Here’s another Name That Story challenge for our readers, sent in by another reader looking for the title of a story read long ago. In fact – this time you get 2 challenges from the same reader!

Do any of you out there know the titles to these stories?

  1. Probably from the 70’s or 80’s, a novel (I think) of typical sci-fi bildungsroman, with teens on a starship training for some survival test of being dropped on a planet. It’s NOT Tunnel in the Sky or Rite of Passage, but in a similar vein. In this particular story, part of the preparation for the final survival test involves a section of the spaceship set up as a wilderness testing ground, with a “race” (or just recording of the order in which people complete the task) determining some benefit (order of going? ability to choose partners?) in the final test. The protagonist does well in this “pre-test” by virtue of being the only one (or one of the only team of 2, perhaps) to swim across some body of water rather than going around it.
  2. From the late 80’s or 90’s, a short novel that may not even have been billed as science fiction. It starts with a group of women held prisoner by a group of men, with IIRC no recollection of any previous life. The men are distant figures who don’t really interact or seem to have individual identities, just wielding some whip-like/prodlike devices. Something strange happens – which we eventually are led to believe is some very wide scale catastrophe or evacuation – and the women are able to leave the prison. The bulk of the novel addresses the women’s trek to find a suitable place to live (and find survival resources) and way to live with each other. The ending scene is the narrator, for some reason having ended up alone, in what seems to be a fallout shelter/bunker that she’s discovered, with a limited supply of food and water (and, IIRC, some books? Or just the paper to write on?). Most importantly, the feeling of the story is surreal and mythical; I am not sure but feel like we didn’t even get the names of the women in the group, or certainly not much about them; but the descriptions of place (prison, route of the women, the bunker in the last page or two) is dreamlike and undetailed. A feeling similar to much of “The Road”, in that there isn’t much discussion of what led to the current situation, and pretty scant details about the characters other than through direct observation of words and actions of a bunch of people that don’t talk much about themselves.

– Barry W.

Can you name this story?

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