The story starts with the mother and child leaving an abusive spouse. They are driving through the corn belt of America when they spot a gas station/grocery store in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing but cornfields surrounding them for miles.

While inside the store there is a sudden cataclysmic event. Nuclear missile silos are firing back at unknown enemies out of these cornfields. The store is buried in rubble and earth in a cellar below the store. After a long time underground, the girl leaves with some of the adults as her mother has died. As she and her friends start looking for somewhere safe they find that everyone has started changing to some kind of mutant.

There is a horrible drought, no food, and fighting among everyone. The storyline lasts for several years and at the end, the girl uses her powers to help grow food.

I remember the story but cannot remember the title or author at all.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This feels very familiar, my subconscious might just kick it up... McCollum? Anyway, would you happen to recall the cover art? Was it a paperback or hardcover?
    – DavidW
    Feb 7 at 21:50
  • Paperback edition, don't remember the cover. Feb 7 at 21:54
  • Your question has been closed as a duplicate. This is not a censure on you, merely a matter of that the work has been asked for before, and this lets us tie the answers together in the system. You will still get points for upvotes, and can edit your question if you want to add to it (but please don't add a "thank you" in your question. That's what comments are for).
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    Feb 7 at 22:26

1 Answer 1


I think this might be Swan Song (1987) by Robert R. McCammon.

Quoting from the plot summary on Wikipedia:

Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union peak, and the two superpowers engage in nuclear war. In hours, the United States is reduced to a barren wasteland covered by the snows of nuclear winter. The President, blaming himself for what happened, prepares some kind of system known only as "Talons", but his plane crashes before he can activate it. A number of individuals are caught up in the onset of nuclear war: Josh Hutchins and a young girl named Sue "Swan" Wanda take cover in the basement of a Kansas gas station; a homeless woman named Sister Creep miraculously escapes an explosion in the subway tunnels of New York City; Colonel Macklin and teenager Roland Croninger are trapped in a collapsed fallout shelter in Idaho.


Seven years pass; the clouds do not dissipate, radioactive fallout persists, and many survivors suffer from "Job's Mask", a strange skin disease that obscures the head and face with fleshy tissue. The AoE, now a ferocious army of 4,000 soldiers (and including Alvin), moves across America and ravages settlements. The AoE goes to war against an equally armed and fanatical group, the "American Allegiance"; its leader, the self-proclaimed prophet Brother Timothy, is convinced that God lives on Warwick Mountain in West Virginia. Sister and Paul wander the Midwest and meet a group of orphans led by teenager Robin Oakes. Josh, Swan, and Rusty wander the country as a troupe of itinerant entertainers; Swan is blinded by Job's Mask, but shows miraculous new powers by reviving dead plants.

Finally, directly from the book, the memorable bit where the U.S. counterstrike missiles launch out of a Kansas cornfield:

A column of dirt shot up about four hundred yards into the cornfield to the northwest, and hundreds of cornstalks burst into flame. A spear of fire emerged, made a noise like bacon sizzling in a skillet as it sped upward several hundred feet, then arced dramatically to a northwesterly course and vanished in the haze. Another burning spear burst from the ground a half mile or so away, and this one followed the first. Further away, two more shot upward and climbed out of sight within two seconds; then the burning spears were coming up all over the cornfield, the nearest about three hundred yards away and the most distant fiery dots five or six miles across the fields. Geysers of dirt exploded as the things rose with incredible speed, their flaming trails leaving blue afterimages on Josh's retinas. The corn was on fire, and the hot wind of the burning spears fanned the flames toward PawPaw's place.

Apparently it's had a number of different covers over the years, but this is the only one I associate it with:

Cover of "Swan Song" with a flaming demon's head leering down upon a sere and barren landscape, silhouetted against the fireball of a nuclear explosion

  • "McCammon" is close enough to "McCollum" for me to get there after a bit. :)
    – DavidW
    Feb 7 at 21:58
  • Additional info and title were right on track! Feb 7 at 22:06
  • I loved that book
    – ArlettaS
    Feb 7 at 22:59

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