Most chilling Apocalypse novel

uk 75

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Although Cinema brings us a whole raft of apocalypse and disaster movies, these are often just an orgy of special effects and over the top acting.
The novel however leaves much to your imagination, often curled up in bed after a long day in the real world.
My candidate for the most chilling apocalypse novel is not a World War3 one, though there are some good candidates.
Instead it is "The Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham.
At a stroke most of humanity, particularly in the familiar surroundings of South East England suddenly lose their sight.
Then a seemingly comical "walking" plant found in that most English of settings-the back garden- infests the countryside. Snag is that the plants are carnivorous and sting their victims to death.
By taking a banal setting and threat Wyndham turns our everyday fears like blindness or getting stung into a nightmare.
Compared with which Frank Herbert has to rely on giant rats to make a nuclear attack on London nowhere near as frightening
 

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Well, there are the Quatermas books which are as gritty as things got in the fifties and sixties and Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon which adds a sort of good v evil stuff to the mix but basically the human being under pressure and how low WE can go. Arc Light by Eric L Harry is gritty due to my being around in the army at much the time it is set. Times we can relate to tend to hit home most imho.
 

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Perfect Sense (2011)

I find this one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, particularly because of the current state of the world.

It begins when an epidemic begins to spread throughout the globe, causing humankind to lose their sensory perceptions one by one. First to go is smell and people just go on with their lives with that impediment. Then taste goes...... Not too far from home.

 

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"Earth Abides." George Stewart. Published shortly after WWII (1949), a plague sweeps the planet and kills well in excess of 99.99% of the population. No zombies or vampires, just a few people wandering the abandoned cities trying to figure out how to keep the species going... and if they even can. And deciding when it's appropriate to commit straight up murder

"Alas Babylon" by Pat Frank, 1959. Early nuclear war story, with a startlingly effective description of a nuke going off in downtown Miami.
 

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"Fallen Angels" by Niven, Pournelle and Flynn, published 1991. The Woke have conquered the world and finally ended the emission of carbon dioxide... and as a result the glaciers are a mile thick in North Dakota and sweeping south in a hurry.

"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" by Ellison. No description does it justice.

"I Am Legend" by Matheson, so much better than the various movie adaptations that it's not even funny.

"World War Z," by Brooks. Also far superior to the movie, as well as wholly different.

"Farnham's Freehold" by Heinlein. Yeah, Hollywood ain't gonna be making THAT one.
 

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"Farnham's Freehold" by Heinlein. Yeah, Hollywood ain't gonna be making THAT one.
"an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love."

At best, [it] is an uncomfortable book with some good points mixed in with the bad, like an elderly relative [who] can give good advice and in the next breath go off on some racist or sexist rant. At worst, Farnham's Freehold is an anti-minority, anti-woman survivalist rant. It is oftentimes frustrating. It is sometimes shocking. It is never boring."
 

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"Farnham's Freehold" by Heinlein. Yeah, Hollywood ain't gonna be making THAT one.
"an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love."

At best, [it] is an uncomfortable book with some good points mixed in with the bad, like an elderly relative [who] can give good advice and in the next breath go off on some racist or sexist rant. At worst, Farnham's Freehold is an anti-minority, anti-woman survivalist rant. It is oftentimes frustrating. It is sometimes shocking. It is never boring."
Counterpoint: Heinlein's imagined future society is not exactly remarkable in terms of cultures throughout history. Cannibalism and eunuchs aren't the sort of things that appeared solely within the pages of extreme fantasy. As for anti-woman... well, let's see how Talibanistan turns out.
 

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My candidate for the most chilling apocalypse novel is not a World War3 one, though there are some good candidates.
Instead it is "The Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham.

I'd go for Wyndham, too, but my choice would be "The Kraken Wakes". Mostly seen through the eyes of a journalist, sea dwelling aliens arrive, and start taking over the seas, then raiding the shores. It escalates to a full-blown war for the oceans, and by the time we've knocked them out, there's major sea-level rise. And the journalist survives because his wife has seen what's coming and started laying in supplies in their house on a hill while he was off gadding about the world.
 
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DWG

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"Fallen Angels" by Niven, Pournelle and Flynn, published 1991. The Woke have conquered the world and finally ended the emission of carbon dioxide... and as a result the glaciers are a mile thick in North Dakota and sweeping south in a hurry.

