Post-Apocalyptic Sci Fi for My Hurt Guy
May 17, 2015 10:19 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for post-apocalyptic sci fi books for my husband. He is currently convalescing from a back injury, and when Husband is bored, Wife suffers.

My husband is an avid reader, and a huge sci fi fan, but he is running out books that fit his somewhat specific criteria. Since I need him entertained so I can get ready for finals while he recovers, I am looking for some post apocalyptic tales to help him while away the hours.

*He loves post-apocalyptic sci fi (Lucifer's Hammer, Earth Abides, The Postman, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Stand, Swan Song, )

*He loves series, epics, and wide, sprawling tales (Wheel of Time Series, The Hyperion Series)

*Unfortunately he is also severely dyslexic, so books that use unusual structure, footnotes, odd punctuation, or mixed languages (Blindness, A Clockwork Orange, Dhalgren, House of Leaves, etc) are highly unpleasant for him to read, so we are trying to avoid those.

*He hates short stories. He says they are unsatisfying.

*He's not so big on YA fiction, but it isn't completely off the table if it is fairly well written, mature and dark.

He actually has read so many books in this genre he is running out of ideas, so reach deep if you can!
posted by evilcupcakes to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 116 users marked this as a favorite
Wool by Hugh Howey is a great book. It's about a colony of people that live in an underground silo following an unexplained catastrophic event.

The Passage by Justin Cronin is the Walking Dead with Vampires(ish). Does a great job of showing the collapse of civilization after the initial outbreak.

It's not apocalyptic but you could also try Old Man's War by John Scalzi. It's an interesting twist on the space marine story. Earth recruits old people to occupy genetically enhanced bodies to fight it's space wars. It's not as campy as it sounds.

All three of these are series so if he likes the first one there are plenty more to dive into.
posted by Kerwin15 at 10:36 PM on May 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series might be a good fit for him. It's dark, doesn't have much to do with swords, is epic sized and a little different from most - if he liked the Wheel of Time series, I bet he'd like this one.
posted by aryma at 10:47 PM on May 17, 2015

I recently read The Flood and The Ark by Stephen Baxter, set pre- and post-apocalypse, enjoyed both a lot.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is very good but also very well known so he's probably already read it?
posted by yesbut at 10:48 PM on May 17, 2015

Roadside Picnic?

A story about what happens when a superior intelligence visits, but doesn't even notice us. The debris they leave in their wake surmounts our most sophisticated technology to the point of being magic.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:08 PM on May 17, 2015

Response by poster: yesbut: Actually, he's been meaning to read the Road, and we have a copy of it somewhere, but he says he's been to afraid to read it. The movie was pretty depressing, and I think he's saving that one until he's in just the right mood. He is interested in the Baxter books too, which has triggered a conversation about the scientific definition of "sea level" and how global flooding on that scale would effect the atmosphere :)

kerwin & aryma: He liked all your suggestions and says thank you!
posted by evilcupcakes at 11:10 PM on May 17, 2015

He might like Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space books. They aren't exactly post-apocalyptic sci-fi, but they have some of the elements of it. And they're nice and long.
posted by neushoorn at 11:12 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Has he read Margaret Atwood? Oryx and Crane is the first in a trilogy.Mortal Engines is the first of four books by Philip Reeve, set post "something" that leaves us in a somewhat steampunky environment. Kids books but god so grimdark. Both these sets are highly readable but decently deep.
posted by Iteki at 11:16 PM on May 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Red Rising. Not post-apocalyptic but I swear he will love it. It is so good and will blow up soon.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:17 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

John Ringo's "The Last Centurion" is not quite post-apocalyptic, but it's about an armor unit in the middle east trying to return to America following a massive global pandemic that kills billions, but doesn't quite end the world.

Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven" seems to be burning up in SF circles, also pre/para/post-pandemic story. I haven't read it.

"After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall" by Nancy Kress is a novella (it's not a short story, at least) which is set in those three time periods, primarily among a group of people who survive a global environmental cataclysm in the captivity of enigmatic aliens, aided by a time-travel technology that doesn't quite meet the usual wish-fulfillment that time machines do.

I found Richard Matheson's 1954 novel "I Am Legend" a lot more clever than the 3 big film adaptations.

