The main character is an almost grown boy. His father raises 'meat', meaning humans, for food. There's a civil war going on. His sister wins some kind of athletic tournament, and is taken by the government. He encounters her later, she was taken into a government program to improve the breed for eating. Her tongue was cut but she was still able to speak.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Where and when did you read this? Do you remember the cover art or any character names?
    – DavidW
    Feb 13, 2023 at 21:15
  • 3
    This may be a duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/177089/…. The book in question is "Through Darkest America" (1986) by Neil Barrett. Feb 13, 2023 at 21:58
  • 1
    Guaranteed this is a duplicate of the link @DoscoJones left. (I don't have enough rep to VTC as a duplicate).
    – JBH
    Feb 14, 2023 at 0:24
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    I was about to suggest to close as dupe the reverse way since this question is better written. But then I figured the other question has the original well written answer (which is referenced by the below community answer). Hmm... No idea which one would be best.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 14, 2023 at 7:31
  • 1
    We need confirmation from the OP to close as a dupe
    – Basya
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


This is an obvious duplicate of Science fiction in post apocalyptic america where humans are used as food called "Stock" so I'll add a community wiki answer for the record. The book is Through Darkest America by Neal Barrett.

The boy is Howie Ryder and his sister is Carolee. Howie never meets his sister. At the end of the book he is told:

The boy worked his mouth funny. "They do it 'cause stock gets weak and don't breed good anymore. Meat don't care if it's humpin' its sister or its ma, and that makes the blood go bad. You can't stop 'em doing it, so they put good blood back in the herds. Only it ain't meat blood. It's people's. The boys got to serve the best mares. The girls are put in with healthy bucks an' . . .”

"Godamn, you're lying!" Howie exploded. He sat up and stared at the boy. "No one'd do a thing like that! No one!"

"They can do whatever they want," the boy said.

Howie was shaken. Supper starting to crawl up his throat. "Someone . . . someone'd find out. They couldn't do it without someone finding out."

"Isn't anyone going to do that," the boy said. There was no feeling at all in his voice. "It's down in the old Keys and you don't get close unless you belong. It's a lie, the whole damn thing, and they can't take a chance on anyone finding out."

The boy looked away from Howie, north, or nowhere at all. He seemed to be somewhere else. Howie thought he was simply turning away, like he did when he didn't want to talk.

"Look," the boy said finally, "Earl said it was up to me, but that I probably hadn't ought to say anything at all. Only I got to do it. Maybe it ain't right, but I got to do it. See, the thing is, I knew her. They don't always cut your tongue right, and she could talk as good as me. She talked a lot about you. I knew who you was right off when you said your name. I tried to act like I didn't but I did.

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