Hodder & Stoughton - First published 1960 (PB edition 1965) - 157 Pages
This is my second Lymington. The first was The Coming of the Strangers, which had a nice 1950's sci-fi movie vibe. I was looking for more of the same here.
And essentially that's what I got.
One thing I admire about Lymington is how he gets down to the brass tacks of his story, no matter for the readers questions. For instance, this book is an "end of the world" scenario. These scenarios almost always turn into character studies - how will certain people react to the news the world is going to end, what will the military think? What will lovers think? What about family? What about the introverted, the extroverted? And so on.
But first you have to get passed that pesky end-of-the world thing. How to make that believable, or at least satisfactory to the reader? How are you going to feel the tension if the scenario is weak and a reader can't suspend his disbelief?
Well, Lymington - and this might well have more to do with the times this book was written rather than a conscious effort - frankly doesn't seem to care very much for all that. Here's the scenario, a famous scientist - whom everyone listens to all the time, since he's a celebrity among scientists (!) goes to his office, does a bit of math, and concludes - "Gosh! The world is going to end in three days!"
Oh, brilliant. Just brilliant.
So obviously, the actual event of the world ending isn't the focus of the story here, that's for sure. In order to prove his theory he calls in some colleagues. What do they do? They check the figures. Yup - 2+2 still equals 4. Must be true then, yup old fellow, the world is going to end in three days - darn!
And so we roll on to the various characters and how they react, to the media, the military, and so on. Are your friends your friends? What would you do if you were presented with incontrovertible proof that the world was indeed going to end, and there was nothing anyone could do about it? Carry on as though nothing had happened? Do a 180 personality change? Sit and try to figure out how you can possibly make money from all this?
So, as such, I guess The Giant Stumbles isn't a great sci-fi novel (or novelette really). It's low on science, and high on personal interaction. The destruction of the world is prefaced by rain storms, and nothing more exciting than rain storms. So don't expect a lot of action.
But in a quaint kind of way, I did enjoy it. I suspect my expectations and desires were greater than those of the writer, but it's his work, so he's right. And there's a decent ending (in a page and half) too.
I think this is a lesser book than The Coming of the Strangers, but it's not too bad. The writing hasn't aged gracefully, but that's okay by me. Alright, I'd say.
ps: My copy has a different cover from that shown above. I'd say mine was better.
Thanks for the review . I've only read one Lymington ( Night of the Big Heat) but thoroughly enjoyed it - but that might be because I enjoyed the film too. Being a fan of Post Apoc stories - The Giant Stumbles sounds up my street - if you've not read The Death of Grass by John Christopher , I recommend you seek it out. I believe it's being reprinted soon which will be cheaper than looking up an old copy.
Yeah, I now about Night of the Big Heat, but although I've seen lots of Lymington in secondhand stores, I've never seen that one. Like you I really enjoy the movie - it's the best movie about carnivorous carpet remnants ever made, imo. So I'm sure it'd be a good read.
Don't know "The Death of Grass", so I'll keep an eye out for that one.
If I'm honest I think Thirst! is a far better read than this.
I haven't read "The Death of Grass" but it was made into a film "No Blade of Grass" in 1970 and directed by Cornel Wilde. It must have been around 30 years ince I saw it on late-night TV and I thought it was pretty good--no idea how it compares to the novel though.