Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

Two new post-apocalyptic tales

A couple of new post-apocalyptic stories came out recently:

The first is by Aden Cabro, and is called HARRIER HUNT (ISLAND SURVIVAL BOOK 2).  It's more of a novella, a short quick read that is fast-paced with solid writing and good characters.  I'm looking forward to Book 3.  Here's the link:  HARRIER HUNT

The second is by M.P. McDonald, and it is called ISOLATION:  SYMPATICO SYNDROME BOOK 2.   I'm not done with it, but so far it's started strong.  I cared about the characters in book 1, and this one is continuing their story believably and with just the right balance of technical stuff with human stuff.  Here's the link:  ISOLATION

Both are currently $0.99.  That may change, so grab them soon!

*****

WALL-E thoughts and comments from a while back…

I've been thinking about dystopian and post-apocalyptic storytelling recently, and it dovetailed with some thoughts about Disney from a while ago.  So I started thinking about the movie WALL-E.  I wrote some stuff to a file a while back, and thought I'd put it up here. It's been a while since we saw the Disney/Pixar offering WALL-E.  I recall that when we saw it,  I was expecting to be as charmed by it as I have been by most of the previous Pixar films, including such offerings as CARS, FINDING NEMO, TOY STORY (1 and 2), and RATATOUILLE. And I think WALL-E was as good as those movies (and maybe better in a lot of ways), but not nearly as charming. I don't know how to explain it...I think those other stories all take the Disney formula (if you don't know that formula, no sense in trying to explain it) and used it with their own unique twists. And they've worked, so much so that they are really the class of Disney animation currently, and have been for a long time, since the days of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ALADDIN. But - WALL-E presents a much more complicated story than any of those. It's FAR less happy than any of them, far less funny, and more touching in a lot of ways. It's also more of a dystopian SF adventure than anything I've seen previously done by Disney. (I wonder what that will mean to repeat business for this film - while I liked it, I can't see going back to the theater to see it with the kids like we have done for other Pixar films...) (THIS SYNOPSIS LIKELY CONTAINS SPOILERS - READ AT YOUR OWN RISK...) In case you don't know, Wall-E is a little robot whose name is an acronym (exactly for what, I can't remember-waste allocation something something - Earth). He's the last one of his kind to still be operational, to still be functioning in his task to clean up the waste and garbage left on the planet by humans as they've abandoned their planet for a life in space. He's a fairly low-tech looking thing, yet he has intelligence and self-awareness. He is lonely, as you might expect, with only a cockroach as company for who knows how many of the last 700 years. Yet he goes about his tasks diligently, compacting and stacking trash into skyscraper sized piles all around the city. Into this world comes EVE, a sleek "female" robot whose "directive" is classified. Fortunately for Wall-E, she doesn't vaporize him immediately (I wondered about her defensive responses - was she programmed to find monsters on Earth? Why is she so quick to shoot first at anything that moves?) and after he follows her around for a long time, the pair of robots fall in "love", or something like love at least. When Wall-E is showing her his treasures, artifacts from humanity's past that he's collected in his day to day toils, he presents her with something different - something he hasn't come across in a long time. A small living plant. EVE's response is dramatic. She seizes the small plant, places it inside of her metallic body, and goes into a sort of catatonia. On her body a green leaf flashes over and over. And sure enough, soon the ship that left her comes to collect her, and she is being delivered to wherever she came from originally. And of course, Wall-E can't let her go like that; he chases her down and ends up going on a trip through outer space to her final destination: the star cruiser Axiom with its cargo of humanity. And herein lies more dystopian elements. Humanity has changed - low gravity and a life of leisure has turned them into a bunch of lazy blobs who are content to be waited on hand and foot by their robot tenders and don't even think about life or interaction with each other. Their captain is a pleasant but seemingly not too "bright" blob voiced by John Goodman. (John Ratzenberger makes his usual appearance as a passenger who is forced to interact with others by Wall-E's intrusion into their daily existence.) The Buy-N-Large Corporation is the benefactor in all of this - the corporation is the entity that built the robots, that sent humans into space to live while Earth is supposedly being cleaned up, and that promoted this lifestyle in the first place - a sort of bad guy who isn't really even there anymore. Of course, Wall-E and EVE save the day, getting the plant to the proper place which results in the ship returning to Earth, against heavy resistance from the robots who now seem to embody the Corporation. It's a touching conclusion at times, watching the humans get back on their feet, literally and figuratively, and relearn the joys of living, as the captain watches Wall-E and EVE dance through the space around the ship, and as the passengers are forced to interact with each other and simply act to save themselves. The captain outwits his robot overseer in the end, and humans return to Earth, which is not really "ready" to receive them but which needs their attention to be reborn. All very optimistic, at the end, and positive. It's a cautionary tale, however, warning against a lot of things - not the least of which is excessive consumption, corporate greed and a trend toward indoor (computers, video games, big screen tvs, etc.) entertainment vs outdoor activity. It seems to warn against technological achievement just for the sake of achievement, with no attention to the good or bad results of such achievement. Maybe most of all it warns against the current trend of not looking beyond tomorrow. I think there are some heavy social and political themes buried in the cartoon medium within which director Andrew Stanton and Pixar work best. Probably a lot more of them than I'm getting to here...I think someone could expand on a lot of these things and dig far deeper into this story than I've done. And that, by itself, was very unusual for a Disney or a Pixar type story. So, while WALL-E was not nearly as charming or uplifting as other Disney fare, it was certainly deeper and more socially aware than almost anything they had done in this medium to that point in time. We never did see it again in the theater, but we did buy it on DVD, and we've enjoyed it more than once on our own home screen.   I've grown even fonder of the film as time has passed. Maybe it's time to watch it again... ******

