Tag Archives: Post Apocalyptic Stories

Post-Apocalyptic Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Book: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Format consumed: Ebook, also available in hard copy (Fishpond, Booktopia)

Plot summary (Goodreads):

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed or sterile and raised in the Shell. As, one by one, the survivors grow sick and die, Pete and the Six struggle to put aside their anger at the alien Tesslies in order to find the means to rebuild the earth together. Their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings. Suddenly her predictive algorithms begin to reveal more than just criminal activity. As she begins to realize her role in the impending catastrophe, simultaneously affecting the Earth and the Shell, Julie closes in on the truth. She and Pete are converging in time upon the future of humanity—a future which might never unfold.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

I don’t think I agree with the plot summary in Goodreads.  I’d rewrite it as follows (unless I read a completely different book).

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed and sterile and raised in the Shell. The original survivors are growing old and sick, and some have died. Pete and the Six blame the alien Tesslies for the end of the world and their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool, and supplies to make their lives more comfortable.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings and thefts. With each new data point her predictive algorithms are more accurate and she can predict where Pete and the Six will appear next.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

This novella was nominated for several awards and won some too (Goodreads):

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2013), Nebula Award for Best Novella (2012), Locus Award for SF Best Novella (2013), Endeavour Award Nominee (2013)

Type of post apocalyptic story: This one is interesting.  It’s written both immediately before the world as we know it is ending, has the moment the world is ending, and also in a now that is the future.  The chapters swap between the past and present, working towards the moment the world as we knew it ended.


This story is certainly ambitious, and the writing is of high quality.  The characters were all equally unlikeable, and I think that’s why it rates so poorly.  Pete is an obnoxious, aggressive, sex obsessed teenager with entitlement issues and Julie is a determined loner who wants to do it all on her own, bugger the consequences.  I certainly didn’t feel any empathy for either of them, mostly I wanted to shake them and tell them to grow up.

I did like the story mechanic.  I would have much preferred that the story followed one of the survivors versus Pete, but the gradual collapse of all the time lines to the main event was done really well, and the urgency was surrounding the events was well captured.

World Building: Basically the world is Gaia, a self regulating mechanism, and she/it gets pissed off with humanity and wipes us all out.  The book is set in the Northern Americas which is convincingly wiped out.  I’m still not sure Australia was affected.  We’d be protected from Yellowstone exploding by trade winds, and any resulting tsunami from that event would wipe out the Pacific Islands and PNG, but Australia would be mostly ok.  The tsunami from the Canary Islands collapsing in the Atlantic wouldn’t affect Australia.  If a major earthquake happened off the coast of Chile, then Western Australia would still be ok.  Australia is special that way.  I’m not sure anything happened in the Indian Ocean either, so all the countries in that part of the world are probably ok too.  However, there is another element to the plot which means that humanity would die off regardless of what continent they lived on.

I’m nit picking, and really when the end comes, it comes quickly enough that news about what is happening doesn’t have time to spread.  So I’ll just say that everyone but the survivors died, and the story went from there.

Character Building: I didn’t like any of the characters.  I didn’t like their motivations, I didn’t connect with them, I thought they were all insufferable.  This is not a ringing endorsement.

Women: So Julie is really smart and capable.  The women survivors are resourceful and have worked hard to build a new life for themselves with the male survivors in the Shell.  The survivors are a bit 2 dimensional because they’re not main characters in this novella.

Non-white characters: So they’re there, but most are not central to the plot.  The survivors in the Shell were all the the US at the end of the world, but are not all white.  There is a Chinese man, someone with Latino/a heritage, and Julie’s surname suggests that she has South Asian heritage.  It’s a good reflection of the diversity of the US.

Disabled characters: So the Six have various birth defects, for undisclosed reasons, which have meant that they all have a disability of some form.  The story does not go into this in much depth, but Pete is described as having a head too big for his body and a weak shoulder (which is wrenched from time to time when he’s kidnapping children or fighting).

Queer characters: There is no mention of any queer characters in the book at all.  LGBTI people do not exist in this world.

