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#1
Old 06-14-2010, 09:57 PM
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Recommend a "realistic" post-apocalyptic story without magic, cyborgs or zombies!

Chapter 1: The End.
Chapter 2: Cue alien cyborg zombies!

Grr. I do so love my rebirth-of-the-world stories, but I'm tired of the same old ones that overcrawl with zombies, have us fighting with endless Terminator clones, or that shift the plot away from basic survival and towards "Oh, look, here's this powerful magical force that we must suddenly deal with because, you know, living past the end of the world just isn't interesting enough!" By the same token, please no aliens.

Can you recommend a tale (novel, movie, or otherwise, but not video games) that takes place in a ruined future with regular humans facing non-supernatural, non-supertechnological forces? Bonus points if the story is focused on problems inherent in human society and makes external/environmental threats secondary.

Basically, I'd love to read about what might happen if the World As We Know It ceases to function, but the laws of physics and biology stay the same.
#2
Old 06-14-2010, 10:04 PM
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The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
#3
Old 06-14-2010, 10:07 PM
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How about the book (and movie) The Road

Or the movie The Book of Eli?

(Note: I have not seen or read any of the above, but I know of them, and they seem to fit the theme, based on plot summaries)


And Waterworld is post-apocalyptic, of a sort (though not even remotely realistic)...

Last edited by Only Mostly Dead; 06-14-2010 at 10:07 PM.
#4
Old 06-14-2010, 10:11 PM
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It's been a long time since I've read it, so I won't vouch for the quality of the story, but Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle would seem to fit the bill. Massive asteroid strikes Earth, chaos ensues.
#5
Old 06-14-2010, 10:16 PM
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As soon as I saw the thread title, I said to myself, "The first reply will be The Road by Cormac McCarthy."

OP, if you like graphic novels, check out Y: The Last Man. And if you don't like graphic novels, check it out anyway, because it seems to have a lot of crossover appeal. The series is done, so no waiting for new issues, and you can get the whole thing in 10 volumes.
#6
Old 06-14-2010, 10:22 PM
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No zombies, nothing supernatural, plausible, and good reading:

The Pest House by Jim Crace

The Long Loud Silence by Wilson Tucker

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
#7
Old 06-14-2010, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Credible View Post
As soon as I saw the thread title, I said to myself, "The first reply will be The Road by Cormac McCarthy."
Glad to verify your faith in the world

Riddley Walker might also fit the bill.

Last edited by Kolga; 06-14-2010 at 10:29 PM.
#8
Old 06-14-2010, 10:30 PM
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The Road Warrior movies.
#9
Old 06-14-2010, 10:32 PM
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The Postman - though the movie was awful, IIRC it was based on a David Brin book so it might not completely suck in text form.
#10
Old 06-14-2010, 10:33 PM
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Do NOT see Book of Eli. It is not about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. It's a story about a God-powered super warrior delivering a Bible. Did I mention he's God-powered?
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#11
Old 06-14-2010, 10:33 PM
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Alas, Babylon would be my vote. Excellent story!
#12
Old 06-14-2010, 10:43 PM
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Wasn't there a novel about a couple trying to cross post-WWIII America? Can't recall the title, but I used to see it all the time in used book stores.
#13
Old 06-14-2010, 10:50 PM
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You all like The Road? I thought it was so dry and boring, I wasn't impressed at all.
#14
Old 06-14-2010, 10:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikonikosuru View Post
You all like The Road? I thought it was so dry and boring, I wasn't impressed at all.
Maybe that was the point. I mean, what is there to really write about?

Day 1: 99% of the human race dies.

Day 21: 99% of the human race dies without clean water.

Day 99: 99% of the hunman race starves.
#15
Old 06-14-2010, 10:56 PM
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On the Beach by Nevil Shute, perhaps? Not particularly cheery...
#16
Old 06-14-2010, 10:57 PM
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Alas Babylon is one of the finest books I have ever read. Of any genre. I always wish it could go on and on.
#17
Old 06-14-2010, 10:58 PM
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Not "The End of The World" but a look at a small-ish city in the U.S. after a EMP wipes out all electronics throughout the country.
One Second After by William A. Forstchen.

