Longer-term readers of this blog will have picked up on a certain obsession of mine: the end of the world (or at least the collapse of society). One thing these books tend to have in common is at least a few surviving human beings: there has to be someone around for the story to be about, after all.
A few books, though, are posited on the idea of humans going extinct. One of these is the deeply odd and quite fascinating After Man, by biologist Dougal Dixon and a small army of artists.
I got this as an 11-year-old, in my first visit to a big Sydney bookshop on a family holiday, though it first came out several years earlier in 1981. This book blew my developing mind, and I pored and pawed over it so much I'm quite surprised my copy's still in good shape.
What is After Man, exactly? It's basically a a big book full of colour plates that echoes those expensive Nineteenth-Century naturalists' guides to exotic fauna. However, the animals it looks at are those of the Earth in 50 million years. Humans have been extinct for most of that time, taking with them most of the animals most closely involved with or dependent upon us (dogs, cats, horses, pigs, cattle, etc). Continental drift has reshuffled the look of the globe, and evolution has done its weird work in our absence.
Here are some of the book's pages, to give you an idea of what I'm on about. Click for bigger, readable versions.
Dixon has since produced two more books of speculative evolutionary science: The New Dinosaurs, which pretends the big asteroid or whatever of 65 million years ago never happened, and imagines a present-day world full of the descendents of the dinosaurs...
..and Man After Man, which instead of wiping us out, has us mutate (and engineer ourselves) into filling pretty much every environmental niche far into the future.
The front cover of Man After Man shows one species of our descendents, five million years hence, riding on another. As with Wells' The Time Machine, it's deeply creepy to see the principles of evolution applied to us.
It seems that some of the ideas in After Man were adapted into a TV series/book (and Japanese themepark) called The Future is Wild a few years ago, but I've seen none/read/ridden on none of these things.