Harlan Ellison's 1969 short story "A Boy and his Dog" was later expanded to novella length and is part of a cycle which includes two other short stories. A loner kid and his telepathic dog roam the radioactive wastelands of the American southwest following a nuclear conflict.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:18 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Last Policeman trilogy is pre-apocalyptic but close enough that everything is falling apart--definitely has the right feel. It's also excellent and reads easily.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:19 PM on May 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

I enjoyed Station Eleven, although it feels a little soft and literary compared to some of the books mentioned above. If he is stuck in one place for a long time, maybe he could block out his own apocalyptic novel.
posted by mecran01 at 11:19 PM on May 17, 2015

I second The Last Policeman trilogy. It's an amazing series and I recommend it to everyone.
posted by brookeb at 11:21 PM on May 17, 2015

Oh man, here's my suggestions for Apocalypse fiction.

Mister Touch by Malcolm Bosse. It's a little dated (80's graffiti culture!) but it's a good story about multi-racial Manhattan survivors after the plague and it's well-written.

Dog Stars, by Peter Heller. The story of 2 survivors after the world is wiped out via a flu virus. It's a more contemplative book than most, but I really enjoyed it.

Ill Wind, by Kevin J Anderson. A pretty dumb look at what happens when an oil-spill clearing bacteria goes rogue and eats the planet's plastics.

The Reckoner's series of novels by Brandon Sanderson. Mutant powers wreak havoc on the world and usher in a new age of terror and wonder. Sanderson's other series (Mistborn and Stormlight Archives) might suit your husband for the epic fantasy side of things.

Day by Day Armageddon, by J.L. Bourne. This is death by zombies and was written while Bourne was on active military duty. It's a little dry but it's a very realistic look at the zombie apocalypse. There are 3 in the series and the writing is a little uneven, but good.

Dead Sea by Brian Keene. Another zombie apocalypse, this is pretty bleak and there is no happy ending. Buy it cheap.

Outpost, by Adam Baker. Another zombie apocalypse, set on a remote oil platform. Well written, interesting characters, possibly hopeful ending.

Without Warning, by John Birmingham. What happens when most of the US is devoured by an inexplicable cloud of energy? Nothing goes in, nothing goes out. Told from the point of view of the rest of the world. The lead character seems to be rendered unconscious on a regular basis, but otherwise pretty good.

Hope this helps!
posted by ninazer0 at 11:27 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing Dog Stars and definitely the Last Policeman trilogy. The trilogy had the best ending of any series I've read in a long, long time. I'm a sci fi post apocalyptic guy too and while these two aren't sci fi they are great.
posted by sacrifix at 11:58 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Two more post-apocalyptic books: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway; and World War Z by Max Brooks. Neither are traditional sci-fi. I found both hugely readable and absorbing.
posted by yesbut at 12:17 AM on May 18, 2015

Oryx and Crake is great but does have a lot of words like "AnooYoo" (A New You) and other sort of jokey product names; I'm not sure exactly how those do with dyslexia (or your husband's dyslexia in particular) but it seems worth noting in case the regular insertion of non-words like that would make them harder to read. (I'm guessing that if he usually reads a fair bit of fantasy he'd probably be somewhat used to this, but I'm noting it because of the pun thing and the CamelCaps thing.)

For epic fantasy, I'd recommend The Dagger and the Coin, which is really well-written, smart, and spans a pretty large area and variety of characters; it alternates POV between 4 main characters, including a villain-protagonist. It's largely focused on economics in the way a lot of fantasy novels are wrapped up in Big Fantasy Event type stuff or wars, and that makes its worldbuilding more relatable/understandable in a lot of ways.

Also it's not post-apocalyptic but Leviathan Wakes and its sequels (The Expanse series) are both really well-crafted space opera and SUPER LONG, so they'd likely keep him engaged for a while, and there's a TV series coming out pretty soon so now's a good time to read 'em.

All of the ones I've recommended are ones I've read in audiobook form and really liked that way-- you didn't say if he was interested in those, but if he has a hard time holding a book (especially a doorstopper-sized book like these) that might help.
posted by NoraReed at 12:34 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

OH WAIT I just remembered that there is a BIT of foreign language stuff in Leviathan Wakes and its sequels; there's a made up Creole that some of the characters speak, but it's well within the range of the amount of made-up words you see in a fantasy novel, and I think a lot of it is stuff that the reader isn't really supposed to understand but can make out from context, and there's a lot more of that in the first book than the others. But I am noting it just in case that is relevant regarding his dyslexia or the mix of his dyslexia and any medications he might be on (since when I've been recovering from injuries I've frequently had a hard time groking stuff like that).
posted by NoraReed at 12:38 AM on May 18, 2015

Neal Stephenson's new post and very post apocalyptic book comes out Tuesday! It's 'Seveneves'.

