May 5, 2011

John Christopher - The Dead of the Grass (No Blade of Grass)

 This is a 1956 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel written by the British author Samuel Youd under the pen name of John Christopher and deals with the concept of a virus that kills off all forms of grass.

A viral strain has attacked rice crops in East Asia causing massive famine; soon a mutation appears which infects the staple crops of West Asia and Europe such as wheat and barley, threatening a famine engulfing the whole of the Old World, while Australasia and the Americas attempt to impose rigorous quarantine to exclude the virus.

The novel follows the struggles of architect John Custance and his friend, civil servant Roger Buckley as, along with their families, they make their way across an England which is rapidly descending into anarchy, hoping to reach the safety of John's brother's potato farm in an isolated Westmorland valley. Picking up a travelling companion in a gun shop owner named Pirrie, they find they must sacrifice many of their morals in order to stay alive. At one point, when their food supply runs out, they kill an innocent family simply to take their bread. The protagonist justifies this with the belief that "it was them or us."

"John Christopher" is a pseudonym for Samuel Youd, born in Lancashire, in 1922. More information about him here.

Fitting into the line of sci-fi catastrophic mid-century English literature, Christopher's accomplishments are respectable but they pale beside those of the two great representatives of this school, John Wyndham and JG Ballard. However, the death of the grass is a valuable and interesting novel, although perhaps not worth the excessive credit given to it by David Pringle when he includes it among the best and outstanding works of sf in his famous monograph (which, yes, you've guessed correctly, I'm following in order to select my readings these days).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Maybe you'll also like:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...