Pessimism in Science Fiction

I've been interested in the Walt Disney Corporation for some time now.  The whole history of the company and its genesis and growth to finally become the behemoth it is today fascinates me. I've gone to visit the parks several times as a adult (and parent) and enjoyed it every time, especially Epcot. I read a book called DISNEY WAR by James B. Stewart, and was doing some internet searches when I happened upon a blog called Re-Imagineering, which seems to mostly be a series of short essays about the problems with Disney as it exists today and what could be done to solve some of them.  The blog is basically dark today; it hasn't had new content posted in years. One of the old discussions (about Epcot) was talking about exhibits people would like to see, and what sorts of things they might try to freshen it up, make it less corporate in feel. It was also talking about Tomorrowland and its original optimism about our future. But that discussion shifted to some comments about the science fiction, especially in film, of today.  As an avid reader of SF and as an author, the discussion interested me enough to write this blog post about the topic. It seems that most of today's SF is dystopian, and that most of the film projects outside of stuff like STAR TREK and STAR WARS (not really SF in any classic sense) are very dark visions of the future. They named Blade Runner, Minority Report, AI, and The Matrix. (I'd say that Vanilla Sky, Dark City, and I, Robot are also fairly dystopian, along with stuff like Final Fantasy, Waterworld, all of the Terminators, The Postman, Battlefield Earth, and maybe even The Day After Tomorrow (though the last is not far in the future at all).)  There's a bunch more SF films that I haven't seen recently because I just don't have the time to get to the movies or even watch them on TV. As I think about the SF I've read in the not-too-distant past, first, there isn't a whole lot of it. ALTERED CARBON was a good book but pretty dark. Dan Simmons' HYPERION series and his latest pair, ILIUM and OLYMPOS, are not exactly happy fantasies of the future. I haven't read much else in the field recently, sticking mostly to mysteries with some horror tossed in here and there. Indie fiction introduces more variety, and more optimism, into its vision.  But even there, the story comes from the "negative."  I'm thinking of Steven M. Moore's THE CHAOS CHRONICLES and Edward W. Robertson's REBEL STARS series.  There's also Hugh Howey's WOOL series, which is pretty darned negative for most of the series, right up until the very end. As I think about it, my question is, is there a story in a utopian future? Is it a story I want to read about? Novels are about resolving problems. In some ways it seems to me that any story is essentially a mystery. If there is a mystery, there is a problem to be discovered and sorted through. If there are no problems to resolve, if everything is hunky dory, it might make for a nice pretty painting but is there any story? I don't know. I was thinking about something like Asimov's Empire series, and while there is a lot of optimism there with the direction of humanity, when the story takes place, things are not so good. Heinlein's juveniles are more adventure story set in a fairly positively imagined future, but some of his adult works are a lot darker. I see where they're coming from with respect to Tomorrowland, they don't want pessimism at Disney World, nor does it have a place. But I don't see a story in a future where everyone is happy as clams. Those Morlocks in HG Wells' novel weren't all that happy, and the surface beings couldn't have been thrilled with the status quo either. But THE TIME MACHINE wouldn't make for a very good Disney ride. *****

