SF CORE Best Lists
- Top 25 Best Science Fiction
- The 'Alternative' Top 25 SF
- Top 100 Best Science Fiction
- Top 50 Best SF Movies
- Best SF Movies of the 21st Century
- Best SF TV Shows
- Best SF Graphic Novels
- Best Science Fiction Series
- Best Stand Alone SF
- Best Modern Classic SF
- Underrated Science Fiction
- Best SF by Women
- Best YA Science Fiction
- Best Kids' Science Fiction
SF ERA Best Lists
- Best Science Fiction of 2014
- Best Contemporary SF (2000's)
- Best Modern SF (80's-90's)
- Best New Wave SF (60's-70's)
- Best Classic SF (40's-60's)
- Best Early SF (1890-1930's)
- Best Proto SF (pre-1890)
SF GENRE Best Lists
- Best Hard SF Books
- Best Cyberpunk Books
- Best Space Opera Books
- Best SF Mystery Books
- Best SF Books about Mars
- Best Moon SF Books about Moon
- Best Dystopian Books
- Best Post Apocalyptic SF Books
- Best Alternate History Books
- Best Time Travel Books
- Best Robot Books
- Best A.I. Books
- Best Post-Human Books
- Best Literary SF Books
- Best Books ABOUT SF
OTHER Best Lists
SF Subgenre Guides
- Space Opera
- Hard Science Fiction
- Soft Science Fiction
- Firm Science SF
- Mundane Science Fiction
- Social Science Fiction
- Near-Future Science Fiction
- Age Regression Science Fiction
- Immortality Science Fiction
- Mind Transfer Science Fiction
- Transhumanism Science Fiction
- Robot Science Fiction
- Cybernetic Revolt Science Fiction
- Synthetic Biology Science Fiction
- Retro Futurism
- Dying Astronaut Science Fiction
- First Landings Science Fiction
- First Contact Science Fiction
- Alien Invasion Science Fiction
- Alien Conspiracy Science Fiction
- Shapeshifting Science Fiction
- Dystopian Science Fiction
- Utopian Science Fiction
- World Government Science Fiction
- Alternate History Science Fiction
- Parallel Worlds Science Fiction
- Multiverse Science Fiction
- Time Travel
- Gothic Science Fiction
- Literary Science Fiction
- Recursive Science Fiction
- Comic Science Fiction
- Political Science Fiction
- Religious Science Fiction
- Christian Science Fiction
- Clerical Science Fiction
- Mythological Science Fiction
- Cozy Catastrophe Science Fiction
- Restored Eden Science Fiction
- Dying Earth
- Apocalyptic Science Fiction
- Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction
- ESP Science Fiction
- Sports Science Fiction
- Zombie Fiction
- Sci-Fi Horror
- Sci Fi
- Science Fantasy
- Speculative Fiction
- Media Tie-In Science Fiction
- Detective Science Fiction
- Hard Boiled Science Fiction
- Pulp Science Fiction
- Space Western Science Fiction
- Scientific Romance
- Sword and Planet Science Fiction
- Planetary Romance
- Lost Worlds
- Bigger Than Worlds
- Voyages Extraordinaires
- Hollow Earth Science Fiction
- Exotic Ecosystems Science Fiction
- Undersea Science Fiction
- Microbiology Science Fiction
- Astrobiology SF
- Astrosociobiology SF
- Ecological Science Fiction
- Frontier Science Fiction
- Generation Ship Science Fiction
- Colonization Science Fiction
- Terraforming Science Fiction
- World Building Science Fiction
- Hyperspace Science Fiction
- Spunky Heroine
- Erotica Science Fiction
- Gay Science Fiction
The apocalypse here is kind of personal. The world's just fine to start with, but... From one moment to the next all the women disappear from the world of menand all the men from the world of womenwhich in some instances would have made for interesting sitcoms. But The Disappearance is not about eliciting cheap laughs. In the aftermath of the disappearance, civilization in both worlds, the male and female, disintegrates: physically, spiritually, socially. Wylie focuses on one affected couple to perform a profound analysis of the fundamental and indispensable dependence of the sexes on each other, in the process revealing the absurd way in which almost all societies view male-female relationships; and highlighting how the two genders and their relationship lie at the heart of our humanity; at a level far more basic and fundamental than 'culture'.