I think this is more the last hurrah of the "we're headed into a new glacial period" that some people were pushing in the late '80s (and earlier, there's a particularly good AC Clarke short story whose title I forget), and which Niven and Pournelle had bought into. It suffers badly from making the bad guys idiotic strawmen, rather than a competent threat.
 

Nik

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'Triffids', yes.
Wyndham did a bunch of apocalyptic or post-apoc tales, seemed to get the ick-factor just right.
'Kraken Wakes' was gas-giant aliens setting up home in deep oceans. Dug 'Panama Tunnel', zapped ice-shelves so sea-levels rapidly rose, sent tentacular amphibious bio-tanks to raid low coasts etc etc.

'On the Beach', Neville Shute, spoiler, every-one dies...

I find it very hard to read or watch most apoc stuff.

I was just old enough during Cuban Crisis to appreciate we were situate in 'Eye of Venn' between multiple thermo-nuke targets. Parents re-purposed nook under stairs as a mini-shelter. Brought in camping gear, gardening tools etc. Lifted several floor-boards so, in extremis, us kids could access the crawl-space and live like rats. As eldest, already bookish, it would fall to me to educate the youngsters from our modest reference shelf, teach them 'Kipling Rules'...

Us kids slept under stairs, parents & kin would come running if sirens sounded. One double-dire scenario was a 'neutral' ship in the docks having a Russian thermo-nuke in secret compartment. No warning time...

Happily, sun-rise did not come early from North, South and/or West. And, gradually, we disposed of the vittles, vodka and such my parents had hastily collected...

But, Brrrr...
 

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Not my favorite genre but yeah, "On the beach" is a good one. Arthur C. Clark's, "Childhood's End" is another. Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War", is an apocalyptic story from the point of view that the humanity the protagonists are fighting to protect evolves into something not really Human anymore over the course of the millenia that the war's being fought.
 
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Orionblamblam

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"Idiocracy" is not that far off the mark, except for putting that level of human stupid that far into the future. It's not a novel, so it doesn't really fit the theme of the thread... but the work most likely to have inspired it, Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" does kinda fit. For those who somehow haven't read it, hundreds of years into the future mankind has become not only incredibly populous, but on the whole incredibly stupid for the same reason given in "Idiocracy." Earth stands on the edge of collapse; the very few smart people devote their entire efforts to just keeping things from utterly failing. Salvation comes in the form of a man from the past who is capable of thinking like an effective amoral scam artist.

"Idiocracy" doesn't have that, nor the secret cabal of smart folks. It seems that the future America of "Idiocracy" (and presumably everywhere else) is run by AI systems built centuries before. But it's clearly in a state of decay, about thirty seconds from final collapse. So "Idiocracy 2" would most likely be a post-apocalyptic work, with millions of the slightly-less-stupid milling about aimlessly in the smoking, non-functional ruins filled with billions of corpses of the truly stupid. "Idiocracy 3" would be about the cockroaches rising to dominance a few decades later. Humanity would have gone extinct from Teh Dumm, and the evolution of the bugs would have been accelerated from the radiation released by all the melted-down reactors.
 

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"The Night Land" by Hodgson, 1912. A ponderous read... took me a *decade* to read that damn thing. And it's weird as hell. But it's kinda the apocalypse to end all apocalypses... the sun has gone out, humans exist only in one last city (a giant pyramidal arcology) powered by... well, magic basically. Out in the darkness around the last city are monsters the size of mountains just waiting for the power to go out to finally wipe out the last of mankind. It's just a slow, inevitable decline into darkness and oblivion.
 

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"Earth Abides." by George Stewart. is still one of best in genre

and Comic ?
"Simon de Fleuve" by Claude Auclair
With six volumes published between 1976–1978,

it play around 70 year after global collapse,
The declining Industrial nations were unable to solve their problems and exhausted resources let to their downfall.
The last war was abandon do lack of Oil and resources, in end law and order disintegrate and nation state cease to exist.

The people restart from zero and try to build fairer society, what became mostly Farmers or medieval city states, also Nomadic tribes.
But the last remains of Civilisation emerge from ruins, first as Effort to restore French State, what turn into a fascist city state,
"They" go recklessly to secure resources and workforces either true by Military force or using descendant of rocker gangs.

Simon de Fleuve is unique, in story and art
Auclair use simple imagery from Vietnam-war or Amish farmers to tell his story
Simon is first Anti Hero of his kind, he wanders true french country site, he hates violence, detest killing.
Even his quest to destroy a weapon prototype that his father was force to build for "Them" is sideline in story.
Exceptionally the comic is not action pact like Mad Max and it feature allot of critic on politic, social, belief in progress,
Even the french holy nuclear power was heavy critiqued Auclair as one of first Franco-belgium Comics.
 

