I'm trying to find a book I read mid 70s or so about a man who wakes up in a psychiatric hospital with no memory.

He eventually finds out that he was one of the people who started a war (possibly nuclear) in order to reduce the population.

He has nightmares about rats/mice killing one another. So I'm thinking it might be inspired by the Universe 25 experiments of John B. Calhoun.

  • 1
    Ooh, that sounds familiar. Wasn't it that the rats changed genetically when their population rose, making them more aggressive? In the story, I mean. I think in the end it turns out they have failed.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 19:13
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    I reckon @SQB might be thinking of Searching for story in which overpopulated rats kill each other, which also mentions Calhoun's experiments. Other than that, there are some story-id questions involving rats; might want to take a look, see if any of those rings a bell :)
    – Jenayah
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 20:08
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    @Jenayah, no, that's a different story. The one I remember — which may or may not be what DBX is looking for — involved scientists discovering that overpopulation breeding an unwanted trait into rats — could've been aggression, or insanity. To counter human overpopulation, they engineer nuclear war. In the end, there is some indication they may already be too late. I think it was a short story. I know I have it, but half my books are in storage and I'm afraid it's in that half.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 20:40
  • Danny3414, I do not remember that in the story.
    – DBX
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 17:26
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    the quiet earth by Craig Harrison?
    – Polina F.
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like The Sun Grows Cold by Howard Berk, published by Dell in 1972.

Book Cover - *The Sun Grows Cold*

It opens in the Medical Division of a mostly-underground government installation called "Complex One," where large numbers of people who have gone insane for some undisclosed reason basically have their brains wiped and new personalities developed. There seems to have been some sort of war as well, but no one talks about it.

The protagonist, a "reprocessed" man given the name of Parnell, still retains enough of his old memories to try to illicitly access the Archives for all of Complex One in order to find out the reason behind its existence and the truth about the war, and escapes after being captured while trying to enter the access code.

After a long post-apocalyptic adventure, Parnell finally remembers the full access code to the Archives. He is allowed back to Complex One to learn the truth, which is that the mass insanity (called the "Compression Factor") was a genetic response to human overpopulation -- and that, in his previous life, he had been the psychologist who had discovered the Compression Factor and replicated it in rats. He had theorized that a deliberately-engineered nuclear holocaust to reduce the population could cure the resulting remnants of mankind of the insanity, and seeing his hypothetical suggestion brought to life in the form of mass destruction finally drives him around the bend.

The novel ends with him back in the Medical Division after a second treatment, content and child-like, remembering nothing of what happened.

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    This seems a remarkably obscure book, though I found a review on Amazon that certainly looks as if this make be the book: Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 11:41
  • Alex Parnell. A name given to a man with no memory. No memory of the holocaust which destroyed the whole world, obliterated the teeming millions, spared only a few thousand gypsies foraging up and down the few radiation free corridors where highways had once networked a nation. The complex was safe also - a vast underground city where Alex finds himself when he emerges from treatment. Who is he? What had he been? From what intolerable burden of guilt had amnesia shielded him? Incurable insanity and savage violence guard the answer - but Alex has to know. Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 11:41
  • As I thought I might have read it the book the querant is looking for, I do recognise the cover as something I've read.
    – SQB
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 12:40

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