Sunday, 1 July 2012

science fiction disaster novels

I have come to the conclusion that the reason I am reading so many disaster novels   - end of the world science fiction, apocalyptic it is called, is because my own life is crumbling and it makes me feel better when I read about other characters facing the end of their world too.  I know it's just divorce I am going through, and it's not the end of everything, it just seems like so much is changing and so little I can hang on to.  So as much as I have so many plans to read books- and dear Reader, every week I make  a new mental list of what I'd like to read shortly! - I find that my attention is drawn to books  I come across, featuring ecological disasters, mostly.  So I'd like to ask you: do you have a favourite dystopian novel that you could recommend? It's not a genre I usually read in, so I don't know much about this area.

Please don't recommend The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  That is too grim for me, too dark.

Books I have read this year so far that fall into this category: reviews:
Where Late the Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm - beautiful end of the world cloning story,  in which fertility goes wrong, and cloning seems to be the answer to mankind's survival.  This was quite an intense read, and clear about what cloning could mean - it was frightening, and also smart,as it made me think about what cost human survival?  When does being alike become dangerous?  When does being alone become a strength?  Books feature, too, as a way to show how to survive when all communication is gone.

Life As We Knew It -  Susan Beth Pfeifer.  Gosh, simply wonderful.  Gripping, real, what happens if an asteroid should hit the moon and knock it off-course just a little.  I will always remember the image of the moon being so close in the sky, in this book, hanging there in the middle of the day.  And what happens that first year after the tsunamis, flooding, natural destruction as the moon pulls on the tides and waters of the earth.  It's about one family and how they cope through the eyes of a 16 year old girl, and I dare you to put it down while reading it.

Lucifer's Hammer - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, - read earlier this year, review here.

I am currently reading Flood by Stephen Baxter, set in 2016, and featuring rising water tides all over the world.  I have just started it, and it's gripping.  It's set in London England, and when it actually mentioned Grays (where my soon to be ex's family is from), and Lakeside Gardens, the big shopping mall around the corner from their house, I got all excited. 

I just bought I am Legend by Richard Matheson.  I've watched all the versions of the movies of this book!  Time I read the novel, I think.  I also just picked up a second-hand copy of The Postman by David Brin.  Yes that science fiction novel that became the Kevin Costner movie - I believe the book is better than the movie, I certainly hope so!

It's not like I am only reading these, I am able to read the occasional mystery and lots of fantasy in between, and more horror than usual (I will be posting on this soon, too).   I am anxiously awaiting the next installment of Justin Cronin's series, out in October - dystopian vampire novel, love it! Dystopian because of the virus that caused the vampires.......

Books I've read in the past, some many years ago:
On The Beach - Nevil Shute
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M Miller Jr
Swan Song - Robert R McCammon (own it, due for a reread, one of my favourites)
 Dies the Fire - SM Stirling
Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
The Plague Tales - Ann Benson
and, of course:
The Stand - Stephen King (have reread and due for another read soon)

So do you have a favourite  science fiction end of the world novel, Gentle Readers? Please let me know if you  recommend some titles.


Kerry said...

I'm reading The Stand for the first time right now. I have always been put off by both the length and King's status as a "horror" writer, but after hearing a good review last week, I decided to take the plunge. (Being able to read it on my Kindle helps, as I'm not lugging around in excess of 1000 pages.)

Let me see, I've always liked Wyndham's The Chrysalids over The Day of the Triffids. Most of his books fall into what they call "cosy catastrophe" and are worth a try. My absolute favourite of his is "Trouble with Lichen" which isn't actually apocalyptic, but still a good book.

One I really love is Emergence by David R Palmer. Unfortunately, it's out of print, but if you can find a used or library copy, it's a great book.

What else? Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy (Feed, Deadline and Blackout) I found to be really good. I'm not into zombie books at all, but this is more about science, mystery and politics with zombies thrown in for good measure. I call it a "zombie book for people who don't like zombies".

I loved Life as we Knew It but struggled a bit more with The Dead and the Gone.

A great post-apocalyptic series (long after the actual apocalypse so maybe not what you want) is by Isobelle Carmody and the first is Obernewtyn (be aware it isn't finished yet).

For fun and a bit silly mysteries, have you read Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow books. I don't read a lot of mysteries any more, but I find these great fun. The first is Murder with Peacocks.

Okay, better stop now, but I'll come back if I think of some more.

Susan said...

Kerry: thanks so much! And it's so good to see you on here, I've missed you. I hope everything is ok with you.

I read Feed last year, and have Deadline on my shelf to read already. It's an excellent series, isn't it? I'm glad you enjoyed it too.

I will look for Emergence, thanks for the suggestion.

I have read Obemewtyn also, and was wondering about the rest of the series! I'm also planning to read more of John Wyndam, so your suggestions are very welcome! thanks so much :-)

How are you finding The Stand now?

Kerry said...

I'm really enjoying The Stand. I wasn't sure if I would, but I am and I'm cruising along at a good pace. I started on Tuesday (Sun night now here) and I'm about 40% through, so it isn't going to take me forever as I feared it might.