Why Big5 Publishers see a slowdown in ebooks…

I received a coupon for 20% off of one item at Barnes and Noble over the weekend.  It happened that we were in the vicinity of a B&N store and stopped in for a few minutes.  A book on the "New Releases" shelf caught my eye:  it was titled One Year After, by William R. Forstchen, and the blurb described an American society that had broken down after an EMP attack.  It also described itself as a sequel to another book. It took me about three minutes to look under the "F's" for the previous book.  As I am a bit of a sucker for these types of post-apocalyptic novels, I read the blurb and checked the price.  Paperback, $9.99. Now I had a 20% coupon and I get my usual 10% member's discount, so I pulled up the Amazon app on my phone and looked up the ebook version of the book. $9.99. Let's do the math.  80% of that is $7.99.  90% of $7.99 is $7.19. So I paid $7.19 (plus tax, around 7%) for a paperback version of a book that in electronic form would cost me $9.99.  Even with tax, it was still less than $8.00.  Something around $7.70, I think.  I don't have my receipt with me. I also had a gift card, so no cash came out of my pocket and no charges went onto a credit card, but I suppose that's neither here nor there.  I paid less, and I have a physical object that I can take to Half-Price Books and resell if I choose to do so.  Or resell in some other manner. And they wonder why ebook sales are down for them? *****