Sounds perfect for him.
posted by pseudonick at 12:56 AM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I read The Death of Grass, On the Beach and Down to a Sunless Sea in the same gigantic post-apocalyptic binge as Earth Abides, A Canticle for Leibowitz & The Road, and they were all good.

Has he ready any John Wyndham? The Chrysalids takes post-apocalyptic in an interesting direction, and Day of the Triffids covers the actual apocalypse, as well as the aftermath.
posted by terretu at 1:10 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Z for Zachariah? I would say this is YA.
posted by paduasoy at 1:18 AM on May 18, 2015

A new one, with a vivid point of view character -- someone who has genetic resistance to the hundreds of plagues which have killed billions and left the rest huddling and paranoid: The Only Ones by Carolla Dibble.

She manages to scrape by on her own in and around chaos, and eventually becomes a mother, much to her dismay and wonder. Her daily gratitude for her child is "still alive." Grim but the lead's fierce determination is awesome to witness.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:24 AM on May 18, 2015

I'm a big fan of the genre. I like the trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeff starting with Life as we knew it. Main character teen female in first book,but there is some nasty stuff.
posted by b33j at 1:33 AM on May 18, 2015

Seconding The Passage and it's sequel The Twelve. They rang a lot of the same bells for me as The Stand did when I read it, except that I think Justin Cronin is actually a trifle better at writing sympathetic, believable characters. It's a supernatural apocalypse, so there's a fair amount of crazy vampire group mind stuff, but the setting is extremely well worked out and the world is fantastic.

I have picked up but not yet read The Girl with all the Gifts, but family members who have read it tell me it's excellent.

Seconding also World War Z, which is essentially a great collection of short stories all set around a global zombie apocalypse. It gets pretty bleak in parts and it has a few glaring flaws, but it's a real page-turner.

Riddley Walker is a mindblowing book, set two thousand years after a nuclear war when language has changed substantially. It might be hard work with dyslexia, as it features a lot of spelling that is almost Old English like.

You may also wish to have a browse of this shelf over at Goodreads.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:02 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Alas Babylon by Pat Frank was my favorite nuclear war novel from high school. Since it was written around 1960 it is more hopeful than a lot of these.
posted by rfs at 3:28 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

What about some pulpy, mens series goodness with Deathlands?

They're kind of goofy, but there are plenty of them!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:32 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another favorite from high school, non-fiction, was When War Comes by Martin Caidin, who usually wrote books about WW2 aircraft.
posted by rfs at 3:36 AM on May 18, 2015

The Age of Miracles. Fantastic book that was weirdly marketed as "chick-lit." He will love it.
posted by jbickers at 3:55 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the Beach.
posted by paduasoy at 4:16 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also not post apocalyptic, but The Martian by Andy Weir is about an astronaut engineer stranded on Mars who needs to survive long enough for help to arrive. Desolate setting with only ingenuity and humor to get by... A great read.
posted by miasma at 5:02 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd be surprised if he hasn't already read it, given his tastes, but in case he hasn't -- The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (first book: Annihilation) is awesome.
posted by ourobouros at 5:33 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like a lot of the same books it seems. I inherited my dad's Sc-Fi / post apocalyptic collection so some of these are rather old (eg Lost Horizon) but make good reads still. Some I have read many times are

Daybreak 2250 A.D. is an alltime favourite.

The Mote in God's Eye

Lost Horizon

Also, he might like Nevil Shute - not post apolcalyptic (expect On the Beach which he is famous for but I acutally dislike a lot) or sci fi as such but somehow the same flavor, especially A Town Like Alice, and What happened to the Corbetts, Trustee from the Toolroom and Pied Piper
posted by 15L06 at 5:38 AM on May 18, 2015

Just remembered two more

The Shore of Women

The Children of Men

Also Margaret Atwood's dystopian novels might suit him, eg Maddaddam Trilogy

He might also try Cloud Atlas but I did really only enjoy the post apolcalyptic 5th and 6th story, and not the parts set in 19th and 20th century.
posted by 15L06 at 5:48 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Road has a few dark moments but isn't overall sad and ends on a more upbeat note than you might expect. Ridley Walker is one of the best books I have ever read, but he may find it inaccessible because of the language -- definitely find an excerpt before buying it.

If he hasn't read them already, I would most strongly recommend Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias Trilogy is a classic, as is Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia. Both are more about the rebuilding rather than the decline, which makes for a nice change from some of the gloom and doom options.

