A popular newspaper called it "the quaking spring."
–John Christopher - A Wrinkle in the Skin - c.1965,2000
AKA The Ragged Edge.
Read for the 2014 Sci-Fi Experience
In the 1960s a wave of earthquakes brings destruction around the globe. Isolated off the British coast Matthew Cotter thinks that they will be okay, Britain is far from any earthquake zone, pity the poor devils on a fault, but that’s all happening far away. But of course you can’t have a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story without the apocalypse can you?
One night while Matthew is outside, waiting for a dog that has been attacking his chickens the quake hits. Outside, protected by a bamboo thicket Matthew survives, but this was no minor earthquake, the entire island is no a ruin. Cotter sets off looking for anyone else who may have survived. All the time wondering about his daughter Jane on the mainland. Could she possibly have survived?
Last year I read Christopher’s The Death of grass which I enjoyed as a gripping read despite all the problems I had with that book. This one has all the same issues; classism and sexism being most prominent. There’s no racism, but that’s probably just because everyone in the book is white. Although I suppose the casually dismissive way the horrors of the earthquakes elsewhere are discussed could be seen in a racist light.
Oh my god does it share the same ultra-negative viewpoint of people. But this time there was a sort of smugness to it, Cotter and others of his class behave, for the most part, decently. It is all the others, the yobbos that are revelling in the end of order and using the destruction of civilisation as an excuse for violence. I don’t a single middle-class of upper-class person behaved in such a despicable manner as the yobbos. And it starts out right away. Almost as soon as Cotter encounters a group of survivors on the island we learn that there is one man in charge, he has claimed ownership over the prettiest of the few women left and he thinks nothing of beating her to keep her in line. And the woman, seems
content with her sluttishness!!!
And it only gets worse from there.
As I said when I reviewed The death of grass, maybe I am naive and overly optimistic about people, but I don’t think that society would degenerate that quickly1 .
As well as that negative view which was depressing to read, I didn’t really enjoy this as much as The Death of Grass. It isn’t as gripping or as psychologically thrilling. It felt much like The Road a man and a boy travelling a waste-land. And I never saw what all the raving about The Road was about, non sci-fi readers amazed at a post-apocalyptic world, unaware of how much work had been done in that area before. Not that I don’t think McCarthy isn’t a fantastic writer, his Blood Meridian is absolutely awesome and horrifyingly fantastic. The Road, for me, was an okay read. And this felt much the same to me. Okay, but nothing fantastic. Some of the descriptions are vivid and gripping, but the detached protagonist and his smugness left me a bit cold.
Still, it is nice to read some earlier sci-fi, at least I can see that in some ways we’ve come a long way from then.
The 2014 Sci-Fi Experience Review Site< br />
I have no illusions it would degenerate but almost overnight? ↩