Why its on the list: The apocalyptic event affects every single person alive immediately. A bit like Day of the Triffids, where (almost) everybody suddenly goes blind. Except that here the event opens everybody's eyes to something they've been blind about before. We rarely see the obvious, since we're so habituated to it. This may be the most explicit story on this list involving the lifting of a cognitive veil.
Ratings: Grimness: 2, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 5, Fun-factor: 3.
ARDNEH (Automatic Restoration Director, National Executive Headquarters) was a super computer that averted nuclear war bytemporarily; or that was the plandicking with the local laws of physics and preventing nuclear reactions. Better than anti-missile missile systems! Except that the other side had something similar up their sleeve, and the simultaneous activation of both of these anti-nuclear systems caused more havoc with natural was than anticipated. In particular, the 'temporary' thing became permanent. Oh, yes, and 'magic' works now, with demons and all. One of them, Orcus, is in effect a nuclear bomb, caught in the middle of its explosion; turned sentientjust like ARDNEH. But Orcus is tricked into imprisonment (that's because demons are dumb, which is what you'd expect from sentient nukes) by one John Ominor, who becomes the leader of the 'East'. And ARDNEH, with his servers safely tucked away underneath a mountain, is the effective leader of the 'West', who, centuries into the future, recruits Rolf, a young peasant farmer, to be his instrument to finally defeat Ominor and destroy Orcus.
Why it's on the list: It's a very cool mix of 'technology'-based SF and fantasy. It's also a child of its time, when the Cold War was going full throttle. (It's still going on, of course, but now it's kinda muted and everybody pretends it's finished.)
Ratings: Grimness: 1, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 5.
magine you wake up one day, and in the world around you random patches of another world have appeared; in this case straight from Earth's Jurassic. There was a city here once? Tough cookies! Now it's Jurassic Park #347, full of Apatosaurus and T-Rexand no fences to keep them in. Get the picture? Well, it takes people a bit of time to get the picture and a lot of them predictably get consumed by the voracious predators of the era, while the rest of a varied ensemble cast do their damn best to survive a completely unexpected type of apocalypse. 'Unexpected', because while we may be prepared for zombies, who is going to think of dinosaurs?
Why it's on the list: This is a seriously high-concept novel; inventive, original, with believable, engaging characters doing believable things in a completely (at least initially) unbelievable situation. A breath of fresh air in the 'apocalypse' genre, executed with the skill of a master storyteller. Followed by two sequels; almost as much fun, but the first is still my favorite.
Ratings: Grimness: 1, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 5.
This futuristic, action-packed adventure has it all- high-tech gadgets, AI, VR, androids, cyborgs and more, all woven within a story of political intrigue about humanity’s fate. The Host Rises takes place in 2035, when many of today’s ills have come to fruition; in the form of religious and political extremism, perpetual wars, poverty and famine.
Into this scenario steps the Host, a mysterious entity that wraps its identity in the religious (as in Heavenly Host) but has the look and technology of an alien race. The Host demonstrates the unstoppable power of instant death over anyone, or everyone, on the planet and takes control. It has one, seemingly benign demand- end all organized violence and pool resources once dedicated to war to find solutions to humanity’s problems.
A new era begins, The Peace. While many see a better way, others fear an alien invasion- with a darker motive. Some groups view the Host not as God’s holy army but instead a Satanic trick, they work in secret to stop the Host at any price. For good reason, the Host can be ruthless, willing to sacrifice millions for its goals.
Everyone seeks the answer - what is the true nature of the Host?
Made into a muchwrongly!maligned movie, Postman is set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which the United States has fallen apart into a lawless patchwork of civil disorder. That's what powerful EMP weapons, some judiciously-placed bombs and the release of biological weapons materials can do. (No zombie here though. Not of the Walking Dead kind anyway!) Gordon Krantz is an aimless wanderer, who earns his meager fare by amusing people with Shakespeare vignettes. One day he chances upon the corpse of a postman and appropriates the still-wearable uniform. It kind of takes over his narratives, as he drops Shakespeare and instead concocts stories of a restored nation and an advancing order. His stories soon assume a power all of their own and indeed contribute to what ends up looking like a concerted effort to restore some kind of civilization. The movie has a rather different narrative, but still picks up on the central theme of the novel, which is about the power of narratives to give people a sense of purpose and direction and spur them into cooperative efforts. Arguably it's about how civilization itself depends on and is held together by stories.
