Recommend me some good post-apocalyptic movies and books
June 27, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I have just found out I'm a big fan of post apocalyptic fiction books. Somehow I like the idea of an individual or small group of survivors almost alone in the world trying to find out what the hell happened to the planet and fighting for their survival. What are some good books and movies the hive mind can recommend?
posted by dcrocha to Media & Arts (97 answers total) 130 users marked this as a favorite
cormac mccarthy's "the road" is amazing.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:26 AM on June 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

You would probably enjoy 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later.
posted by rancidchickn at 11:27 AM on June 27, 2008

The Stand.
posted by ORthey at 11:29 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

See this previous post for a big list of books.
posted by elendil71 at 11:30 AM on June 27, 2008

Stephen King's "The Stand" is a classic.
posted by Spyder's Game at 11:30 AM on June 27, 2008

If you haven't already checked it out, The Stand by Stephen King is highly recommended.
posted by juicedigital at 11:30 AM on June 27, 2008

I'm not sure if it's _exactly_ what you're looking for, but On The Beach might fit.
posted by inigo2 at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2008

Didn't see that jinx on preview!
posted by juicedigital at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2008

My all-time favorite (and cult classic) is Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. It's written in a cool language that you figure out gradually, as you do the overall plot and timeframe. Lots of fun!
posted by nancoix at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2008

Or, exactly the same thing that ORthey said....
posted by Spyder's Game at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2008

guilty pleasure from the past: Steven King's "The Stand"
posted by canoehead at 11:32 AM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: It all began with reading "The Stand", then watching "Dawn of the dead", then reading "I am the legend". I stopped and "hey, there's a pattern here!", then googled the genre name and voilà, more interesting books to read!
posted by dcrocha at 11:32 AM on June 27, 2008

Just a couple off the top: Earth Abides, Cloud Atlas (the middle of the book, at the very least, although the two or three parts before it set it up), and "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (short story).
posted by cog_nate at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Me again. Sorry -- here's a different link to Riddley Walker on Amazon -- a version that's been reviewed.
posted by nancoix at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2008

Best answer: Obligatory self-link:

The Axler books are essentially Harlequin for men. The Deathlands series is pretty much exactly what you are describing, and ranges in quality from awful to actually pretty darn good. If you go to the website linked above there is a complete bibliography including reviews, to help you choose which ones to read. There is not a great deal of continuity from book to book, so you can pretty much start anywhere. I highly recommend Cannibal Moon as the very best of the more recent titles in the series. Now, the Outlanders series is set in the same world but about a hundred years later, and skews much more to being science fiction and high adventure. The books in that series are almost uniformly excellent by any standards, but they may not be what you are looking for.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon is very good.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is excellent.

Ill Wind by Kevin Anderson and Doug Beason is very good.

A Canticle for Leiboitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. is one of the finest pieces of literature I have ever read.
posted by Lokheed at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2008

Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon is one of my favorite post-apocalyptic sci-fi jaunts.
posted by jrb223 at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just read "The Road" last week. I very much enjoyed it and it is basically exactly what you are talking about. So yeah, I agree with thinkingwoman.
posted by sdsparks at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2008

I just watched one of these the other night! "Time of the Wolf" - it's french - and if you have netflix you can watch it online.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:35 AM on June 27, 2008

Day of the Triffids is excellent. I think there was a movie or tv show made based off the book that you might want to look into, too (though it might be crap. I haven't seen it).
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 11:35 AM on June 27, 2008

oh and seconding Cloud Atlas.
posted by jrb223 at 11:36 AM on June 27, 2008

A Canticle for Leibowitz is also just phenomenally well done.

On preview: 2nding Lokheed.
posted by cog_nate at 11:36 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mad Max. The Road Warrior.
posted by ewkpates at 11:39 AM on June 27, 2008

War of the Worlds sorta kinda fits the bill.
posted by Autarky at 11:39 AM on June 27, 2008

Oryx and Crake
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:39 AM on June 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: World War Z is actually surprisingly good. It's more about the design of the overall plot than about more literary stuff, but the author does an impressive job of recognizing his strengths and weaknesses as a writer, working to the strengths and not letting his weaknesses show. It's not quite the same experience as reading King, but cool nonetheless.

Check out Monster Island online.

Earth Abides
by George R. Stewart. Older - part of his generation's post-nuke zeitgeist, but very much about what happens next and how civilization changes. (Same for Alas Babylon.)

