The best science fiction books where ordinary people survive the extraordinary

B.K. Bass Author Of What Once Was Home
By B.K. Bass

Who am I?

I lived in small towns with “ordinary” people most of my life, so books where people from small towns contend with situations beyond the ordinary fascinate me. I also served in the US Army as a nuclear, biological, and chemical operations specialist and am a military history buff, so anything with a military spin is all that more engaging for me and I developed a morbid fascination for just how easy it would be for us to end civilization as we know it. Therefore, military science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction are among my favorite genres. 

I wrote...

What Once Was Home

By B.K. Bass,

Book cover of What Once Was Home

What is my book about?

When his world is suddenly torn apart, one man must learn to survive in What Once Was Home.

Jace Cox’s life is changed when an overwhelming alien force invades the Earth with no warning or provocation. In the years that follow, he must not only fight to survive, but also learn what it means to be a man and a leader. As the situation grows more dire and the weight of loss bears down on Jace, he realizes his greatest challenge isn’t the alien invaders or even his fellow man. It is holding onto his own humanity despite living in a world gone mad.

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The books I picked & why

Alas, Babylon

By Pat Frank,

Book cover of Alas, Babylon

Why did I love this book?

Growing up in Florida near the end of the Cold War, the looming threat of nuclear war was ever-present. We were even still doing nuclear attack drills in school. When this book was assigned reading for an English class, I had no idea how close to home it would hit. Survivors in a small town in Florida must survive the aftermath of a nuclear war. Ironically, the small town in the book was based on a town only a short drive from my own home. Witnessing the experiences of wholly ordinary people—people who could have been my own family, friends, and neighbors—thrust into an extraordinary situation was gripping and terrifying.

By Pat Frank,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Alas, Babylon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An extraordinary real picture of human beings numbed by catastrophe but still driven by the unconquerable determination of living creatures to keep on being alive.” —The New Yorker

“Alas, Babylon.” Those fateful words heralded the end. When the unthinkable nightmare of nuclear holocaust ravaged the United States, it was instant death for tens of millions of people; for survivors, it was a nightmare of hunger, sickness, and brutality. Overnight, a thousand years of civilization were stripped away.

But for one small Florida town, miraculously spared against all the odds, the struggle was only just beginning, as the isolated survivors—men and…

Gust Front

By John Ringo,

Book cover of Gust Front

Why did I love this book?

Parts of Gust Front hit home. I read this while living in the Appalachians, so seeing Cally preparing for an invasion in a remote valley in Georgia, and the subsequent fighting that takes place in and around the Appalachians, struck a nerve with me. If the worst happened, up to and including the alien invasion depicted here, would the mountains be the best place to hold out and resist? The scope of the novel covers many settings, including other familiar ones like Washington D.C., all of which ground the speculative premise of an alien invasion in a story that feels very real; something that any of us could be forced to live through.

Dies the Fire

By S. M. Stirling,

Book cover of Dies the Fire

Why did I love this book?

Unlike the typical post-apocalyptic fare of nuclear war or other identifiable disasters, Dies the Fire posits an interesting question: What if everything just stops working? Everything we rely on to drive modern society, from combustion to electricity, fails. Against this backdrop, a cast of characters from varied backgrounds all must struggle to adapt to this new reality. Civilization falls apart, and new orders spring up in their place. What drew me most to this was the different ways in which the characters responded to this situation. Some seek simply to survive, while others seek to exploit this new reality for their own gains at the expense of others.

By S. M. Stirling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dies the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

S. M. Stirling presents his first Novel of the Change, the start of the New York Times bestselling postapocalyptic saga set in a world where all technology has been rendered useless.

The Change occurred when an electrical storm centered over the island of Nantucket produced a blinding white flash that rendered all electronic devices and fuels inoperable—and plunged the world into a dark age humanity was unprepared to face... 
Michael Pound was flying over Idaho en route to the holiday home of his passengers when the plane’s engines inexplicably died, forcing a less than perfect landing in the wilderness. And…

Book cover of The War of the Worlds

Why did I love this book?

What is more terrifying than an alien menace bent on eradicating humanity? One that won’t even say why they are doing it. To me, that’s the most striking thing about this book. In other alien invasion stories, an antagonist often has a particular bone to pick; there’s some failed diplomacy or other motives to make it clear why they are attacking. In War of the Worlds, they just show up and take over without a word. Then, it falls to ordinary people to fight back against or simply survive in the face of a technologically superior foe who won’t even tell humanity why they are being exterminated.

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The War of the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

But planet Earth was not only being watched - soon it would be invaded by monstrous creatures from Mars who strode about the land in great mechanical tripods, bringing death and destruction with them. What can possibly stop an invading army equipped with heat-rays and poisonous black gas, intent on wiping out the human race? This is one man's story of that incredible invasion, from the time the first Martians land near his home town, to the destruction of London. Is this the end of human life on Earth?

The Stand

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Stand

Why did I love this book?

The Stand thrusts ordinary people into a desperate situation. What stood out for me was that the nature of the apocalypse itself or surviving the aftermath was not the focus of the book. Rather, it focuses on the tensions between the factions that arose after the fall of civilization. In a struggle that reflects those experienced on a global scale in reality, a democratic society must confront a totalitarian regime in a struggle for the fate of humanity. This clash of ideologies is a wonderful exploration of the different ways in which civilization might be rebuilt, and fuel for a gripping conflict.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Stand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by virus and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

Soon to be a television series.

'THE STAND is a masterpiece' (Guardian). Set in a virus-decimated US, King's thrilling American fantasy epic, is a Classic.

First come the days of the virus. Then come the dreams.

Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of…

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