The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

12 posts / 0 new
Last post
switters's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 19 2008
Posts: 744
The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

I thought we could start a thread with recommendations for post-peak fiction.

I read World Made by Hand, by James Howard Kunstler.  It was enjoyable, but I like Kunstler's non-fiction better than his fiction.  

I'm now reading The Wind-Up Girl, by Paolo Baciqalupi.  It is very well-written, and I think the author's vision of the future is quite plausible. Here's a description from one of the reviews on Amazon:

The setting is Bangkok, or, colloquially, Krung Thep. It is also a near future dystopia. The city now houses many displaced Chinese refugees from a Malaysia turned fwndamentalist muslim [email protected] (See his story Yellow Card Man for background) Bangkok itself is only kept from drowning by engineering and technology. 

This is a post-oil world, with very little petroleum technology available or remaining. No evidence of solar tech, either, really. Power is provided by human labor and genetically engineered highly efficient animals pouring kinetic energy into springs, which then can be used to power machines. Giant elephantine beasts called Megadonts, for example. Treadle computers, even. Countries have shrunk in upon themselves as a result, but are beginning to look outward again, with ships, and dirigibles. This makes this setting rather unlike the mass-media or AI ridden future India and Brasil etc. of Ian McDonald's devising. 

Particularly nasty are the 'calorie companies' - organisations that have the ability to manufacture crops in large supply: but their crops are sterile, so you always need to go back for more. That is if bugs and plagues 'weevils' and 'blister rust' do not get them. Much dirty, violent dealing in support of this activity (see his story The Calorie Man) and there are mentions of it going horribly wrong in other countries. One of the questions this raises is how they manage to stay around - why, with such hatred of them, are the calorie men and women not mercilessly hunted and slaughtered. The only intimations you get of this are economic power, based in the USA. Also China is apparently dysfunctional, and many other countries are devastated. Thailand, through foresight, is struggling on, and is hence a point of interest. Their genetic stocks and the genetic engineering expert they have on hand to help defend them are of interest to all. 

The rapidly mutating diseases caused by genetic engineering meddling and conflict kill many - with mainly the calorie companies having the resources to combat their own hellish offspring, if they care to. Mutated cats with no real predators except humans have also destroyed a lot of the food chain. 

The novel has many viewpoints: 

Anderson Lake, An American calorie man representative, brought in to try and increase productivity at a factory working on more efficient power springs. More than he seems, however. 

Hock Seng, The Yellow Card Man, an elderly fallen Chinese merchant who escaped massacres and now works for Lake. 

Emiko, The Windup Girl. A Japanese artificially created human. Unable to reproduce, overheats easily but has many unknown talents. Left behind by her owner, currently a working bar girl. 

Kanya, an officer in the Environment Ministry's corps of field soldiers responsible for protecting the city from incursions of disease, animals and artificial humans. 

Conflict develops from many angles - there is longstanding resentment between the Environment Ministry and Trade Ministry because of different philosophies, inward, and outward looking, respectively. The foreign merchants look to exploit this. Then there is of course anti-refugee racism. As mentioned before, and historically, the Asian against Asian racism or nationalism is quite horrific. 

The novel leaves you uneasy the whole way through, but fascinated. After many thousands of stories I am not easy to surprise. I had no idea what the hell was going to happen in this book, apart from the fact that it was likely to be bloody. The writing is excellent. Bacigalupi is a major talent, if unfortunately not very prolific. 

Hard to predict, but I think this novel is quite likely to be important in the sense of SF history. It is brilliant, in its all sweating dystopian style.

Let's hear your recommendations!

Tycer's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 26 2009
Posts: 617
Lights Out by Halffast

Not post-peak, but post EMP. Well written. Gives some ideas of who is safe and who is not in societal breakdown.!/LightsOut-Current.pdf

nickbert's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 14 2009
Posts: 1208
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

Though it's not post-peak fiction per se, I would recommend the novel 1632 by Eric Flint, as it has many parallels to a hypothetical post-peak scenario.  The quick summary is that through a cosmic accident, the fictional small town of Grantville West Virginia and the area surrounding it (a sphere of maybe 10-20 miles diameter I think) have been transposed in time and space to the middle of 17th century Germany during the Thirty Years War.  The residents have to cope not only with the violent and brutal situation around them (which is a massive change from their stable late 20th century American culture), but also with conserving what exists of their 20th century resources & infrastructure and 'gearing down' to a more sustainable existence using mostly 19th/early-20th century technologies.  The historical references and exploring how this also creates a new alternate timeline also makes it a fun read, and there's several more books in the series too.

