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My Favourite Fiction Titles

My personal preference when it comes to survival fiction are books that deal primarily with people surviving the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. I also prefer books that to the greatest degree possible avoid supernatural elements. Here are ones that I have enjoyed over the years.

Death of Grass by John Christopher

No Blade of Grass by John Christopher

Depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on will decide the title of the book. In the UK it was published as "Death of Grass" and in the US "No Blade of Grass".

This is the novel that prompted me to become interested in survivalism and ultimately led to the creation of this site. I have actually gone to the extent of getting a copy of the US First Edition for my collection.

THIS IS A NOVEL OF TOMORROW - a most original, exciting, and menacing one. It uses no props, such as space or time travel, or super-gadgets or men, to achieve its chilling effects. It is about ordinary, likeable people in a familiar setting who have put aside all their civilised values and think of self-survival only. So the reader will find people in this book who are treacherous, who plunder, who murder, just as he himself might be compelled to do in the same circumstances.

The story opens leisurely with loving detail about England's green and pleasant land. the reader has ample time to know and like the characters, and the author holds back most skilfully his knowledge of the horrors to come. The reader is asked, as it were, to come for a gay (OK it was written in 1956!!) with the characters, and at first the slope is gentle and inviting. But almost immediately, to right and left, the look of the land is changing, and all of a sudden he will find himself, breathless with excitement, racing down a dangerous hill at top speed, facing disaster at every turn or curve. Not only the landscape but the characters with whom he rides reshape themselves under his eyes, and there is no knowing, until the final moment, whether the end will be a total wreck or a safe slowing-down in a land where the grass once more grows green.

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Alas, Babylon (Perennial Classics) by Pat Frank

The classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the nation with its vivid portrayal of a small town's survival after nuclear holocaust devastates the country.

Set in the first years of the 1960's the book tells the story of the aftermath of a devastating nuclear exchange between America and Russia. The story is centred around Randy Bragg and the community of Fort Repose a river town in Central Florida.

I liked this book because it was an honest attempt by the author to depict what would happen to the people and communities afterward. It made me think that people in the late 50's and early 60's were probably better able to cope with such a war than we are today, many still retained knowledge of the depression, in particular, the importance of family gardens and what items were important for barter and technology was much simpler and better able to withstand EMP.

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Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival--a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known....

If you enjoyed any of the movies like Armageddon or Asteroid, this is the book for you.

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The Stand - Complete and Uncut by Stephen King

In 1978, science fiction writer Spider Robinson wrote a scathing review of The Stand in which he exhorted his readers to grab strangers in bookstores and beg them not to buy it.

The Stand is like that. You either love it or hate it, but you can't ignore it. Stephen King's most popular book, according to polls of his fans, is an end-of-the-world scenario: a rapidly mutating flu virus is accidentally released from a U.S. military facility and wipes out 99 and 44/100 percent of the world's population, thus setting the stage for an apocalyptic confrontation between Good and Evil.

"I love to burn things up," King says. "It's the werewolf in me, I guess.... The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke."

There is much to admire in The Stand: the vivid thumbnail sketches with which King populates a whole landscape with dozens of believable characters; the deep sense of nostalgia for things left behind; the way it subverts our sense of reality by showing us a world we find familiar, then flipping it over to reveal the darkness underneath. Anyone who wants to know, or claims to know, the heart of the American experience needs to read this book.

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The New Madrid Run by Michael Reisig

This planet, and ultimately its inhabitants, are moving toward the conclusion of an era, and very possibly, the end of a cycle in man’s much longer history than most propose. It has happened before, it will happen again.

As with most potentially calamitous events, Mother Nature provides warnings, and explanations, if the societies affected are advanced enough to understand. It is entirely possible that civilizations before us, who experienced monumental calamity have also left us warning, if we are perceptive enough to decipher it.

This book is a work of fiction. The premise, however, and the concept that the planet earth could very possibly experience catastrophic geological and climatic changes somewhere near the end of this century, or the beginning of the next, is an extremely viable possibility. These disastrous changes would be brought about by a unique event due to occur the early part of the twenty-first century--the nearly perfect alignment of the planets in our solar system--a phenomena that has not occurred for thousands of years.

For those who survive this cataclysm, the ensuing period of recovery will be harsh indeed. In a matter of hours, the parameters of civilization, as we know them, shall have been irrevocably altered and survival may well become the law of the land. The survivors of this holocaust will face not only the dangers and challenges of a changed earth, but quite probably, the baser ambitions of their fellow man.

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The Tripods: When the Tripods Came/the White Mountains/the City of Gold and Lead/the Pool of Fire by John Christopher

Originally published as a trilogy that included The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire, and followed by a prequel entitled When the Tripods Came. Alien Tripods have conquered the Earth, and a group of children who have survived the aliens' mandatory "braincapping" seek to uncover the truth about humanity's past and set their planet free.