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Hands down, The Book of Revelation, aka The Apocalypse of John - after all, it's the oeuvre that started the whole genre. Even though it's more a far out short story than a novel, the utter misery and global carnage packed into just a few pages is truly staggering. Each time you think things really can't get any worse, guess what - they do, by a lot. Of course, it's also the original source of a lot of common doomsday memes, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I have no idea what John was on when he wrote this doozie, but man, I sure wouldn't want to partake in that...
 
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Archibald

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On. the. beach.


(frack, ninja'd by @Nik and @jeffb)

Fist of the North star / Hokuto no ken

"omae wa mou shindeiru" tuuuuut... splash goes the bad guy head...

Brazil
Brave new world
Lord of the flies
War of the worlds.


Read / saw all of them as pre-teen. Ended rather depressed. Never bothered to read 1984.

But Brave new world really depressed the shit out of me. I think the sheer horror of that book is not carnage, blood and guts but something much more terrifying: all the horror now considered the norm - a mix of soma and genetics.
"Hey, we build a new breed of slaves: we deprived them of oxygen in te womb, wrecking their brains; and once born, we drugged them with soma, making them addict of the stuff for life."
Only that... It is one of the few books that really made me want to throw up.
And there is NO reprive in the end: this is no Disney story.
Frack, even the ones in the Savage reservation have shitty lives.

 
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Archibald

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Hands down, The Book of Revelation, aka The Apocalypse of John - after all, it's the oeuvre that started the whole genre. Even though it's more a far out short story than a novel, the utter misery and global carnage packed into just a few pages is truly staggering. Each time you think things really can't get any worse, guess what - they do, by a lot. Of course, it's also the original source of a lot of common doomsday memes, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I have no idea what John was on when he wrote this doozie, but man, I sure wouldn't want to partake in that...

Well, the entire Bible (notably the old book) is a litany of horrors, when you think about it. Cain & Abel, Onan the wanker, Abraham "I will kill my son if God ask for it", Sodome and Gomorra, Moise troubled odyssey...

Real world example: the 14th century. Dear God.


(and a related book: KSR "Years of rice and salt", what a fascinating novel with a mind boggling pitch !)
 
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The Machine Stops is pretty good.

Especially if you consider that it's basically describing social media. Behold the current meltdown over Only Fans banning adult content; imagine if Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and the like all just suddenly *stopped.* Sizable segments of society would lose their minds; cities might burn.
 

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Philip McCutchan and John Christopher were two other authors I read as a kid in UK. McCutchan wrote two WW3 books while Christopher is known for the Tripods about alien invasion as well as the usual natural disaster stuff.
JG Ballard was another SciFi writer looking at natural catastrophes.
Well known horror writer Dennis Wheatley also got in the act with a novel about a frozen London and a weird one about a Britain in an imagined 1930s where the monarchy is overthrown in Britain.
Neville Shute in addition to On the Beach wrote What Happened to the Corbetts just before WW2 about a family fleeing a bombed out Southampton after war starts.
Shute also wrote a curious book called In the Wet which has the Queen and her family leaving Britain and relying on.a loyal Australia for support.
Edmund Cooper prefered to take current trends and warp them into dystopian future Britains in Five to Twelve and Kronk.
Finally, HG Wells's original War of the Worlds is the seminal lay waste to London and the Home Counties novel. A graphic novel version called Scarlet Traces has taken the story up to the present day in a Britain warped beyond Wells's imagination.
These books were my reading between ten and thirteen. Much better than Harry Potter or The Hobbit. Shame the real thing in the form of Covid has been a nightmare but of the tedious sort.
 

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Well, there are the Quatermas books which are as gritty as things got in the fifties and sixties and Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon which adds a sort of good v evil stuff to the mix but basically the human being under pressure and how low WE can go. Arc Light by Eric L Harry is gritty due to my being around in the army at much the time it is set. Times we can relate to tend to hit home most imho.
Quatermass movies did and still do give me the willies. Also the BBC series, society melts down, but you get a cool landrover or sherpa van to tootle around in.
 

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The Machine Stops is pretty good.

