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Sand, Sand, and More Sand: A Brief Introduction to Desertpunk Books

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Addison Rizer


Addison Rizer is a writer and reader of anything that can be described as weird, sad, or scary. She has an MA in Professional Writing and a BA in English. She writes for Book Riot and Publishers Weekly and is always looking for more ways to gush about the books she loves. Find her published work or contact her on her website or at addisonrizer at gmaildotcom.

Sometimes, post-apocalyptic stories imagine humanity scattered through outer space or fighting off rampant wildlife in an overgrown version of Earth. Sometimes they go for super-urbanized versions of current society, emphasizing technological advances or abandoned skyscrapers. And sometimes, they show a sand-covered wasteland where water is scarce and morality is at its limits. This sci-fi/fantasy sub-genre is called desertpunk, or desert punk, and I bet you’ve seen or read something in this genre without realizing it. Let’s dive into the best desertpunk books to inspire your next read!

What are Desertpunk books?

Desertpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction or fantasy that depicts the world as a sandy wasteland. Whether it’s because humanity up and moved to another planet, ruined their current one, or a natural disaster wiped out the greenery everywhere, these stories often pick up in the aftermath as humans try to survive in the dry climate. Many times in this type of narrative, morality has gone by the wayside, the stress of survival outweighing societal rules and norms. Murder, theft, anything goes! It’s all about finding any way to survive.

One of the most popular examples of the sub-genre is the Mad Max film series that follows an Australian policeman’s attempt to avenge his family’s death in the midst of societal chaos. Another example of a desertpunk book is Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Desertpunk Book Recommendations

If you’re interested in the description of this genre, check out these five desertpunk books to get you started!

Cover of Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Scavenging across the desert wasteland suits Saba and her family just fine. That is, until four rogues on horses kidnap her beloved twin brother, Lugh. With her little sister, Emmi, Saba sets off into the dried-up desert full of violent survivors and monstrous worms to save him before it’s too late.

Cover of Desert Punk Vol 1 by Masatoshi Usune

Desert Punk by Masatoshi Usune

After warfare has left society in ruins, Desert Punk wanders the Great Kanto Desert with one thing on his mind: making money. In the first volume, Desert Punk clashes with a couple of men holding a family hostage. This is a gritty, bleak take on society after its collapse.

cover image of Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

A more quiet take on the desert wasteland, Each of Us a Desert follows Xochitl, the village storyteller, as she tries to find a way to unburden herself of her powers after hearing a story with horrible consequences. In the desert, she encounters Emilia, the daughter of a violent man, on a journey of her own. The two join together, both searching for themselves in the sand.

Who Fears Death cover

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

In a post-apocalyptic society, the Nuru enslave the Okeke. Born in the desert, half Okeke and half Nuru, Onyesonwu is an outcast everywhere she is. Fighting against the way society operates, she goes on a quest to use her inherited magical powers to find the Great Book that would free everyone.

Cover of Sand by Hugh Howey

Sand by Hugh Howey

The United States has become ever-growing sand dunes, encroaching on the two cities left on top of the dunes. After their father abandoned them, siblings Palmer, Vic, Connor, and Rob must do what they can to survive. With rumors of a city down beneath the sand, Palmer is determined to prove himself and do what no one has done before: find it.

cover image of Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister

Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister

In the middle of the desert, rumors of religious miracles in Las Vegas beckon survivors to come. Magdala, a young girl, sets her sights on the neon city where she seeks someone to heal a physical deformity. Years pass, though, and she gets more and more desperate. Desperate enough to take a hostage along for the ride.

In the mood for more post-apocalyptic romps? Check out these lighthearted post apocalyptic books or these nine best queer post-apocalyptic YA books!