I just reread The Handmaid's Tale and it is really good and still scary in a good way. Also on the feminist front (and also well written) are Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time and Ursula K LeGuin's Always Coming Home.

James Kunstler's The World Made By Hand gets recommended a lot here. It didn't speak to me, but it's an interesting (if flawed) look at the process of rebuilding rather than the decline. Similarly, SM Stirling's Dies the Fire books didn't fully grab me, but the writing is clear and the rebuilding process has been thought through carefully and with great detail.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:11 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another vote for the Last Policeman series - the world is ending and you have a policeman investigating crimes when nobody else cares because the world is ending.
posted by Mid at 6:26 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite genre. Lots of good recommendations above. I would add Joe McKinney's Dead World series, starting with Dead City. Even if zombies aren't his thing, I recommend this. McKinney is a San Antonio police officer, and has been a disaster mitigation specialist. This gives him an unusual -- and compelling -- take on this genre. I'm a huge fan of his work.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:38 AM on May 18, 2015

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon isn't strictly post-apocaluptic, but his blown-out Alaskan Israel certainly feels that way.
posted by 256 at 6:57 AM on May 18, 2015

The Sleepless trilogy by Nancy Kress
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
posted by fuse theorem at 7:13 AM on May 18, 2015

My go to recommendation is The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's post apocalyptic alternate history with a good amount of sci fi elements (the black death wipes out all of Europe, and the main characters reincarnate through the resultant changed history where Chinese, Native American and Islamic culture dominates through to past the present day), keeping the first initial of their names and their core personalities constant.

His Mars trilogy is also a classic, though not post-apocalyptic.
posted by litereally at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2015

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell? Six connected narratives, the last two taking place in a collapsing and post apocalyptic world. If he enjoys that, Ghostwritten and The Bone Clocks are entangled in the same story.

Also, seconding Zone One and The Passage!
posted by esoterrica at 8:03 AM on May 18, 2015

Dust by Charles Pellegrino ain't great literature but it's a fun couple hours of reading.
posted by marxchivist at 9:35 AM on May 18, 2015

Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole

Sort of 3 novelettes bundle into one, with linked characters. US was hit by a series of almost random nuclear strikes and society just disintegrated into pockets of civilization... and the Chinese army invaded what's left of San Francisco. Is there salvation left somewhere?

In book 1: The Old Man left for what he assumed to be his last salvage mission... ever, looking for the almost Mythical "Fort Tucson". Will he get there, and what will he find there if he reached it?

In book 2: The Kid, raised by an old sergeant (who's gone now) is a warrior trying to finish his sergeant's mission: report back to Presidio (in San Francisco) to what's left of the US Army there. In his way were bandits, warlords, wild animals (including a giant bear)... and the Chinese army. What will he find when he get there... and what will he take away... and leave behind?

In book 3: The old man (from book 1) repaired a radio... and a courier arrived... and died miles from his village. Colorado, what's left of Cheyenne mountain needed his help... Warlords seem to think there's a treasure left there and wanted to break in... and slaughter them all. But the general at Cheyenne mountain has an orbital strike weapon left... and he needs the Old Man's help to deploy it... to help her people break out, and live free.

For some older books, I like Ralph Peter's "War in 2020", a dismal vision of the future written decades ago... a pandemic swept across the world, almost destroying the US. Most of the military was lost in Africa on a venture that did not bode well when mercenaries armed with superior Japanese technology routed the US. In the next decade, Russia is about to go under the onslaught of Islamic states who bought Japanese arms with oil money, and Russia asked the US for help...

Johnny Ringo has quite a few novels. His "Last Centurion" was already mentioned, but it's somewhat unusual in that it's written as a bunch of personal blog posts. It is quite easy to read though.

His Posleenverse series of novels starts with "A Hymn Before Battle". Basically, Earth was contacted by friendly aliens, who has bad news... Earth is in the way of the Posleen, an almost Viking like horde, that sweeps everything in their path... but perhaps the humans do stand a chance... But that's why they need the human help... They want the humans to defend THREE worlds, not just one. As a suddenly united Earth mobilizes for war to extermination, scout teams probe alien worlds for weaknesses, and pay dearly for that information.

Oh, and this book is free, to see if you like the rest of the series. It gets really grim by book 3 or 4 when the invaders broke through. And there are other independent volumes in the shared universe with campaigns in South America (where they managed to reactivate a couple old cruisers and installed a state of art AI) as well as a war in Europe, where Germany had to consider something unthinkable... Reestablish the SS... and rebuild its cadre with some old Nazis...
posted by kschang at 9:40 AM on May 18, 2015

I wouldn't recommend Cloud Atlas for him given that he doesn't want books that play with language. The whole first section is in some older form of English.

