Post by benedictjjones on Nov 15, 2008 0:59:47 GMT
right then, it took me a year to track down a copy of this. and finally for a tenner i got a copy that i can take the cover (which someone had written numbers on in felt tip) off... but enough with the aesthetics - was it worth the wait? YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES i haven't enjoyed a nvel, or devoured it so quickly, in years. the best book i have read for a long time and the wait has simply enhanced the pleasure.
if you have read it what did you think of it?
i've read a few comments about the oldie worldly racism but to be honest where this was i don't know. the only thing i could take it to mean was about the asiatics early on but that was a view expressed by the press rather than the author or a character. i also disagree that the book has aged badly, a bit but only in terms off cosmetics. read alex scarrows 'last light and then read 'the death of grass'.
i really enjoyed the fuedal elements and though they developed very well.
I haven't but I intend to find out. What I really liked about the book was the unvarnished bleakness of the way it was told. The farmhouse sequence for instance. It wasn't cosy apolcalypse as Brian Aldiss would term Whydham's apoc stuff. There was almost a documentary feel to DEATH OF GRASS and I think for this genre to really work it needs a cold emotionaless technique. Think of the bleakness of THREADS ( the tv nuclear drama) - that's exactly the sort of thing that you should be aiming for. Devastation on this scale is horrible and should be raw open wound reading. Christopher's book hasn't seen a coat of silky varnish.
Ever read Mike Linaker's THE TOUCH OF HELL ? The village of Shepthorne is in the grip of a hard winter. The roads are thick with car pile ups and then a military plane crashes bringing a deadly cargo. Written very much as I ascribe above.
Post by benedictjjones on Nov 18, 2008 16:52:01 GMT
^agreed for PA to work properly there needs to be a real sense of bleakness and loss (tempered with tiny gems of hope - that are usually dashed). i'm reading 'swan song' at the minute and am undecided about it yet.
i thought the 'Mister Custance' scene where all the men comes to shake his hand is excellent and from that how johnny realises his obligation to the people who he leads. great stuff!
not read it but i'll be having a look for that 'touch of hell'
What about THIRST! by Charles Eric Maine? First published in '58 as THE TIDE WENT OUT - it was revised as THIRST! for '77 release. About a catastrophic world drought. Not read my copy as yet but sounds promising if you're a miserable sod like me.
Post by benedictjjones on Nov 19, 2008 13:20:08 GMT
^cheers! (english title 'a fugue for a darkening island') read the synopsis, sounds good but i don't think that was the one i was thinking of... i'll have an investigate and post back if i find out what i was waffling about
I read both THE FURIES and FUGUE FOR A DARKENING ISLAND recently. ISLAND isn't conventionally written - it moves forwards and backwards through time - the story slowly being revealed. It's about as realistic a post apoc novel I've read - though maybe it's more about discrimination and identity.
THE FURIES on the otherhand is very much a straight science fiction book - obviously inspired by DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS but nowhere near as accomplished. It's a bit too long and verges on straight fantasy towards the end.
A WRINKLE IN THE SKIN by John Christopher (1965) EDITION: Hodder and Stoughton 1968
This is a wonderful post-apocalyptic tale; an odyssey through the blasted remains of civilisation. The cause of all the destruction is a little hard to swallow though. A sequence of tremendous earthquakes has literally shaken the human species and all its works to pieces, leaving just a few survivors to sift through the wreckage. Personally, I can't really see that earthquakes could ever be so widespread and so universally devastating. I've always preferred my apocalypses to arrive in viral packages; it's more convincing and much more likely (inevitable, according to many scientists).
Anyway, the Earth shivers and humanity all but vanishes from its surface. Matthew Cotter doesn't. He gets thrown into a bamboo thicket and somehow makes it through the upheavals. Matthew is a horticulturist on the isle of Guernsey. For those of you whose geography is a little rusty, Guernsey is one of the Channel Isles, a chain of small and temperate British settlements in the English Channel, northwest of France.
We get to learn a lot about Matthew during the course of the story. He's always been rather detached from other people. His parents died when he was very young, his wife left him and took his son with her, and all his emotions are now invested in his daughter, Jane, who moved to the mainland a while back. He's not a man who expresses himself easily and he's kind of used to loneliness. Much of this is never explicitly stated; you just pick it up by the way Matthew reacts to things. The description and development of his character as the plot progresses is exquisite, very subtle and deep. It provides an interesting contrast to the weird, slightly surreal quality of the environment he suddenly finds himself in.