Why it's on this list (though at the bottom): A thoughtful novel with multi-layered content and messages.Read if you like:
Ratings: Grimness: 3, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 3, Fun-factor: 3.
This is a novel (of sorts) about a zombie apocalypse. The zombies, like in The Walking Dead TV-series, are people who have died, but have been remobilized (I hesitate to say 'reanimated', because that would be a misnomer) by an incurable virus that the living bodies were infected with. They just want to eat living flesh, have less intelligence than roaches and must have their brains destroyed to put them out of action. They move slowly, but are untiring. The novel is written as a series of interviews with survivors of the apocalypse and the global war against the zombies.
Why it's on the list: As zombie apocalypse novels are concerned, this is a good one. The way it's told is probably the best way to actually package this kind of thing in a book. Zombies simply work better on screen, like in World War Z (didn't like it much), Warm Bodies (a 'feel-good' flick, believe it or not!) or The Walking Dead TV-series (very good). The continuous visual impact of seeing these mindless rotting caricatures of ourselves achieved in, for example, The Walking Dead, would have to be reinforced by repeated descriptions in a book, and that would soon degrade the story. Doing it Brooks's way therefore is a streak of genius, and it manages to focus on those who matter, namely the living and eventual survivors, in the best tradition of post-apocalypse tales as revelations of human character. Zombies are obvious metaphors for what we, as human beings could be, if we were robbed of our intelligence, emotions, values and 'higher' drives than just that of wanting consume, consume, consume. Hmm, yes...
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 3.
This story is about an event strikes that renders people blind. It's also about a species of semi-intelligent, poisonous, carnivorousand unfortunately mobile!plant species, the Triffids, which comes into its own when everybody gets put out of action. All except for a few that is, who were fortunate enough not to look up into the sky when that beautiful green meteor shower struck the Earth's atmosphere. Billy Masen, who works with Triffids is one of those. After accidentally being sprayed with Triffid poison in his eyes, he ends up in hospital, only to come to the next day with total chaos all around him as civilization falls into ruin and people revert to a state where far more of them show their worst than their best. (Sounds like the first episode of The Walking Dead? Indeed it does.) During the events that follow, extending over a period of years, the Triffids effectively take over the Earth, and the few remaining humans are forced to flee to an island to establish a base from which their can re-conquer the world from the plants.
Why it's on the list:
It's an influential classic and a nail-biter. The word 'Triffid' has become a recognizable part of 'anglo' culture. Though the Triffids are plants, they have definite similarities with post-apocalyptic zombies.
Ratings: Grimness: 3, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 3, Fun-factor: 4.
Its anticipated to zip close past Earth, so they send to a space-mission to visit it, and then end up realizing that the damn thing is going to hit us after all; which it does, breaking up into a bunch of pieces that pretty much trash everything. The ensuing panic only aggravates the disaster, with politician and the military superpowers figuring prominently in the cluster-screwups that complete the job of the original impact. The book has a huge cast of characters, though it revolves around the few whose stories extend from the very beginning to the end.
Having been battered and nuked back into the stone-age, it's clear survival for humans is not just skill but also a matter of random luck. Most of our past-times, often considered signs of high culture and civilization, are revealed as basically meaningless, with only science remaining as something that might bring us back from this dismal brink. One might see the now-irrelevance of the legal profession as a positive outcome of sorts. Even so, there's no final conclusion as to what is likely to happen, though the book ends on an optimistic note.
Why it's on the list:
Very cool and believable post-apocalypse; thrillingly told.
Ratings:Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 3, Fun-factor: 4.
Different kind of apocalypse; not so much an event, but a pretty serious degeneration of society, plus an additional apocalyptic factor, introduced ironically by a way to make people immortal by a technology that allows them to reincarnate into other bodiesin the process wiping out whatever mind might have been resident in there. Sheckley explores a future in which this has become commonplace; with all the unforeseen attendant consequences. It's not a pretty world, which predictably includes a major criminal component having to do with the transmigration issue. Plus some interesting inventions, like Suicide Booths, which help those who don't want to reincarnate anymore to go to whatever other place there is or isn't after 'real' death.
