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Primarily asking this question because of that new TV show "Revolution". I remember reading this novel back in the 80's about a mysterious monolith that renders all electronics in the world inoperable. The novel never explains where the monolith came from, only how civilization adjusted.

  • This isn't the book you're looking for, but if you like that sort of thing you might want to read S.M. Stirling's Protector's War series. They are very good. – SaintWacko Sep 18 '12 at 12:51
  • I remember bits of it vary vaguely. Scientists were trying to open up the monolith before everything lost power. No tools were able to open it up (much like "2001").. – Broudie Sep 18 '12 at 13:47
  • I think I came here looking for the same book. Certainly the show sparked the memory. The cover art included a symbol virtually identical to the "upvote" symbol on this web site, i.e. a triangle within a circle. It was published in the mid-70s or earlier. Its title was very short, possibly just one or two words. The problem was not solved at the end; the possibility was that life would continue this way. It did not make some of the mistakes the show has; diesel engines, for example, still operate. – user8902 Sep 20 '12 at 10:42
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    Probably its not what you're looking for, but a complete suppression of all electricity on earth is a major plot point of the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. From Wikpedia, it doesn't appear there's any similar event in the source novel Farewell to the Master. – The Photon Dec 17 '12 at 6:20
  • In Fredric Brown's "The Waveries", there is no monolith but electricity is suppressed. The story is mainly about how civilization adjusted. – Zack Bass May 14 '15 at 17:59
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Perhaps it might have been Fade-Out by Patrick Tilley?

Alien Day

The date was Friday, the third of August. For some people the day was just beginning. For others it was the end of another perfectly normal day. Then right across the world every ground and airborne radar screen went haywire

This time it had really happened. An alien spacecraft was in orbit around planet Earth. And nine weeks later civilization was on the edge of a total breakdown more devastating than any nuclear war or natural disaster

This is a mildly unlikely match because the effect of the alien arrival is to disrupt all radio communication (thus the title, Fade-Out, referring to a radio communication concept) rather than to disable all electricity.

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    Could you summarize the book, so we get an idea of whether its plot matches the question? – user56 Jan 9 '13 at 22:14
  • Sorry, my bad. I read this book not long after it came out in 1975 so my memory is a bit rusty but I think it involved the Americans detecting an alien spacecraft approaching Earth followed by the appearance of a mysterious pyramid in Montana. The book mostly concerns the intricacies of the political and military response of America and the USSR (it was 1975 remember!) to the appearance of an unknowable object but I'm sure I remember it starting to send out a field that shut down all electrical devices within an increasingly wide area that eventually encompassed the planet. Hope that helps! – Lee Mason Jan 10 '13 at 21:05
  • It definitely IS this book. Much of the book is the military and government trying to figure out what this thing is without much result. But near the end, perhaps 4/5s of the way, it begins to turn off electricity in a slowly growing area around each pyramid. As it becomes clear all electricity will be gone in a few days (weeks?) the government starts planning for all the dead. It's oddly written because the ostensibly most import plot point only takes up and small part and then it just ends. I don't recall orbit though, just a meteor triggering it all. – Maury Markowitz Oct 25 '17 at 19:13
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The premise of the show reminded me of Robert Silverberg's "The Alien Years". Although that novel is not about a monolith, but rather about an alien invasion.

Fifteen feet tall, the Entities land in cities across Earth. Ignoring humankind, they wall themselves in impenetrable enclaves, enslaving a few willing collaborators with their telepathic PUSH. Then they plunge humans into a new Dark Age without electricity, allowing us to live--but no longer as a dominant species.

But a few refuse to submit to fate, including the Carmichael family, whose patriarch, an aging colonel devoted to resistance, will inspire a daring new generation of dissidents. United in spirit, these diverse rebels--an aging hippie, a cold-blooded Muslim assassin, a prodigal son, and a renegade hacker--will carry on the colonel's legacy as they attempt to kill the mysterious Prime Entity and free the planet.

  • Very unlikely since this book was published in 1997, not the 80s or earlier – Izkata Sep 21 '12 at 3:19
  • I read this recently, and its funny but I don't recall there being no electricity. To the contrary, computer hacking is a major theme in the work. – Maury Markowitz Oct 25 '17 at 19:10
  • @MauryMarkowitz If I remember correctly, aliens did gradually restore some electricity in some form. – Chahk Oct 25 '17 at 21:16
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Your description reminds me of the classic French SF novel Ravage by René Barjavel. The story describes a future society in which all electrical devices have suddenly become inactive. The reason for the disappearance of electricity is not an important part of the book, I don't remember whether it's stated or left unsaid. The alien monolith may have been a very low-key element of the book or may have been a plot element not taken from the book.

I can find a lot of web pages that link Revolution to Ravage, but only in French. This article, among others, attributes an explicit influence of Ravage on J.J. Abrams. I can't find any authoritative reference for that, however, so I don't know whether there was a direct influence or merely plot similitude.

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I thought of the 2001: A Space Odyssey but that's a movie. So I would assume you mean the Novel of the same name or the short story it was based upon The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke.

But I don't remember it rendering electronics inoperable.

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    Neither The Sentinel nor 2001 involved rendering electronic inoperable. – Keith Thompson Dec 15 '12 at 23:04
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Fade Out seems like the book you are looking for. I read it years ago - as you say, diesel engines worked near the object, with cartridge starters, because they did not depend on a spark. Today diesels do depend on the electrical power in many vehicles. This was a story about a strange object which appeared in a remote part of north America and started sending out a field that nullified electrical signals; gradually the effects became stronger until it started turning itself into a pyramid shape. At this point the troops guarding the object (some on horseback) decided an explosion or radiation was imminent. Sound familiar?

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