More Mini-reviews…

Finished up three books last week.  Two were ebooks by Edward W. Robertson, who writes the BREAKERS series.  The first was BLACKOUT, the final book of the eight-book BREAKERS series.  If you're not familiar with the Breakers world, it is a post-apocalyptic tale where two things happen to end civilization as we know it:  a viral disease that claims around 99% of all people (like in King's THE STAND, which Robertson admits to using as his inspiration in this series) and then an alien invasion.  Turns out, the aliens, huge crab-like beings, sent the viral plague to Earth, and they figured they'd wipe out all of humanity with it, but when they come to claim the empty planet, they find plenty of humans willing to fight them and their advanced technology.  BLACKOUT, as the final book, occurs as people are trying to rebuild some sort of civilization and society, only to discover that a second "mother ship' of alien "Swimmers" has arrived. I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series and one that followed logically from everything that happened before.  The people who I've gotten to know over seven books all seem consistent with the character that they've exhibited throughout the saga.  The aliens became a bit more knowable, and it set up another series in the same universe, but set many years in the future.  The other series is called the REBEL STARS series, and the first book of this saga, titled REBEL, is the other ebook I read. I grabbed REBEL as part of a promotional "box set" with ten "galactic tales", titled STARS AND EMPIRE.  (None of the other titles have really grabbed me much, so REBEL is the only one I've read, and it may continue to be the only one...)  So anyway, in REBEL, a crew of space asteroid miners is working on an asteroid when they make a discovery -- an ice-bound alien ship.  Seems that this is a Swimmer spaceship, and these humans are the descendants of those people who dealt with the Swimmers when they first attacked Earth.  As they excavate the vessel, they are attacked and everyone except for one is killed.  Their discovery, which they had tried to keep secret, is stolen...and when someone gives the survivor a chance to recover it and also to get revenge on the murderers of her crewmates, she jumps at it. It was a solid SF tale that made me want to read further in the series.  I think Edward W. Robertson is an excellent storyteller, and even if one didn't care for post-apocalyptic tales, this REBEL STARS entry can be enjoyed as a straightforward SF novel.  (As an aside, I read another book by Robertson called THE ROAR OF THE SPHERES . which also dealt with colonization of our solar system, though that one was more focused on AI's. The book has been renamed and re-edited, but I'm not sure what the new one is called.  (ETA:  The author informed me that the book is now called TITANS.)  It was also a very good SF book.) And, speaking of Stephen King, I tackled REVIVAL, which is his second newest (FINDERS KEEPERS is his newest at the moment) novel.  I hadn't heard great things about this novel, but I have to say I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It's a bit of a slow starter.  When our hero, Jamie Morton, meets his "fifth business", pastor Charles Jacobs, he's only six.  And there's a lot of backstory that King gives us in his usual colloquial style, about Reverend Jacobs' fascination with electricity (the "secret" electricity, he calls it) and then the death of his lovely wife and young child and his subsequent loss of faith.  And of course, there's Jamie's backstory, his youth, his high school years, his discovery of the guitar and of rock and roll music, the love of his young life, Astrid, and his subsequent loss of his own faith and his separation from Astrid as they graduate from high school. Jump forward a bunch of years and Jamie is a lifer in the music industry, being good enough to play professionally but not really quite good enough to be a star or in an A-list band.  He's tooling around playing gigs at small venues, roadhouses and state fairs, and he's doing a lot of drugs.  Mainlining heroin, in fact.  He's reached bottom when he encounters Reverend Jacobs at the Oklahoma State Fair, where the former religious man is using his electrical inventions to take people's photographs and do something ... interesting ... with them.  He takes Jamie in and uses his electricity to cure Jamie of his addictions.  He also hooks Jamie up with a job in Colorado, as a studio musician and recording engineer.  Jamie owes him big-time. A third encounter with Pastor Danny (as Jacobs is now calling himself) occurs, as he and his boss (who also owes Jacobs) go to a tent-revival where he is performing genuine healings using the electricity, although he covers it in religious jargon and is clearly making a lot of coin doing so. King masterfully weaves everything together at the end, and I didn't care how implausible it was by then, because I just wanted to know how Jamie ended up.  I was satisfied with the conclusion; like Robertson's Breakers series I described above, it seemed fair and logical with what happened in the book up until then.  King tends to be a bit wordy, but I like the way he uses language to bring characters and setting to life, and allows one to glimpse the inner workings of his characters' brains.  The ending was about what I expected once I got past the steampunk vibe the book was putting out (with electricity being the main focus), but the journey, for me, was worth it, as it usually is with King's books. I'm onto Hugh Howey's THE HURRICANE and King's FINDERS KEEPERS (ebook and hardcover), and will probably post something on both of them when I finish them. ***** Update on THE INN:  I decided that I'd better not use the cover image I was going to use because I'm not sure about the rights and permissions of it, so that is what's holding up the release at this moment.  I made a different cover, but I'm not sure about it either.  So...I'll post something when I finalize the new cover. *****

