This book must be at least 40 years old as I read it in my local library when I was a boy... I can remember very little except:

I believe it was a near-future world disaster scenario. Main protagonist was male. Second protagonist was female and was terrified of men as she had been assaulted and one nipple had been excised.

Crossbows were in use.

  • Any other SFF details you may remember other than "near future world disaster scenario" Maybe something about what the setting was? – Edlothiad Mar 18 '18 at 21:25
  • Do you remeber any book or movie of the same time? – riccs_0x Mar 18 '18 at 21:38
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    Technically Lucien's A true History, or Kepler's Somnium, or the Blazing World are very old science fiction books. Merely being over 40 years old is not enough to classy a book as being a very old science fiction books. – M. A. Golding Mar 18 '18 at 21:52
  • Could it have been a short story? Robert Sheckley's The Girls and Nugent Miller comes close, though the woman (with a party of schoolgirls in tow) doesn't so much fear men as hate them, having been driven mad by the trauma of the nuclear war. The story was written in 1960. – Mike Stone Mar 18 '18 at 22:10
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    The main character of the book, Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein, had a nipple removed during torture in the opening chapter of the book. But the rest of the book doesn't sound like what you described. – user89104 Mar 23 '20 at 7:22

I believe this is False Dawn by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, published in 1978. I own only the German version (Falsche Dämmerung, Heyne 1980), so digging for quotes does not make much sense. The following synopsis is from http://www.apocalypsebooks.com/books/false-dawn/. I put in boldface details that fit the question.

In a brutal and wasted world there was only one law—survive at any cost.

It is the turn of the twenty-first century, War, disease, and pollution have made the Earth nearly unfit for human habitation. In America, food is scarce, and what food remains is quickly confiscated by the Pirates—a murderous band of raiders determined to save themselves and to destroy the last stronghold of civilized human beings—the mutant population.

One of these mutants, a woman named Thea, has eluded the Pirates for years. Armed only with a crossbow, her pride, and her common sense, she has been slowly making her way Eastward to Gold Lake—a legendary place of safety and enlightenment. Until one day she meets Evan Montague, a man who needs her help, a man who is also on the run from the Pirates, but for a different reason—he once led the Pirates himself and has now become their most bitter and most hunted enemy.

Together, Thea and Evan trek across a dangerous and wasted California, hoping to survive the brutality of twenty-first-century life... and, perhaps, to find Eden before they die.

But what really makes me sure it is False Dawn is the part about the nipple. I clearly remember a scene where Thea (the main protagonist in my memory) puts up a fight, and her opponent says something like, "Stop it, or I will tear the other one off with my teeth."

Not for the faint of heart, but an impressive work that made me a Yarbro fan.

PS I have been lurking and reading for a while, but this is my first answer. Hints for improvement are most welcome.

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    Welcome to SFF! That is a nicely written first answer! As to improvements, the story appears to be available at the Internet Archive, albeit requiring an account; you could fetch some quotes here. But once again, that's already a nice answer as is - I hope you stick around to provide more questions/answers! :) – Jenayah Jan 27 '19 at 13:30
  • Nice answer indeed! – Organic Marble Jan 27 '19 at 15:05
  • Gonger I think you have it! Chelsea Quinn Yarbro definitley rings bells! Well done! I will see if I can find a copy in English or the online version. Well done! – Richard Keeling Jan 28 '19 at 14:16

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