Being a huge fan of the original Red Dawn, released in 1984, I was excited to watch the latest incarnation of this fictional World War 3 invasion of America. Let’s just take it as a given that the logistics of such an invasion make it practically impossible. With that said, the idea of a small group of regular people engaging in guerrilla warfare tactics on familiar turf has a certain appeal to the John Rambo kid within all of us! Obviously, with the Cold War era behind us, the threat of such an invasion is even more unlikely. Not to mention, why would anyone bother to invade a country physically when they already own it economically? Though the invaders are North Korean, the implication is that they have the full support of China. With practical matters out-of-the-way, the recycled story of resistance against a superior enemy is enjoyable. Though it has its share of superficial relationships and some teenage “corny” moments, Red Dawn is packed solid with action and the scenery is much more enjoyable in high-definition compared to watching it on the giant old 200 lb 24 inch tv on the videocassette recorder! Part of the enjoyment in this remake is nostalgia, I suppose, but as long as your expectations aren’t too high and you are able to accept an unrealistic plot, Red Dawn is a fun diversion.
On the Beach, written by Nevil Shute and published in 1957 is a somber post apocalyptic novel that follows survivors in Australia after a nuclear war and subsequent radioactive fallout has contaminated most of the world.
Much of the story revolves around an American nuclear submarine, the last of the US Navy, docked in Melbourne and under the command of Captain Dwight Towers. The post apocalyptic world has been contaminated with high levels of radiation stemming from the use of cobalt bombs by the Russian and Chinese military forces.
This story is character driven, focusing on the struggle for people to maintain some sense of purpose in spite of their doom. It was slightly disappointing that most of the people in On the Beach basically give up and passively accept death. Why didn’t they attempt to create a shelter in which some people could survive until the levels of radioactivity decreased? (scientists mention several times that the radioactive cobalt has a 5-10 year half-life)
Released at the height of the Cold War, On the Beach has elements of a warning or cautionary tale and is clearly written with some political intentions in mind. While On the Beach is a well written novel that explores some important ideas worthy of consideration, it is slow-paced and uneventful at times. If you are looking for excitement and entertainment you may want to look at some other reading options.
Who are your favorite post apocalyptic characters from the movies? And the winner is…Sarah Connor from The Terminator series! Over the course of the series, Sarah Connor develops into a seriously tough lady. Her role in the series is unforgettable from the moment that she discovers that her son will be an important leader in the fight against the machines. She even had a television series based on her efforts to protect her son called The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was a good show, another one that they cancelled too soon. Thanks to everyone that voted in this week’s poll!
In second book of the After the Fall series by John Phillip Backus, Hunter and his newly pregnant wife, Elise, leave the relative comfort and safety of their mountain home and travel to the West Coast to live with Elise’s sister Anna in post apocalyptic British Columbia.
The West Coast of North America is bustling with economic activity, organized around an enormous marketplace that is known as The Gathering. Unfortunately, along with the renewal of economic activity, trade in human beings has become commonplace. Women and children are frequently kidnapped and sold to the highest bidder. The novel revolves around the quest to rescue Elise’s sister, who is kidnapped by these slave traders.
Backus has created a truly fascinating post apocalyptic land. Vivid descriptions of the beautiful West Coast landscapes and a uniquely detailed, even plausible, burgeoning economy make for a thoroughly entertaining read. A fully restored steam locomotive, female ninja vigilantes and a rich Native American cultural element will keep you anxiously flipping through the pages until the shocking, catastrophic conclusion!
Perhaps one of the best known post apocalyptic novels, Alas, Babylon, written by Pat Frank and released in 1959, paints a grim picture of what life might be like after a full-scale nuclear war between the US and former USSR.
The protagonist, Randy Bragg, a relatively carefree bachelor, is forced to take a leadership role in the survival of his Florida town, Fort Repose, which narrowly escapes destruction from the ultimate in nuclear catastrophes.
Surprisingly, many of the issues presented in Alas, Babylon, over 50 years ago, are still very relevant today. For example, Frank’s writing is clearly influenced by the Civil Rights movement that was gaining momentum during the time that this book was written. Alas, Babylon frequently references the still widespread segregation and racist sentiment that still existed in parts of the southern US during the 1950’s. The book portrays the complete collapse of civilization as the ultimate “leveling” of human beings, as each survivor shares in the struggle to stay alive, regardless of skin color, ethnic origin or social class. Though the Civil Rights movement has certainly altered the landscape of the US in a number of ways, racial tensions continue to be high today, especially with the recent death of Trayvon Martin.
From a survival perspective, the issues associated with a total breakdown of civilization remain the same. Without electricity, public water, law enforcement, medical treatment, transportation, fuel, etc, people are forced to accept more personal responsibility for the safety and survival of their families.
Nuclear tensions have changed in some ways since the end of the Cold War but with more countries in possession of “the bomb” than ever, the risk for a nuclear conflict continues. Alas, Babylon may be a little optimistic in terms of its somewhat “happy ending” but it serves as a reminder to us that we were once very close and that we are never very far away from the ultimate destruction of civilization.
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Hunter After the Fall, by John Phillip Backus, is a captivating post-apocalyptic adventure that takes place 15 years after an all out worldwide nuclear war has devastated the planet and killed the majority of its human inhabitants. After surviving the war and subsequent nuclear winter, Hunter, a former special forces operative, has made a home for himself in a long abandoned gold mine nestled into the side of a mountain. The rich detail in which Backus describes Hunter’s rocky mountain home creates the sense that Hunter is truly returning to being one with nature. Hunter’s lifestyle is similar to those that lived throughout North America for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. Much like the wolves and bears that roam the area, Hunter is deeply connected to the mountain wilderness. He is able to sustain himself from the abundant resources that the rocky mountain ecosystem provides. Hunter is content with his life until the arrival of Elise, who is the daughter of Hunter’s former commanding officer. Elise is sent by her father to find Hunter and to seek his help in the defence of their community of New Eden, which is in danger of being overtaken by an army of bloodthirsty invaders. In an effort to repay his former commanding officer for saving his life in action, before the nuclear war , Hunter is quick to offer his assistance. The story follows the many adventures of Hunter and his counterpart, the strong and beautiful Elise, as they fight to save New Eden. In Hunter, the first book in his After the Fall series, Backus combines a unique blend of Native American shamanism and post-apocalyptic action that makes for a very thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining story.
Swan Song by Robert McCammon is a chilling story that takes place following an all out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union (The book was released in the late 1980’s, near the end of the Cold War). The earth is plunged into a nuclear winter and is a complete wasteland, devoid of plant life. The story is told through a number of unique characters ranging from a New York City “bag lady” to a pro wrestler and changes perspectives frequently as they struggle to survive. Good verses evil is a strong element throughout and the evil is certainly abundant. The bad people in this book are really bad…like Stephen King bad…in fact, one of the characters is the devil himself. Swan Song delves a little more into “supernatural” territory than I like and it is also a little on the long side but it is definitely exciting. While Swan Song wouldn’t be at the top of my list of good apocalyptic fiction, it is certainly worth reading and will provide hours of entertainment.