I’m still under the influence of the discussion we had on the Cold War and it’s affect on pop culture in the forums. That discussion first led me to look up a young adult book series I vaguely remembered called After the Bomb. Now it has led me to a similar series called Firebrats.
This is the UK cover. I got the UK version because it was cheaper, but I like the American cover better.
See? Told you it was better.
If After the Bomb is The Day After, then Firebrats is Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. There is a fairly chilling sequence in which suburban America is bombed by the Russians. However, rather than giving a more realistic account of the clean up and rescue efforts following such an attack, Firebrats focus on two teens who have to contend with roving gangs. Actually, that might be pretty realistic as well, but it is a different arena of realism than what After the Bomb presents. There is a romantic subplot, of course, and some life lessons/growing pains/raising up to meet the challenge parts as well. All pretty standard, but as I’m a kid of the 80s, I can’t get enough of it.
There were four books in the Firebrats series: The Burning Land, Survivors, Thunder Mountain, and Shockwave. That’s twice what After the Bomb had. I only read the first book. Since there are no e-copies that I could find, and since the hard copies are very expensive, and since I’ve been told that the series does not come to a conclusion, I might not pick up the other three. I had a good time with the first, though. It really took me back to those days when we were sure the missiles could fall at any moment, which, strangely enough, was not entirely unpleasant.
A recent thread on the forums about cold war books of the 80s reminded me of a book I had seen in my middle school Scholastics flyer. I couldn’t remember the title, but I remember the book cover showed a tween boy crying down (or up?) a ladder into an nuked wasteland. After doing a lot of searching, I thought this book might have been in the Firebrats series. As it turns out, though, it was a short series called After The Bomb.
Is that little scene of empty suburbia chilling or what?
After The Bomb was a short Scholastic series from Gloria D. Miklowitz that came out in 1985. There were only two volumes: After The Bomb and After The Bomb: Week One. The second one is the one I remembered. The first starts the story of a boy, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend as they attempt to survive and save family members after the LA area is struck by a rogue Russian nuke, and the second concludes it.
Based on the cover of the second book, I thought the story would be about a boy coming out of a nuclear shelter to find a Mad Max-ish apocalyptic society. Since I was terrified of such societies after being exposed to The Road Warrior at too young an age, I was terrified of this book. As it turns out, there was a nuclear shelter, but that was about the only similarity because my impressions and the actual tale. The book is not nearly as sensationalistic as Road Warrior but much more realistic. Over the two books are scenes in overloaded hospital, attempts to get water, evacuation to the desert, and life in a refugee camp. There are also scenes of the boy coming to his own, overcoming his negative self-image to save lives and help the recovery efforts.
Miklowitz says in the opening to the first book that she did a lot of research and is fairly certain that this is what a nuclear strike would be like. I imagine she is correct on that. I also know it is nothing I’d want to experience. It wasn’t Mad Max, but it was horrific in its own right. This is a prime example of the nuclear scares that we used to get on a regular basis in the 80s. If you have for some strange reason been waxing nostalgic for such scares, these books are for you.