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I read a novel when I was 12 or 13 (late 80's, early 90's) about two timelines combining on Earth. It was a full length novel for adults that I swiped from my mom (she doesn't rememeber it at all.) I've been trying to figure out what the title is for some time but my google-fu is unable to find the right search terms.

The book was published in the 80's or perhaps early 90's.

The story: It was set on Earth and featured two timelines running concurrently (in the 80's?)

Timeline 1: The nuclear missile crisis had gone badly and a low level nuclear war had more or less destroyed the US, but small towns still survived but are slowly fading away. Much of the story was about the scarcity of goods, and the protagonist in the main thread of the book started the story by finding a 6 pack of Coke buried in a ruined house. Throughout the story people were finding things that had grown scarce (deer, bullets, human beings.) One strange scene I recall involved mutant/radioactive sweet potatoes that had driven a man insane.

Eventually people in this timeline began having dreams of their lives in Timeline 2. Some of the people were not having dreams, and it was eventually discovered that they had died in Timeline 2.

Timeline 2: There is panic in a world recognizable as our 1980's as nuclear war draws near. Since more and stronger missiles have been developed, the end of humanity is at hand. Things start disappearing from that world as the war begins. Timeline 2 was mostly seen as vignettes of panicked people running around.

Combination of Timelines: In a weird, incongruous, almost surely poorly written scene, Gaia (yes, Earth itself) is seen to be combining a dying timeline with a doomed timeline in order to save humanity. At the end of the novel, kids from Timeline 2 are transported into Timeline 1 in order to repopulate. The new kids drink all the Coke, in case you were wondering...

Any help finding the title would be welcome. I recall enjoying the book a lot when I was a kid, but I suspect my mom traded it in at our local used book store because at some point it just disappeared.

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My google-fu leads me to The World Next Door by Brad Ferguson. (Wikipedia, ISFDB)

Not very much to go on but the dreams are mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

[Edit] It has been suggested that I include information from links. I thought the link would be enough but I guess these things can become stale. Here's the plot summary from Wikipedia (as of 19 September 2014) in its entirety:

The book takes place in the mid-1990s, at two interlinked alternate realities. In one of them, the Cuban Missile Crisis had escalated into a major nuclear exchange. What was left of the United States disintegrated into numerous virtually-independent enclaves, though President John F. Kennedy is still alive in a bunker somewhere.

Most of the plot centers on Lake Placid, New York and along parts of route 86 where an oasis of civilization was painstakingly built, threatened by a well-organised band of rapacious robbers who claim to be the New York State National Guard.

Meanwhile, the "world next door" which avoided nuclear war in 1962 is going to experience it thirty years later because Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms went wrong in the worst possible way. This war would be much worse than the one in 1962 because nuclear weapons had had thirty years more to become even more highly destructive.

Characters from the first ("1962 War") world keep experiencing in dreams the lives of their analogues in the world threatened now with war. In the end of the book (and pretty much the end of the second world) quite a few people are transported across and given refuge in the "1962 War" world, where meanwhile the "National Guard" robbers had been dealt with rather ruthlessly. (The book's plot is constructed so as to lead the reader to condone the cold-blooded killing of unarmed prisoners, since otherwise the prisoners in question would have escaped and perpetrated terrible atrocities.)

  • Great job, thanks! I am willing to bet that this will be a deeply disappointing reread of a book that fascinated me deeply as a boy. :-) – Jason Patterson Sep 20 '14 at 3:35

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