Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Every so often I feel compelled to mention that, hey, Im not an expert. Im not an authority. Im not even an ‘informed source’. I’m just a guy who has an interest in preparedness, some space on the internet, and a desire to explore and discuss related topics. What works for me may not work for you…actually, it may not even be working for me. But, I’ll tell you about it and you can work it around in your own mind and maybe we’ll both be better for the experience.

For the last few weeks I’ve been re-reading “Alas Babylon”. By ‘re-read’ I mean that when I go to bed I’ll pick up the book, open it up to an arbitrary page, and start reading for a little while until I feel its time to doze. For some reason I never get tired of that book. Not sure why. I’ve read a lot of survivalist fiction…huge amounts… and some was better, many were just as good, and a large amount were worse. But I find “Alas Babylon” to be one of the best.

When I was a kid I devoured Ahern’s ‘Survivalist’ series. Talk about fiction…the ultimate ubermensch (a renaissance man in the Buckaroo Banzai style – CIA agent, medical doctor, survival expert, martial arts expert, etc, etc.) living in the ultimate survival bunker with the staunchly loyal sidekick and hopelessly infatuated exotic hottie love interest. Throw in some sci-fi (which they did later), lotsa meticulously detailed gunplay, tongue-in-cheek nods at social and political commentary and you have a recipe for formulaic pulp that established the benchmark for the genre. A friend of mine bought the entire series off eBay and I sometimes re-read them. I am amazed Ahern got as many years out of that series as he did. A sidenote is that his relentless worship of the Detonics pistol eventually culminated in him running the company in Victor Kiam fashion (“I liked it so much, I bought the company!”). Unfortunately even Ahern’s fervor and zeal didn’t save Detonics from becoming the Charter Arms of the 1911 world.

About the same time we had another end-of-the-world pulp series. “The Guardians” was a series about a small secret government military squad whose sole job was to piece together the missing government plan to rebuild the US after the nuclear war. Naturally the heroes each had distinctive traits and qualities, traveled randomly around the US in their pursuit and left trails of bodies wherever they went. The series eventually wound up being ghostwritten towards the end and it ended on a whimper.

Speaking of tremendous failures, when the mind-numbingly repetitive ‘Ashes’ series finally put out the last book it was probably the lamest, worst , most uninspired way to kill off a protagonist in the history of the genre. He simply…caught an alien space virus and died. Just. Like. That. Johnstone’s series was unique in the genre for actually having started a political/social movement. For a few years there were very vocal ‘Tri-States’ supporters on various forums. I personally found them comedic, although sincere in their desire for the political system espoused in the series.

Slightly less inspiring but equally formulaic was Axlers “Deathlands” series. The premise was interesting (secret .gov teleportation facilities left over after a nuclear holocaust allow those who know how to work the system to roam the wastes of the country seeking old stockpiles of arms and supplies) with the occasional lurid sex scene thrown in. Again, very formulaic but still entertaining. Less relation to ‘real life’ than any of the previously mentioned series.

For non-series books theres always Lucifers Hammer (comet scenario), Footfall (invasion from space scenario), Invasion (Chinese invade US scenario…I liked this one), Patriots (economic collapse/UN takeover scenario), The Postman (general collapse scenario..some odd messages in the book), Pulling Through (novel w/ nuclear war survival skills), Warday (aftermath of limited nuclear exchange) , Wolf & Iron (unspecified collapse, heavyhanded pro-wolf theme), and one of my recent favorites, Island in The Sea of Time (temporal displacement scenario).

Out of all these, I still like “Alas Babylon” most. Probably because the author’s goal was different than that of any of the other authors mentioned. His intent wasn’t to sell books, disparage gun control, warn of global conspiracies, or promote a self-developed political system. From what I’ve read of ‘Pat Frank’ (his real name escapes me at the moment) his goal was to show that nuclear war was not unsurvivable and that people should agitate for a strong civil defense program.

So, if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend picking up a copy. It is quite obviously dated with its ‘atomic war’ and ‘hydrogen bomb’ references as well as some racial stereotypes of the era, but still a very good read in my opinion. I was about to say that its ripe for being made into a movie but it occurs to me that the television series “Jericho” paralleled it quite a bit. In fact, I recall referring to ‘Jericho’ as ‘Alas Babylon: The Series’.

