6.4.13

John Christopher - The Death of Grass


Rating 7.0

What? Only 7.0?
Am I sure? Did I give this rating by mistake?

Yes, yes. And no, I'm afraid.
Don't get me wrong, folks.

For The Death of Grass (aka No Blade of Grass in the US) is a good novel. Well, actually a very good novel. And I do believe that you should give this book a chance and read through it from page 1 to page 194.

It won't take that long. You won't get bored. But, nonetheless...

This book was out of print for many years, but the Penguin fellows have recently reprinted it. In a paperback edition. With a fancy gloomy cover. And even a foreword.

So, what are you waiting for?
Go and get it.



Did you know that they made a bombastic B-movie out of this novel in A.D. 1970?

Got it? Did you read it?
All very well.

Now, tell me, did you really like this?
Because I did and yet I did not.

Unlike other British sci-fi novelists (Shiel, Wyndham), the author here does a good job investigating on the psychology of the main characters, wondering about the moral dilemmas they have to face when struggling for survival.

The novel does have a slow kick off, but then it starts rolling smoothly without unnecessary detours and with a clear goal to reach: an almost mythical dale.
An Eden valley protected by a well manned and gun-machined palisade where a less wild bunch of human beings is likely to survive starvation thanks to potatoes, beetroots and unlimited fresh water supply.

The road trip of our heroes from London to the north of England, where the dale is located is hard and bleak enough, but left me with the impression that John Christopher forgot some practical details.

Right, all grasses belonging to the graminae family are suddenly dead. The soil is bare and the land is brown. And yet, what happened to the fruit trees and to the wildberries?
The death of grass struck England on springtime, but the author never mentions the possibility that people could scrap a living from fruits and berries. Where have they gone?
Or, perhaps, am I the ignorant one who needs to check if fruit trees do after all belong to the graminae family?

Then Mr. Christopher tells us that all trains stopped running. Again, why?
Does coal belong to the graminae family too? Oh wait, I bet it's just a sign (and an effect) of the social turmoil bringing England to its knees. All the same, the train empasse hasn't quite convinced me.

And don't let me even start with the way the author treats women in this novel which is backwardish even for the 1950s standards (I am Tarzan, you're Jane). The gentlemen here are either killers or rescuers. The ladies here are either damsels in distress or sexual slaves.

The fight for survival bits here are convincing enough and quite realistic in their basic roughness.
I can summarize Christopher's post-apocalyptical gatherings with a syllogism from the movie A Fistful of Dollars:

When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man.



Not that this fire armed philosophy happens to be very different in, say, The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

At least Christopher's survivors are still able to speak proper English in all of its local and class variations. And, to me, that's a very strong point. Okay? Indeed.

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