Final thoughts

Pete is such an obnoxious character.  He really ruined the story for me as he was so self obsessed and entitled.  I find it rather weird that he grew up that way given the survivors had the choice to change the ways they did things (including raising children).  Pete wanders around with such a huge chip on his shoulder, and believes that he should get what he wants in relation to sex.

Oh and the angry sex he has with one of the Six makes him even less palatable. I don’t recommend this story at all.

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Post-Apocalyptic Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Book: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Format consumed: ebook, also available in hardcopy (Fishpond, Booktopia, etc)

Plot summary (from Goodreads):

Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?

Type of post-apocalyptic story: The world ended many years ago, possibly over 100 years ago. It’s very vague as to how that happened, it could have been disease, global climate change, or war, but there were a lot of injured people and music was found to soothe and heal them them – so music became a tool to control the population and maintain behaviour.  There is no mention of other countries or population centres outside where Anthem lives in the story.


I picked up this book as it was nominated for a Bisexual fiction award.  Anthem is bisexual.  In this book he is interested in one of the female characters, but he is still friends with his ex-boyfriend, and they spend a fair amount of time clubbing together in the book.  For a story about a bisexual man, I recommend this.  It was good on many other elements. too.  I read this a while ago, so my memory is a little rusty.

World Building: Apart from no mention of other population centres, the world is believable.  There are ruins of the world before surrounding the world as it is today in the story.  There is a police state that is working on getting things done, maintaining their own power, and control.  There is a class system of the haves and have nots based on current wealth, and it is almost possible to move between them, but not likely for most people.

The technology is incredible, the ability to encode music with subliminal messages/beats that makes it addictive, as well as controlling mood and improving people’s ability to heal.  The ability for people to be bio-generators of power to power the city, the ability for people to record their lives so that after they die others can still see them, like the way we record things on our phones.

Character Building: So the main character is male and bisexual, a combination which is really rare in a book.  Also, everyone else is pretty much ok with bisexuality (nice), and queerness in general (also nice).  The characters have different motivations for doing things, they have their own back stories and women are treated as equally capable as men.  When Anthem believes that the woman he is interested in has betrayed him, he doesn’t believe that it is because she’s a woman, or that she’s weak.

Women: So Anthem’s love interest in this story is a woman and she’s a fully rounded character, with multiple depths to her.  There is also Anthem’s … handler (I’m really not quite sure what the correct word is) at the bio-generation plant who ensures that he is plugged in correctly and has something to read/occupy his time while he’s there.  There are several baddies who are also women.  None of these characters are single dimensional, and none of them are sex objects.

Non-white characters: There are a range of non-white characters in the book.  Anthem is blond-haired and blue-eyed.  Haven, his love interest, has olive skin.  Another one of the characters is described as being so dark, that in the darkened, disused space that they’re performing music in, he’s difficult to see.

Disabled Characters: Although there are no visible disabilities mentioned, there is the theme of addiction and the ruination that can cause throughout the book.  Anthem lost his mother to her addiction to the Corp’s music, and is in the process of losing his father.  There is an acknowledgement of mental health issues, and the characters are familiar with depression and anxiety.

Queer Characters: Anthem is bisexual, his ex, Scope, is gay, there are other queer characters in the book.  There are straight characters.  Orientation isn’t an issue in this version of the future.  It’s nice to see a future where who you are attracted to is not an issue and nothing to be ashamed of.

There were no trans characters that I am aware of in the book.

Final thoughts

There is a reason this book was nominated for an award. It does a lot of things right, and I really enjoyed it.

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Post-Apocalyptic Book Review: Damnation Alley – Roger Zelazny

Book: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Form consumed: ebook, also in hardcopy about the place (Booktopia, Fishpond, etc)

Plot (from Wikipedia)

The story opens in a post-apocalyptic Southern California, in a hellish world shattered by nuclear war decades before. Several police states have emerged in place of the former United States. Hurricane-force winds above five hundred feet prevent any sort of air travel from one state to the next, and sudden, violent, and unpredictable storms make day-to-day life a mini-hell. Hell Tanner, an imprisoned killer, is offered a full pardon in exchange for taking on a suicide mission—a drive through “Damnation Alley” across a ruined America from Los Angeles to Boston—as one of three vehicles attempting to deliver an urgently needed plague vaccine.

