this one is a bit different to the others and although i'm only about half way through i thought i'd post a brief synopsis of what's happened so far and some thoughts.
mattew cotter is a divorced tomato grower who lives on guernsey. he split from his wife while living on the mainland and moved to guernsey with his daughter. the book starts with him thinking about his daughter (who is attending uni on the mainland) and having dinner with friends (who are trying to set him up with a local widow) - a good evening is had by all. mattew is awoken during the night by something bothering his hens and heads out to find the culprit (believing it to be a dog) and this is what saves his life as the mother of all earthquakes hits. his house (and almost every other one he sees in the book so far) has been levelled. after finding a donkey and considering killing himself with his last remaining shotgun cartridge (he used the other to kill an injured donkey - use the gun butt man!!) after seeing that the sea has gone!! he hears cries for help and discovers a boy (Billy) trapped in the rubble of a house. the only other person they encounter for several days is a mad man who believes that the world quake is a judgement from god. eventually mattew and billy fall in with a group of about half a dozen survivors. their leader is Miller - who once assured that mattew doesn't want leadership of the group makes him his second in command, Millers only real rule being that mattew stays away from the only woman in the group who might be fertile. mattew gradually comes to realise that even if his daughter is probably dead he has to go and look for her (this view is strengthened after another survivor walks in from another of the islands). miller refuses to let mattew go and so our hero begins to plot his escape (he has already hidden a box of shotgun shells from miller). once stocked up he slips away one night only to be followed across the sea bed by billy (arm now healed). on their way to the mainland they find a large ship that is relatively intact along with its mad captain who tries to carry on as though everything is the same. on the mainland they discover a small group who warns them about the gangs of 'yobbos' that like to steal what other people have dug up.
what has struck me about this book is that JC's world view (of the disaster) has shifted it seems as though realism has come to the fore and his faith in people (the majority of survivors) is not what it was. in DOG and WIW survivors are striving to build a new world and make the best of it whereas the 'yobbos' (read most people) can't think beyond the next few days. also the Billy character is much more pronounced and perhaps indicates the direction Christopher will take (tripods etc.)
Post by benedictjjones on Feb 25, 2009 9:19:39 GMT
right finished it... carrying on from where i left off...
Mattew manages to kill a bullock that has been on the loose and one of the group, Lawrence is a doctor (no not THAT doctor lawrence...) and chops the bullock up with his medical kit:
'i'm sure i haven't got all the right cuts' 'no wonder vets get more training than us people doctors'
getting back to the camp they hear screams and hide the meat in a thorn bush. five blokes are torturing one of the survivors for the location of their food/medical etc stash (pulled his pants down and have the old lighted taper and pliers out ) Mattew can't believe other people would prey on each other in such a way and proceeds to wound two of the raiders and kill the leader. he believe the women are untouched (mainly due to aprils trouser buttons being intact - it turns out the raiders let them put their trousers back on after). mattew sprains his ankle during the fight and he and billy remain a bit longer witht the survivors. the group obviously wants mattew to stay (and not just for his twelve bore!) but something in mattews mind is pushing him on to continue the quest for his daughter. April (the leader of the group) reveals to mattew about the rape(s) she suffered and how he lives in the perfect fantasy world, that the disaster hasn't effected him because he cut him self off from humankind years before except for his daughter (and so he believes that she must be alive...). mattew and billy set off into what was for me the most harrowing part of the book - if you've read cormac mccarthys 'the road' then you might know what to expect. but for me it was far worse, probably due to the fact that it was unexpected. i'll leave the review there as any more would ruin it for the reader but there are several more twists which really kept me guessing (even more so than 'the world in winter') right until the last couple of pages. this book really made me wonder what would have happened if JC had kept writing adult PA books - i think we would have seen something as emotionally draining as the road a lot earlier (and not on the oprah book club!!!)
Having just finished reading John Christopher's 1965 catastrophe novel myself it seemed as good a reason as any to resurrect this old thread. But then events in Italy contrived to add a dreadful newsworthiness to the book's central premise. If ever proof was needed of civilization's vulnerability to natural forces then the nightly news bulletins have supplied it in grim abundance. John Christopher himself would have needed no reminding of the fact of course. Nothing served to characterize his work more than a fixation with the fragility of modern society to catastrophe and the struggle for the maintenance of civilized values when the law of the jungle presides.