What I’ve been reading – Kindle edition

I've had some good reads lately.  I've been reading more and more on my Kindle, just because it's so darned convenient.  I have tons of books by the likes of Stephen King, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, CJ Box, Robert Crais and others on my stacks, sitting there unread, but since I've been reading when I'm in bed after lights out or in situations where I don't have great lighting, the Kindle's been the go-to source of stories. Anyway, here's a few things I've been reading recently.  I'm not going to make too many comments, just say whether I liked them or not.
  1. DON'T LEAVE ME, James Scott Bell.  Liked it a lot.  Four to five stars.
  2. SEASICK, Iain Rob Wright.  Good horror story, set at sea.  4 to 5 stars.
  3. UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY, Chuck Wendig.  Neat fantasy set in a cool world.  A little slow on the uptake.  4 stars.
  4. SLOW BURN 6:  BLEED, Bobby Adair.  Zombie fiction, pretty good, lots of action.  4 stars
  5. SLOW BURN 7: CITY OF STIN, Bobby Adair.  Zombie fiction, sorta slow with not as much happeniing.  3.5 stars
  6. VLAD V:  VAMPIRE, Mit Sandru.  A relatively short introductory novel, good enough that I want to read more.  4 to 5 stars
  7. COLD MOON, Alexandra Sokoloff.  Satisfying third book in a series.  Very fun and tense read.  5 stars
  8. HEART OF STONE, H. Lynn Keith.  Very good thriller with SF elements and interesting characters.  5 stars.
  9. SPOOKED, Tracy Sharp.  Good horror story with great pacing and characters.  4 to 5 stars.
  10. INTRUDERS: THE INVASION, Tracy Sharp.  Another zombie story, but this one has aliens as well.  Great first book in a series.  Looking forward to the rest.  5 stars.
That's enough for now.  Interestingly, all of the above are indie authors.  Something there for everyone!!! On the docket:  VLAD V: THE DEATH OF A VAMPIRE RIP by Mit Sandru, I, LAWYER FRAT PARTY by John Ellsworth, MORE THAN HUMAN:  THE MENSA CONTAGION by Steven M. Moore, TIME HOLE by Mit Sandru, INVASION and CONTACT by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. Have a great day! *****

What is “Science Fiction?”

I was touring blogs over my lunch hour here at the office, and came across this interesting selection on The Passive Voice, titled Rockets, Robots, and Reckless Imagination.  It's an article about science fiction in Pakistan and how popularizing it as a genre might benefit the country down the road, and why the author believes this to be true.  I liked the article, but as is often the case, the comments to the article are very thought provoking. So I started thinking about what Science Fiction was, to me.  Sometimes I think it's one of those "I know it when I see it" types of things.  I read a novel or a short story and I know if its SF or something else. I believe there are two different things in play.  First, there are the trappings of SF.  Think Star Wars.  Think Buck Rogers.  Think Star Trek, even.  Put futuristic weapons in a story, set it on a different planet, at some point in the future, and some people will box it up and call it "Science Fiction."  Is it?  Hardly, in my view. Star Wars has a lot of SF trappings in it.  There are space ships, robots, laser weapons, interplanetary travel, and aliens in that universe.  Another example is a Stephen King short story called "The Jaunt."  Have you read it?  It deals with a way to travel between two distant points instantaneously.  It's sort of like warp drive or teleporting in the Star Trek universe.  Is it science fiction?  I say it's not.  The only point of the wormhole, or whatever it is that allows them to travel between the two points, is to create a real horror story.  It uses a science fiction device to tell a frightening tale. Instead, I believe that it is the second thing that makes something a science fiction story, and that thing is "idea."  Good science fiction explores ideas, extrapolates them into the future and tells a story within the framework of that idea.  Can dystopian fiction be science fiction?  I believe it can be.  Can post-apocalyptic fiction be SF?  Again, my answer would be "yes."  But SF can be many things.  Sometimes it's a mystery or a thriller, set in the future and using ideas about the future at its core.  (I'm thinking of some of Asimov's robot stories, and also of the fiction of Steven M. Moore.)  Sometimes it is more straightforward, focusing on the effects, near-term or far-flung, of some important scientific discovery that is within the realm of possibility, however improbable. You can't just throw out a handful of SF trappings and make something "science fiction."  Those trappings have to be integral to the story.  As has been said in many places and many times, Star Wars could have been set in the old West (and in fact, may have been set in imperial Japan?) and the story would be the same.  You could replace the lasers with revolvers or swords, you could replace the robots with people, and you could replace the spaceships with horses or trains or whatever, and you'd have essentially the same story. Take a science fiction story and replace the "trappings" of SF in it, and you won't have the same story.  You likely won't even have a story. To me, SF takes an idea, maybe from today, and extrapolates it in some way, shape or form.  It may or may not have robots, lasers, and space ships, but it will have an idea that has become integral to the story. ***** The comments at TPV talk about religion versus science, and one poster (Antares) points out that for most of us, science has an element of faith in it.  We put faith in a scientist or a teacher or a research paper and accept its pronouncements as truth, much the same way that we accept the pronouncements of a church or a religion as true.  He mentions that few of us have actually done the work to "see" that DNA is a double helix, but we accept that it is based on the assertions of scientists and observers.  I found this interesting.  Something about it seems short-sighted, but I can't figure out exactly what it is.  Anyone have any thoughts? *****  