I don't think it's great literature, but it's a good story, it's exceedingly readable and asks very little from the reader which is perfect for me right now. I can understand why it is so popular.

For the Isobelle Carmody books, the second to last (The Sending) is out in Australia (and probably New Zealand but I'm waiting for the whole series to be finished and want to get them as ebooks). I think it is supposed to be out in the US/Canada later this year. The last book (The Red Queen) is supposed to be published next year. But it's very hard to get clear information. Because of that, I decided to stop at the point I was up to and wait to have everything in my hands before picking up the series again.

Cath said...

I'm so sorry things are so difficult for you at the moment, Susan. I hope you can find a way to work through it all.

Dystopian novels are very far from being my favourite type of novel but one I did absolutely adore is Gate to Women's Country by Sheri Tepper. It's a feminist book as well, and thus very thought provoking. Brilliant read.

Sam said...

Susan, I'll get back to you with a couple of suggestions. Just wanted to wish you well and let you know that I was attracted to the same kind of scifi way back in high school...not the happiest of times for me...because they made me realize that things actually COULD be worse. Hang in will get better. That's always the case.

Jeane said...

I read Where late the Sweet Birds Sand four years ago and it still is pretty clear to me- certainly a book that made an impact. Sorry I can't make a recommendation- I don't read a lot in this category either.

Andrea said...

I hope you can see that link. It's the dystopian novels I've put on my GoodReads account. I've been very into apocalyptic/dystopian novels myself these days. Interesting that you relate it to what you're going through in your life, maybe the same is true for me. I'll definitely be checking out some of the ones you recommend!

Sharon said...

I like Kerry's suggestions and they are exactly what I was going to suggest. I first discovered Wyndham when I was sent away to boarding school, I was feeling rejected and generally a bit at war with the adult world at the time and escaping into Wnydham seemed to give me a bit of an outlet. I was ten/eleven at the time and the idea of a world where social structures had broken down actually seemed kind of liberating. Hope something good comes your way, you deserve a break.

Literary Feline said...

Sending big hugs your way, Susan. I'm afraid I don't have any recommendations for you, but I can kind of relate to the drive to read certain types of books when going through a rough spot. I know I've certainly been more picky about what I am willing to read these days.

Like Kerry, I am reading The Stand right now. I expected it to be perfect for my current mood--fast paced and easy reading. Only, the week I began reading was an especially rough week for me and it was definitely the wrong choice. As a result, it's been slow going and I haven't made much progress. That isn't to say I'm not enjoying it to some degree-just not in the way I expected.

Anne Simonot said...

I love post-apocalyptic fiction and have read a LOT of it lately too. Some classics: Z for Zachariah (YA) by Robert OBrien; Alas Babylon by Pat Frank; The Death of Grass by John Christopher; and definitely The Chrysalids. Others that I would recommend: One Second After - William Forstchen; A Gift Upon the Shore - M. K. Wren; The World Ends in Hickory Hollow - Ardath Mayhar; Last Light & Afterlight - Alex Scarrow; America Pacifica - Anna North. While not necessarily exactly in the same category, Shades Children - Garth Nix, and the Tripod trilogy, by John Christopher again, are also excellent.

I have never read The Stand - never been a King fan. But I will be hunting down a copy of Flood!

Anonymous said...

I'm also a fan of disaster/post-apocalyptic novels like 'The Stand' and 'The Postman' ... happy to know that I'm in good company. I have one to recommend to this audience that I just discovered - "Flotilla" by Dan Haight. Great new title by an indie author, well-written and a fun read.

Tired of the zombie genre, it got played out for me. 'Flotilla' was a nice change.

Daphne said...

Susan, I'm so sorry you're going through a rough time. I totally understand. Have you read The Passage? It's pretty apocalyptic, and it has vampire-like beings! Quite scary, actually.

I love The Stand, and something not quite so apocalyptic but still dystopian is Never Let Me Go, which was utterly amazing.

Aarti said...

I haven't read it and was going to recommend the Pfeffer books, but I see you have already read those. I don't really know many more ecological disaster books, unfortunately! But I will keep thinking :-)

Gavin said...

Sorry you are going through a bad patch right now but things will get better.

The Stand is a favorite (I do want to read it again, it has been a while)and The Postman are on the top of my list as are a couple of unusual ones, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Far North by Marcel Theroux. I need to read the Kate Wilhelm novel.

Kathleen said...

Sadly I have no good recommendations for you but I hope you will find comfort in reading about disasters, greater than your own and will get through everything okay.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Your cat on your header is adorable:)

Susan said...

Kerry: I'm sure I replied to this already, but I don't see my answer here! for the info that the series still isn't done by Carmody. I'll look to see if we have the middle books here still.

And yes - The Stand isn't great fiction, though it certainly is a gripping story. I've enjoyed it every time I read it. I'm glad you are too!

