Cataclysmic Literature!?

I’m looking for books/audiobooks about survival post societal-collapse, Be it due to zombies, aliens, inter-dimensional beings, pandemics, etcetera. The less fictional beyond the initial scenario the better.

Figured this would be a topic well known by many in this community so I’d like to organize the cumulative research efforts in one place. Hope this thread takes off.

Tunnel in the Sky
Lords of the Flies
The Robinsons of the Cosmos
Hiero’s Journey
A Canticle for Leibowitz
The Time Machine
Childhood’s End
Lucifer’s Hammer
The Day of the Triffids
Cat’s Cradle
Always Coming Home
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
I Am Legend


I assume you heard of “The Stand” by Stephen King?

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Mountain Man by Keith C. Blackmoore
It’s got zombies and then slowly turns into mad max

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Lots of 1980s Men’s Adventure books were written with apocalyptic themes while the cold war was in full swing. Some of them can be hard to find nowadays in downloadable format, though, but it’s possible to download some of the rare stuff instead of buying tapes and CDs on ebay cough audiobookbay cough.

Of note (all should be available on the usual legal audiobook sites):
The Survivalist (series), by Jerry and Sharon Ahern
The Outrider (series), by Richard Harding
Deathlands and Outlanders (series), by James Axler

Axler in particular was a pseudonym for many authors writing Men’s Adventure in the same series under the Harlequin imprint, so the quality is all over the place. Lawrence James wrote the first dozen or so books in the Deathlands series and most (if not all) of the Outlanders series, and I prefer the ones he wrote to some of the later stuff in the Deathlands series.

That list there probably encompasses 150-200 books. There were probably thousands more written during the height of pulp apocalyptic lit in the 80s, but they are largely ignored by the modern consumer of post-apoc fiction. I guess much of it doesn’t agree with modern “sensibilities”, which is a shame. Outrider in particular is excellent and hilarious bigger-than-life over-the-top comic book ultraviolent gore-fest, and it’s delicious. Think: Mad Max, the novels.

What to expect in this subgenre:
1980s cultural sensibilities (this is a mixed bag for me)
The USSR as the looming existential threat (meh, that didn’t age well)
Hardcore anti-communism (excellent, not enough of that in mainstream post-apoc lit)
High entertainment value, low “literary” value (excellent)

Sometimes you want a 5-star meal done just so. Sometimes you want a slab of meat on a bun with a side of baked beans. Much of this stuff is the latter. Which is great. But you just don’t want to get on a diet of only it.

(PS: Speaking of The Survivalist, we ought to put the Detonics Combat Master into CDDA, just for homage luls, if it isn’t in there already. :smiley: Jerry Ahern was a co-owner or major shareholder or something in the Detonics firearms manufacturing company, iirc, so there are some amusing self-product-placement in his books, lol.)

(PPS: You may also enjoy the “Going Home” series, also called the “Survivalist” series but not to be confused with Ahern’s, by “A. American.” It is a newer series, circa 2013, that started as a serial fiction on Survivalistboards. It’s more like near-future post-collapse “prepper fiction” than traditional post-apoc lit, but if you are looking for a more realistic portrayal of collapse and the aftermath, this may be something you’d be into.

If you want a female protagonist and a bit more modern sensibilities, I quite enjoyed all of the Kyla Stone books I’ve read so far. Once again, more post-collapse “prepper fiction” than traditional post-apoc lit.

Also, add “The Drowned World” to the list of classic post-apoc lit. Really excellent story, up there with “Alas, Babylon” imo. Also “Damnation Alley”. Great novella, crappy movie.)

(PPPS: Nobody mentioned “Alas, Babylon” yet? The classic post-apoc book, there. Must read for any post-apoc fan, if for historical context within the genre if nothing else. It’s a great story though, too.)

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Oh, and if you want a book about movies, there is a book called “World Gone Wild” that tries to collect all of the post-apocalyptic movies and tv series up until 2014 and tries to give a short review of each. It’s expensive and hardcover-only, but I know of no better guide to finding out about excellent old post-apoc B-movies that have been otherwise forgotten by time. There are like 400-some pages and 800-some movies/series mentioned. Highly recommend.

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For non-fiction survival craft, there’s currently a Humble Bundle.

Not mentioned in this thread so far, set quite a long time after societal collapse, Radix, by A. A, Attanasio, has a great mix of mutants and discarded tech and also a good read. Really good read actually.
No zombies though.

So I read/listen to idk probably like 100 books a year and I really lean towards zombies and post-apocalyptic stuff. And the simple fact is that probably literally 99% of those books are actually some of the worst garbage ever put on paper.

Zombie novels tend to be the lowest quality novels of any genre I read. Post-apocalyptic is almost always some ridiculous over the top MacGyver esque character that lucks their way through the apocalypse using ‘herbal remedies’ and ‘survival skills’. IE: These books are written by survivalists types living out a fantasy in which the government no longer exists. And if you’re into that they’re probably pretty great but they almost always have really heavy handed political messages and underlying themes of ‘white man saves the world’.

So anyway, that in mind. I Am Legend is old and will 100% not be for everyone. But it’s a very unique novel that has largely stood the test of time and is one of my favorites. I liked The Road quite a lot when I first read it but on subsequent reads I saw a lot of the annoying aspects and lack of character development. And I’m sitting there looking through my collection and that, sadly, is pretty much it. I can’t think of a single zombie novel I would recommend. And most of the post-apocalyptic novels are plagued with issues, even if they’re not immediately apparent.

For example, I really enjoyed The Emberverse novels the first time I read through the series when I was younger. Trying again to read them recently, all I see is the constant sexism, the adult man eyeing a teenager, the constant bombardment of the author’s philosophy that modern America is bad and naturalism is the only way forward.

I also enjoyed the Black Tide Rising series the first time around – basically it’s ‘zombie apocalypse but on boats’. But on subsequent reads there are many, many questionable comments about children and sexuality. So the author took what could be interesting, zombies on a boat, and imo clouded it with creeper vibes and a lot of ‘boomer’ takes on what’s wrong with America.

Anyway, rant over, I guess. My point is that most books are shit. The ability for literally anyone to put a book on Amazon has made it difficult to sift through the garbage and find something worth reading. Post-apocalyptic as a novel type trends very hard towards male supremacy, survivalism, and traditional values, all things that turn me off to most projects.

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thx for the recommendation bb

You said the less fictional the better, so I’ll mention The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm which is entirely non-fiction.