Can you recommend good post-apocalypse novels?
August 30, 2007 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I've just read a classic SF novel and I'm looking for some other titles in a similar vein.

I've just finished reading "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter M Miller for the first time and really enjoyed it. I remember having enjoyed the whole post-apocalyptic thing for a while there when I was devouring SF in my teens and twenties (back before the war*) but can't recall many titles from that time and, of course, I'd like to find some new stuff. Your recommendations, please!

*Gulf War Mach I
posted by h00py to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Moving Mars ,Greg Bear
posted by JohnR at 6:56 PM on August 30, 2007

I read "A Canticle for Leibowitz" and found it very interesting. A long time before that, back when I was about 8 years old I read "Cataclysm: The Day the World Died". Whereas I can' vouch for how good it would be today, I thought it was pretty cool at the time.

Basically, you have some interesting ecological problems and for some reason mankind begins to revert back to de-evolving into pre-historical types of man while the earth is transforming itself at the same time. There are some pretty good descriptions of all the devastation and how the world is changing because of this along with some perplexing concepts to think about.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:08 PM on August 30, 2007

You might try Engine Summer by John Crowley.
Possibly Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
posted by lekvar at 7:19 PM on August 30, 2007

The Death Of Grass (aka No Blade Of Grass) by John Christopher
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
On the Beach by Nevil Shute

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
posted by gemmy at 7:20 PM on August 30, 2007

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
posted by dhruva at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2007

Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem
posted by bibliowench at 7:34 PM on August 30, 2007

Children of Men, if it's as good as the movie.
posted by escabeche at 7:49 PM on August 30, 2007

Kim Stanley Robinson's Orange County trilogy. Each book is a different version of the same place: one utopian, one dystopian, and one postapocalyptic (The Wild Shore, which is the best one, in my opinion). Robinson can be a bit preachy (he's big on the whole town hall meeting as an answer to all problems) but the trilogy is food for thought - especially if you're a Californian!

My personal fave is Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, but it does require a certain amount of commitment to language.
posted by media_itoku at 8:02 PM on August 30, 2007

Davy by Edgar Pangborn. A very similar feel to Leibowitz, without the religion, and written in the same era, but much more of a picaresque adventure novel. Set 250 years after the apocalypse.

Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen; I think Saberhagen is one of the greatest science fiction authors of any era, and most days I am prepared to claim this as his zenith. It was originally published as a trilogy over a period of time, and at first seems pure swords and sorcery, but quickly grows into much more than that. It's almost as vividly written as A Song of Ice and Fire, and has considerable philosophical-- even theological-- depth.
posted by jamjam at 8:12 PM on August 30, 2007

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Tomorrow! by Philip Wylie
posted by rfs at 8:14 PM on August 30, 2007

I have to second the "Day of the Triffids" recommendation.. the book , or the movie...

good stuff.....

whatever you choose, have fun... the classic sci-fi is wonderful!
posted by HuronBob at 8:23 PM on August 30, 2007

Riddley Walker. Damn...that is a fine, abstruse, challenging, awesome book. Not for the faint of heart, but still--one of those books that tears up your head. (I haven't read The Road yet, but Blood Meridian had the same kind of mesmerizing effect for me. That one's not sci-fi, but the same kind of thing in a different genre.)
posted by LairBob at 8:35 PM on August 30, 2007

Riddley Walker seconded. I don't know if it's a 'good' book by any normal definition ... but it's certainly a memorable one, and a fascinating read. Author Russell Hoban is a cool guy, too.

And it's maybe a bit cliché as a suggestion, but how about David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas' ?
posted by mr. remy at 8:41 PM on August 30, 2007

Recommendations from any genre are welcome (just so long as the bombs, comets, viruses and/or well anything else really have fallen!)
posted by h00py at 8:44 PM on August 30, 2007

Not recommendations per se but, predictably, wikipedia has an extensive list which might help you remember stuff you enjoyed last time around.

And not a book, but Threads ^ is worth a couple of hours of anyone's time.
posted by rjt at 8:45 PM on August 30, 2007

Maybe something like Parable of the Sower.
posted by willnot at 8:54 PM on August 30, 2007

Go Nuts.