In a somewhat different vein, The Quiet Earth is quite cool.
posted by Naberius at 11:40 AM on June 27, 2008

actually, nevermind. I do second the suggestion of the Twilight Zone. There are some real classics to be seen. If you subscribe to netflix you can get pretty much all of them.
posted by Autarky at 11:40 AM on June 27, 2008

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank was a late 50's take on this - one of my favorite books in high school.
posted by rfs at 11:41 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

All of these books.
posted by ND¢ at 11:42 AM on June 27, 2008

Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
posted by bondcliff at 11:42 AM on June 27, 2008

Why not try Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Bone chillingly plausible, sometimes funny but always unbelievably inventive.
posted by munchbunch at 11:43 AM on June 27, 2008

Another vote for A Canticle for Leibowitz.
posted by lekvar at 11:43 AM on June 27, 2008

I happened to find The Kraken Wakes on vacation last summer, it was definitely a good read. Might want to avoid reading it on a boat like I did though. Or do, for extra creepy. Wikipedia suggests it's a bit of a retread of Day of The Triffids, so maybe start there.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "The Quiet Earth" is a disturbing but compelling movie.

Roadside Picnic, while not truly post-apocalyptic, centers the eerie aftereffects wrought by an extraterrestrial visitation and their effects on the residents of Harmont.
posted by cog_nate at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite movies of all time is Children of Men. I haven't read the book, but I've heard that you should choose one or the other because they are fairly divergent.

I also like the Omega Man, and (what I considered to be the remake) I am Legend. Logan's Run, Dark City, and of course, the Mad Max Movies.

Online you can read Monster Island, Monster Nation, and Monster Planet for a Zombie holocaust trilogy. Its free too!
posted by dobie at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2008

Best answer: Jack McDevitt, Eternity Road, since I seem to be recommending McDevitt a lot today.

The Walking Dead, which is an ongoing series of graphic novels about a zombie apocalypse.

Y, The Last Man is another graphic novel series; it's about all of the male sex dying out except for one man.

The Postman by David Brin is awesome (the movie is not).

Stephen King's The Stand and Swan Song by Robert McCammon are both sort of apocalyptic horror novels.

S.M. Stirling's Nantucket and Emberverse series both deal with the idea of a small group of people coping with sudden change and fighting for survival. In the former series, the island of modern-day Nantucket is transported 3,000 years into the past. In the latter, all technology stops working throughout the world (and the island of Nantucket has inexplicably gone missing, which ties the two series together), so people must learn to survive with extremely primitive technology.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

And last but not least, a lot of the British "New Wave" science fiction writers, especially early J.G. Ballard (The Drowned World and The Wind from Nowhere), John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up) and Brian Aldiss (The Long, Hot Afternoon of Earth) deal with various apocalyptic scenarios that range from environmental to economic to warfare-related.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

2nding A Canticle for Liebowitz.
posted by baphomet at 11:48 AM on June 27, 2008

Blindness by Jose Saramago might be up your alley - it follows a group of survivors after an epidemic of blindness that is pretty apocalyptic.
posted by vodkaboots at 11:50 AM on June 27, 2008

The Children of Men the novel is powerful and brilliant. It's not really about the end of the world though - there is a civilization. It's really about childlessness, and regrets about not having children.
posted by jb at 11:53 AM on June 27, 2008

A really great one is Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson. John Updike's Toward the End of Time also fits the criteria.
posted by mattbucher at 11:59 AM on June 27, 2008

rfs and infinitywaltz beat me to Alas Babylon, so I'll add a hearty third - also one of my favorite books in high school.

Will also add a second for World War Z, which my kids recommended recently and which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And yes, it all starts with Stephen King's The Stand. If you like that, then perhaps King's Dark Tower series is also for you.
posted by johnvaljohn at 11:59 AM on June 27, 2008

Z is for Zachariah is great juvenile fiction.
posted by grouse at 12:00 PM on June 27, 2008

While not necessarily post apocalyptic, the novel "Blindness" by Jose Saramago has the same feel that you are looking for from the genre. It is one of the hands down most disturbing things I've read. I would also recommend "Dhalgren" by Samuel Delany, which is amazing (although reader beware it is very sexually graphic in parts).
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 12:06 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Post-apocalypse is one of my favorite sub-genres of sf/f. Most of the really good stuff has already been mentioned upthread.