I second Alas, Babylon even though it's quite dated, Lucifer's Hammer for a post-cometary impact setting and The Postman novel, which is far superior to the film.
#18
Old 06-14-2010, 11:05 PM
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Contemporary with Alas Babylon and On the Beach, Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Completing my personal after-the-Bomb trilogy from my youthful years).

Very much about about what could be involved in civilization re-evolving.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 06-14-2010 at 11:05 PM.
#19
Old 06-14-2010, 11:11 PM
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The TV show "Jericho." It started pretty bad but somehow got good, touching on some of the issues a small town might face after a nuclear disaster that didn't directly destroy them. Looters, scarcity, having no information, competition with neighbors. Unfortunately, just as it hit its stride, the writer's strike killed it.


"The Wild Shore" by Kim Stanley Robinson.
#20
Old 06-14-2010, 11:29 PM
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It's not safe for work, but my favorite post-apocalyptic story is Al Steiner's Aftermath. It's available on Stories Online. I'll put the link in code, although you can't actually get to the story unless you have a (free) account on the site:

Code:
http://storiesonline.net/story/34601
The basic plot is a comet impacts the Pacific ocean and the tsunamis destroyed all the low-lying areas. The protagonist was on a camping trip in the Sierras. He encounters other survivors - some decent, some awful. I wouldn't want to spoil the story, but there are a number of sex scenes, so if you have no interest in that, avoid it. But it is not a "stroke story".

The author is apparently an EMT/helicopter pilot and the level of research is impressive. He created a very believable world, and I for one would love to own this as a hardbound book.
#21
Old 06-14-2010, 11:36 PM
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This article discuss several novels about what happens to industrial civilization after the oil runs out.

In that genre, I recommend World Made by Hand, by James Howard Kunstler.
#22
Old 06-14-2010, 11:51 PM
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Not exactly end of the world, but end of the end Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang by Kate Wilhelm
#23
Old 06-15-2010, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maggie the Ocelot View Post
The Postman - though the movie was awful, IIRC it was based on a David Brin book so it might not completely suck in text form.
It does have some cyborgs though.
#24
Old 06-15-2010, 12:07 AM
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WARDAY by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka.

It is dated (writen in 1984) but if you grew up in that era as I did, you can totally relate.
Not quite post-apocolyptic, but post limited nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR. It is told in a first perosn narative by the 2 writers as if they were touring the country and conducting interviews and writting about it. An interesting take on the genre
#25
Old 06-15-2010, 12:45 AM
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The awakening water http://amazon.com/Awakening-Wate.../dp/0803804717

I read it as a teen looking for sci fi but it is more of a social commentary about society rebuilding itself after a disaster.
#26
Old 06-15-2010, 12:47 AM
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This may be a strange recommendation, since it's really a young adult/kid's novel, but I fondly remember the book The Girl Who Owned a City, by O.T. Nelson. It's about a virus that kills off anyone over the age of 12, which leaves kids fending for themselves and struggling to figure out how to find food and maintain safe shelter from gangs. The protagonists are Lisa and her kid brother Todd. Lisa wants to build society back up and has to convince the other kids in her neighborhood to figure out a longtime food solution, organize education so they can learn about medicine and technology, and find a way to defend against the bullies who just want to steal what they need. There's a sorta Lord of the Flies vibe here but it's more about the practicalities of surviving in a world without adults, and how kids would learn how to drive, cook, treat injuries, and so on.

(On the downside for me is that there's a pretty strong Ayn Rand vibe to Lisa's mindset. I'm sure others wouldn't be as tight-assed as I am about that sorta thing!)

I always thought it'd make a great film or even TV series.
#27
Old 06-15-2010, 01:08 AM
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George R. Stewart's The Earth Abides (1949) is a favorite.

Jeff Carlson's The Plague Year; I can't really recommend it but it fits the criteria.

