Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction

by Paul Brians

Nuclear Holocausts Bibliography: I

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Ibuse Masuji. Black Rain. Originally Kuroi Ame, published serially in Showa, January 1965 through September 1966. Rpt. Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1966. Trans. John Bester. Originally Japan Quarterly vol. l4, nos. 2-4 (1967), l5, nos. 1-3 (1968). Tokyo and Palo Alto: Kondasha, 1969. New York: Bantam, 1985. London: Secker & Warburg, 197l.
This vivid recreation of the experience of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing begins when the narrator's niece is rejected by a suitor because she had been caught in the black rain which fell immediately after the explosion. The narrator tells his story and hers in an attempt to refute what he considers to be unwarranted aspersions; but she, in fact, develops a severe, albeit delayed, case of radiation disease and dies. In contrast to most projections of the aftermath of nuclear war there is no rioting or looting. The only incident even remotely hinting at civil disorder is when an army unit improperly claims some emergency supplies being stored for another unit. This deed is enough to cause the narrator to despair at modern decadence. A great deal of attention is paid to the diet of the victims, already severely deprived by the effects of the war. At one point the narrator catches a half-blinded white pigeon, considers eating it, but instead lets it fly away. The novel concludes with a detailed depiction of the course of the niece's illness. The power of this narrative, in which extraordinary horrors are borne with sorrow and dignity, makes the vast bulk of imaginary accounts of nuclear war pale in comparison. [More, More, More & More]

___. "The Crazy Iris." Original Japanese publication, 1951. Trans. Ivan Morris (Encounter, vol. 6, no. 5 (1956) . In Kenzaburo Oe, ed. The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath. (Japanese version, Tokyo: Shueisha Press, 1984). New York: Grove, 1985.
The period of the Hiroshima bombing is told here from the perspective of distant Fukuyama, where conventional bombing attacks ensued. Early cases of radiation disease are described. At the end of the story, a young woman's body is found floating in a pond. She had been at Hiroshima when the bomb fell, and responded to the attack on Fukuyama by drowning herself. Around the pond the irises have burst into bloom unnaturally early.

Ing, Dean. Pulling Through. New York: Ace, 1983.
This book is literally half novel, half survivalist handbook. Its second part consists of a series of articles Ing wrote about his designs for such nuclear war survival tools as an air filter, a battery charger, a toilet, an air pump, and a radiation meter. The novel portion of the book is a sketchy narrative designed to demonstrate how such devices might be used under actual conditions. The hero is a hard-core survivalist who is forced to take an underaged sexpot into his homemade fallout shelter and battle radioactive dust with his sister and her family. Such plot as there is mainly concerns the misdeeds of his obnoxious nephew--who is prescribed a dose of beating for what ails him--and an attack by marauders disguised as sheriff's men toward the end. Although Ing's hero proves he is not reluctant to kill in self defense, the author takes pains to demonstrate that he can also show compassion, sheltering and caring for a dying mother and son less fortunate than himself. The author clearly wants to debunk the stereotype of the ruthless survivalist as embodied in such books as Ahern's series of shoot-'em-ups. Although Ing presents the work as a practical handbook, several important problems are solved though the use of a fantastic sports car which can hop over obstacles or skip across the surface of a river. Despite much heavier than expected fallout, the protagonists survive and go on to lead happy lives on a farm where the hero marries the teenager he had been originally bent on arresting. [

___. Single Combat. New York: Tom Doherty, 1983. Sequel to Systemic Shock.
After the war, which included the use of both nuclear and bacteriological weapons, deviant Mormons have used their survival skills to seize power and impose a ruthless if hypocritical dictatorship. The hero battles it, of course. The conclusion of the series begun with Systemic Shock is Wild Country (New York: TOR, 1985).

___. Systemic Shock. New York: Ace, 1982. Sequel Single Combat.
This book is a sort of sequel to Hackett's Third World War, to the plot of which it specifically refers. In 1996 the U.S. is in an energy crisis, caused by its refusal to develop atomic power in the wake of reactor accidents. The shrunken Russian Union of Soviets is allied with America against a ruthless Chinese-Indian coalition, competing for the world's oil. The protagonist is fifteen, out on a Boy Scout camping expedition during a period of mounting international tension caused by sabotage and piracy on the high seas. A prolonged and complex nuclear war involving cruise missiles, chemical and biological weapons, neutron bombs, and antisatellite weapons. As in Hackett, a great deal of detail concerns the properties of various arms, some of which are fantastic, including an aircraft carrier dirigible and a matter synthesizer; but Ing is a more readable author. The Russians fare better than the Americans because of their shelter program, but the Americans develop a successful antiradiation pill. The teenage hero is picked up and seduced by a woman working in the Oak Ridge nuclear plant, and develops into a heroic fighter, trained to carry out solo killing assignments. A huge fleet of Vietnamese submarines is destroyed in 1997, causing the Great Sea Quake. Jews plan an orbiting New Israel. The eastern part of the United States is quarantined and the rest is dubbed "Streamlined America." The war forces the revival of fission power for energy.

___. Wild Country. New York: Tom Doherty, 1985.
The third volume in the Ted Quantill trilogy (the first volume is Systemic Shock, the second Single Combat). In 2006 Ring cities have been built around ruined metropolises. Essentially a crime adventure story involving heroin smuggling and the development of a matter synthesizer. Little is said about the nuclear war.

Ingrey, Derek. Pig on a Lead. London: Faber, 1963.
A bizarre comic novel with a cast reminiscent of Waiting for Godot roams the devastated English landscape, preaching bigoted religion and seeking women. Written in a pastiche of the King James Bible except for the dialogue, which varies in style: the two main characters speak pidgin. A teenage boy adopts a wandering pig as a pet (hence the title), meets and is seduced by a young girl. His two older male companions stab each other to death and leave the scene to this adolescent Adam and Eve and their pig. Radiation disease is referred to as "the Distemper."

Ishiguro, Kazuo. A Pale View of Hills. London: Faber, 1982. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983. New York: Putnam, 1982.
The disintegration of traditional Japanese culture in the wake of World War II is depicted in Nagasaki, where the bomb is only briefly dealt with. The general influence of America looms larger.

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