Especially if you consider that it's basically describing social media. Behold the current meltdown over Only Fans banning adult content; imagine if Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and the like all just suddenly *stopped.* Sizable segments of society would lose their minds; cities might burn.
I'd be roasting marshmallows over the fire.
 

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"Farnham's Freehold" by Heinlein. Yeah, Hollywood ain't gonna be making THAT one.
"an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love."

At best, [it] is an uncomfortable book with some good points mixed in with the bad, like an elderly relative [who] can give good advice and in the next breath go off on some racist or sexist rant. At worst, Farnham's Freehold is an anti-minority, anti-woman survivalist rant. It is oftentimes frustrating. It is sometimes shocking. It is never boring."
Well he clearly believed a nuclear war was coming, as he built a bunker.

 

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Along with a fair few others but it takes little to destabilise a modern society. I remain totally shocked at how few can walk safely down a street. Seriously mind bending.
 

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John Brunner's 'The Jagged Orbit'... Racial Segregation because the African-Americans demanded it with a firearms company hammering at every crack in society to sell more product.
 

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Anone living in a small village or part of a small town will be aware of narrow pavements. In these situations, especially with the gradual increase in BE cars/vans, that the person facing oncoming traffic should be the one who takes to the road to allow people coming towards you to pass safely. In such situations it is always better to walk in file rather than abreast too. No they do not do this either.

The amount of times I have had to grab some doddering fool or fifty something year old Darwin fan and pull them on to the pavement to prevent them becoming jam on the road is truly mind warping. Bad enough with ICE but BE cars amplify this.
 

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I found Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance) a fascinating and unsettling read. It’s the story of a US government agency trying to discover the secrets of the mysterious Area X. The Netflix film of Annihilation is a decent attempt at part of it and captures the feel of frustration and bewilderment of Area X but there is a lot more in the books.
 

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Edmund Cooper gets a bad press these days for the misogynistic plots of some of his later works, however The Cloud Walker is fabulous post WWIV tale about the rediscovery of flight in the face of a population distrusting science and ruled over by the Luddite Church.

Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes are among my favourite novels, although Brian Aldiss might have point when he describes them as Cosy Catastrophes, at the end, everyone left can still sit down for a nice cup of tea and some cake...

Clarkes short story, The Nine Billion Names of God manages to be both an amusing and chillingly beautiful apocalypse...

Zeb
 

uk 75

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I am cheating a bit but am prompted by Archibald's French title.
I caught this film on Belgian TV in the 80s. Made in France in 1979 it features the French equivalent of a MASH unit but with high tech kit operating in a war somewhere in Europe which may or may not be a potential WW3. It is very French with attractive stars falling in love. I wont spoil the ending ...
 
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"All Tomorrows" by Koseman, 2006. Short form: a history of the next billion years of humanity. Unfortunately, after starting to get somewhere in colonizing the galaxy, humanity is set upon by a more powerful species that eventually converts each planet of Man into a different mutilated species, done mostly just because the aliens are A-holes. Most of the resulting species are no longer human-level intelligent, but there are some horrors where they are left with their minds and intellects intact, but trapped in terribly *wrong* bodies.
 

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Along with a fair few others but it takes little to destabilise a modern society. I remain totally shocked at how few can walk safely down a street. Seriously mind bending.

And I'm totally livid at how people instantly become dumb as a clam or an oyster the moment they seat into a car and start driving.

Case in point 1: Bordeaux motorway an ordinary day.

Case in point 2: Bordeaux motorway a rainy day (I mean, slight rain - not a munsoon).
 

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I've always found 'Waiting For War' by Claude Delarue unsettling - although it's hard to pin down exactly why. In that book, the end of things is off somewhere in the background, but you know it's there. Meanwhile, in the main part of the story, the various players try and figure out what they're supposed to do and how they're supposed to react. In that sense, it reminds me of the bleakness of 80s stuff such as Threads.
 

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The Machine Stops is pretty good.

Especially if you consider that it's basically describing social media. Behold the current meltdown over Only Fans banning adult content; imagine if Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and the like all just suddenly *stopped.* Sizable segments of society would lose their minds; cities might burn.
It's more than social media, though. It's more the difference between a cubicle drone who drafts things in CAD and a Amish farmer who dropped out of school in eighth grade and has three kids before he's old enough to drink.

Chillingly accurate for a time when most Americans still worked in fields and subsistence farming was common in Oklahoma.

All post apocalyptic novels have that undercurrent of horror because they reflect reality. All good ones remain horrific for many decades.
 

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