- Nickbert

JAG's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2492
The Road

Post-Everything Fiction

I'm sure many have read this, but if you haven't then......

CryIt will be the feel-good movie of the year!

Amanda V's picture
Amanda V
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 31 2008
Posts: 262
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

I read LAST LIGHT which I thought was a good read about what happens if oil is cut off over night.

Juli B's picture
Juli B
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 28 2009
Posts: 87
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

From the 90s but still eerily prescient and scared me sane when read originally--Wolf and Iron by Gordon Dickson.

Set in North America, (northern Midwest US), what happens when TSHTF from the viewpoint of a grad student in Chicago. Dickson worked with several top-notch wolf biologists to get the wolf behavior and psychology down and the wolf is one of the best characters in the story, from my point of view. Elements of human psychosocial dynamics are closely woven into much of his writing (The Final Encyclopedia and the Dorsai stories ) and this story serves as a vehicle to relate that field to post-collapse humanity.






I need to re-read--I have been thinking it would be a good idea to see how this still stacks up, but

SteveS's picture
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 6 2008
Posts: 358
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

I'm a fan of old science fiction, so  "Earth Abides" popped into my mind. It is about a world devastated by a disease that kills off most of the population and how the survivors learn to cope as the remnants of civilization are slowly lost.

capesurvivor's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 12 2008
Posts: 963
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

Read both, great books, Earth Abides is an all-time favorite, one of few books to win both Hugo and Nebula awards, i think.



Arthur Vibert's picture
Arthur Vibert
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 16 2008
Posts: 116
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

"A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Arthur M. Miller, Jr is axcellent. Although it's more post nuclear exchange as it was written in the '50s, it neverthless addresses serious issues, chief among them being whether or not it is possible for humanity to learn from its mistakes. Well worth reading.

"The Parable of the Sower," by Octavia Butler has what could easily be a post-peak scenario. Also worth reading.


switters's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 19 2008
Posts: 744
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread
Arthur Vibert wrote:

"A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Arthur M. Miller, Jr is axcellent. Although it's more post nuclear exchange as it was written in the '50s, it neverthless addresses serious issues, chief among them being whether or not it is possible for humanity to learn from its mistakes. Well worth reading.

"The Parable of the Sower," by Octavia Butler has what could easily be a post-peak scenario. Also worth reading.


I loved both of these.  +1

thatchmo's picture
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2008
Posts: 476
Re: The Definitive Post-Peak Fiction Thread

Not necessarily peak oil, but environmentally alternative as I remember..."Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach.  About California, Oregon, Washington (Jefferson?) seceeding from the Union, from the early 80's I think.  His "Living Poor with Style" was also great, as I recall.  Don't know if they're still in print....Probably still in my library...have to look them up again...How do you all find time to read fiction in these demanding times???   Aloha, Steve

HughK's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 6 2012
Posts: 764
Resurrecting the post-peak fiction thread

This is a nice thread that's been dormant for almost six years, but seems worth resurrecting.

I'm currently reading A Canticle for Leibowitz, and while it was already recommended above, I can't help giving it another thumbs up.

Here is a summary, which I think comes originally from an Amazon review.

Walter M. Miller's acclaimed SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz opens with the accidental excavation of a holy artifact: a creased, brittle memo scrawled by the hand of the blessed Saint Leibowitz, that reads: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma." To the Brothers of Saint Leibowitz, this sacred shopping list penned by an obscure, 20th-century engineer is a symbol of hope from the distant past, from before the Simplification, the fiery atomic holocaust that plunged the earth into darkness and ignorance. As 1984 cautioned against Stalinism, so 1959's A Canticle for Leibowitz warns of the threat and implications of nuclear annihilation. Following a cloister of monks in their Utah abbey over some six or seven hundred years, the funny but bleak Canticle tackles the sociological and religious implications of the cyclical rise and fall of civilization, questioning whether humanity can hope for more than repeating its own history. Divided into three sections--Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done) —Canticle is steeped in Catholicism and Latin, exploring the fascinating, seemingly capricious process of how and why a person is canonized. —Paul Hughes 


Chapter 6 contains a compelling account of a nuclear holocaust framed by monks of the future as a second deluge - God's punishment for the arrogance of humanity in the decades before the great fire.  This book holds its quality quite well after over 50 years.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments