Survival has been the subject of stories for thousands of years, from The Odyssey to The Revenant, The Martian and The Hunger Games. Men and women are forced to pit their strength, skill and brains against the forces of nature and the forces of evil. This collection includes novels set in different times and different lands spanning fiction’s genres. For all the protagonists there is one truth: survival at all costs.
U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack and his experimental aircraft are forced down in Russia. He is sent to Soviet prison camp, escapes and he must call upon the ancient skills of his Indian forebears to survive the vast Siberian wilderness. There is only one route open to him, the path of his ancestors, overland to the Bering Strait and across the sea to America. Pursuing Mack is legendary tracker, the Yakut native Alekhin, who knows every square foot of the icy frontier. He also knows that to trap his quarry he must think like a Sioux. It’s an epic and authentically detailed novel by one of western fiction’s greatest writers.
The world ends with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. The world loses its institutions and of 99 percent of its people. A handful of panicked survivors choose sides — or are chosen. It’s a world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail — and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man. This is King’s vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety. The new edition includes more than 500 pages of new and previously deleted material. This is a triumphant and eerily plausible epic that takes on issues that will determine our survival.
The Road is a work of stunning, savage, heartbreaking beauty. Set in the post-apocalyptic hell of an unending nuclear winter, McCarthy writes about a nameless man and his young son, wandering through a world gone crazy; bleak, cold, dark, where the snow falls down gray; moving south toward the coast, looking somewhere, anywhere, for life and warmth.
The boy’s mother is a suicide, unable to face living in a world where everything’s gone gray and dead. The man and his son are “each the other’s world entire:” they have only each other, they live for each other, and their intense love for each other will help them survive. At least for a while. This is a classic, powerful novel with some of the most intense, thought-provoking and haunting images ever created.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The leaders of the Capitol keep the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl, ages 12-18, to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. She becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
The Hunger Games is the first of a trilogy already considered a classic in the field.
Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has seemingly been obliterated by a vampire virus. He now struggles to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there are no other humans left. Neville is an emotional person, continuing to find strength between bouts of depression and alcohol abuse to fight the virus that has infected most of humankind. I Am Legend was a major influence in horror. It brought a whole new thematic concept to apocalyptic literature, blending the horror genre with traditional fiction.The novel was adapted to film in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth, as Omega Man in 1971 and finally as I am Legend in 2007, starring Will Smith.
America faces a full-scale socioeconomic collapse. Practically overnight, the fragile chains of supply and high-technology infrastructure fall, and wholesale rioting and looting grip every major city. As hordes of refugees flee the cities, friends in the Midwest desperately try to make their way to a safe-haven ranch in northern Idaho. The journey requires all their skills and training since communication, commerce, transportation and law enforcement have all disappeared. Once at the ranch, group members fend off vicious attacks from outsiders. They look to join other groups that are trying to restore true Constitutional law to the country. The novel has been praised for its use of authentic survivalist techniques to endure the collapse of the American civilization.
When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, civilization is destroyed and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. One small town in Florida is miraculously spared and the struggle begins as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness. This is a classic survival story in which a small town and its people must learn to work together, use existing skills and resources to rebuild society.
Golding’s compelling story about a group of ordinary boys marooned on a coral island is a brutal classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun soon becomes serious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys knew collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible. The novel, published in 1954, has been labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse.
The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes, wild animals and the unforgiving environment. Hugh Glass is among the Company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. During a scouting mission he is mauled by a grizzly bear and not expected to survive. Two company men are assigned to stay with Glass, tend to him before he dies, and give him a proper burial. Instead, the men abandon him, taking his precious gun and hatchet, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. He crawls across more than 3,000 miles of uncharted frontier, surviving against all odds. With hauntingly spare and gripping prose, The Revenant is a tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.
William R. Forstchen
This is a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, and is plunged into the Dark Ages. The war involves an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP), a weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies. The book is being discussed the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. It’s a dire warning of what might be our future…and our end.
Johann David Wyss
When a storm forces their ship aground, and having been abandoned by their crew, a Swiss family—a pastor, his wife, and their two sons—is forced to survive on a deserted tropical island. Using supplies from the abandoned ship, the family builds a new life and triumphs over a hostile and unknown land. First published in 1812, The Swiss Family Robinson was inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and was intended to instruct author Johann David Wyss’s sons about the Christian faith, family values, and self-reliance. In the more than two centuries since its publication, The Swiss Family Robinson has been adapted for comics, television and film.
Vardis Fisher has captured both the romantic idealism and harsh realism of the wilderness experience with this classic story of Sam Minard, a hunter/trapper wandering throughout Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Sam stumbles upon the scene of an Indian massacre. He helps the lone survivor bury her dead, and builds her a cabin. Later he marries a woman from the Flathead Indian tribe. He leaves her at his cabin for the winter months, unwilling to subject his pregnant wife to the rigors of the outdoors while he traps for furs. When he returns in the spring he finds his family has been slaughtered members of the Crow tribe. Sam sets out on a path of vengeance. The story focuses on the lives of mountain men who have forsaken big city living in favor of the harsher, more violent, yet to them more rewarding lives communing freely with nature. The book was adapted for Sydney Pollack’s film, Jeremiah Johnson (1972).
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie is a series of children’s novels written by Wilder based on her childhood in the northern Midwest during the 1870s and 1880s. The stories are about survival and love of family. Eight were completed by Wilder, and published by Harper & Brothers from 1932 and 1943, of which the last covers her courtship with Almanzo Wilder and one covers his childhood.
In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Indians also once lived on the island. When they left and sailed to the East, one young girl was left behind. Karana lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.
The Odyssey is the granddaddy of adventure and survival stories. The epic poem revolves around the Greek hero Odysseus and his 10-year journey home after the fall of Troy. His family thinks he is dead and suitors for his wife are destroying his wealth. Meanwhile, Odysseus battles monsters, vengeful gods, deadly sirens and the spirit of his dead mother. Odysseus survives by physical skill, his wits and the help of both humans and gods. The Odyssey is where all adventure/survival stories began.
Astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. Even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or human error are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless refusal to quit—he confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. The only possible way to survive is in resourcefulness. The book was turned into an acclaimed film starring Matt Damon.
Henry De Vere Stacpoole
Love blossoms amid a tropical paradise in this tale of two children stranded on a remote South Pacific island. Richard and Emmeline escape from a burning ship and learn to fend for themselves as they fish, swim, dive for pearls, and explore their idyllic home in the Blue Lagoon. But with the passing of time, the innocents begin to experience strange emotions and discover a new dimension to their relationship. Stacpoole’s popular 1908 romance inspired two sequels and four movie versions. His lyrical descriptions of the restless sea, the enchanting desert island, and the charming young lovers are complemented by captivating images by a master illustrator Willy Pogány.
High schooler Will Peterson and three friends travel to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor, secluded mountain village, they win the hearts of the local people with their energy and kindness. But in one unexpected moment, everything goes horribly wrong. A revolution sweeps the country. Guns and terror are everywhere, and Americans are being targeted as the first to die. Will and his friends have got to get out fast, but streets full of killers. Hills patrolled by armies and a jungle full of danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home. If they can just survive.
This is the gripping tale of survival and an epic love story in which a husband and wife—separated by the only battle of World War II to take place on American soil—fight to reunite in Alaska’s starkly beautiful Aleutian Islands. Journalist John Easley leaves his wife, Helen, to investigate the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, a story censored by the U.S. government. While John is accompanying a crew on a bombing run, his plane is shot down over the island of Attu. He survives in a harsh and unforgiving wilderness known as “the birthplace of winds.” He battles the elements and starvation while evading discovery by the Japanese. Helen struggles with the burden of her husband’s disappearance. Somehow, she must find John and bring him home, a quest that takes her into the farthest reaches of the war, beyond the safety of everything she knows.
Awasin and Jamie, brothers in courage, meet a challenge many mountain men could not endure. When their canoe is destroyed by the fury of the rapids, they must face the wilderness with no food and no hope of rescue. To survive, they build an igloo, battle a towering grizzly bear, track several wolves, slaughter caribou for food and clothing. Two lost huskies they tame bring companionship–and maybe a way home from their dangerous adventure.
The setting is the Georgia wilderness, where the state’s most remote white-water river awaits. In the thundering froth of that river, in its echoing stone canyons, four men on a canoe trip discover a freedom and exhilaration beyond compare. And then, in a moment of horror, the adventure turns into a struggle for survival as one man becomes a human hunter who is offered his own harrowing deliverance. James Dickey’s “Deliverance” is a study of how a civilized, peaceful, law-abiding man chooses a “kill or be killed” mentality when he is trapped in a life-or-death situation. The novel is filled with the beauty and violence of nature, fleeing, tracking, accidents and murder. Deliverance is #42 on the Modern Library list of “100 Best Novels” and was made into an acclaimed 1972 film starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty.
