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I have a weak spot for survival fiction. Two of my absolute favorites in this genre are “Lucifer’s Hammer” and, of course, “Alas, Babylon”. Both books came out many years ago so it’s not often I find something that I wind up dog-earring as much as those two. (My copy of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ springs to mind but I suppose that is technically not a book about survival.)
One book, or series of books, that I find myself reading over and over again is “Island in the Sea of Time” – the first book (although it can stand alone quite well) in Stirling’s trilogy.
SM Stirling, in case you havent read his stuff, comes across as someone who must have been kind of a geek in high school and played a lot of D&D and watched a lot of science fiction. His books invariably construct some sort of circumstance where modern technology is limited or nullified and SCA-style geeks wind up being the new badasses.
Having said that, he does do a good job of creating engaging characters and telling a story well, although in Tom Clancy fashion he can wind up getting too caught up in describing technology or methods.
The premise for Island In The Sea Of Time is simple: the modern Island of Nantucket suddenly vanishes and re-appears several thousand years earlier…people, infrastructure, buildings, and all. The mechanism of this is left unexplained and the story then proceeds to how this society of people can continue to survive without the resources it is used to having. Throw in a few opportunists who want to use the opportunity to set themselves up as king of the savages, a few cultural stereotypes, and a large amount of re-invention of pre-industrial technology, and its a pretty compelling read.
If youre notion of the apocalypse includes a general global catastrophe where all you have is what can make or had socked away in your basement, you’ll probably appreciate this book. Once the .223 is gone, the gasoline used up, the batteries dead, and the radios silent, it’s all a matter of what can you make and how do you learn ow to make it.
What I like about it is the notion of intelligence, creativity, and adaptation being the fuel that keeps the fire of ‘civilization’ going. The characters have to adapt to their limited supplies of modern goods disappearing, learn to work their way up to black powder and steam technology, and make the most of the dwindling modern technology that theyll never be able to replace (computers, for example). Its an excellent book and if you have some time to kill I recommend it.
A similar, although not nearly as well written, story is 1632 by Eric Flint. Essentially the same premise with a different locale and era. A modern (or as modern as it gets, I suppose) West Virginia coal mining town is dropped into feudal Europe.
1632 In the year 1632 in northern Germany a reasonable person might conclude that things couldn’t get much worse. There was no food. Disease was rampant. For over a decade religious war had ravaged the land and the people. Catholic and Protestant armies marched and countermarched across the northern plains, laying waste the cities and slaughtering everywhere. In many rural areas population plummeted toward zero. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.
2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia. The mines are working, the buck are plentiful (it’s deer season) and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn’s sister (including the entire membership of the local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED….
When the dust settles, Mike leads a small group of armed miners to find out what’s going on. Out past the edge of town Grantville’s asphalt road is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell; a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter Iying screaming in muck at the center of a ring of attentive men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don’t have to ask who to shoot.
At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of The Thirty Years War.
More heavily focused on 17th century European politics and intrigues, its still an entertaining, although not very compelling, read. On the bright side, however, it is free.
Both of these really belong to the genre of ‘alternative history’, but I think they dovetail nicely into the category of survival fiction….much the way some zombie stuff is technically the ‘horror’ genre but also fits.
Of the two stories, I recommend Stirling’s if you don’t mind dropping a few bucks for a book. I find it a good enough read that I often just pick it up. open it to a random page, and start reading. The two books after it, by the way, are also very good and if you enjoy te first one I don’t think you’ll be at all disappointed with the ones that follow.