Monday, March 3, 2008

Top Ten Post Apocalyptic Tales

I must again apologize for the delays, but unfort

March is here, and with it comes our Secret Conspiracies, Apocalypses, and End of the World Cults Month (just try fitting that on a placard). OK, so if the end of the world is nigh at hand, what happens next? After the world-shattering event there are going to be survivors, and so let us take a look at some of the best tales of 'after the bomb' living...

10 - Deathday/Earthrise by William C. Dietz - Remember the movie Independence Day? Well this series of novels posits a similar scenario with the simple correction that the aliens are not total morons (and that you cannot hack into an alien computer, even with Linux). The aliens wipe out 90% of the population of Earth and enslave the rest. It is a pretty brutal existence, but then again, what isn't.

9 - The Marked Man by Charles Ingrid - This is a story of life in California long after the Earth has been struck by a massive meteor. Humanity, well un-altered humanity anyway, was wiped out in the cataclysm, but a number of altered variant humans have survived, and some of these are trying to breed back real humans through natural selection. A brilliantly told story of a hardscrabble life that makes a whole lot of sense (after all, the most important location in the story is the Water Treatment Center in San Marin County).

8 - The Forge of God/Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear - An alien civilization does not like noisy neighbors, and sends self-replicating devices of supremely destructive power to wipe out life on Earth. This is a tough story because it involves two alien factions, one of which is trying to preserve as much of humanity as it can, and the other of which may (or may not) be long dead. The survivors, which the good aliens have planted on Mars, are forced to cope with the loss of billions of their people, and must send out a crew to bring justice to the aliens who wiped out their home world. This is a remarkable series on a number of levels, and really shows how tenacious children can be.

7 - I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - Well, there have been three movies that have totally missed the point of the book, but in the end it is this seminal tale of a lonely survivor in a vampire infested world that stands the test of time. Poor Robert Neville must learn to cope with days filled with emptiness and nights filled with horrible creatures that want to get him. This does not sound like fun.

6 - Dahlgren by Samuel R. Delaney - Often described (and decried) as one of the most difficult SF novels of all time, this particular tale of the time after Armageddon is a lyrical and bizarre story of characters trapped in an eternal now. Maybe. Actually, I am not entirely sure about that either... Anyway, it is a great book.

5 - Vellum/Ink by Hal Duncan - Surprisingly this series by Scottish newcomer Hal Doncan is as complicated and difficult as Dahlgren, but with a twist: you can actually understand what is going on. This series takes us through a semi-scientific and semi-supernatural apocalypse that leaves immortal super-beings strewn across the map of time like poorly squished roadkill. Beautifully written and combining stories from past, present, and future, this series will provide you with hours of discussion and thousands of questions.

4 - Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt - Much like the Marked Man series, this takes place in a far future, where the apocalypse is a distant memory. A group of scholars set out on the road to find a hidden library of knowledge from before the fall of man. These folks understand the idea of some of the mechanical innovations that came before (like submarines and cars), although they do not really comprehend how to make them work. There is a great scene in the story when a building's AI asks the explorers to kill it.

3 - The War Against the Chtorr by David Gerrold - When a series of nasty plagues wipe out most of the population of Earth, the survivors must try to band together to defeat an alien infestation that may have started the massive die-offs. In turns this series is strange and common, and it makes one really think about how man would cope in these situations. After all, it is hard enough dealing with the deaths of billions without the threat of being eaten by caterpillars the size of Volkswagens.

2 - A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller - Set in the years after the nuclear war that almost destroyed mankind, a young Jewish engineer converts to Catholicism and starts a monastic order dedicated to the preservation of works of science and technology in a world gone suddenly luddite. The story follows characters over three time periods as man strives to fins a new way in the age after the Flame Deluge.

1 - The Stand by Steven King - And speaking of plagues, here is the granddaddy of all plague stories, with 95% of the population of the Earth dying from the 'Captain Tripps' version of the super flu. Good and evil duke it out between Boulder and Las Vegas, and life, as always, finds a way. Filled with suspense, action, and great characters, this is a classic of many genres.

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