Books I've read and thought were okay - Deus X by Norman Spinrad and . Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow (sort of preachy but interesting). A lot of stories by Harlan Ellison, all of his short story collections are good for at least one or two. A Boy and His Dog, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and The Deathbird are three of the most famous.
posted by nanojath at 9:02 PM on August 30, 2007


seriously, Harlan Ellison is quite conceited, but his fiction is amazing.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is good, although I fancied Blood Meridian more.
posted by Large Marge at 9:04 PM on August 30, 2007

"Dhalgren" by Samuel R. Delaney is one of my favorite books ever and features a similarly cryptic blend of mystic significance and post-apocalyptic dystopianism.

I happened upon "A Canticle for Leibowitz" in a big box of pulpy sci-fi my dad brought home from a garage sale when I was 13 or so. Awesome book.
posted by contraption at 9:09 PM on August 30, 2007

Thirding Riddley Walker and seconding Engine Summer.

Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Pretties, and Specials (and forthcoming Extras) are set after an environmental cataclysm that reduces human population drastically.

My favorite book of all is Walter Tevis' Mockingbird, which describes the rediscovery of reading after we've let the robots take over all intellectual labor.
posted by nicwolff at 9:13 PM on August 30, 2007

The Chrysalids (also called Re-Birth) by John Wyndham is also really good (and thirding the recommendation for Day of the Triffids.)
posted by Locative at 9:46 PM on August 30, 2007

Emergence by David R. Palmer is right up your alley.
posted by kindall at 10:06 PM on August 30, 2007

Maybe some Philip K Dick? Deus Irae? Do Androids Dream...even?

Short story: There Will Come Soft Rains (forget the author).

Children of Men, if it's as good as the movie.

Some spoilers ahead.


Very different; still interesting in its way. But very little sense that civilization is actually, you know, collapsing. The book is written from an explicitly Christian POV (not saying that's a bad thing) to critique the decline of Christian beliefs in the contemporary West (or at least England). It's very genteel; the characters wander around museums and farmers' markets around Oxford, having nice middle class lives (somehow they're still able to buy imported foods from everywhere, because all world societies seem to be functioning pretty well). The film is much darker and IMHO much better. (Certainly a lot more likely to match the OP's interests than the book does).
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:14 PM on August 30, 2007

Seconding "Cloud Atlas". Ken MacLeod's "Cassini Division" has quite a delightful post-apocalyptic bifurcated society, and there is a whole lot of such reference in multiple Iain M. Banks books.
posted by jet_silver at 10:26 PM on August 30, 2007

Ohyeah. Delany. "Fall of the Towers", seconding "Dhalgren", "Nova".
posted by jet_silver at 10:28 PM on August 30, 2007

Lucifer's Hammer - David Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Stand - Stephen King
posted by Bonzai at 10:37 PM on August 30, 2007

I'll second Alas, Babylon.

I'll also recommend The Postman by David Brin. Yes, it was made into a bad movie, but don't hold that against it.

Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart is an early (1949) but good one.
posted by fings at 10:43 PM on August 30, 2007

Thank you, infinite jest; I've read the book but not seen the movie, and I wondered how it really fit this theme. The book has a pre-apocalyptic rather than a post-apocalyptic feel; the world is ending rather than ended, and the end is long, drawn out, and people are either resigned to it or have gone crazy.
posted by Cricket at 10:44 PM on August 30, 2007

The Chrysalids (also called Re-Birth) by John Wyndham is also really good

Seconding this; I really love The Chrysalids and it's v. underrated IMHO.

Empty World is a young adult book but still aces, and captures well the excitement/fear of having the world to yourself.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:43 AM on August 31, 2007

Thank you all! Of course, I should have realised that this would have been covered exstensively before because it really is such a fascinating/horrifying what-if. I've read the Chrysalids so many times since I was about 11 that I can't even begin to count. Books published in the last 5 years or so would be good, and I'm going to buy my 10th book this week (a positive orgy! Hooray for settlement money!) when I get "The Road" tomorrow (I've been pondering it for a while).
posted by h00py at 1:56 AM on August 31, 2007

-s (pedantic)
posted by h00py at 1:58 AM on August 31, 2007

5-10 years would be good, actually.
posted by h00py at 2:00 AM on August 31, 2007

Currently reading World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

It's what happens when you fail to contain the outbreak. Just came out in paperback.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:26 AM on August 31, 2007

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
World War Z by Max Brooks
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

You might also want to check out the Left Behind series if you don't mind Christian fiction.
posted by fallenposters at 5:29 AM on August 31, 2007

Also, check out Blindness by Jose Saramago.
posted by fallenposters at 5:38 AM on August 31, 2007

Sean McMullen's Souls in the Great Machine, The Miocene Arrow, and Eyes of the Calculor.

