Friday, June 03, 2005
Book Number 18
The Long Winter (1962) - John Christopher
This is the second John Christopher book that I've read this year continuing my exploration of post-apocalyptic writing. In the previous book a sort of global seismic disaster forces a father to undertake a journey across a lawless UK in a search for his daughter.
The Long Winter posits that a rapid global cooling trend makes the northern hemisphere uninhabitable. Christopher uses the upheaval to comment the prevailing (in the '60s UK) social, sexual and racial attitudes of the day.
The book is essentially split into thirds. The first part shows us the pre-change world of an upwardly mobile London television producer, Andrew. He is married above himself to a sexy dissatisfied woman. The book explores their relationship with David, a dynamic Government wag, and his mousey wife. You can guess at the social and sexual upheaval that happens in their lives as London freezes.
In the second part of the book Europe north of the Mediterranean has become an icy wasteland and all the action centers around the African countries. In a pretty cool way, Christopher draws a picture where only the white elite have been able to escape to Africa. Once there, they find the tables are turned on their social structure. Their money is worthless, women are prostitutes for the elite blacks and the men perform the menial tasks. A colonial reversal! David makes it to Nigeria and travels an arc from rock bottom back in the slums back up to working in TV. He's helped out by a Nigerian who he worked with back in London briefly and showed a small kindness.
The final act is a journey back to London. Andrew is tapped to join an African hovercraft expedition that hopes to lay claim to what is presumed to be a now depopulated England. The colonized colonizing the colonizers, right.
Unfortunately, this book was really too short to properly explore all the big ideas that he was shooting for. A lot of the racial politics are fairy muddled which is to be expected given the time that this book was written. There is still an Empire sense of racism even though you can see that the author is trying to move beyond it.
While this book isn't the best, it is still an excellent example of the ruined earth pattern also followed by authors like John Wyndham or HG Wells.
Posted by Jason L