Type of post-apocalyptic story: The current world has ended, the story starts around 30 – 40 years after the event.  Society for the most part has stabilised and is now focussed on survival.


I really enjoyed this book, for the most part, however there were a few gaping issues.  Let’s do all the good things.  There will be spoilers

World building: I really liked the way Zelazny put the world together for this book.  The main character was not alive when the current world was destroyed and the new world was formed.  He doesn’t know most of what happened, and doesn’t care – so neither does the reader for the most part.  During the story the main character, Tanner, finds out a bit more, and still doesn’t care, as living in the world as it is, is his current struggle.

The fantastical way that the world has been reshaped due to radiation, storms, and people, the way people survive day to day, and how government continues (or doesn’t) to operate is all very interesting and I can see why a lot of people were inspired by the story to create works in homage.

Character building: There is only one real character, the rest are there to drive the plot but are in essence completely unimportant.  Despite Tanner supposedly being a complete and utter arsehole (and he is a bit), he’s really just a guy who wants to be left alone, and safe – though his version of left alone and safe tends to be one where a lot of other people end up dead.  Granted many of those other people have attempted to kill him at some point.  He’s not completely unlikeable as a character and you do find yourself rooting for him.  I’d say he is lazily written because he’s not really one thing or another, and I think he should be given how he is introduced.

Description: I’m a big believer in using words to their fullest effect so I can build a mental picture of what the author is describing.  I found that this book was very successful in that, but not so successful that I wanted to stop reading after describing some mutated horror, or yet more violence.

And now the badly done bits

Women: So there are three main female characters in the book; two are sex objects and one is a mother.  The book would have worked completely fine without them, and I actually would have preferred that to be the case.  I haven’t read much Zelazny so I don’t know if he cannot write women, or whether he is actually sexist, but the three characters were really pointless to the story, and appear to be a lazy attempt at inclusion.

The mother was there in a farming household, and she was intimidated by Tanner – which isn’t surprising, he’s a force of chaotic nature and I’d be scared of him.  She didn’t drive the plot, and did nothing than be a mother to some children Tanner was interacting with, and the husband of a farmer.  She wasn’t badly written, just an illustration along the story.

The two sex objects were awful.  Zelazny clearly cannot write a sex scene.  The first woman, Cornelia, is a member of a gang that attacks Tanner.  Tanner is effectively driving a tank, and he takes out pretty much everyone in the gang, and avoids killing Cornelia by chance (he doesn’t know she’s there initially).  He picks up her, patches her wounds and she joins him.  She clearly doesn’t care that Tanner has killed her entire gang (and probably family), and happily comes along with him.  They hook up, have sex, she gets killed by another gang, Tanner buries her and continues on his way.

The second woman, Evelyn, only exists to drive the plot forward.  She lives in the plague infested Boston and is meeting with her beau who believes that he is infected with the plague but wants to see her one last time.  Then ensues one of the most awkwardly written sex scenes I’ve read for a while:

They moved to the bed and did not speak again until after he had ridden her for several minutes and she heard him sigh and felt the warm moisture come into her. Then she rubbed his shoulders and said, “That was good.”

Evelyn, her beau and most of Boston aren’t likeable.  You don’t care that they’re dying of the plague, and the world would probably be a better place if they did because then a whole lot of annoying people wouldn’t exist.  Badly written characters like this really don’t help the story.  If Tanner wasn’t such a strong character, and his determination to just keep moving forward, you really wouldn’t care about what happens to Boston.  Because Tanner cares (though even that seems to be out of character), you care.

Non-white characters: I don’t recall any being described in the book.  Evelyn is described as having red hair, Cornelia is described as having brown hair, and an obvious red burn to her face (from Tanner’s self defence flame-thrower).  The mother is described as having red cheeks.  Tanner really doesn’t have that much of a description other than having dark eyes, a beard, and being a biker.

Disabled characters: Despite the world pretty much self destructing there are no mentions of disabled characters. Given the current state of the world, there would be some, and you’d expect there to be a mention of them.

Queer characters: None are mentioned.  It wouldn’t have been too hard to include one in the story, Evelyn’s beau could have been a woman, or bisexual, or even trans, any of the other characters that Tanner briefly meets could have been queer.

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