivors in this Faulknerian tale.

"Salvage", Orson Scott Card (1986) - A rootless young man thinks there may be a treasure in the mostly submerged ruins of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City.

"We Can Get Them for You Wholesale", Neil Gaiman (1989) - Another fantasy tale, this time about a bulk purchase that gets seriously out of hand.

"Afterward", John Helfers (2006) -- Not really a story but a detailed, evocative account of the Earth 3000 AD in the aftermath of a massive impact event.

"The Hum", Rick Hautala (2007) - The world ends due to a really annoying noise. A bit of a gimmicky ending.

"By Fools Like Me", Nancy Kress (2007) -- Kress nicely plays around with the sympathies of her readers in this tale of understandable environmental fanaticism versus the love of literature.


I thought World War Z really sucked. I think the main reason is that it was clear written in the style of a Studs Turkle-style oral history, but all the characters were written in very similar ways. I also felt like many of the oral histories were too "convenient", in the sense that there was always a character who was present for each major event in the course of the zombpocalypse. That just didn't ring true to me. I thought the world Brooks imagined was cool and believable in an abstract sense, I just didn't think it was well executed.

Incidentally, I just read Lucifer's Hammer. It was OK. It was very dull in many parts and is very '70s. The authors' political agenda is transparent and obvious and really quite obnoxious- not Ayn Rand level, but not that far off. There are a lot of "Mary Sue" type characters, and pro-nuclear diatribes.

Anyways I have two more post-apocalyptic books to mention:

Blindness by Jose Saramago is amazing. It is beautifully written and translated. The writing style perfectly reflects the events in the book. It is chilling at times, but is ultimately redemptive (many will not like that aspect of the book). I don't want to spoil it so I won't go any farther.

The Plague by Albert Camus is more apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic, I suppose. It is about how people deal with the breakdown of society, though, so I think it's appropriate. It concerns (obviously) a deadly epidemic, and how people reconcile the absence of God with the need to help one another.


I can see feeling that it was convenient, except for the part where it said he spent a very long time interviewing lots and lots of people for the official report, and the book you are reading is the hand picked stories the author felt told the narrative of the events properly.


Yeah, the whole point of the WWZ book itself, in the story's 'world', is as an outlet for these stories the official report didn't incorporate. The official material was strictly a 'just the facts' kind of thing, whereas this WWZ collection was the personal stuff.

That personal stuff is exactly the kind of material that would create that "you are there" feeling in the reader because the story is being told by someone who was in fact there. The stories will feel told the same way regardless of the interviewee because they are being told the same way.

Also, I never got the impression that it involved every major event.

Think of WWII and what an American would consider the major events. Now consider what a Russian would consider the major events. How many would overlap? Now factor in China, Japan, Germany, etc.

In WWZ you just get a collection of events, with the significance provided by the subjective view of the person involved. If the author of the book randomly interviewed survivors, I could see claiming the "Gee what a coincidence he managed to find the doctor who discovered..." elements were a cheat. But this guy's job was to talk to all those key people.


I just didn't think it was believable that a researcher would be able to find all of these people present at critical junctures, that they would be alive after the zombpocalypse, that they would be willing to tell their stories, etc.

Really I think the problem is that it just doesn't feel "authentic". If you compare WWZ to "The Good War", which is a collection of real-life accounts of WW2, you will see what I mean. It's just not possible to create as "neat" a narrative out of real-life events as the narrative expressed in WWZ. I think this is part of the reason WWZ is a failure as a Studs Terkel zombie-tribute, the other chief reason being that Brooks can't convincingly write in a multitude of voices.


I can't disagree more about those criticisms. The voices were very different, and felt exactly as if it was different people talking.


We may just have to agree to disagree, but I think if you go back to WWZ with a critical eye, you may see my point: all of the chapters are written in basically the same kind of language (sometimes with regional words sprinkled in for "flavour"), and none of the writing sounds like the way people actually talk. In any case, this is pretty subjective and it's just my view, so you are obviously free to think differently.


Yeah, it's subjective; it's just a surprising criticism to me, because I thought that was one of the strengths of the book.

Have you ever listened to the audiobook, where different actors do each section?


I haven't, but I can imagine it working well.


Oh man I love apocalyptic fiction. I will flesh out this reply in a bit with a few things I read but let me start with this which was super SUPER fun:

You see what they did there, right? Right? And most of the stories work! Some of them even carry through the books. My favorite was the biotech story, the unstoppable “grey fungus”. That … was fucking terrifying.


We should add The Girl with all the Gifts to this list.


I feel like zombie apocalypse in all its various flavors should be its own category and thread. I do like the suggestions in this one, it’s pretty comprehensive. Even has Hiero’s Journey, which I absolutely love.