There is no point in paraphrasing the plot of the novel, as I normally do with these reviews, as earlier posters have already done so. What I will say is that I found it to be a compelling and thought provoking piece of work with some effective imaginative flourishes. I have heard it suggested that Christopher wrote his doomsday novels as a counterpoint to what he considered the "cosy catastrophes" of John Wyndham's books where middle class heroes confronted world's end scenarios clean shaven and without their hair getting messed about. There is certainly nothing cosy or complacent about the post-apocalyptic world of A WRINKLE IN THE SKIN. I thought its premises and propositions were all too plausible which went some way towards rendering it an unremittingly bleak read.
What resonated most was the graphic illustration of just how quickly - once deprived of the conveniences of modern life - man is reduced to the status of a womble, making good use of the things he is able to scavenge. Also the shocking collapse of human perspective as it contracts around an obsession with the most basic and primal of needs: food and shelter. What appears to have concerned Christopher most was the general ill-preparedness of modern man to cope with privation (a problem surely compounded a hundredfold by the increased reliance on ever more advanced technology developed in the years since the book's publication). Also the thinness of the veneer that seperates man's cultivated values from his bestial nature.
The book is essentially an allegory and being such the journey Matthew Cotter makes is as much an introspective search for his own humanity as it is a geographical quest. Confronted by the atavistic regression to caveman mores he finds in others Cotter is compelled to retain his own essential decency by his concern and compassion for the boy, Billy. The harrowing two day journey he makes, with the sick Billy strapped to his back, as well as providing a dramatic high point also represents a triumph of human empathy and self-sacrifice over animal pragmatism.
Although Cotter spends the majority of the book pursuing fantasies and indulging in self-delusion like some post-apocalyptic Don Quixote - the systematic destruction of which become ever more devastating to read - he refuses to despair and eventually finds contentment and hope in what he has rather than that he sought to find. It is an existential journey of self-discovery. The equally deluded sea captain Skiopos, and the religious hermit, come to no such compromise and are destroyed by their own illusions.
Aside from the sub-text the book also rewards in more conventional ways. I particularly enjoyed the trek across the exposed sea bed of the Channel. The alien nature of the landscape was wonderfully conveyed I thought. Who would ever have believed that The Cursed Earth lay just off of the promenade of Bournemouth.
The book isn't without its idiosyncrasies though. I was bemused by Christopher's frequent use of rain to compound the misery of people's plight without any effort being made by anyone to collect it, especially after having gone to such lengths to acknowledge the danger of contaminated water. And there was no addressing the issue of the cataclysmic pollution that would have resulted from the systematic destruction of oil refineries and nuclear power stations. But these are quibbles rather than serious criticisms.
It is strange to reflect that a book as generally pessimistic as this one should be published when the country was in the jubilant throes of Beatlemania. Nor was it something produced in isolation but rather in an undercurrent of fictional doom-mongery that flourished between the 50s and the 70s when a succession of energy crises, enviromental disasters, economic meltdowns and extreme summers appeared to vindicate its gloomy prophecies: hence the popularity of tv shows such as Doomwatch and Survivors. Call it prescient, perceptive or just plain misanthropic the fact is that between Harold MacMillan telling us that we'd never had it so good and Harold Wilson rhapsodizing about reforging Britain in the white heat of a scientific revolution a school of thought emerged that obsessed about the effect on a technocratic society of being taken back to the stone age. Most concerned themselves with preaching parables of man reaping the harvests of his own follies. Christopher was less interested in the causes of catastrophe than their effects upon society and the human psyche.
Nor can it be denied that the doom-mongers of the period were misplaced in their forebodings. If anything, as recent events demonstrate, their work seems more relevant than ever. What Christopher's book brought home most graphically to me is that when catastrophe comes - whatever form it takes - I don't want to survive it.
Post by benedictjjones on Jul 20, 2017 22:05:34 GMT
^put much more succinctly than I ever could! And I would echo all the points above - especially the last. After reading far too much PA fiction I came to the conclusion that it would be better to simply walk outside and embrace the bomb blast, or what have you