I'll just point out that Night Shade Books has put out a really great little anthology called Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. It was an excellent read if you are looking for some short fiction.

The editor of that short story collection, John Joseph Adams, has also put together four comprehensive Amazon Listmanias covering a host of post-apocalyptic fiction. 1, 2, 3, 4

Another personal favorite of mine is Greybeard by Brian Aldiss, that sadly seems to be out of print.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:11 PM on June 27, 2008

Thirding Blindness by Jose Saramago. It is my stock recommendation for post apocalyptic/survivor/weird disease hits world fiction.
posted by fire&wings at 12:22 PM on June 27, 2008

Jose Saramago's Blindness has a quasi-sequel, called Seeing, less about literal apocalypse than the death of a political system. The Cave, also by Saramago, is also great.
posted by mdonley at 12:25 PM on June 27, 2008

You'll have to google it, but To the Best of Our Knowledge (pri radio program) did an episode devoted strictly to apocalyptic writing. You would be very interested in listening to it as it's sort of an intro for the genre.
posted by quadog at 12:26 PM on June 27, 2008

Two of my obscure favourites are:

Last Night is a movie about the immanent destruction everything by a solar flare. It's the story of the last day of half a dozen or so people. The first "fade to white" tale I've every seen.

Arslan is a survivor's tale of the deliberate depopulation of the world (in particular southern Illinois) by a Ghengis Khan-like character. It's a true forgotten classic of the genre.

I also strongly recommend The Quiet Earth, above.

There are some great web resources on this question:

Empty World (comprehensive)

Quiet Earth (more movie focused)

even an introductory page on Wikipaedia.

Enjoy---while you can!
posted by bonehead at 12:29 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

The comic series Wasteland "takes place in a devastated, post-apocalyptic future America. Set one hundred years after a catastrophe known as the ‘Big Wet’, it's the story of Michael and Abi, two characters with unique and unnatural powers, as they search for the fabled land of A-Ree-Yass-I; which legend says is where the Big Wet began."

Read the first issue online.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:37 PM on June 27, 2008

I don't think War Day, by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka, got a mention in the last thread. It's done in a documentary style, the authors traveling around interviewing survivors after a US-Soviet nuclear exchange in the 1980s.
posted by steef at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you're into comics at all, but Promethea by Alan Moore has a great take about the end of the world around issue 7.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 12:50 PM on June 27, 2008

In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster might be in the right vein.
posted by el_lupino at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2008

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
posted by Kloryne at 1:08 PM on June 27, 2008

Just posted this in the other thread, but here, it should be in whatever thread stays:

cjorgensen is correct in recommending Canticle for Lebowitz, but let me just say that it deserves a more fleshed-out recommendation.

A Canticle for Lebowitz is the finest science fiction novel I've ever read, and I've read and loved a lot of science fiction and fantasy. It is probably one of the most tremendously influential science fiction novels ever written; before Canticle, science fiction was the stuff of aliens and space-ships and space-men and creepy monsters. There was the full breadth of such gothic horror and fantasy as Lovecraft, but science fiction never reached up so high to tinker with political thought and societal morphology before. It's most direct and obvious heir is Frank Herbert's Dune series -- Frank must've read Canticle dozens of times -- but it's still unique in its poetic power, its breadth, its beauty and greatness.

It was the one and only complete novel ever written by Walter M. Miller. Miller was 16 when World War II started, and he studied engineering in college before serving as a tail gunner in the Army in Italy. The bio of him two pages after the end of Canticle mentions pointedly that he helped destroy the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino during one of those bombing missions. I'm certain that he made sure that was mentioned; it seems to have been a traumatic event for him. In any case, it doesn't seem to be a real coincidence that, fifteen years later, he ended up finishing a long, beautiful novel about the three-thousand-year history of a monastary trying to cope with apocalyptic and catastrophic nuclear war.

Miller never wrote another novel, though he wrote short stories. It's tremendous in its multifaceted treatment of science, faith, war, politics, and the prospect of total annihilation. And it's my belief that it's the first, and so far the greatest, contribution to literature that science fiction made.
posted by koeselitz at 1:12 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I scanned and didn't see these brought up yet: a previous thread and another one (somewhere down there I link to an online list, in the second thread).
posted by nanojath at 1:19 PM on June 27, 2008

Walter Tevis' Mockingbird.
posted by nicwolff at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2008

That's sort of correct, koeselitz, however he did outline a sequel Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman completed by Terry Bisson. Miller often gets single billing on covers, with Bisson content to be a ghost. It's ok, but not in the same league as A Canticle for Lebowitz.
posted by bonehead at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2008

Another vote for Leibowitz and 2nding The Quiet Earth. Also 2nding War Day and The Postman. But now I'm recalling that Lucifer's Hammer is better than all of these put together.
posted by neuron at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2008

The Axler books are essentially Harlequin for men.