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic

Ran across the internet site The Short List, who posted this list of "dystopian novels."  The list was controversial, omitting plenty of good novels and listing some that were arguable, like THE HUNGER GAMES and ARTICLE 5.  Also it mixed "dystopian" with "post-apocalyptic" novels as if there were no difference. I think it's likely that both dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories attract many of the same readers.  I know I am attracted to both.  But is there a difference?  In many comments, it is argued that post-apocalyptic novels are a subset of dystopian fiction, while others argue that the two are separate, closely related perhaps, but both branches occupy the same level of whatever tree one might be making to categorize science fiction. I have my own "End of the World" list of both types of novels on Amazon on which I tried to stick with "post-apocalyptic" types of novels.  I did not include classic dystopian stories like Orwell's 1984 or P.K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because they don't paint a picture of a society that's been wiped out by some catastrophe (hence, the "apocalyptic" part of the genre tag).  I stick to stories describing the world after something decimates (not literally; "decimate" means eliminate one of every ten people, I think) human society.  In The Stand, it is disease.  Likewise in Edward W. Robertson's Breakers novels.  In Hugh Howey's Wool, it is another form of disease brought on by nano-bots.  In Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle, it is an asteroid hitting the Earth.  In Stephen Baxter's Ark and Flood, it is a flood of super-biblical proportions that destroys the environment as we know it.  In Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, it's Ice-9.  (Read the book!  It's lots of fun!)  In David Brin's The Postman, it's nuclear war.  In a bunch of books, it's zombies!  How do the zombies get created out of your friends and neighbors?  Disease, usually. I see "dystopian" as being something different.  I see it as a society that's gone "off track".  Orwell's vision is the classic example.  Suzanne Collins paints a dystopian society in her Hunger Games trilogy, and so does Veronica Roth in her Divergent novels.  (Apparently, The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of another earlier novel, possibly of Japanese origin, which I'd never heard of...but the knowledgeable commenters knew all about it.)  Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged paints a dystopia of sorts, and apparently so does her novel Anthem.  (I've read the first, not the second, and I remain unimpressed with the "philosophy" found in Atlas Shrugged, but that's just me.)  A lot of current young adult fiction can be categorized as dystopian, especially The Giver.  How about The Maze Runner?  Dystopian, and possibly post-apocalyptic (I haven't read the follow-ups yet.)  (Oh, and I know The Giver isn't really current, but my kids were both assigned it for school reading recently, so for me it's current...) Anyway, lots of good suggestions for reading were given in the comments, and I plan on checking out a few of them.  There's something about the current crop of dystopian novels, especially the YA stuff, that grabs me - maybe it's the attention to social orders as we see them today, and the way that kids relate to one another.  Maybe it's just that it's more accessible, with a more modern style of writing.  I don't know.  But I know for me, it's sometimes hard to get to the excellent story, because of the style in which an older novel was written.  Earth Abides and On The Beach are both like that for me; so is Brave New World.  Great, if frightening visions of the future, but stylistically, they seem to take more concentration or something, and seem harder to get into, for me at least. If you have comments about any of this, I'd love to hear them.  (And I really don't need to hear from the Vuitton Bags or Nike whatever spammers anymore...everything gets caught in the spam filter and I delete it all because I simply don't have time to check four or five hundred posts...) *****

The End of the World!

