Post-post-collapse fiction?
April 12, 2019 1:28 PM   Subscribe

I've read plenty of speculative fiction taking place in the years/decades following the collapse of society (for various definitions of "the collapse of society"). I'm looking for recommendations for post-post-collapse fiction, taking place after society has begun to rebuild itself.

I'm less interested in stuff where the collapse happened so long ago as to be in the realm of myth - generally speaking I'd say I'm looking for stories from between 100-1000 years post-collapse, where humanity hasn't regained our current level of technological advancement but is also not merely scrounging to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
posted by showbiz_liz to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
I've always been a fan of the classic By the Waters of Babylon. It has a little bit of the myth, but you get the sense that the collapse wasn't all that long ago.
posted by Melismata at 1:32 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - the second part

The Light of Other Days - in a bit of a cameo, not the focus of the book, but it stuck with me

(Spoiler Alert) There are a number of series kind of like this, but where the historical connection is a bit legendary/lost in time or a plot twist - e.g., Dragonriders of Pern, Wheel of Time, the Power.
posted by slide at 1:33 PM on April 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

the chrysalids by John Wyndham. And a little bit The Triffids by same author.
posted by runincircles at 1:33 PM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
posted by nickggully at 1:34 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Years of Rice and Salt have something of this.
posted by bq at 1:34 PM on April 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Ursula Le Guin's mock ethnography Always Coming Home is worth looking at. A group of people living in the Napa Valley of California, so far in the future that even research into the distant past yields only people like them but different clothes and housing styles. Evidence of the collapse, and the nature of the pre-collapse society, is mostly embedded in figures of speech and scraps of myth. There's still high tech, but it's kind of gone off into its own AI-organized world and isn't very interested in humanity.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:34 PM on April 12, 2019 [11 favorites]

A Canticle for Leibowitz fits your criteria, I think.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:38 PM on April 12, 2019 [30 favorites]

The manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Log) follows the adventures of a robot named Alpha, set in a world that has gone through some kind of unnamed apocalyptic event and is slowly moving forward.
posted by ralan at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2019

It's blog-post length flash fiction as opposed to full novels but you might try The Holiday Cycle posts from the Archdruid Report.
posted by metaphorever at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2019

The Shannara books by Terry Brooks. The far future where magic is a thing again due to science and technology having been wiped out due to the collapse.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:42 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Semiosis, by Sue Burke, takes place on another planet. People from earth have fled climate change and are starting on a new planet as a small group. It starts with the first people to live on Pax (the new planet) but each chapter has a new protagonist in a new generation, so soon they have formed their own society. It is still somewhat primitive compared to us but is not simply about scrounging for survival.
posted by Emmy Rae at 1:43 PM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

The City of Ember YA series does this in some interesting ways
posted by Mchelly at 1:44 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is maybe not in any way what you want (as it is a podcast and not a book, and also secondary world fiction) but the Hieron seasons of the Friends at the Table podcast are explicitly set in a post-post-apocalypse fantasy world.
posted by darchildre at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt fits the bill, I think.
posted by Janta at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Folk Of The Fringe by Orson Scott Card with the usual OSC issues.
posted by Candleman at 1:53 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Pelbar Cycle by Paul O. Williams takes place about 1000 years post collapse when societies in North America are beginning to rebuild. I haven't read it in years but I do remember liking the world building.
posted by Botanizer at 1:58 PM on April 12, 2019

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Life is kind of rough and post apocalyptic in it! but society is organised and more or less stable. The plot of the novel is the rediscovery of a part of technology and how the knowledge was transmitted through the dark times. It's linguistically amazing and I don't believe he has written anything else like it since.
posted by glasseyes at 2:03 PM on April 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

Its not quite as far out as you are looking for (and touches on the apocalypse as well), but you might enjoy Station Eleven for some of the themes around reconstruction.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 2:04 PM on April 12, 2019 [18 favorites]

And, oh gosh, if you need a series to eat large chunks of your summer look at SM Stirlings 'Emberverse' which takes place over T0 to 50+ years post apocalypse. There are 15 books, so lots of world to read thru if you like it. The world is definitely not just getting by, and the world building is rich and detailed. Technology 'doesn't work' the way it used to, so there are limits to how technological stuff has been rebuilt. There are elements of 'magic' to be sure, but by and large it's a recognizable and not totally dysfunctional world. Some of the books are better than others, but it's a good read.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 2:10 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also came in to recommend Station Eleven. Questions about what it means to rebuild, and what’s worth saving, and what counts as “society” and community are at the heart of this (I think) brilliant and moving meditation on recovery (in every sense of the term). It’s also entertaining and pulpy and lyrical and all sorts of good things. I recommend this book to everyone, but it is especially pertinent to what you’re looking for!
posted by Dorinda at 2:11 PM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Passage and its sequels by Justin Cronin is mostly set about 80-90 years after a vampire apocalypse. Lots of interesting stuff about how various small, isolated communities are managing to survive and rebuild.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

John Crowley's, Engine Summer might qualify.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Bannerless series (two books so far) by Carrie Vaughn is set several decades after a series of unfortunate events takes down civilization as we know it. There are still a few electric cars and there's a character or two who were alive when it happened.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse is a post-apocalypse book, but I don't remember if it's ever specified how long ago it was.

