7 Great Post-Apocalypse Books

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 2, 2012

What does a nuclear war, a plague, zombies, and robots all have in common? They could all lead to the apocalypse and bring about the end of the world. In fact some of the best works of fiction are part of the sub-genre the deals with the aftermath of a disaster that nearly wipes out the human population. In each of these tales the apocalypse serves as the back-drop for a survival story. The best stories don’t spend too much time focusing on the cause of the disaster and instead explain who survived and how they survived. In each story unlikely heroes emerge and try to put back the pieces of the shattered world that they once knew. I always find it fascinating to discover that it’s usually a combination of luck and preparation that keep people alive when the world comes to an end.

With the recent success of NBC’s new show Revolution (Wikipedia | NBC.com), the post-apocalyptic survival genre is reaching a wider and more main stream audience. So for everyone who enjoy Revolution and is looking for more of the same we’ve got plenty of good recommendations for you. At first glance it may not seem like these books could all possibly share anything in common, but in each case the world ends and a select few are left to pick up the pieces.

Post-apocalyptic survival stories are defiantly one of my favourite genres. Any time I hear about a new story in this vein I immediately check it out. More and more of these stories are becoming movies, but in some cases the transition is an apocalypse in and of itself (The Postman, we’re looking at you!). So do yourself a favour and pick up some (or all) of these books before they’re stripped down and streamlined for the big screen.

These are definitely (in my opinion) the best examples of the post-apocalyptic survival genre. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but these are the ones that are most likely to get new readers hooked on the genre. If you’ve got any recommendations of your own please leave them in the comments below.

Dies the Fire
S. M. Stirling
What happens when an EMP-like phenomena blankets the Earth leaving all electronics forever useless? Just to make things more interesting what if this same phenomena rendered all explosives (including gun powder and nuclear devices) useless as well? You’d have people who have become utterly dependent on modern technology thrust into the dark ages without any warning or preparation. Only the strong and smart will survive, while the physically powerful attempt to exert control the old-fashioned way. The author spends no time trying to explain why things changed, you just accept that they have and we move on from there. Fans of the NBC series Revolution will likely find this series fascinating and familiar.
10 on a d10
World War Z
Max Brooks
Mankind has survived the Zombie apocalypse. The story follows a U.N. investigator who is trying to piece together a complete picture of what happened and how things every got as bad as they did. The story is told through flashbacks as survivors recount their personal experiences during World War Z. This one should appeal equally to zombie fans and post-apocalyptic survival fans alike.
10 on a d10
Daniel H. Wilson
Much like World War Z this story begins at the end. Humans have defeated the robots who tried to destroy mankind. One of the resistance fighters finds a data capsule in the aftermath and using the information contained within pieces together the rise and fall of the machines. This story takes place in the not to distant future where machines and robots are even more integrated into society and our everyday lives than they already are. Reminiscent of SkyNet from the Terminator franchise a machine gains sentience and decides to destroy mankind and free the robot race.
10 on a d10
The Stand
Stephen King
A plague is accidentally released from a military research station and kills all but the 1% of people who have a natural immunity. The survivors are guided through dreams to join one of two saviours in Boulder, Colorado or Las Vegas, Nevada. As the two factions reestablish order it becomes clear that one camp is good and the other evil. When the two become aware of each others existence there is a final showdown – the stand – for control of the new world.
8 on a d10
The Postman
David Brin
Forget everything you’ve seen or heard about the Kevin Costner movie of the same name. The book is very different and way better. The world has suffered a nuclear war and the survivors live in isolated communities. A drifter wearing an old postal carrier’s uniform (which he found and wears only to keep warm) bluffs his way into a community by claiming to be a Postman delivering messages as part of the Restored United States of America. As he exploits his Postman role it inadvertently brings hope to the people. When the Postman finds scientists desperately trying to protect and repair technology he becomes an unintentional hero who helps them defend the treasures of the past from those who world rather rule by force and never look back.
8 on a d10
The Road
Cormac Mccarthy
In this grim and often depressing tale we follow a father and his son as they struggle to survive in the world after a nuclear war. This is one of the most realistic books on the list and makes no attempt to glamourize the world that remains. The main characters, identified only as man and boy, are in a constant struggle to survive the harsh and unforgiving world. Despite the book’s often depressing events, there is a loving bond between the father and son that compels you to read on. As if to mirror the world where there is never a safe place to rest, the book has no chapter breaks.
9 on a d10
The Passage
Justin Cronin
After a medical experiment goes awry, vampire-like creatures begin destroying civilization as we know it. The only survivors live in fortresses where artificial lights run 24/7. Things get really interesting when the power starts to fade and the safety of the lights begins wavering. This is the first of three novels, the second of which – The Twelve – was just released.
9 on a d10

Note: I’ve intentionally excluded comic books and graphic novels from this list, but if that’s your preferred medium I recommend The Walking Dead (Wikipedia | AMC) and Y: The Last Man (Wikipedia).

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1 callin November 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Right now I am in the middle of reading the Pelbar Cycle, a post-apocalyptic world with 7 books in the series (from the 80s). I am really enjoying them. I love the feel of them and the look at what society would be like after an Armageddon. To me it feels like Gamma World but without the talking animals, mutations or silliness.


2 Shawn November 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I read and enjoyed both “The Road” and “The Passage.” I was unaware that “The Passage” was part of a trilogy, so I will definitely be checking that out. Thanks for dropping the knowledge!

3 wickedmurph November 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm

The Dies the Fire (and follow-up Series) are excellent, as is the Stand – even though it could use better editing. The Road is well-written but pointless. But the Passage? Seriously? That book is so poorly written I could barely stand it. I put it down well before the end and regret the time I spent on it.

Rather than the Passage, you should read Wolf and Iron by Gordon R Dickson.

4 Christopher November 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Others worth checking out are:

Earth Abides – George R. Stewart (written in 1949 but could’ve been written yesterday with very few changes)
Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (this is what all other meteor/asteroid impact stories strive to be)

5 Roland November 3, 2012 at 7:57 am

The Road is Pointless? Yeah, ok.

6 John November 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

I second Christopher’s endorsement of Lucifer’s Hammer. It has a distinct RPG feel to it.

You might want to look into Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon

Some people think it’s a Stand clone, but it’s more narratively complex and interesting, IMO.

7 James Bryant November 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

I loved Dies the Fire. I was so disappointed when I found out Revolution wasn’t an adaptation. Though I have since grown quite fond of the show. World War Z was also excellent.

8 Rogue #1 November 4, 2012 at 1:10 am

I take it you gots Dies of fire Derek? If so, when I finish the book im reading now may I borrow it?

9 Becky November 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I rarely read sci-fi, but recently have really been getting into them! I just finished “The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World” by Edgar Swamp, and really loved it- a great story full of mutants and genetically altered animals and humans who’ve lost all trace of their former selves. I was out of ideas on what I would read next. Thank you for your wonderful suggestions. I can’t wait to check them out- especially “Robopocalypse”!


10 nikki / click clack gorilla November 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

I am a big fan of this kind of fiction myself, and it seems like people have been recommending Robopocalypse to me right and left. Something about the name and the cover are a huge turn off for me, and I haven’t been able to bear to pick it up. So you’re saying it ain’t so? I should go through with it?

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