Apocalyptic Tales
May 17, 2005 6:21 AM   Subscribe

My step-mom (who doesn't normally read sci-fi/fantasy) recently read "The Fifth Sacred Thing" by Starhawk and is looking for more similar books. Specifically she is wanting to read about post-apocalyptic societies. Anyone have any ideas?
posted by arcticwoman to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
posted by sciurus at 6:35 AM on May 17, 2005

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban is one of my favorite books of all times. It's written in a post-apocalyptic, corroded version of English, so it takes a little while to understand, but once you get the rhythms, you can speed up. It's very, very worth it.
posted by equipoise at 6:45 AM on May 17, 2005

Second for "Canticle for Leibowitz". Stephen Kings "Dark Tower" books fit in there as well, although it's way-way-way-post-apocalyptic. Perhaps "The Stand" as well? Gene Wolfe's "New Sun" books are post-something-pretty-bad, although it's never entirely clear what; they are simply fantastic books, though not of the gritty road-warrior style.
posted by abingham at 6:46 AM on May 17, 2005

"Emergence" by David R. Palmer, if you can find it.
posted by kindall at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2005

random acts of senseless violence, by jack womack.

i note that it says "fifth book in the ambient series"--i had no idea. the person who gave it to me didn't know it was part of a series; reading it i didn't know it was part of a series. so, it's not series as in "same characters, one long story arc". i haven't read the others, so i can't comment on them)
posted by crush-onastick at 7:13 AM on May 17, 2005

The City Not Long After by Pat Murphy is out of print. It's a wonderful book.

Kim Stanley Robinson has a trilogy set in post apocalyptic California that is pretty good.
posted by rdr at 7:17 AM on May 17, 2005

A long list at Wikipedia includes books, films, TV series, etc.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 AM on May 17, 2005

Doris Lessing wrote a novel called The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 that deals with changes in consciousness, spiritual state, and physical form undergone by the population of a dying planet.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2005

I was just about to suggest "Emergence," which is (along with Palmer's other novel "Threshold") rather difficult to put your mitts on these days, unfortunately. Do keep an eye out for it.
posted by majick at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2005

Does she specifically want societies, or just people existing in a post-apocalyptic world?

The Handmaid's Tale is a great example of the former, and Oryx and Crake is more of the latter (but talks about the society that yielded the apocalypse), both by Margaret Atwood.

If she can handle Handmaid (hard read, especially for women, it was worth it but I had to force myself through some parts) then she could try Psalms of Herod by Esther Freisner, where again scraps of relgion become the basis for an entire society after the fall from modern times.

More uplifting: Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven, takes you through the apocalyptic event, then to how the survivors come together afterwards. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank does the same thing (very very good, but also very indicative of the time it was written, late 1950s, and the Cold War).

I also have to mention Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan, even though it's for young adult readers, because it's the first "post-apocalyptic" book I ever read and I still read it now and again.

On preview: Wow, thanks for the Wikipedia link, mediareport, now I have heaps to read!
posted by nelleish at 7:21 AM on May 17, 2005

Again with the "Canticle for Liebowitz" reccomending.
posted by TTIKTDA at 7:36 AM on May 17, 2005

If she liked the spiritual/feminist aspects of Starhawk's writing, she might like Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. I read it in the 80s; it may have dated somewhat.
posted by matildaben at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2005

If she liked Starhawk because of the feminist slant, she will probably like Sheri Tepper who writes post-apocalyptic feminist science fiction. I particularly recommend The Gate to Women's Country but all of her books are good.

Also Margaret Atwood, who has already been mentioned.
posted by clarissajoy at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2005

I've been pushing this one on anyone who'll listen Dies the Fire. It's more apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic but I found it really intriguing.
posted by Octaviuz at 7:46 AM on May 17, 2005

Hmm, after reading Starhawk's description of "Fifth Sacred Thing," ecotopian/utopian fiction might be more relevant than the generally darker post-apocalyptic stuff.

