Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Book Number 37
After The Rain (1958) by John Bowen
What we have here is a post-apocalyptic novel which came as a part of the New Wave in British science fiction. JG Ballard's early apocalypse trilogy and the novels of John Christopher would appear to be strongly influenced by Bowen's book.
An inventor tries out a device to bring rain to a parched East Texas. The experiment goes awry and rain begins to fall across the world, relentlessly. Like many of the UK post-apocalyptic books, the pseudo-scientific disaster is but a framework to explore the collapse of society and it's subsequent rebirth. The novel tracks John Clarke, a journalist, who was there at the initial experiment and who, after the collapse, ends up on a raft with a young woman. They float in a formless sea under a unendnding rain until picked up by a larger raft.
Here is where the majority of the book occurs. Nine people on a raft; an ark, if you will. In fact, at one point they come across a real ark that appears abandoned. Only one madman is left aboard in the midst of hundreds of dead, decaying animals. Back on John's raft, the group tries to maintain the veneer of society with Arthur, the bland accountant, taking charge as leader and everyone filling a subservient role. Gradually hunger, deprivation and isolation break down all the barriers and even Arthurs self-proclaimed ascension to God status can't hold them together.
I'm really glad that I found this book. As a part of the small sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction, I think it represents an important contribution. Taken by itself it isn't the most entertaining piece of writing I have ever come across. Definitely worthwhile.
I also love the cover of this Pan edition as shown above. Brilliant.
I can't imagine how this would come across, but After The Rain was produced as a play in the 60s. I expect the philosophical/mad rambling of the crew were used to explore the nature of society, etc.
Posted by Jason L