Why it's on the list: It is a technology-created apocalypse that definitely ended the "world as we know it" and people aren't "feeling fine". Not necessarily even the ones that reincarnate, because that's why they have suicide booths, so they can off themselves when they've had enough. Sheckley provides us with an excellently-envisaged nightmare future, based on a simple "what if". Even though this was written in the late 1950s, it has lost none of its appeal; depicting the nightmarish world that might result from what, on the face of it, seems like something almost all of us secretly desire.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 2, Fun-factor: 2.
Ted Quantrill is a freak: he fastest gun in the West (and probably the world). After the total collapse of Russia, India and China band together (unlikely, I know, but this is fiction) and try to nuke the US out of existence. It works, partially, and what's left habitable of the US has turned into a post-apocalyptic Wild West, with a fanatical religious government reigning over it. In order to survive, Quantrill does whatever it takes. If that involves hunting down the enemies of the government, so be it. And he's good at it.
"A Western in SF disguise," you say? Indeedbut this one, comes from the pen of a master of the hard-boiled action flick. And Ing doesn't hold back on the implied social commentary either, with little patience for the theocracy-potential he might have seen developing in the US. (Is he wrong? Not!) Still, the focus is on the development of a young man with a lethal talent and a suspended conscience, who needs a serious shakabuku in order to wake up from his trance and find his soul. And when he gets it, spare some pity with his enemies.
Why it's on the list: Because not all post-apocalyptic fiction has to be deep-and-meaningful, and a bit of light relief with a serious undercurrent might do us a lot of good.
Ratings: Grimness: 1, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 5.
The ultimate nightmare of the world's males came true in 1994. (In the novel anyway, though there are some suggestions that things are trending that way.) The sperm count of all males has dropped to a bit fat ZERO. 1995 C.E. was dubbed "Year Omega": the year when the last human children were born. The novel explores what may happen as the human race faces certain ultimate extinction, but over a period of a number of decades. In that way, it resembles other post-apocalyptic stories in which humans may survive, but inexorably slide back toward barbarism as they scavenge on existing technological and other resources, which will eventually run out. Some of the consequences, especially those associated with social, political and national structures and behaviors, look dreadfully familiar. They are just logical extensions of practices already in existence in various regions of the world, including Europe. This makes this into a very-close-to-the-bone, with little cause to cheer. Despite this, there is a spark of hope; which ultimately is what the novel's all about.
Why it's on the list: There is a minor inconsistency here: like there such things as sperm banks, so why not stretch out the supply? Nevertheless this is a tale which grabs you because of its plausibility. They also made it into a movie, which deviates from the novel in significant aspects and distorts its message.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 2.
Pandemic story. Virus alert! Accidental release of the pathogen, failure to contain spread through a single uncooperative human, who spreads the plague and soon we have the terminal pandemic. Bird Flu, eat your heart out! Society disintegrates, and martial law, censorship and authority-driven violence fail to contain or improve the situation. The novel follows several strands of individual tales that eventually interweave into a clash, which mixes mundane post-apocalyptic elements with mysticism and even a touch of dark magic. In the end, nothing much happen to the world at large though and there's no hint that there's a way to drag humanity out of this mess. Like ever!
Why it's on the list: Well, it's Stephen King, who usually manages to suck you into a story that has so many unbelievables and mixes the weirdest genres together, so you end up wondering how you could ever have gotten sucked into it as you have, despite major serious suspension-of-belief issues. Me, I prefer my 'virus' apocalypses and their consequences to remain mundane, with animated zombies being at the fringes of what I can accept. But King sucks me in anyway. Damn him!
Ratings: Grimness: 5, Bizarreness: 3, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 2.
Ish, a graduate working on a thesis on geography, is bitten by rattlesnake, enters coma, and when he wakes up a plague has killed most of the population. He joins together with other survivors and they live in pretend-normality until the technology they depend on goes AWOL. The last vestiges of 'civilization' go with the electricity. Ish tries to buck the trend through providing education, but few people give a damnexcept for the children, who provide some hope for the future. Only problem is that they invent their own mythology and start thinking of their ancestors, "The Americans" as gods. Ish is revered as an elder; but ultimately, as is the wont of these things, he's ignored. Old fuzzy-wuzzy; which is confirmed when he's finally been taken over by what today we'd label as Alzheimer's. Truth is, while he doesn't understand it, his descendants have adapted to the world they're in, and their tools are more appropriate to their situation than the old ones. Bows and arrows are better than guns. But will they rebuild civilization and make the same mistakes their forebears made?