Exo by Fonda Lee is set on Earth about 100 years after it became a colony of an alien race. Not an apocalypse, but a pretty big change.
posted by mogget at 2:25 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Check out the Apocalypse Triptych edited by John Joseph Adams. I recommend all 3 books as they are good, but book 3 specifically deals with "after".
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:25 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Wild Shore and New York 2140 are two novels by Kim Stanley Robinson, both set in societies rebuilding after a collapse. (Several of Robinson’s other works involve similar themes or settings, but not as prominently.)

The Peripheral by William Gibson is partially set in a post-post-collapse future.
posted by mbrubeck at 2:33 PM on April 12, 2019

Asimov's Nightfall sort of fits this bill I think, right?
posted by saladin at 2:35 PM on April 12, 2019

Seveneves and New York 2140 are my total problematic faves in this department.
posted by nikaspark at 3:06 PM on April 12, 2019

Steel Beach might fit the bill. Humanity has been exiled from Earth and now lives in colonies within the solar system. Less rebuilding than how society is moving on.
posted by kokaku at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Metatropolis anthologies.
posted by tilde at 3:42 PM on April 12, 2019

It's not exactly, but Mr. Burns, Post-Electric Play says some interesting things about how culture turns into myth. (It starts off right after the collapse, but the rest of it is later.)
posted by darksong at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Passage trilogy is sort of this, but not purely. The first two books do a lot of time-jumping between mid-apocalypse and about 100 years after the apocalypse, when society is indeed beginning to rebuild. The final book spans a long time period that starts in the rebuilding period and goes far beyond it (saying how far would be a spoiler).
posted by lunasol at 4:00 PM on April 12, 2019

If you'll do a graphic novel, then Stand Still, Stay Silent fits the bill. It begins with the actual collapse event itself, but quickly moves on to the adventures of a small crew about 90 years post collapse when new societal structures exist. It started as webcomic, so it's still updating a couple times a week with new stories; that having been said the hardbacks in vol1 and vol2 are beautiful and make fairly complete stories themselves.
posted by nat at 4:40 PM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

You might like The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and its follow-up, The Book of Etta.
posted by editrixx at 4:50 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh gosh, I started reading Stand Still, Stay Silent when it was barely past the prologue, and then I forgot all about it, but it was great (and fits the brief perfectly)! That's definitely first on my list.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:51 PM on April 12, 2019

I asked a very similar question a couple years ago and got some great suggestions.
posted by Automocar at 4:53 PM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Brunner's The Shockwave Rider
posted by scruss at 4:58 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:16 PM on April 12, 2019

I too thought of World Made by Hand (but it's not that good IMO). There was this one poignant part about one of the older people dreaming of speeding across the landscape faster than a horse would travel (ie, riding in a car).
posted by salvia at 5:24 PM on April 12, 2019

The Best of All Possible Worlds might fit your bill. It's about an alien race (not humans), whose world has been destroyed and so are forced to reach out to another species that is related to them on another planet to see if the survivors can settle and rebuild. Female and POC author too!
posted by brookeb at 5:31 PM on April 12, 2019

Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War and its sequels fit the bill — set after the recovery from the global warming induced “Overturn” of society.
posted by MattD at 6:04 PM on April 12, 2019

Nthing Station Eleven. It’s an excellent book, disregarding genre and subject matter.
posted by sacrifix at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2019

The Magic Bites/Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.
posted by Temeraria at 7:00 PM on April 12, 2019

I really enjoyed Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, which takes place in a U.S. that has regressed into a theocratic neo-Victorian oligarchy about a century or so after the end of the "Efflorescence of Oil" and the subsequent collapse of industrial civilization. It's told from the point of view of Adam Hazzard, a naive young man who fancies himself a pulp adventure writer, and his journeys alongside his brilliant friend Julian, a subversively liberal guy (modeled on Julian the Apostate) and nephew of the dictatorial President who's obsessed with the science and culture of the blasphemous "Secular Ancients." It's pretty wide in scope -- everything from skirmishes with the "Mitteleuropans" for control of the Canadian wilderness to political intrigue on the streets of the reconstructed capital in Manhattan -- all told in a charming Tom Sawyer-esque tone peppered with resurrected Victorian diction and sidelong glimpses of the poorly-understood past.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:41 PM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're up for humor (definitely not true "sci-fi") try Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey. Society is so weird one might question if the people are actually technically human, but it's got great historical artifacts and remnants of Welsh geography.
posted by aimedwander at 9:02 PM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Valley-Westside War by Harry Turtledove
In The Valley-Westside War, a global nuclear war broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1967, leading to the collapse of civilization. The book is set in the ruins in what was once Los Angeles, 130 years after the war. The area of the city is controlled by two rival feudal states at war with one another: the Kingdom of Westside and the Kingdom of the Valley.
posted by XMLicious at 12:21 AM on April 13, 2019