Ursula le Guin's "Always Coming Home" seems like it might be right up step-mom's alley. It's been widely praised for its detailed cultural exploration of a future Northern California society. The Feminist Science Fiction, Fantasy and Utopia site is also worth a look, especially the "if you like..." lists. The feminist utopia list includes "Fifth Sacred Thing," "Always Coming Home," "Woman on the Edge of Time" and more.
posted by mediareport at 7:49 AM on May 17, 2005

I asked a similar question and got some great responses.
posted by cmonkey at 7:57 AM on May 17, 2005

Oh yeah, the Octavia Butler stuff mentioned in the other thread is great stuff for feminist sf, as well as the LeGuin mentioned above.
posted by matildaben at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2005

I've read a bunch in this genre, and I'd have to name Earth Abides by George R. Stewart the best of the bunch. It's not just a story but an epic novel of how a tiny community survives.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:00 AM on May 17, 2005

This is my wife's favorite genre - she would recommend many of the books on here (Octavia Butler is a favorite) and adds 'Ammonite' by Nicola Griffith and 'Carlucci' by Richard Paul Russo. She liked the original book for the movie 'The Postman' but she can't remember who wrote it. Her non-fiction recommendation would be 'Our Stolen Future' by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers.

The only one I've read has been Oryx and Crake which I quite liked.

I might recommend 'Vineland' by Thomas Pynchon only because it comes from the same 80s anxieties that produced much of the post-apocalyptic fictions mentioned.
posted by Slothrop at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2005

From the description page linked to earlier for Starhawk: "...is an anthem of hope."

I loved A Canticle for Leibowitz but it definately wasn't an anthem of hope. It also didn't have much for female characters if that is the direction she is leaning.
posted by 6550 at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2005

I don't know Starhawk's book but I've read many of the others here, and the secondary story within the main story of A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower might fit the bill. The main story is quite good too, though set in the Sixties and not post-apocalyptic at all.
posted by librarina at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2005

Emergence was the first book that popped into my mind. It's nice to see other people also enjoyed it. I read it a couple times when it first came out. I need to find a new copy of it.
posted by deborah at 10:56 AM on May 17, 2005

Isn't Emergence that book written in a first-person style that uses messy, clipped grammar? I got about ten pages into it before the stilted writing got too distracting, but since it got good reviews here I may have to try again.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:06 AM on May 17, 2005

The Postman was a book by David Brin.
posted by bshort at 11:10 AM on May 17, 2005

Emergence is written first-person style from the point of view of a 12 year old girl. It's done stream-of-conscious style, so it could be described as clipped or messy.

I read it last about 20 years ago, so my memories of it are rather fuzzy. However, I remember I really liked it and the style it was written in.
posted by deborah at 11:17 AM on May 17, 2005

Well, since matildaben beat me to it, let me strongly second Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. It is very, very similar to The Fifth Sacred Thing and I would just about guarantee that it's what your stepmom is looking for.
posted by widdershins at 1:07 PM on May 17, 2005

Slow River by Nicola Griffiths has a very ecological slant

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin
posted by luneray at 1:26 PM on May 17, 2005

The Four Gated City by Doris Lessing covers the post-WWII period through post-apocalypse. It is really deep in so many ways - some of the topics are schizophrenia, mental health establishment education, the peace movement, being involved in the Communist Party in Rhodesia and how people inter-related, relations between men and women, women and their mothers, analysis, the 'upper classes' in England . . . It is one of the books I would take to a desert island, I've re-read it a lot.

It is the 5th of a pentology, the whole series is semi-autobiographical, starting with growing up in the veld in Rhodesia. I recommend the whole thing, though maybe not all at once, but you don't need to read the other four to get a lot out of the 4 Gated. (the others are Martha Quest, A Proper Marriage, Ripple from the Storm, and Landlocked.)

I'd also second the Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy suggestions above.
posted by judybxxx at 2:38 PM on May 17, 2005

How 'bout the excellent "Mockingbird", by Walter Tevis.

John Christopher has also written a bunch in this genre ("No Blade of Grass", "A Wrinkle in the Skin", etc.)

And another loud vote for "Earth Abides", "A Canticle for Leibowitz", and "Riddley Walker".
posted by Absit Invidia at 8:23 PM on May 17, 2005

The author Freda Warrington put me on to The Fifth Sacred Thing. Her work is a lot darker, but just as rich.

If it's post-apocalyptic that you want I read a good book that referred to this era as "road builders" or "road worshipers" I thought it was a Robert J. Sawyer book, but I can't find it.
posted by krisjohn at 8:44 PM on May 17, 2005

Hmm, based on her liking of Starhawk's book (an unmitigated piece of crap, in my opinion)*, I doubt that books like Canticle would appeal. There's one by Ursula K le Guin that's absolutely lovely: Always Coming Home. Post-apocalyptic, but very utopian.

*This isn't to say that your mother's taste is terrible, just that I'm guessing she'd prefer happier stories over dark and such.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:03 AM on May 18, 2005

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