#22 – When the Legends Die
Thomas Black Bull’s parents left the life of a modern reservation and took to ancient paths in the woods, teaching their young son the stories and customs of his ancestors. But Tom’s life changes forever when he his father is killed in a tragic accident and his mother dies shortly afterward. When Tom is found alone in the forest with only a bear cub as a companion, life becomes difficult. Soon, well-meaning teachers endeavor to reform him, a rodeo attempts to turn him into an act, and nearly everyone he meets tries to take control of his life. Powerful and timeless, When the Legends Die is the captivating story of one boy learning to live in harmony with both civilization and the wilderness.
Beryl is the only female member of a photographic team sent on assignment to Churchill, Manitoba to capture polar bears in their natural habitat. From within a small iron cage, this diminutive, often fearful woman is challenging herself to face the planet’s largest land carnivores in the bone-aching cold of an unforgiving terrain. Before long, disaster strikes, and she must draw on every ounce of strength she has to survive. One critic said: “This riveting, assured first novel is part survival story, part coming-of-age tale. Some of Schulman’s scenes are truly terrifying. . . .”
It’s supposed to be just an ordinary camping trip, two old acquaintances hiking through the wilderness toward a remote cabin in the woods of northern California. Bob Hansen, a middle-aged family man and author, isn’t anticipating anything worse than sore muscles and maybe a few chilly nights. But the isolation of the hike soon exposes long-hidden rivalries and resentments between Bob and his guide through the forest, a fading TV actor whom Bob has known for several years. The deeper they get into the wilderness and the farther from civilization, the greater the tension between the two men becomes-until the simmering hostility erupts into a terrifying life-or-death struggle for survival.| Two men entered the woods, but only one may emerge alive.
The author of such classic novels as I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come, Matheson is one of the 20th century’s masters of suspense.
Set in the near-future, this novel focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their isolated Northern California forest home. Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters use the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.
Deep in the African rain forest, near the ruins of the Lost City of Zinj, members of a field expedition are brutally killed. At the Houston-based Earth Resources Technology Services, Inc., a horrified supervisor watches a gruesome video transmission of the ill-fated group and sees a haunting, grainy, man-like blur moving amongst the bodies. In San Francisco, an extraordinary gorilla named Amy, who has a 620-sign vocabulary, may hold the secret to that fierce carnage. A new expedition is sent to the Congo with Amy in tow, descending into a secret, forbidden world where the only escape may be through the grisliest death. Crichton is the bestselling author of Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Sphere.
Jean M. Auel
A five-year-old Cro-Magnon girl is orphaned and homeless after an earthquake destroys her family’s camp. She wanders aimlessly, naked and unable to feed herself. She is nearly killed by a cave lion and suffering from starvation, exhaustion, and infection of her wounds, she collapses. Iza, a medicine woman, discovers the girl and asks permission from Brun, the head of the Clan, to help the ailing child, despite the child being clearly a member of “the Others,” the distrusted antagonists of the Clan. Iza and her brother adopt the girl and call her Ayla. The members of the Neanderthal clan, ruled by traditions and taboos, find themselves challenged by this outsider, who represents the physically modern Cro-Magnons. And as Ayla begins to grow and mature, her natural tendencies emerge, putting her in the middle of a brutal and dangerous power struggle. Published in 1980, this is the first novel in the wildly popular series Earth’s Children.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Kidnapped is set in 1751, during the time of the Jacobite rebellion — a tumultuous and tragic period in Scottish history. When David Balfour sets out to find his uncle, he never dreams that he will be kidnapped — but saved from a life of slavery — and thrown from one escapade to another in the company of the fugitive, masterful swordsman Alan Breck Stewart. They meet on the brig Covenant just before they are shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland. After witnessing the murder of Colin Campbell (the notorious “Red Fox”) David makes a dramatic and extraordinary flight for his life across Scotland before he can claim his rightful inheritance.
This enduring tale tells the story of five Americans who during the American Civil War escape the siege of Richmond, Virginia in a hot air balloon, only to have their balloon crash and leave them on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. Through the use of their ingenuity the five manage to survive on this island wilderness. Many secrets and adventures await the group as they endeavor to discovery the secrets of this “mysterious island.”
Rogue Male is one of the 20th century’s classic thrillers survival novels. An Englishman plans to assassinate the dictator of a European country. But he is foiled at the last moment and falls into the hands of ruthless and inventive torturers. They devise for him an ingenious and diplomatic death but they bungle the job and he escapes. But England provides no safety from his pursuers – and the Rogue Male must strip away all the trappings of status and civilization as the hunter becomes the hunted.
New to camping and survival? Check out 10 Camping Terms Every Novice Camper Needs to Know.