I've always been a big fan of end-of-the-world stories.  I don't know why.  Something about them just tickles my imagination.  Maybe it's my own buried desire to test myself against such circumstances to see if I would come out on top.  Maybe it's just that the stories that come out of such situations, the good versus the evil, intelligence versus stupidity, the luck versus the well-planned action, the way the characters react to the changed circumstances and to each other -- all of that grabs me and pulls me in Stephen King, author of what I consider to be the gold standard for post-apocalyptic fiction, once said in an interview, "The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke." Maybe that explains it for me.  It's just fun! I've tried to write some post-apocalyptic fiction; so far I've been unsuccessful.  I think it's because I put myself into the stories too much.  I've tried writing main characters that I can't really identify with too much, but that's hard too.  I don't know if others have the same problem, but I like to sort of "be" the main character.  Not me, obviously, but with enough of "me" in him (or even in her).  It's hard with post-apocalyptic stories because I tend to think of how I'd react in the same situation and write my character that way.  And I'm a conflict-avoidance type, and you can't really have a good story without a lot of conflict, or so it seems to me. I already mentioned that I see The Stand as the gold standard.  That's my personal opinion, but I have my reasons.  It's a classic good versus evil story, and I really like the way that the survivors of the superflu separate.  People's basic nature makes them lean one way or another, but yet there are shades of grey in the good and the bad.  It doesn't hurt that King wrote some great characters.  Nick Andros, Larry Underwood, Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, even Harold Lauder are all characters that open themselves to exploration and contemplation.  They are all complex with complex motivations. My second favorite story is Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  It's a very different story.  There are no supernatural elements in this one.  It's all about people.  And it's probably the type of story I prefer, generally speaking.  In this story, a comet is streaking toward Earth on a near-collision course, and it is first noticed by a couple of amateur astronomers.  The tale follows several different characters whose paths converge on a Senator's ranch in the mountains.  One of the main characters is a TV reporter who decides to do a story on how to prepare for a possible disaster.  I found his preparations to be a very interesting part of the story.  In the end, it's a story with a hopeful vision for humanity -- the Senator (a good guy; could a story like this be written today?) says with his dying breath, "Give my people the stars."   Science and technology win out, and I like this vision.  It's almost opposite of King's version:  in The Stand technology is depicted as being sought by the forces of evil, even if its purpose is turned to good in the end. So what prompted me to write about this stuff today?  It was my weekend reading of Bobby Adair's Slow Burn books.  There are four in all, and I'm about half-way through the third.  It's sort of a zombie apocalypse.  Take King's plague and put it with Night of the Living Dead but throw in the self-reliance message from Niven and Pournelle and you have Adair's vision of the future.  I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, and I have enjoyed most of the sub-genre coming out of indie fiction (especially Edward Robertson's Breakers series and of course, Hugh Howey's Wool series), but I'm not a huge fan of the zombie versions.  They're okay.  I've read several of them.  They just aren't my favorite ways to approach this sub-genre.  they aren't what I'd choose to write. But this one is grabbing me more than any of the others I've read, including ones by Amanda Hocking, Dan DeWitt, Brett Battles, Scott Nicholson, and others.  Why?  I think it's the characters.  I really like the main character, Zed.  He reacts like I think I might react (not that I'd get the gun stuff) but the way he latches onto the other characters and hangs on for dear life.  I like Murphy too.  They make a great pair. But it's also the situations he finds himself in.  Setting the story in the locations Adair sets it in works for me as well.  Having Zed work his way around the college and then around the suburban homes and such captures my imagination also. I have a list of "End of the World" stories on Amazon and I think these stories are going to get added to it as worthwhile post-apocalyptic fiction very soon. *****