Why it's on the list: A very thoughtful novel classic of the genre. Deals with the central issues of post-apocalypse, like what happens when we've got nothing more to scavenge? How will our knowledge be transmitted, especially is much of it is irrelevant for those struggling back up the ladder if civilization?
Ratings: Grimness: 3, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 3, Fun-factor: 2.
Some time in the future, when there are only a pathetic 4 million-odd Earthling survivors after the nuclear war...
If this novel were written in the paranoid political and social climate of today, it's doubtful that it would be published. Its herowho tells the story in the first person, as Zelazny's heroes often doafter all used to be a terrorist. But then again, he did it for 'us', against the Vegan invaders who have taken possession of the Earth, and so maybe he's one of the good guys. Conrad, as he calls himself (though he's also Karaghiosis, a trickster-type figure from Greek folklore) is a bit of a demi-god, what with being immortal and having been kicking around for quite a long time. And now the future fate of the Earth is in his hands. Conrad, with the help of his beloved wife, Cassandra, cooks up a desperate scheme to force the aliens to leave Earth alone. And its not only the Vegans he has to deal with, but some of his old terrorist buddies from long ago as well. They have their own agendas, that might well destroy any hope for Conrad to succeed with his devious plan.
Why it's on the list: It's one of those amazing, short but totally gripping, Zelazny tales. It also contains the most harebrained scheme to defeat the invaders' intentions, making best use of their weakness.
Ratings: Grimness: 1, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 5.
In a way, this isn't really about apocalypse, but about dystopia. Still, that's qualifies as being a state after 'the end of the world as we know it', and this one certainly is. The time traveler of the story at one point ends up in a world, set in the future of ours, where society is divided into two classes: the hyper-refined but ineffectual Eloi, who have ceased to be creative but live off the achievements of their ancestors; and the Morlocks, who live in darkness, and only come out at night. Masters and slaves or farmers and livestock?
Why it's on the list: It's a hugely influential novel, imitated many times and providing the germ for tales in several SF sub-genres. For example, a version of Morlock can be found in Jack Vance's Night Lamp; , and Norman Spinrad's Men in the Jungle also echoes the class structure found here. Wells was a socialist, and the Eloi-Morlock part of the tale is an obvious metaphor for the class structure of English society at the time (and arguably still persisting now). Somewhat dated in language and style, it's still a must-read classic for anyone interested in SF. The term 'Morlock' has become synonymous with a degraded form of human being; seriously retarded, though possessed of some elemental cunning nonetheless; living in the dark and being exploited by those who live 'above'.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 2.
This is the novel that spawned a plethora of movies, almost all of them middling- to dismal. It's written by a Frenchman, and thus the only one on this list that doesn't originate from an Anglophone context. Language matters, because it frames thought, and this need to be taken into account in order to understand this book. It's full of grim and bitter irony; a parable about power of species over speciesa metaphor for power of culture over culture, and masters over slaves. In many ways it echoes Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold, but with a completely different sensibility; once again, I submit, a consequence of the writer's cultural and linguistic context.
Why it's at this place on the list: It's been enormously influentialdespite its flaws; for to this reviewer the story appears contrived by a desire to make philosophical points and hold them up in your face, rather than doing it by focusing on its characters. The themethat apes not only supplant humans as the dominant species, but also that they are actually more intelligent and possibly more civilizedis a parallel to the notion that computers, robots, etc may end up doing the same. Still, the notion that a species that we've always regarded as inferiordespite the ooh-ing and ahh-ing over how cute and 'human-like' they are, and how they should be accorded 'human rights'should turn the tables on us, possibly as a result of our own stupidity... that's possibly even more disturbing than the notion of super-human intelligence in robots.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 3, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 1.
