A Tuesday Ten: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Imagine a future world where civilization as we know it has been all but destroyed.  Some huge disaster (meteor strike, WWIII, plague, or endlessly multiplying Tribbles) have crumbled cities and left few survivors behind.

This is the sub-genre known as post apocalyptic science fiction.  These are not necessarily dystopian tales, though they can be. Does your favorite show up in today’s ten?


Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman (Random House, 2013)

A newly published post apocalyptic story set after WWIII has destroyed much of the world and irrevocably changed the landscape.  But rather than a world of despair, we have a high action adventure and coming of age story as one girl discovers her own strengths  and how they can serve her community in times of trouble.  A story that covers invention, survival, courage, and the importance of strong leadership.


Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody (Tom Doherty Associates, c1987)

The first book in The Obernewtyn Chronicles, and, I believe, Australian author Carmody’s debut novel.  Elspeth Gordie is one of the humans who has survived through The Great White, the final war and Age of Chaos that resulted after.  She’s grown up in a dystopian society and must desperately hide the special gifts she was born with to stay alive.  Her only hope is a mysterious place called Obernewtyn.  The entire series takes on a slightly mythical air of prophecy and destiny.  It’s a long series, but a fascinating one!


The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Yearling, c2003)

This is a book about a city that was created for human survival.  It was designed to last, stocked with food and necessary equipment to help humankind live deep beneath the earth for over a hundred years.  But now the city is beginning to fail . . . and the lights are going out.  Young protagonists Lina and Doon must piece together the clues to find a way out of the city and back to the surface! The first book in the Book of Ember quartet.


Tomorrow’s Magic by Pamela F. Service (Random House, c1987)

Not every book in this sub-genre has to be purely science fiction!  In fact, there’s a whole group of these stories that see the end of a tech-dependent society to leave the door open for a shift back to a magical reality.  The Arthur/Merlin mythos is resurrected in the wake of a terrible nuclear holocaust, with our young heroes working to bring back the hero of old and battle the villainy of Morgan Le Fay.  Now I’m not entirely sure, but this series appears to be a trilogy with the author’s original Winter of Magic’s Return (1985) and Tomorrow’s Magic (1987) into a single volume under the latter’s title.  These two New Magic stories are followed up by two very recent books that wrap up the story: Yesterday’s Magic (2008) and Earth’s Magic (2009).


Devil on My Back by Monica Hughes (Atheneum, 1984)

The first book in a duology that features “arks”.  Independently sufficient communities based on different ideals and tech in an effort to survive the disasters that befell the planet.  Tomi’s world is a dystopian one, where a rigid social order is maintained by an all-powerful computer.  It’s only when Tomi slips beyond the bounds of the computer that he can truly understand what it is to be free.  The second book: The Dream Catcher (1986) features another ark where the resulting community is much closer to being a utopian society.  A lot of my favorite post-apocalyptic stuff was written around the 1980s–and it’s no surprise since the spectre of nuclear war hung over that decade.


Travels of Thelonious by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

What about a world where mankind has been wiped out and sentient animals explore a world and its ruins,trying to piece together the story of what came before?  Thelonious Chipmunk is a Talker, on of the animals who has been gifted with the ability to speak.  This inquisitive chipmunk believes in humans and begins a journey to unravel the  secrets of the past.  Alternating chapters of text and graphic storytelling detail Thelonious’ wild journey.  This is the first book in the Fog Mound trilogy, followed by Faradawn (2007) and Simon’s Dream (2008)


The White Mountains by John Christopher (Simon Pulse, c1967)

Another kind of apocalypse is one of alien invasion.  In John Christopher’s classic science fiction trilogy, all of human civilization that is left is carefully controlled and oppressed by the alien tripods that invaded the earth years earlier.  A great action adventure story with evil aliens and on the edge of their seats survival!   The first of four books: The City of Gold and Lead (1967),  Pool of Fire (1968) and  When the Tripods Came (1988).


The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson (Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, 1975)

When plague wipes out anyone over the age of 12, it’s every kid for themselves.  One intrepid girl carves out a haven in the ruins of Chicago where the kids work together to keep everyone safe and fed and away from the roaming gangs.   An interesting book I’ve still got to track down.


The Prince Who Fell From the Sky by John Claude Bemis (Random House, 2012)

One more animal-centric future.  Humankind has long vanished from most of the earth.  The world is ruled by animal societies with humans merely a strange legend.  Until a spacecraft crash lands in the forest, leaving one small boy alive.  A lonely and bereft bear named Casseomae discovers the boy, and takes it upon herself to help keep him alive and make the a journey to try and find others like him.  Ambitious wolf packs, storytelling, wisecracking rats,  faithful dogs waiting for their masters to return once more . . . these are just some of the characters in this story!


Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien (Simon Pulse, 1974)

What if the destruction of human civilization left you all alone?  What if you do if you discovered another human being still alive, a human being who is possibly dangerously insane?  Would you help him?  Young Ann must make hard choices when she encounters another person still alive–will her choices be the right ones?

There’s my ten for this week!  I’d better get some sleep . . .  What are your favorite post-apocalyptic stories?  Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on October 16, 2013, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. They’re not targeted at children, but I loved John Wyndham’s books when I was younger, especially The Kraken Wakes. It’s terribly British, and rather dated in both style and content, but the vision it evokes of an apocalypse rising from beneath the sea remains a fascinating and distinctive one.

    • Wyndham’s stuff is great! A lot of older SF is dated in feel, but the stories of societal collapse and invasions are things that provide commentary on the nature and fears of society at large at the time.

  2. Excellent! John Christopher the MASTER of MG dystopia. (Sword of the Spirits series is also amazing as are many of the one-shot books)

    AND you gave some love to John Claude Bemis!

    What more can I ask?

  3. Great list. I am huge fan of Isobelle Carmody and her Obernewtyn series is one of my favourite dystopians. I even possess the book with this particular cover 🙂 sourced from a second hand book store!

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