For sheer, unparalleled over-the-top fun reading I recommend Aherns ‘The Survivalist’ series. It has a cheesey 1980’s feel to it and it’s just out and out fun to read even though you’ll roll your eyes everytime the hero escapes overwhelming odds thanks to some deus ex machina or other contrivance. An excellent drinking game could be constructed from the series using terms like “Metalifed”, “twin Detonics” and “musette bag”.

Here’s a very incomplete list of survivalist fiction titles that I picked up off a board somewhere. I can’t vouch if any of them are any good, but theyre a good place to start:

Abbey, Edward – Black Sun

Ahern, Jerry & Sharon Ahern – The Freeman

Aikman, David – When the Almond Tree Blossoms

Anvil, Christopher – The Steel, The Mist, and the Blazing Sun

Barjavel, Rene – Ashes, Ashes

Baron, Robert – Storm Rider (series)

Bell, Art & Whitley Streiber – The Coming Global Superstorm

Benford, Gregory & Martin Greenberg – Nuclear War (short stories)

Berman, Mitch – Time Capsule

Block, Thomas H. – Airship Nine

Blumenfeld, Yorick – Jenny, My Diary

Bosse, Malcolm – Mister Touch

Brunner, John – The Day of the Star Cities

Brunner, John – The Sheep Look Up

Budrys, Algis – Some Will Not Die

Burton, Levar – Aftermath

Cameron, J.D. – Omega Sub (series)

Camus, Albert – The Plague

Christopher, John – The Long Winter

Christopher, John – No Blade of Grass

Cook, Robin – Outbreak

Coppel, Alfred – Dark December

Dale, Floyd R. – A Hunter’s Fire

Defoe, Daniel – Robinson Cruesoe

Dickson, Gordon R. – In Iron Years

Drake, David & Billie Sue Mosiman – Armageddon (short stories)

DuBois, Brendan – Resurrection day

Fleishman, Paul – Path of the Pale Horse

Gilbert, Elizabeth – The Last American Man

Gleason, Robert – Wrath of God

Graham, David – Down to a Sunless Sea

Graham, David – Survival Margin

Greenberg, Martin & Gregory Benford – Nuclear War (short stories)

Guha, Anton-Andreas – Ende

Hagberg, David – Heartland

Harry, Eric L. – Arc Light

Hegland, Jean – Into the Forest

Heine, William C. – Death Wind

Heinlein, Robert A. – Sixth Column

Herbert, James – Domain

Herbert, James – 48

Hernon, Peter – 8.4

Hill, Russell -Cold Creek Cash Store

Hodge, Brian – Dark Advent

Johnson, K.S. – The Omega Plan

Johnstone, William J. – Breakdown

Kornbluth, C.M. – Not This August

Kunetka, James & Whiley Streiber – Nature’s End

L’Amour, Louis – Last of the Breed

Lange, Oliver – Defiance (also published as Vandenberg)

Malcolm, Donald – The Iron Rain

Mann, Ed – First Angel

Masterson, Graham – Famine

McCammon, Robert R. – Swan Song

McPhee, James – Survival 2000 (series)

Merle, Robert – Maleveil

Miklowitz, Gloria D. – After the Bomb (series)

Mills, James – One Just Man

Morrow, James – This is the Way the World Ends

Mosiman, Sue Billie & David Drake – Armageddon (short stories)

Murphy, Pat – The City, Not Long After

Nahmlos, John – Survivors

O’brien, Robert C. – Z for Zachariah

Osier, John – Rankin: Enemy of the State

Palmer, David R. – Emergence

Phipson, Joan – When the City Stopped

Pouns, Brauna, E. – Amerika

Rand, Ayn – Atlas Shrugged

Randall, Marta – Those Who Favor Fire

Reisig, Michael – The New Madrid Run

Rhinehart, Luke – Long Voyage Back

Robinson, Kim Stanley – The Wild Shore

Roshwald, Mordecai – Level 7

Sheffield, Charles – Aftermath

Siegel, Barbara & Scott – Firebrats (series)

Simmons, Geoffrey – Pandemic

Stirling, S.M. Island in the Sea of Time

Streiber, Whitley & Art Bell – The Coming Global Superstorm

Streiber, Whitley & James Kunetka – Nature’s End

Sutton, Henry – Vector

Terman, Douglas – Free Flight

Tucker, Wilson – Long Loud Silence

Turtledove, Harry – American Empire

Warner, Douglas – Death on a Warm Wind

Wilhelm, Kate – Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Williams, Walter J. – The Rift

Winslow, Pauline Glen – I, Martha Adams

Wollheim, Donald A. The End of the World (short stories)

Wren, M.K. – A Gift Upon the Shore

Wylie, Philip – Tomorrow!