I'll second The Peripheral, by William Gibson
posted by shanek at 3:06 AM on April 13, 2019

The Sharing Knife series (4 books) by Lois McMaster Bujold is a fantasy series set in what feels like a fictionalized version of the early 19th century American midwest, except that the civilization is rebuilding after a magical apocalypse that took place hundreds of years previously and left behind dormant monsters that hatch out every now and then.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:10 AM on April 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Like the Kate Daniels series these fall pretty squarely in the urban fantasy category, but I think both Kim Harrison's Hollows series, set in Cincinnati after the human population is severely reduced by a genetically modified-tomato tragedy, and Wen Spencer's Elfhome books, involving part of Pittsburg being sent to an alternate Earth ruled by elves. The city is ... in phase with Earth once a month, and the interaction between modern Earth and magical Earth is interesting, imo.
posted by worldswalker at 7:34 AM on April 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dune is set in a far post collapse world with a really interesting take on humanity's response to basically a Skynet type scenario.
posted by fshgrl at 9:21 AM on April 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Earth Abides is the story of rebuilding society following an epidemic that killed off most people, told from the perspective of a man who was (iirc) under 30 at the beginning of the novel and a grandfather/great-grandfather (?) at the end. I was blown away by the story—still think of it often.
posted by she's not there at 11:15 AM on April 13, 2019

Shelter by Dave Hutchinson and Haven by Adam Roberts are set in the same southern English location approximately 100 years after a multiple comet / asteroid strike has wiped out most of global civilisation and changed the climate. Things are back to a reasonably stable rural economy.
posted by el_presidente at 12:20 PM on April 13, 2019

Post-post-apocalypse but still relatively low-tech:
The Postman by David Brin
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Bannerless series by Carrie Vaughn

Post-post-apocalypse but at least some pockets of humanity are relatively high-tech:
The Gaia Chronicles series by Naomi Foyle
The Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series by Jim C. Hines
The Plague Confederacy series by Alison Sinclair
posted by kyrademon at 1:16 PM on April 13, 2019

Great topic. Definitely agree that Canticle for Leibowitz fits the bill. Also seconding the recommendation of Juliam Comstock.

Alastair Reynolds' Century Rain also fits this mold. And much of his "Revelation Space" series is set against this backdrop as well: The advanced nanotechnological implants that much of humanity has come to rely on have been rendered deadly by the so-called "melding plague," forcing most people to abandon them or risk a gruesome death (and bringing several societies low as a result). By the time of the main set of books, the plague has mostly receded as a fear, but only because humans have generally abandoned advanced implants.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:45 PM on April 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

The City Not Long After, by Pat Murphy (a post-crash society in which basically society is basically agrarian, but there's a handful of weirdo artists making beauty in the ruins of San Francisco)

Mary Margaret Road Grader in which a sustainable society is working, but tractor pulls are still awesome (this short story SHOULD have won the Nebula in 1976, in a better world)

For a sideways view, there's a lot of books that cover the weirdness of rebuilding after near annihilation, to wit, people living in flattened cities after the mass bombardments of WW II. Here's the fellow who makes bicycle tires one die-cut disc of rubber at a time; here are the people with a kitchen garden where their neighbor's house used to be, et cetera.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 7:00 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think Nnedi Okorafor's books might fit the bill, I'm especially thinking of The Shadow Speaker -- set in an Africa of the future, after some kind of technological cataclysm, where magical powers have emerged in humanity.
posted by chantenay at 9:48 AM on April 16, 2019

The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. It's not a straight take on "post-post-collapse" but I think it fits this criteria. It's hard to say too much without spoiling some of the premise.
posted by ZeroDivides at 11:57 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

2nding John Crowley's Engine Summer.

Also 2nding Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series.

I was personally disappointed by the 2nd half of Seveneves. I thought there was a lot of build up in the first half, and then the 2nd part wasn't as fleshed out as it could have been.
posted by taltalim at 9:11 AM on April 21, 2019

A number of books recommended above are also mentioned in this BBC article about "cosy catastrophes"
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2019

« Older Seeking a recipe for a great chocolate cookie   |   College Radio Earworm Help Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.