AFAIK they (along with the Mack Bolan books that I love as a guilty pleasure sometimes) are published by Gold Eagle, which is the men's imprint of ... wait for it ... Harlequin! So yes, they are!

Also look at Out of the Ashes and its 34 sequels. I'd never heard of it when I picked it up at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago, then got it home and found out it was a reprint from when it was originally published in the early 80s.
posted by mrbill at 1:41 PM on June 27, 2008

As Naberius mentioned, World War Z is a good zombie apocalypse book. It's written as a journalistic type writing with it entirely being interviews and stories of survivors.

The previous book by the same author (Max Brooks) is The Zombie Survival Guide. It's not a book in the sense of literature but more of a survival handbook on facts about zombies, tactics, weapons, and how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. It then ends with a few stories that sort of lead into World War Z.
posted by Deflagro at 1:45 PM on June 27, 2008

Tank Girl. Quite a different tone, of course.
posted by desuetude at 1:45 PM on June 27, 2008

To expand upon infinitywaltz's suggestions: I've read S M Stirling's Dies The Fire, The Protector's War and A Meeting At Corvallis in the last week, and enjoyed them very much; the premise, while odd, rapidly gives way to the interesting adaptations of the survivors.

And while it is a little beyond the scope of your question, if you're into games at all, you might also enjoy the upcoming Fallout 3.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:47 PM on June 27, 2008

2nding Wittgenstein's Mistress. I've never read a book before where there isn't a single word that should be removed.

Also, The Road and Cloud Atlas. Both really good.
posted by nushustu at 1:50 PM on June 27, 2008

Emergence by David R. Palmer.
posted by kindall at 2:17 PM on June 27, 2008

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by cog_nate at 2:27 PM on June 27, 2008

Girlfriend in a Coma, sort of. Not really much fighting for survival, but there are post-apocalyptic elements.
posted by peep at 2:32 PM on June 27, 2008

The Stone Gods, Jeannette Winterson. By her own description, this book defies any and all labels. Don't expect it to be your standard science fiction fare, but it matches your request well.
posted by wg at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2008

Riddley Walker, The Road, Cloud Atlas, yes. But Riddley above all.
posted by everichon at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2008

The Death of Grass by John Christopher.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
He, She & It by Marge Piercy (somewhat post-apocalyptic)
posted by Auz at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2008

Nthing Mad Max, World War Z (one of the best books I've read in the last few years), Canticle and Day of the Triffids (though avoid the film - it's one of the worst ever made, though the BBC made a rather good television adaptation back in the 80s), The Quiet Earth

Survivors, a television series about a plague killing most of the inhabitants of the UK is very good and very grim... the BBC have announced a remake is on the way (self link to mefi post about it)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2008

A Canticle for Leibowitz is the very, very best.

I also like On The Beach.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:06 PM on June 27, 2008

The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy.
posted by Kikkoman at 5:53 PM on June 27, 2008

I can't believe I missed this thread until now!
Seconding the following:
A Canticle for Leibowitz (so so good)
The Road (has some really great moments, if you're a parent it'll really get to you, a bit pretentious)
The Stand (fun and silly)
Earth Abides (the first of this "genre" I ever read, so it remains one of my faves)
World War Z (good book, but not quite apocalyptic IMHO)
I've read a bunch of "zombie fiction" and most of it I've found to be terrible but I keep trying!
Thanks everyone, now I have a few more to try!
posted by Echidna882003 at 6:04 PM on June 27, 2008

Another thread.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2008

Good News by Edward Abbey. Perhaps Nightfall.
posted by barnacles at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

As everyone else has said A Canticle for Leibowitz, but also, yes, yes, yes seconding Nicwolf - Walter Tevis' Mockingbird. I read this book in college and have re-read it about every five years. It's great. Just great.

The Road is really good, but I kept having to put it down. Jesus. But it was really well written so I kept picking it back up.

The Stand is classic fun.