Our civilization, though not exactly agrarian anymore, still depends wholly on food production. With this many people on Earth, should the food supply be threatened globally in any serious way, it would definitely be the end of the world as we know it. And ultimately it all depends on the continued survival on staple crops, which feed us directly and indirectly (through feeding the animals providing us with, for example, concentrated protein). This novel, published in 1956, looks at what happens in England as the world descends into anarchy as a result of a virus that kills of 'grass' type crops like rice, wheat and barley. The anarchy brings with it a decline of culture and values that we might hold dear today; ultimately because we can afford to hold them, but when things go to the dogs, those civilized values are among the first to go with them. The need to feed yourself and your own justified everything as the world descends into a us-or-them.
Why it's on the list: Its possible; frighteningly so. Even though this novel was penned in the 50s, it hasn't lost any of it scary realism.
Ratings: Grimness: 5, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 1.
Dinosaurs popping up everywhere? How about giant, semi-intelligent wasps? In this novel by the late Keith Roberts we get a different kind of menace, unleashed in apparent consequence of the exploding of H-bombs powerful enough to crack the ocean beds and shift continents. Roberts, like Christopher and Wyndham, is British, and so this story focuses on the British Isles. Innocuous cartoonist Bill Sampson and his girlfriend are attacked by a swarm of giant wasps, the eponymous 'Furies', who soon appear in huge quantities all over the place and procced, with determination and methodicity, to destroy civilization. Law and order go AWOL. As the novel goes in, it develops into a horror story that might have come from the pen of Wyndham.
Why it's on the list: It's a thrilling story, told with verve and skill. Wasps are scary enough when they're normal size, but to have them in these monstrous proportions is a stroke of genius. Where they come from? Who knows? People speculate, but there's no evidence to support either semi-scientific or semi-religious theories.The characters are real and flawed, with minimal stereotyping. It's a hard book to find, though it's been rereleased as a Kindle edition, so don't deprive yourself of the experience.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 4.
A century hence. Melted Antarctic ice cap and flooded coastlines, drowned cities and low-lying inland areas. Temperatures have risen to making Paris a tropical destination, and Siberia a super-fertile growing area. The third world is a terminal shambles: 'Lands of the Lost.' Prognosis, according to some predictive weather models: 'Condition Venus'; catastrophic runaway temperature rise and the eventual extinction of all life. Certain meteorological phenomena suggest that is inevitable. Current political and economic trends have led to the inevitable: rule by conglomerates, which are going to wring the last bit of profit out of the situation. They control governments and the fate of the world. 'Blue Machine' is one such, profiting from the eco-mess and maybe even manipulating the weather to ensure that their business grows and they become ever more indispensable.
Why it's on the list: Spinrad is the master of the cynical subversive novel. His cynicism often focuses on individual character, though there he tends to find redeeming features in the sheer complexity of the human soul. No such ambiguity is allowed in his view of humans acting as political, corporate and generally sociopathic and monomaniac creatures, having completely surrendered their better values to such lovely traits as greed and hunger for power. This novel looks like a Global Warming tale, and in a way it is. But it's really about political and corporate greed and complete lack of even a smidgen of ethics.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 2, Fun-factor: 5.
This story is set in Ireland, which doesn't happen in most post-apocalyptic tales. Doesn't happen in most of SF, if the truth be told. Molecular biologist becomes bi-polar as a result of the grief over a bomb killing his family. Plans revenge and releases a plague with the property that it's carried by men but kills women. Targets: Ireland, England and Lybia. Read the book to figure out why. He goes back to Ireland to sabotage any efforts to find a cure. (The man has serious issues!) World order breaks down, of course, and the curious male-transmitters and women-victims, creates some extra social strain. Governments take drastic action to sterilize infected areas with 'panic fire' and nuclear bombs. The world's armed forces come under the command of a single supreme commander. Logic dictates that polyandry (many-husband) marriages are going to be likely. Women, though scarcer, are likely to assume more the status of breeders than partners in such arrangements.
Why it's on the list: A believable story, extrapolated, without too much suspension of disbelief from the time in which it was written (early 1980s), executed with the imagination of one of the premier authors in the genre.
Ratings: Grimness: 5, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 1.