Alas, Babylon is a classic.
posted by salvia at 9:46 AM on May 18, 2015

I'm not a big fan of the post-apocalyptic stuff, but I did like Slow Apocalypse by John Varley. His Red Thunder/Lighting books might also fit and are pleasantly well written.
posted by monopas at 10:12 AM on May 18, 2015

Seconding Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, and adding The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
posted by ElGuapo at 10:19 AM on May 18, 2015

If he likes The Stand, nthing the Justin Cronin books. A recent one that was also really good was The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy - very Standish
posted by raisindebt at 10:36 AM on May 18, 2015

I've been on a post-apocalyptic bend lately too.

Highly recommend Stephen King's Dark Tower series. It hits an odd mark of fantasy-influenced suspense with a multiple universe/post-apocalyptic thread throughout. There are seven books, and in total they're longer than the Lord of the Rings trilogy and about on par with George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice And Fire. In other words, it'll keep him busy for a long time.

Edit: It fits your "series, epics, and wide, sprawling tales" requirement too.

Also, as others have said, The Last Policeman and Maddaddam trilogies, as well as Station Eleven.
posted by lukez at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet. They're more zombie than sci-fi, but they're post-apocalyptic, a little cheesy and super entertaining, if you go in with reasonable expectations.

Along the same lines, the novel I Am Legend is much better than any of the movie adaptations. Again, it's horror more than sci-fi, but it post-apocalyptic, and a great read.
posted by cnc at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2015

Farnham's Freehold
posted by 15L06 at 12:06 PM on May 18, 2015

Regarding the earlier suggestion of Deathlands - FYI, that series is dead as of the end of this year. After three decades of continuous publication, making it easily the longest-running series of the genre, the new parent company made the decision to shut down the entire Gold Eagle division and the final books are coming out in the next few months. That being said, this final run of Deathlands has been surprisingly strong.

Another very excellent trilogy to look at is the Wasteland series by Nick Cole. The first book, 'The Old Man and the Wasteland', is (obviously) a Hemingway homage. The next two spin off from that in rather unexpected directions. They are very, very good.

Also worth looking at is 77 Days in September by Ray Gohram. It follows the aftermath of an EMP terrorist attack, in which the lead character must walk from Texas to Montana in order to get back home to his wife and children. You will probably not be surprised that the walk takes 77 days, but the story is inventive and well-told.
posted by Lokheed at 12:39 PM on May 18, 2015

Since he seems to be okay with Stephen King, I would suggest two things:

1) The Mist - which is a novella, but not at all unsatisfying

2) The Dark Tower series, which is 7 books plus. I would describe this as way, way, WAY post-apocalyptic, and more fantasy than sci-fi - though there are definitely sci-fi elements, like AIs and robots. It manages to have rising tension throughout all the books while being set in a world with a deep sense of winding-down. The ending is either love-it or hate-it, but the series won't leave him unaffected, either way. Bonus, it actually intersects the world of the Stand toward the end, so that could be fun for him. :)
posted by kythuen at 1:59 PM on May 18, 2015

Response by poster: So many great recommendations! I know he's read Oryx and Crake because I gave it to him. It wasn't really his cup of tea. Other than that, most of these aren't things he's read so he's super excited! Thanks so much for the suggestions, feel free to keep going if you think of any more!
posted by evilcupcakes at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2015

One by Conrad Williams. World War Z by Max Brooks.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:20 PM on May 19, 2015

It's very very long, and even longer if you get the uncut edition, but Stephen King's The Stand is compulsively readable.

I'm a huge fan of John Brunner. The books are a bit dated, but it's interesting to see how he saw the then near-future. Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, Shockwave Rider.

David Brin, The Postman (never mind the movie).

Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction
List of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction
21 Best Post-apocalyptic Science Fiction Books
Best Sellers in Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction
posted by theora55 at 9:31 AM on May 20, 2015

more pre- than post- but here're some that weren't mentioned that i liked!

-nexus by ramez naam
-schild's ladder by greg egan
-everville by clive barker
-assemblers of infinity by kevin j. anderson and doug beason
-the harvest by robert charles wilson
-earth by david brin
-blood music by greg bear
-galápagos by kurt vonnegut
-hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy by douglas adams
-dying earth by jack vance

previously :P
posted by kliuless at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2015

« Older Help me waste a week in New England   |   Ceiling falling apart: safe to breathe? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.