An early example more interesting as an artifact than actual pleasure reading would be Richard Jefferies' After London (1885).
#28
Old 06-15-2010, 01:10 AM
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Emergence by David Palmer

Dies The Fire
by Steve Stirling (it's not magic, it's alien space bats!)

Also seconding Lucifer's Hammer and Alas Babylon. Riddley Walker and The Road both blow chunks.

Last edited by silenus; 06-15-2010 at 01:10 AM.
#29
Old 06-15-2010, 01:15 AM
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Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling.

I actually read it after someone here on the SDMB recommended it.
#30
Old 06-15-2010, 01:37 AM
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I think Stephen King's The Stand would qualify, with the caveat that there is a supernatural element, but it's worth it to read the day-to-day breakdown of civilization that King writes about. It is a very good story for that aspect - you're right there with all the characters as they try to figure out what the hell is going on, and how to live after everyone else dies.
#31
Old 06-15-2010, 01:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nyctea scandiaca View Post
Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling.

I actually read it after someone here on the SDMB recommended it.
I thought of that as well, but that series doesn't meet this requirement in the OP: "but the laws of physics and biology stay the same. "
#32
Old 06-15-2010, 02:09 AM
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Seconding "Earth Abides." Wonderful book.
#33
Old 06-15-2010, 07:42 AM
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By the way, I know you said 'story', but I thoroughly enjoyed the non-fiction book "The World Without Us", by Alan Weisman. It goes through various human structures, from simple things like barns to complex hydro-electric facilities, and outlines how long it would take them to break down. Fascinating.
#34
Old 06-15-2010, 07:53 AM
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The Postman is, for my money, the best one of these. While it does have augmented soldiers they could have been left out without changing the point.

After the world ends in a short and massive war attempts at rebuilding are destroyed by survivalists.

The story is about the responsibility to work towards rebuilding. It hit me hard and is one of my favorites.
#35
Old 06-15-2010, 08:13 AM
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The classic ones have already been mentioned, so I'll just point out that there were quite a few post-apocalyptic short stories in the 1950s. It was a decade after the atom bomb, we were at the outset of the Cold War, with tensions high, and it was the golden age of the Short SF/Fantasy Story With the Twist Ending. Look at collections of stories from the period (like Robert Sheckley's) and you'll find quite a few that don't have zombies (which didn't become a feature of apocalypses until after Night of the Living Dead made them a credible threat), cyborgs, or magic.
#36
Old 06-15-2010, 08:19 AM
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Another vote for Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle.

I was also going to recommend the Dies the Fire trilogy until I saw the stipulation regarding the laws of physics. On the other hand, I would have thought them worth a try if you like "a good read" that is not too "arty". The laws of physics are different but consistently different and the series does hit the "takes place in a ruined future with regular humans facing non-supernatural, non-supertechnological forces? Bonus points if the story is focused on problems inherent in human society and makes external/environmental threats secondary" criteria. (But note that the sequels starting with The Sunrise Lands don't meet the non-supernatural, non-supertechnological criteria.)
#37
Old 06-15-2010, 08:33 AM
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Along with the already mentioned stories, No Blade of Grass is a cozy catastrophe story where a family needs to evacuate London and reach the family farm/ homestead after a plant plague kills off all species of grass. This includes cultivated grain.

Food riots, petty warlords, and that very British horror of the social structure unraveling. Good story.
#38
Old 06-15-2010, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by obfusciatrist View Post
George R. Stewart's The Earth Abides (1949) is a favorite.
I read this a few years ago on recommendation of someone on the SDMB, and was blown away. It's a prodigious feat of imagination - everything happens "realistically" from start to finish - there are no unnecessary externalities driving the plot at all - just an extraordinary extrapolation of what might happen if most of mankind died, moving logically from step to step over the decades. And moving too. Highly recommended.

As far as The Road is concerned, I would be surprised if Cormac McCarthy didn't win the Nobel Prize for Literature with that book as the backbone of his output. It's one of the most affecting things I've ever read, in an unparalleled prose style that conveys so much with so little.

