I’m looking for a book from the 60’s or 70’s, about a post apocalyptic world. Some characters in the book are addicted to “the wire” i.e. electric nirvana is achieved when they hook the device into their brains via a skull mounted jack.

It was a pretty dark and bleak novel. I’ve searched with no success. I recall the plot included a love story of sorts.

  • 12
    Are you sure this is a novel? "Wireheads" feature in a few of Niven's short stories (like "Death by Ecstasy"), but the idea isn't unique to him. I have an idea, but it's not a novel.
    – DavidW
    Nov 7, 2023 at 0:04
  • 2
  • 2
    @Valorum The ones that fit the addiction part are Robinson's and Niven's, but "God is an Iron" wasn't anthologized until 1981, and Mindkiller followed that. Niven's fits the time period, but I can't describe it as "post-apocalyptic."
    – DavidW
    Nov 7, 2023 at 0:34
  • 2
    Can you remember anything else? There being a love story doesn’t narrow it down at all. Interstellar space travel? Aliens? Psychic powers? Cyberspace? Anything at all? Nov 7, 2023 at 1:42
  • 2
    Was Neuromancer (Gibson) not like this? Lot's of 'Jacking in' and addiction'...
    – Tim M
    Nov 7, 2023 at 16:28

3 Answers 3


The sequel to Larry Niven's Ringworld, the 1979 book The Ringworld Engineers, features the protagonist, Louis Wu, as a wirehead—someone addicted to electronic stimulation of major pleasure centers in the brain via an implant. Notably, there is also a remote variation of the technology (i.e. aimed at others) called a "tasp," which is both used by pranksters, and is even weaponized by one character in the book.

While I wouldn't call The Ringworld Engineers, "bleak" per se, there are some darker moments in the text, including some outré hominid evolutionary paths (including species like ghouls, and vampires, albeit living, not undead), and an unexpected final chapter to the secondary character Teela Brown. Teela was involved in a romance.

  • 4
    The Ringworld situation could be considered post-apocalyptic given its background history of the (literal) fall of civilization. Nov 7, 2023 at 12:29

Another possibility, also by Niven, is "Death by Ecstasy" (1969).

The protagonist, Gil Hamilton, works for a worldwide law enforcement organization known as ARM. Since Gil has a psychic third "arm," he has the nickname "Gil the Arm."

In this story, Gil is asked to investigate the death of a former crewmate of his, a Belter, who has apparently died of a wire addiction.

The story is set in a post national Los Angeles, but it's not post-apocalyptic.

There is an element of romance in the story, since Gil picks up a transplant surgeon named Taffy, who he maintains a relationship with through subsequent stories.

It was collected in The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (1976), which still fits your timeframe, and may have seemed like a novel since the three stories (two novellas and a novelette) in the collection all featured Hamilton and had other continuing characters.

  • 4
    Just to nitpick, Gil has a psychic SECOND arm, in place of the amputated one. Nov 7, 2023 at 14:08
  • 5
    @CristobolPolychronopolis Well... You're right in the time period before he gets his amputated arm replaced. But after that, Gil himself refers to it as his third arm: "A rigidly defined third arm was more reasonable than some warlock ability to make objects move by wishing at them." ("Death by Ecstasy")
    – DavidW
    Nov 7, 2023 at 14:45
  • 5
    I guess I didn't get that far with Gil, but I'm disappointed he didn't decide to refer to it as his "gripping hand." Nov 7, 2023 at 15:21
  • 1
    Since the Gil Hamilton stories predate Mote in God's Eye by a good decade or so, it would be quite prophetic for Niven to refer to it as the "gripping hand".
    – Eric Brown
    Nov 9, 2023 at 1:27

Daniel K Moran's The Last Dancer fits this description. My copy is from 1993, but the plot is drawn from a larger framework of stories that Moran started putting out in the 80s so the wireheads may have been present there also. The wirehead addiction isn't by any means the focus of Last Dancer, but the main character's twin brother is one such wirehead and that fact drives the closing scenes of the story.

Extremely condensed plot summary snipped from Amazon:

The Manhattan-based Unification government controls the earth, but rebellion brews in Occupied America as the American Revolution's tricentennial approaches. Denice Castanaveras, one of only two genetically engineered telepaths to escape destruction by Unification forces (the other is her missing twin brother, David) enters political life by becoming a bodyguard of Unification Councilor Douglass Ripper, whose agenda involves preventing U.N. Secretary General Charles Eddore from grabbing long-term power in this unstable period.

  • 2
    Like Niven’s work, which otherwise fits better than DKM, this is not post-apocalyptic. Nov 7, 2023 at 1:40
  • 1
    It's post nuclear war. Is that not apocalyptic for you?
    – Ethan
    Nov 7, 2023 at 1:59
  • 4
    It’s post unification war, during which the PKF used tactical (small yield) nukes on Russia, USA, and Japan, but it doesn’t seem like it was anything like an apocalypse - any more than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an apocalypse. Some major cities were seriously damaged but all of Western Europe, Africa, South America, and mainland Eastern Asia maintained continuity of civilization. To me, “post apocalyptic” means a major global setback in technology. Technology is far advanced in The Continuing Time. Nov 7, 2023 at 3:27
  • 3
    You guys are quibbling rather than trying to be helpful. The request is for a novel whose setting is a scenario in which people are using direct neural stimulation via an electronic interface. That pretty much rules out any back-to-the-stone-age interpretation of "post-apocalyptic" as further information about that same setting.
    – Ethan
    Nov 8, 2023 at 0:33
  • Since this answer doesn’t fit the question very well, there was already unhelpfulness before we got here. That said, I think the question is confused and perhaps conflating multiple stories. I’ve read the Continuing Time books through several times and I would never personally describe them as "post apocalyptic", "dark", or "bleak". "Oppressive regime" is what I think of in terms of setting. Nov 8, 2023 at 13:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.