Wednesday, August 20, 2008

08.16 A Secret History Of Time To Come by Robie MacAuley

A Secret History Of Time To Come (1979) by Robie MacAuley
Hardcover, Knopf, 303p

A friend of mine picked this up for me out in Montreal knowing that I am in something of an exploration of post-apocalyptic speculative fiction. Amazingly, I had never heard of either the book or the author but it looked intriguing. Turns out Robie MacAuley was a fiction editor at Houghton Mifflin and Playboy as well as publishing a couple of books (His obituary). I wonder what inspired him to write this particular novel in the late 70's. It wasn't really a good time for PA fiction or sf in general.

Nevertheless, to the book. It starts out in a not very reassuring way as diary entries written by a black journalist in Chicago. It seems that there is a race-based revolution brewing in America and the diarist becomes unenthusiastically involved. Society quickly crumbles and the writer begins dreaming of a wanderer in a different time. The chapters begin to alternate between the two stories until the wanderers story takes over.

He is Kincaid, a man traveling through post-crash America hundreds of years in the future. He has a tattered, annotated road map which he's using to make his way across the Midwest. Along the way he encounters villages, both hostile and friendly where he can trade his skills and rest awhile. Society has lost almost all it's knowledge base, survival is paramount. There are still remnants of the old world - crumbling highways, smashed skyscrapers, a strangely preserved Armalite or odd names out of the past, Cleve-land or a village named Erie.

Now MacAuley begins to weave in a third story about the daughter of the head of one of the towns along the Great Lakes. She is captured by slavers and taken south to an unknown fate. Ultimately, Kincaid's story and hers begin to come together.

Right after reading this book I was fairly disappointed but the more I think about it the more I realize that there were some pretty cool things. It's like a a bit of The Postman mixed with some of the John Christopher disaster novels. There is very little character but the concept of the journey across the PA landscape is a cool one. A quick and easy read with some redeeming qualities.


Buzby said...

Nice review. It is always nice to find some new unread author. I find I pick those up with so much hope and excitement. I will put this one on the shelf.

Olman Feelyus said...

Cool! I'm glad you liked it. I'll have to check it out. That was kind of the sense I got, that it was a big loosely structured, but that there might be some cool stuff. There is a ton of PA literature out there, but not a lot of it has the after world at the level where there is a lot of wilderness and exploring. I dig that.