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Some Will Not Die by Algis Budrys

"Some Will Not Die was written in the nineteen fifties and sixties and takes place in the later years of this century. As a result of a mysterious plague world population has been reduced by ninety percent.

Spanning three generations and the story traces the gradual reconstruction of civilisation in North America in the wake of the conquest of the East Coast by the city state which grows up in greater New York

Perhaps most remarkable about the novel is the lack of many features which have become standard in post-apocalyptic fiction: there are no mutants, the landscape is relatively unscarred and the cities ruinous only in the sense that their upkeep has been neglected for the best part of thirty years. Most notably the foreign threat and the subversion of American values which is so evident in most novels of this genre (the decedent, homosexual Greeks in the Horse clan series or the severe Japanese slave masters of the Amtrak Wars books) are entirely absent.

The whole thing is a cracking good read as an adventure story, a future history and as a 'study in the effects of massive depopulation on human nature' as one of Budry's character's writes in what is effectively the book's prologue."

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Earth Abides by Gordon R Stewart

A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.

The above blurb is not quite true the lead character is actually in the bush when the plague strikes and returns home to link-up with other survivors. Overall this is an excellent read.

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Wolf and Iron by Gordon R. Dickson

After the collapse of civilization, when the social fabric of America has come apart in bloody rags, when every man's hand is raised against another, and only the strong survive.  
 
"Jeebee" Walther was a scientist, a student of human behaviour, who saw the Collapse of the world economy coming, but could do nothing to stop it. Now he must make his way across a violent and lawless America, in search of a refuge where he can keep the spark of knowledge alive in the coming Dark Age. He could never make it on his own, but he had found a companion who can teach him how to survive on instinct and will. Jeebee has been adopted by a great Gray Wolf.

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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The night the sky broke out in mysterious green flashes, all but a few people on Earth were blinded. The world went mad. Ordinary folk became animals, turning on one another in terror and desperation. Bill Masen was one of a handful who struggled to preserve a shred of civilization amidst the chaos. But chaos soon became the least of mankind's problems. Walking plants were appearing -- plants that fed on the bodies of their human prey. The triffids had arrived, and it was up to Bill Masen to stop them!

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The Night of the Triffids by Simon Clark

A quarter of a century after an invasion by the deadly alien plants known as triffids blinded most of the world's human population and caused the collapse of civilization, only a small colony of survivors on the Isle of Wight continues to preserve what they can of society and culture. When a new phenomenon arises, resulting in the darkening of the atmosphere, pilot David Masen, the son of the colony's founder, sets out to discover the source of the problem-and encounters a new group of technologically advanced survivors from across the Atlantic. Continuing the classic tale of alien invasion begun 25 years ago in John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, Clark envisions a world poised to fight back against their invaders. Winner of the 2002 British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, he retains a feel for sf pulp horror in an action-filled tale that captures the spirit of the original story.

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Empty world by John Christopher

Young Neil Miller is orphaned following a car accident of which he is the sole survivour. He goes to live with his grandparents and whilst there, civilisation is almost entirely wiped out by a plaguee of pregoria. This is a disease which causes premature ageing in younger people. Neil must learn to survive alone and meets two girls in London and the fact that 'three is a crowd' makes for an interesting conclusion...

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Patriots- Surviving the Coming Collapse by James W Rawles

It is a novel about a devastating socioeconomic collapse in the near future. It has been described as "a survival manual fairly neatly dressed as fiction." Although it is fast-paced, it includes so many useful details that most people find themselves taking notes as they read it. It doesn't just describe what might happen, it explains exactly how to prepare for it. Most readers comment that they end up time with a highlighting pen in hand. This is not your typical novel. It even has appendices. An early draft edition of the novel was formerly available as shareware, via the Internet. With more than 80,000 downloads, it was by far the most popular novel ever on the Internet. A lot of the feedback from readers of the drafts ended up in the pages of "Patriots". This material gives Patriots and incredibly rich texture. Among others, I received e-mail from a veteran of the French resistance in WWII, a German tank commander, a U.S. Navy SEAL, a South African explosives expert, a midwife, a Swedish HAM radio wizard, and an emergency room doctor in New Zealand. You won't regret getting a copy of Patriots. It will probably be the most important novel that you'll ever read.

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Farnham's Freehold by Robert A Heinlein

Farnham is a self-made man who sees nuclear war coming and who builds a shelter under his house; only to find it thrust into a strange universe when the bomb explodes. In this future world all civilization in the northern hemisphere has long been destroyed, and Farnham and his family are fit to be slaves under the new regime. Heinlein's story is as engrossing now as it was in its original form decades ago.

There is an interesting aside to this story in the Heinlein actually built a fallout shelter in his family home; see: Heinlein's Shelter

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Savage Dawn by Robert Cole

This book is by an Australian Author and is essentially self-published. I enjoyed the book immensely despite disagreeing with the author on the likelihood of a nuclear winter ever occurring. You will not find it in the local bookstore so click on the link above to get it from the publisher.