Jack McDevitt, Eternity Road

Vernor Vinge, The Peace War sort of fits.

cstross, Singularity Sky sort of fits in that you get to see a differmint kind of apocalypse unfold. Sort of.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

"The Postman" is IMO the best post apocalyptic novel ever written. Don't bother with the movie.
Also, try "The Road"
posted by spacefire at 6:28 AM on August 31, 2007

edit: The Road came out just last year to critical acclaim.
posted by spacefire at 6:32 AM on August 31, 2007

As far as published in the last 5-10 years, I have to suggest the 'Souls In the Great Machine' trilogy.
The first book takes place after a nuclear winter and is set in Australia. Humanity is stuck at the steam age, because of a satellite in orbit that emp blasts any electrical signal it spots. Librarians rule the world, and theres a giant human powered computer that calculates battle odds.
One of my favorite books of all time. The rest of the series is pretty good too.

Although its older, I also thought Battlefield Earth had a post apoc feel to it, mixed with the scifi.
posted by JonnyRotten at 6:35 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

oh another one I thought of, great book if you have the stomach for it, is Faraday's Orphans

N Lee Wood is Norman Spinrad's wife but her style is quite distinctive.
posted by spacefire at 6:35 AM on August 31, 2007

The book has a pre-apocalyptic rather than a post-apocalyptic feel; the world is ending rather than ended, and the end is long, drawn out, and people are either resigned to it or have gone crazy.

But exactly describes what's so great about the movie! The human race actually already has been destroyed but is still walking around getting used to the idea. I thought it was something truly novel in the somewhat ritualized universe of post-apocalypse SF.

To avoid this being pure derail, let me make an oddball suggestion and put in a word for Flan, by Stephen Tunney (also known as half of King Missile.) Cannibalism, bestiality, arson, and talking fish in a post-nuclear New York.
posted by escabeche at 6:49 AM on August 31, 2007

It's been years since I've read them, but I recall loving Sterling Lanier's Hiero's Journey and The Unforsaken Hiero when I was a teen.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:07 AM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Almost all John Brunner is along these lines in one way or another. My favorite is The Sheep Look Up. It is more post-we screwed up the planet than post-actual apocalypse.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2007

The Gate To Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper
posted by BoscosMom at 12:13 PM on August 31, 2007

/ (Slant) and Queen of Angels are prequels to Greg Bear's Moving Mars. Not critical to the story (they just happen to be in the same universe), and not really post-apocalyptic, but both very good.

Blood Music, another Bear classic, has an apocalypse of sorts (biotech grey goo), and Bloom by Will McCarthy follows in the same vein long after nanotech has ravaged the inner solar system.

Roadside Picnic is what STALKER is based on, and you could certainly consider life within The Zone to be post-apocalyptic, even if the rest of the world continues on as normal(ish).
posted by Freaky at 12:18 PM on August 31, 2007

seconding Parable of the Sower, and its sequel, Parable of the Talents. Octavia Butler also wrote the post apocalyptic Xenogenesis Trilogy which is compiled in to a single volume called Lillith's Brood. Her Patternist trilogy has always reminded me of Canticle because of its multi generational scope. The first book being set during American slavery but the last is sort of post apocalyptic as humanity has been divided in to two warring species by an alien disease.
posted by subtle_squid at 12:32 PM on August 31, 2007

While not technically an "end of the world" story The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith by Josephine Saxton has an apocalyptic feel. It's not a perfect book by any means, but it certainly is an unusual story. Also, if you don't know what "hieros gamos" means, wait until after you've read the book to look it up. I did and I found it added something to the experience.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:34 PM on August 31, 2007

This was on Boing Boing three days ago - Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. It's an an anthology of apocalyptic fiction.
posted by exhilaration at 1:24 PM on August 31, 2007

Riddley Walker is the best of the genre, a superb desert-island-top-5 book by any metric. Cloud Atlas was very enjoyable. I never tire of these threads.
posted by everichon at 4:57 PM on August 31, 2007

Y- the last man graphic novels/comics.

Kings the gunslinger/dark tower series.

In a slightly twisted but very real way.... Dune.

Post-nuke (or some such) a webcomic.
posted by Jacen at 9:06 AM on September 2, 2007

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