Everything is gone. Buildings have been shaken to rubble and, because the quake hit in the middle of the night, most people were in them when they collapsed. There's a mere handful of people left on Guernsey and few of them are in anything like a stable frame of mind. Shock, Matthew quickly learns, easily turns into madness.
He tries to fit in with the small group of islanders who gravitate around the various sites where tinned food can be dug from the wreckage but, with one exception, he finds them a pretty unpalatable bunch. The exception is Billy, a small boy he pulled out from beneath a fallen roof. Billy has lost his whole family and for much of the novel he's in sheer denial. There's a heart-rending scene where he finds a cat and cries his eyes out when it vanishes the next day. His need for emotional attachment is overwhelming. So he latches on to Matthew with a touching and realistic desperation and the soul of this story concerns the developing relationship between the two of them.
Initially, though, Matthew has thoughts only for his daughter. Could she have survived? It's highly unlikely, he knows, but he has to be certain. Getting across the sea to find her, he thinks, will be almost impossible. Then he makes an astonishing discovery: there is no sea. The land has risen and the water has vanished. The drying seabed lies exposed like an alien landscape. So he abandons any responsibility he might have towards his fellow survivors on Guernsey and, after stocking up on supplies, he sneaks away to begin a long and difficult trek to the mainland. He's almost out of sight of the island when a shout from behind reveals that he's been followed. Billy doesn't want to stay with the others. He wants to be with 'Mr Cotter'.
So the pair team up and head into the newly exposed wilderness. Their journey fills the middle section of the story and it's pretty incredible. The author does a superb job of bringing the raw, stinking and variable landscape to life. From strange rock formations to impassable mud flats, sandy desert to shrinking pockets of sea water, the environment is so unfamiliar it might just as well be another planet. Travel is arduous, their food ration is small and for a while it's touch and go whether they'll make it. Then good fortune strikes. They find the truly enormous hulk of an oil tanker slumped across freshly exposed rock and, on board, the Captain is still alive and assiduously maintaining the ship (even though his crew are long gone). The generators work, the fridges are full, the beds are dry and comfortable; it's a little oasis of civilisation. And it's the last taste of the old life Matthew and Billy will ever experience.
All too soon, it's time to move on. Their departure is hastened by the discovery that the Captain is out of his mind, schizophrenically switching from the perfect host into obsessive neurosis overnight. He won't allow them to remove any food, so once again Matthew and Billy are forced to rely on their dwindling rations as they continue towards what had once been the English coast.
Eventually, they arrive at the ruins of what used to be thriving port towns. Now they're just smears of rubble across the blasted landscape. Nevertheless, Matthew feels relieved to be back in familiar territory. His relief doesn't last long. Survivors have been banding together into small foraging groups and lawlessness prevails. Violent attacks are frequent and those few people who're trying to make a new start, growing vegetables and laying down the foundations of new settlements, are fighting a losing battle against raiders, rapists and gunmen.
Everything John Christopher describes feels totally credible. People act exactly how people would act, and the constant overtone of shock and dazed confusion runs through every group that Matthew encounters. It's around this point in the story that you start to realise that he's no different; all the plans he's considered and actions he's taken have been coloured by the emotional paralysis he's experienced since the disaster. It's only when Billy falls ill that Matthew begins to come out of it. Again, Christopher is never explicit; instead of telling us, he shows us, and we pick up insights into the characters' psychological states through the things they do and say. That gives us some profoundly memorable moments, such as when Billy first calls Matthew 'Uncle Matthew' instead of 'Mr Cotter'.
The two wanderers hook up with various individuals, each of whom is coping in their own particular fashion, and with a small community who seem to have achieved some sort of uneasy stability, though not one without issues. But by this time, Billy's crisis is forcing Matthew out of his fugue and into a grief-stricken reality.
How he saves Billy, whether he discovers his daughter, and where he finally goes, I'll leave you to discover. And you really should set off on that quest because this is a tremendously rewarding read. From poignancy to horror, it's an emotional roller coaster which leaves you with one last, terrifying question: what if it really happened?