On holiday in England, Alex Carhill is caught in the nightmare of a nuclear holocaust. In a matter of hours a mid-summer’s day is turned into a nuclear winter. This is the story of his survival in a world that no longer has rules; where climatic extremes, murder, starvation and disease are commonplace. The story documents the struggle of the human spirit as the survivors scratch together an existence in a contaminated wasteland ravaged by plagues of insects and disease. And how out of the hardship and pain, they forge their own society, based on a new set of values and ideals moulded from the demands and necessities of life.

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Eternity Road, by Jack McDevitt

Eternity Road is set 1,000 years from now, when the world as we know it has been dead for eight centuries, destroyed by a plague that killed most of humanity. Technological artefacts remain, but the knowledge of what they are and how to use them has been lost by a society that has degenerated into a series of city-states. Legend has it that the Road makers left a store of knowledge in a place called Haven, but when an expedition from Memphis sets out to find it, only one person returns. The lone, dishonoured survivor eventually kills himself, but his son is determined to try again ...

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The Rift by Walter J. Williams

Rock & roll takes on new meaning in The Rift, Walter Jon Williams's huge book about a magnitude 8.9 earthquake centred under the south-eastern United States. This is a major departure from the intricate science fiction tales Williams usually writes (City on Fire, Aristoi), but he applies the same thoroughness, complexity, and great character development to this disaster yarn. Some readers might balk at the book's size (it's a doorstopper), but consider the subject: the biggest earthquake in recorded history, a monstrous disaster that lays waste to entire cities from Chicago to New Orleans, flings one of the world's largest rivers out of its banks, and within 10 minutes obliterates countless lives. But the earthquake is only the beginning of this horror story--fire, flood, and chaos follow, and ordinary people are pushed to the limits of ability and sanity as they are transformed into survivors.

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Swan Song by Robert R. MacCammon

Swan Song is rich with such characters as an ex-wrestler named Black Frankenstein, a New York City bag lady who feels power coursing from a weird glass ring, a boy who claws his way out of a destroyed survivalist compound. They gather their followers and travel toward each other, all bent on saving a blonde girl named Swan from the Man of Many Faces. Swan Song is often compared to Stephen King's The Stand, and for the most part, readers who enjoy one of the two novels, will enjoy the other. Like The Stand, it's an end-of-the-world novel, with epic sweep, apocalyptic drama, and a cast of vividly realized characters. But the tone is somewhat different: The good is sweeter, the evil is more sadistic, and the setting is harsher, because it's the world after a nuclear holocaust. Swan Song won a 1988 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel. It's a monster of a horror book, brimming over with stories and violence and terrific imagery--God and the Devil, the whole works.

This one does have some supernatural elements but thankfully they do not detract too much from the story.

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Pulling Through by Dean Ing

Pulling Through has 2 parts--the first part is a fictional story depicting what would most probably happen in the event of a nuclear was (a much more likely event when it was written rather than now) and the problems people might face. The second part gives very practical information on how to plan for such an event and how to make/get some very useful tools. Useful for showing what might happen in other types of disasters as well (tsunamis, etc.).

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Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald

An unnamed soldier – we know him as X-127 – is sent to an underground war room. He is one of four who have been specially selected and trained to "push the button" in the event that nuclear war is ordered. (His title is, in fact, "push-button officer.").

Once he is in the war room and its attendant complex, he learns that he is to stay there forever. Being the type of person he is, this doesn't bother him greatly, except for a few disturbing dreams and a certain boredom; he has a job to do and he has been highly trained for it. At least this is true for most of the story.

The novel is X-127's diary.

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The Postman by David Brin

Gordon Krantz survived the Doomwar only to spend years crossing a post-apocalypse United States looking for something or someone he could believe in again. Ironically, when he's inadvertently forced to assume the made-up role of a "Restored United States" postal inspector, he becomes the very thing he's been seeking: a symbol of hope and rebirth for a desperate nation. Gordon goes through the motions of establishing a new postal route in the Pacific Northwest, uniting secluded towns and enclaves that are starved for communication with the rest of the world. And even though inside he feels like a fraud, eventually he will have to stand up for the new society he's helping to build or see it destroyed by fanatic survivalists. This classic reprint is not one of David Brin's best books, but the moving story he presents overcomes mediocre writing and contrived plots.

Kevin Costner made a movie of the same name from this novel but do not confuse the two the book is much better.

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Brother in the Land, by Robert Swindell

One minute everything was normal, and then it was gone." This is a first person account of life after a nuclear holocaust. The narrator is an English boy called Danny. He recounts all the things that have happened to him since the holocaust and the grim struggle that life has become. This is a good book because it is written by someone who actually experienced what happened. The narrator makes each day feel tense and uncertain. Danny's life is grim, insecure and torturous.

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