This novel was first published in 1964, with the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilationa real apocalypse!still fresh on people's minds. In this case, Hugh Farnham, a middle-aged competent Heinlein survivor type, manages to get his family and a visiting friend, Barbara, into a fallout shelter. After some explosions, one of them uncomfortably close and interrupting a tryst between Farnham and Barbara, they are forced to exit the shelter because of a lack of oxygen and find themselves in what looks like a parallel world of some kind. There follows an exploration of this world, which is complicated by pregnancies not only of Farnham's daughter, but also Barbara. Complicated also by the fact that they've landed in a world where racial dominance and roles have been inverted; with slavery thrown into the mix. Not a parallel world, it seems, but merely a distant future.
Why it's at this place on the list: Like in all good post-apocalypse novels, this one focuses on the characters and their responses and personal development when confronted with these circumstances. Heinlein uses the novel to explore the master-slave relationship by the inversion of racial stereotypes, and provides his very own inimitable analysis of human relationships.
Ratings: Grimness: 2, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 4, Fun-factor: 5.
Remember the fist apocalypse? You don't? I guess you're not all that old then. It's the one with the flood. Heard of it? Noah and the animals and the ship and all that? Well, there's a lot of water in the polar icecapsthough only Antarctica matters here, for reasons of basic physics!!!and if they melt... Well, Noah, where are you? It's not quite as serious as I make out, of course, but since so many people live near coasts or in low-lying areas of the world, we might as well call it 'The Flood - 2'. Much the world drowns. Since that's caused by overheatingsolar radiation in the novel, but global warming would do just finea lot of the world ends up as a kind of tropical paradise, at least in the formerly-temperate and frigid latitudes. As anybody having holidayed in a paradisiacal tropical environment knows, it makes you kinda torpid. Colder climates, on the other hand, tend to foster inventiveness. It's no accident that modern science and technology blossomed in moderate-to-frigid latitudes. Well, all that's going out the window now, and the few who persist in resisting the motivational devolution that's taking place predictable have a hard time.
Why it's on the list: Seriously dystopian post-apocalyptic fiction, which focuses on human psychology and how it is influenced by the environment. Dismal but compelling. A distinctly different take on the 'Global Warming' theme to Spinrad's Greenhouse Summer.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 2, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 2.
Whenever I hear of someone going around randomly killing innocent people for no possible motive qualifying as 'reasonable', I immediately think of this novel and one of its creations, known as 'muckers' (slang for people running amok); who do precisely that: they lose the plot and go out and do some serious murdering, preferably of as many people as they can manage before they're mowed down themselves. Reminds me of a certain culture of monomaniacs on Jack Vance's Night Lamp, as well as suicide bombers and school shooters. The world of Stand on Zanzibar (name of an island with the approximate area required to hold the 7 billion people projected to be alive in 2010; very close to the actual numbers!) is full of muckers and other absurdities, and the book's structure, which is really a series of loosely-connected vignettes, does a good job or mirroring the chaos; using a large ensemble cast to tell the tale.
Why it's on the list: It's apocalypse-by-overpopulation. Is creeping up on us right now; seven+ billion and counting, still at an ever-increasing rate. Serious human bio-mass-bloat and serious disintegration of societies and other problems coming up. If Brunner could have foreseen the computer and internet revolutions, this would have been an even more depressing read. But it's a great read.
Ratings: Grimness: 5, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 1.
Here's a very cool novel by a New Zealand author, that was made into a pretty good film as well. Geneticist John Hobson wakes up from a nightmare and finds that everybody's gone. POOF! Oh, yes, and all the clocks have stopped at 06:12h. And there's no fauna either, except for an earthworm he chances across. Still, dead meat did not disappear together with the live stuff.
Hobson avoids going insane by resorting to the usual human defense mechanism: trying to make sense of it all. In his case, he postulates that it was done by some higher force and intelligence. Well, it wasn't. Turns out he had a hand in it. It's, as they say, 'complicated'but in the end he figures out what he'd done, and insanity is slowly taking hold. The novel ends on a kind of Groundhog Day note, when Hobson tried to kill himself, only to wake up again, to find his watch stopped at 06:12h.
Why it's on the list: It's a twisted tale of self-imposed human isolation, mixed in with a goodly does of solipsism. Thoroughly depressing in many ways, but a damn good story nonetheless. Hobson's name was probably chosen for a reason, alluding to 'Hobson's Choice', where your only choice is to take or leave the only option offered.
Ratings: Grimness: 5, Bizarreness: 4, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 1.