And now I am off to read the other threads referenced here.
posted by mkim at 7:07 PM on June 27, 2008

Not quite exactly what you are looking for, but you might like it: true lost souls.

What you are looking for: Golden Days. Google says it's nukes that get 'em, but I'm not sure we know what brings the end.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:15 PM on June 27, 2008

Found via the wikipedia list of Apocalyptic & post-Apocalyptic art - Quiet Earth (website about post-A stuff).
posted by jb at 9:20 PM on June 27, 2008

"A Boy and his Dog"
posted by Neiltupper at 9:54 PM on June 27, 2008

I love Stephen King, but Swan Song was my favorite. I literally carried that book with me everywhere I went until I finished it. As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to read it again.
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:29 PM on June 27, 2008

What about the Left Behind series?
posted by Neale at 10:47 PM on June 27, 2008

And not to miss Hiero's Journey - after the apocalypse when the mutations have developed. Quite good reading. 5 stars from 19 reviews, so I see others agree with my opinion.
posted by ptm at 5:43 AM on June 28, 2008

Le Dernier Combat, the film debut of Lcu Besson
posted by Akeem at 5:48 AM on June 28, 2008

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (amazon link)

A pair of sisters in an isolated Californian house after peak oil / widespread disease / civil disorder take out most of society.
posted by Tapioca at 7:39 AM on June 28, 2008

I can't believe nobody's mentioned THE GENOCIDES, by the great sf writer Thomas Disch.
posted by Mr. Justice at 1:51 PM on June 28, 2008

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer--it's YA but really good.

Basically what happens is an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it into a lower orbit. You can imagine what effect this has on the global climate, tides, etc.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:41 AM on June 29, 2008

Oh, and Y: The Last Man!

I didn't even check because I thought for sure someone would have already mentioned it.

Graphic novel, by one of the writers for Lost. Basic premise: all the men on earth suddenly die except for one.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:44 AM on June 29, 2008

Uh, someone has mentioned it.
posted by grouse at 12:22 PM on June 29, 2008

The Brief History of the Dead is a different take on this theme. Most of the story is told from the view point of people who have already died from a plague, and are waiting in a sort of purgatory. Very highly recommended. It was originally published as a short story in the New Yorker, which you can still read online.
posted by Eddie Mars at 2:17 PM on June 29, 2008

here's my list from way back :P along with the road and children of men, i'd add the dying earth by jack vance and diaspora by greg egan (altho this might be classified as post-apolcalyptic's sister genre post-singularity fiction). oh and i guess dan simmon's hyperion series.

posted by kliuless at 3:06 PM on June 29, 2008

No love for Piers Anthony's Battle Circle trilogy?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:16 PM on June 29, 2008

Sorry this is so late, but I don't think anyone has mentioned Engine Summer by John Crowley.
posted by gamera at 11:49 PM on June 29, 2008

Nthing Riddley Walker, and mentioning that Roadside Picnic was the basis for Tarkovsky's film Stalker.

The Bed-Sitting Room.
posted by Grangousier at 5:35 AM on June 30, 2008

Battlestar Galactica? (the new one, of course) You said books and movies, but this is one of the best tv shows of all time (esp. The first season), and focuses on the 60,000 survivors of humanity after a horrible apocalyptic event. Because it is a serialized drama, it's able to really flesh out the implications - political, personal, sociological, physical, etc. - of such an aftermath.
posted by lunasol at 8:36 PM on June 30, 2008

Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Stand by Stephen King
posted by RussHy at 1:01 PM on July 2, 2008

The Monster Island trilogy was amazingly readable. I ripped through the last book in one long afternoon.
posted by cnc at 10:53 PM on July 2, 2008

Much of what's been listed already is great. Especially Omega Man, Stalker, Dhalgren, and Blindness. The recommendations I have to add are not quite as well-known and some are arguably not as good. But if you want to be comprehensive about things, these'll round out the list.

This one is fantastic - Panic In Year Zero!
Not quite apocalyptic, but they have an apocalyptic feel...
Death Race 2000
Cherry 2000

There are quite a few Italian rip-offs of Mad Max.
2019, After the Fall of New York
Warriors of the Waste Land
Exterminators of the Year 3000
posted by signalandnoise at 6:19 AM on July 3, 2008

Can't believe no one's mentioned Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series. Not really apocalyptic, but a kind of fantasy/SF fusion set in the far, far future. Fantastic writing.
posted by zardoz at 6:23 AM on July 5, 2008

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