Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Reading: Both jim winstead and Nelson Minar have praised Earth Abides , a 1949 post-apocalyptic novel where ‘all but a handful of people die from a mystery disease’, and the ensuing narrative ‘follows one man’s attempt to rebuild something like a society.’ It seems a tip from original happy mutant Mark Frauenfelder was the pointer for both of ‘em.

I’m a huge fan of the genre; I think it’s something about our age group, growing up in the shadow of Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speeches, Threads and (much less terrifying) The Day After.

Given that, it looks like Earth Abides goes straight into the wishlist. However, I should make another couple of reading tips while I’m at it, in the same genre:

First off, Jack London’s short story
The Scarlet Plague (1912) is a clear antecedent to Earth Abides. In this story, too, a plague hits the planet and wipes out most of civilization; an old man talks to children who’ve known nothing but the post-apocalypse period. It’s pretty short and well worth a read.

But my main recommendation is Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Wild Shore (1984), first book of his Three Calfornias trilogy, and his debut novel.

It takes place in 2047, 60 years after a massive nuclear attack on the US, by Russian infiltrators (pretty dated, eh ;). The narrator is a teenager in a primitive agrarian community on the coast of southern Orange County. His group are farmers, living far away from the previously built-up areas; the people who live amongst those ruins are shunned, and the different tribes meet only occasionally to trade. Disposable butane lighters are a treasured commodity.

He gradually discovers that the US was once a superpower, and that they are now being kept in a virtually stone-age state by outside powers. The interesting factor here is that most sci-fi authors, at this point, would embark on a jingoistic, militaristic armed struggle; it initially seems that’s what’s happening, but Robinson takes a very interesting tack, in his own style, and this really makes the book something special.

(I won’t go too far into it, but if you really want to know and don’t mind spoilers, this site thoroughly spills the beans.)

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One Comment

  1. Ruth
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 20:51 | Permalink

    I read earth abides, found it quite good, but I thought the “hero” was a rather feckless individual. he seemed to have no amibition. I always thought that maybe this is where Steven King got the inspiration for the stand.