The British Empire v2.0? Hard to believe, I know. What could precipitate such an event? Well, if's a nuclear conflict in 1982 between the US and the USSR, which leaves both of them pretty much destroyed. The source of the conflict, like in the 1960s, was Cuba, which is now a nuclear wasteland. The war has created a power vacuum, now being filled by Europe and especially Britain, since China has disintegrated into a bunch of warlord-doms and has no global significance anymore either. The process of de-colonialization of the former British Empire has been halted, reversed; and there are even some new applicants for the privilege of being a colony, because that provides them with a measure of security. The plot involved an investigation of the causes of the conflict by a journalist and the attempt by Britain to re-annex the US into its empire.
Why it's on the list: It's a novel of post-WW3, which, despite skirting some of the ecological issues resulting from nuclear war, attempts to provide a realistic scenario of what might happen in the aftermath. It assumes that Kennedy was not assassinated in 1963, and thus qualifies as an 'alternate history' novel, especially since it was penned in 1999.
Ratings: Grimness: 4, Bizarreness: 1, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 2
It's difficult to summarize what this tale is all 'about.' That's maybe the hardest and most challenging aspect of this novel. It starts after the collapse of civilization and focuses on the relationship between Jimmy, a remembered-self of a hermit calling himself Snowman. There's also a group of creatures called 'Crakers', who are like humans but not human. Jimmy once had a buddy, called Crake. They played computer games, including one called Extinctathon, only one a fairly unsavory list of internet activities. Seriously twisted characters, but maybe not as uncommon as one might want to believe. When Jimmy finds himself a love interest, Oryx, Crake goes nuclear, even though Oryx becomes a part of both their lives. But her heart is for Jimmy and that's not good. Crake reacts with stunning violence. Not only does he kill Oryx, but does some serious pandemic wetwork on the humans and transforms himself into the original Craker.
Why it's on this list: It may sound pat and not doing the book full justice, but I think it is 'about' some seriously screwed-up people. Atwood herself insisted that it wasn't SF, and that she just happened to use genre tropes. Despite Atwood's protests though, the novel does a excellent job in the post-apocalypse-as-revelation stakes. It also trumps all the other novels on this list in the 'ratings' extremes. If I had allowed Hope and Fun-factor ratings of '0', I would have done it.
Ratings: Grimness: 5, Bizarreness: 5, Hope: 1, Fun-factor: 1.
Our Version of the List
At a Glance
- 1 The Disappearance (Philip Wylie)
- 2 Empire Of The East (Fred Saberhagen)
- 3 Footprints Of Thunder (James F. David)
- 4 The Postman (David Brin)
- 5 World War Z (Max Brooks)
- 6 Day Of The Triffids (John Wyndham)
- 7 Lucifer's Hammer (Larry Niven and Jerry Pourn...
- 8 Immortality Inc (Robert Sheckley)
- 9 Systemic Shock (Dean Ing)
- 10 The Children Of Men (P.D. James)
- 11 The Stand (Stephen King)
- 12 Earth Abides (George R. Stewart)
- 13 This Immortal (Roger Zelazny)
- 14 The Time Machine (H. G. Wells)
- 15 Planet Of The Apes (Pierre Boulle)
- 16 The Death Of Grass (John Christopher)
- 17 The Furies (Keith Roberts)
- 18 Greenhouse Summer (Norman Spinrad)
- 19 The White Plague (Frank Herbert)
- 20 Farnham's Freehold (Robert A. Heinlein)
- 21 The Drowned World (J. G. Ballard)
- 22 Stand On Zanzibar (John Brunner)
- 23 The Quiet Earth (Craig Harrison)
- 24 Resurrection Day (Brendan DuBois)
- 25 Oryx And Crake (Margaret Atwood)
Publicly Ranked Version of the List44 items >>
- Lucifer's Hammer ()
- The Stand (Stephen King)
- The Postman (David Brin)
- Farheint 451 ()
- World War Z (Max Brooks)
- The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
- Alas Babylon (Pat Frank)
- Farnham's Freehold ()
- Wool (Hugh Howey)
- Oasis (Dima Zales)
- The Pesthouse (Jim Crace)
- Crash (Michael Robertson)
- Swan Song (Walter Kempowski)
- The Furies (John Jakes)
- Systemic Shock (Dean Ing)