Last edited by jjimm; 06-15-2010 at 08:41 AM.
#39
Old 06-15-2010, 08:43 AM
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Things We Didn't See Coming by Steve Amsterdam might appeal to people who thought The Road was a bit too bleak. It's an episodic novel following the life of a young boy as he grows up in the wake of massive catastrophe.
Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt is pretty good, although set quite some time after the collapse; it's a while since I read it so I don't remember if the ending is weak, as one of the Amazon reviews says.
#40
Old 06-15-2010, 09:02 AM
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They've already been mentioned, but A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Postman are the first two I thought of.
#41
Old 06-15-2010, 09:09 AM
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A huge, huge vote here for Warday, which I think is the best-researched and most realistic book of its sort. Utterly fascinating.
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#42
Old 06-15-2010, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Credible View Post
OP, if you like graphic novels, check out Y: The Last Man. And if you don't like graphic novels, check it out anyway, because it seems to have a lot of crossover appeal. The series is done, so no waiting for new issues, and you can get the whole thing in 10 volumes.
I loved this series, except for the last volume, which seemed like it really needed two volumes to wrap everything up, but they crammed it into one novel to make it ten volumes. At any rate, I thought that this would be some guy's fantasy of being The Last Man On Earth, but it's really very well done. All mammals with a Y chromosome drop dead, except for one man and his male monkey. The series explores the way that women adjust to the new circumstances, and I found it to be quite believable.
#43
Old 06-15-2010, 09:55 AM
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I thought Carolyn See's Golden Days was pretty good when I read it many moons ago. It's a novel about a family (a divorced mother, IIRC) coping with the aftermath of nuclear war--trying to get food, dealing with her teenage daughter growing up in a post-apocalyptic California, etc. The professional reviews seem pretty positive, but the user reviews on Amazon.com are a bit on the mixed side.
#44
Old 06-15-2010, 10:55 AM
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Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. The only quasi-mystical element is that the narrator / protagonist is supposed to be an empath, but it's given a very down-to-earth explanation. (She has a neurological disorder that causes her to feel pain she observes in other people. Therefore, if she sees someone get punched in the face, her nervous system registers it as if she herself got punched, and she feels the pain.) Other than that, it's starkly rooted in the real world.

Last edited by Don Draper; 06-15-2010 at 10:55 AM. Reason: Fixed coding
#45
Old 06-15-2010, 12:08 PM
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Have you ever watched the Mad Max movies? I loved all of them. I just finished reading "Lucifers Hammer" and highly recomend it. Very well written and not to long. I'm not sure if Stephen King's the "the Cell" would fall under the category you listed, might be something for you to look into. Earth Abides was another great book.
OOOh almost forgot, another movie to check out is called "A Boy and his Dog" Sounds stupid but was a really cool movie.
#46
Old 06-15-2010, 12:21 PM
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Is there a name for a flavor of post-apocalyptic fiction that takes place in the far future after the apocalypse? I've always enjoyed those stories of finding treasure troves of long forgotten technology and the hints of the back story that no one really knows anymore.

The world in the Gunslinger stories is one such thing setting, and there's a perfectly awful series called Spiderworld that also has this element.
#47
Old 06-15-2010, 12:39 PM
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"Davy" by Pangborn.
#48
Old 06-15-2010, 12:40 PM
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Terry Brooks' Shannara books also take place in the far future after a global apocalypse, though those are fantasy novels.
#49
Old 06-15-2010, 12:40 PM
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Just out last week: The Passage. Reviewers have compared it to The Stand. It has vampires, so I don't know if it meets your requirements. I'm about 100 pages in, and I like it so far.
#50
Old 06-15-2010, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by pbbth View Post
Alas, Babylon would be my vote. Excellent story!
I liked it as well.

SPOILER:
The doctor using hypnosis instead of anesthesia was crazy to me, until I found out in some cases it actually does work.

I also found the crab cove to be a bit too 'cozy catastrophe.'
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