John Christopher (1956)

Post-apocalyptic fiction of a determinedly British kind. It’s not a bad book, and has a certain complexity to it in exploring how people’s attitudes might change when faced with the destruction of normal civilisation.

A deadly virus destroys all grass-like plants, thereby eliminating almost all food crops and the cattle that they feed. Worried the government might atom-bomb the major population centres, a small group leave London to make their way to a Lake District valley. On the way they encounter looters, towns gone feral to protect themselves – and become feral themselves, willing to kill to survive. In some ways it reads like Lord of the Flies with adults and a more pervading sense of long-term doom.

But it’s also very much a novel of its time, full of racism, sexism, classism, deference, stiff upper lips, and a sense of self-justification wrapped-up as duty. That makes it a hard read, and it doesn’t really have enough force to balance that out. Manu similar points are made elsewhere, for example in Earth Abides, without the 1950s baggage.

2/5. Finished Sunday 11 February, 2024.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)