Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 (47)
October 8, 2016
One in a series of 75 posts about the best science fiction novels published during the genre’s so-called Golden Age (from 1934–63, according to HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn’s periodization schema). For the complete Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956).
In this updating of J.J. Connington’s Radium Age eco-catastrophe Nordenholt’s Million, a plant virus infects the staple crops of West Asia and Europe such as wheat and barley — that is, all of the grasses. Which kills off the cattle, as well. At first, England prides itself on how well-disciplined its response to the crisis is, compared with that of Asian nations… but all too soon the British government resorts to martial law and mass executions, and then it’s anarchy. With their families in tow, John Custance and his friend, Roger Buckley, make their way across a brutal, chaotic England. They aim to reach the safety of John’s brother’s potato farm in an isolated northwestern valley — where they hope to survive on potatoes, beetroots and fresh water — and along the way, they gather an entourage of others seeking sanctuary. Day by day, however, the group’s civilized moral code decays. When they reach the heavily defended farm, and John’s brother won’t allow the whole group to stay there, what will they do?
Fun fact: John Christopher (Sam Youd)’s second novel; published in the United States the following year as No Blade of Grass. It was adapted, under that title, as a 1970 British-American science fiction movie directed by Cornel Wilde.
GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.