Wyndam, John – The Day of the Triffids

Wyndham, John – The Kraken Awakes

Most of these books can be found on eBay or possibly in your local used book store. Have fun.

12 thoughts on “Fiction

  1. I have (or had) When the Almond Tree Blossoms by David Aikman. It’s pretty good. When fly over country decides to revolt against DC and the more left leaning states after they suspend the Constitution, it’s nice to have a few SSBNs on your side when you start a new nation with it’s capitol in Montana.

  2. Stirling’s got another series going, tied in to Island in the Sea of Time (which I recently read, and quite enjoyed). Titles are Dies the Fire, The Protector’s War, and A Meeting at Corvallis. The premise is that in the rest of the world outside Nantucket, the Event effects some nasty, precise changes to the laws of physics that render electricity, firearms, and steam engines non-functional.

    I gotta say that the thought of a TEOTWAWKI scenario that rendered my firearms non-functional, allowing the SCA, Lord of the Rings fangirls, and Ren Faire crowd to rise up and take over the world, was pretty traumatic at first. The scene where one of the protagonists buries his Remington 700 almost brought a tear to my eye. But the series grew on me.

    Back in the late eighties, a guy named David Alexander put out a survivalist series called Phoenix; the hero, Magnus Trench, is your typical ex-military badass running around in a post-nuc America killing mutant zombies Contams (victims of a bioweapon attack) with a SAW. Pretty bad stuff if you’re an English lit post-doc; moderately entertaining otherwise.

  3. I read ’em. First book was okay but then it got lame in a major way. Stirling seems like one of those SCA geeks who got his ass kicked in high school and now writes books where the plywood-shield/tinfoil-sword wannabe’s wind up running the show.

  4. I have a special place in my heart for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction as genres. But Morrow’s “This is the Way the World Ends” is complete dreck, and I couldn’t get past the first three chapters of Graham’s “Down to a Sunless Sea.”

    I would add to this list William Brinkley’s “The Last Ship.”

  5. I actually met William Johnstone once. I read a few of his Ashes books, but found them to be pretty lame after the first. I may have read one of his Mountain Man books, but my fav is Vardis Fisher’s Mountain Man, a source that inspired the movie Jeremiah Johnson.

    I think you’re right — Alas Babylon is a classic. One of the best. Better than Lucifer’s Hammer.

  6. The series eventually wound up being ghostwritten towards the end and it ended on a whimper.

    It was ghostwritten at the very beginning, “Richard Austin” isn’t anybody’s real name. Guy’s real name is Victor Milan.

    The first one was excellent, really top notch. The actual *writing*, the wordcraft, was well above and beyond similar trashy technothrillers by the likes of oh, Dale Brown. That bit with the VC-150s up against the groundbound AC-130? Just excellent.

    Later on, it got silly.

  7. Turtledove’s American Empire series has absolutely nothing to do with survivalism, though it does feature some American cities being blown up with nuclear weapons as part of the story. It’s an AH with the Confederacy surviving into the 1940’s.

  8. Stirling seems like one of those SCA geeks who got his ass kicked in high school and now writes books where the plywood-shield/tinfoil-sword wannabe’s wind up running the show.

    This wasn’t the point at all. As far as I can tell, he was instead playing with the premise of how people might manage to survive in a world in which they retained the ability to use all technology except that depending upon high-energy concentrations.

    I wasn’t aware that “SCA geeks” generally got their asses “kicked in high school,” though. The SCA-ers tend to exercise a heck of a lot, including combat exercises — I’d be very surprised if an untrained enemy could take one of them hand-to-hand.

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