Cath: Thanks for the sympathy, you know we've been emailing too. I find it interesting that I am drawn to end of the world books at a time like this! I can't remember if I read Gate to Women's Country, I certainly am aware of it. If you say it is brilliant, I will look for it!

Sam: thank you very much. As this is the second time around for me, I'm surprised that it's possibly more devastating, as this marriage had lasted much longer. I'll be fine. Thank you for your kind words.

Jeane: I have to do a better review of it, I think. I remember people talking about it and it's considered a classic in that area of fiction. I know why, now. It does stay with you, doesn't it?

Andrea: thank you so much for your link! I'll be checking out your list today, as it's finally the weekend and a very quiet one for us, so I have time. Do you find the dystopian books are helping you too?

Arabella: thank you so much for recommending more Wyndham! I've been picking his up in the store, and glancing at them, but trying not to buy every book I want right now. I will definitely see what copies my library has.

Susan said...

Literary Feline: Are you enjoying The Stand more now? I hope so. Then again, it's such a big book (though easy to read) that you have to be in the mood to read it, I think. I hope it's getting better for you now. I have always enjoyed it.

I am surprised I am not reading more mysteries, and I suspect it's the darkness of it (usually murder) that it's too real for me. End of the world is much more fun! at least something in my soul is saying so :-)

Anne: thank you SO much for the list! I haven't read any that you gave me, so I am going to be hunting them all down in the next few weeks! I've heard of some titles - Alas Babylon - though it's now hard to come by, One Second After (I really want to read this one), and I didn't know Ardath Mayhar wrote a dystopian novel, so I'm excited about that too. Excellent!

Tim: I'll look out for Flotilla, thanks very much. I do have to say that Feed (and that trilogy) by Mira Grant is not your standard zombie fiction, it has a a lot of political and social media comments that are biting an d delightful - it makes these books one of the standouts in zombie fiction, for me. So if you ever want to return to it....

Daphne: I love The Stand! Have you read Swan Song by Robert McCammon? That's even better than The Stand. And yes, I LOVED The Passage - I reviewed it last year in the fall, and I'm excited for the sequel this fall. It was utterly gripping and terrific, wasn't it?

We both have been through quite a year, haven't we? I wish we lived nearer each other, we could meet and commiserate together.

Aarti: thank you :-) I know it's not an area many bloggers read widely in, so I'm thrilled to be getting new titles this way for me, too.

Gavin: Far North is not one I've heard of! Thanks! And yes, I know things will get better. I'm happy I'm managing to read through it all, too. Thank you for the kind thoughts.

Kathleen: for sure there are so many worse things than divorce! It's still terrifically upsetting, and I am discovering I don't like change as much as I want to think I do :-) I'm happy I'm reading through it all, though it has slowed some. Thanks for the kind words.

Diane: He is! Even when he rips at our screens trying to get at bugs, he is adorable. Thank you. I'll tell him :-)

GeraniumCat said...

I'm late here as usual but have two recommendations: the first is Russell Hoban's Ridley Walker, which seems like hard work at first because it's written in (sort of) phonetics. I found I got the hang of it pretty quickly, though it may be a bit more difficult for a non-Brit (but you've lived here so you'd be fine!).
The other is a new book which I've just read to review, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. I think it's out next month. I was wary because post-apocalyptic is very much not my favourite genre, but I really enjoyed it, and will be posting about it soon.
I have The Road on the TBR pile, lent to my by elder son who says I ought to read it. Hmm.

Susan said...

Geraniumcat: why does the Peter Heller book sound familiar? I think I've seen it mentioned somewhere (about books coming out to watch for), as a good book. I'll put it on my list and read your review when it's up :-)

I've never heard of Ridley Walker, so I will look for it and see if our library has it. It sounds different!

And everyone is mentioning The Road. It's just that it is so grim, I don't think I can do it right now. Some day I will. I'll be interested in what you think of it when you read it :-)

CJ said...

Susan -

"Just divorce"? No such thing, my dear. It's an ending and endings are always hard. Do yourself a favor and let it be what it is; let yourself be sad and even grieve first, then move on. Nothing else makes sense to me.

As for books...

Have you read Divergent by Veronica Roth? It has a post-apocalyptic setting but I don't consider it in the same lines as The Road. It's lighter, with a little more hope to it.


Susan said...

CJ: oh i know it's an ending, and it's hard. Just in terms of other disasters and sadness (death, tragedy) it's sad, but it's not tragic. So, I don't want to put it on that kind of scale. That's all! It still hurts so very much.

I haven't heard of Divergent, thanks so much! I'm adding it to my growing titles people have offered me here. I like the idea of it having more hope than The Road.

Unknown said...

You have shared quite an interesting collection of novels. I must read them. Some of them I have already read one year ago. Thanks for sharing.

The Equation Book

Anonymous said...

For those who consider change to be disaster, "The Lathe of Heaven" by Ursula K. Le Guin is a good read. The world is changed by the central character's dreams with the implication that some greater disaster has taken place. Wish it was a longer book.


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