The Death of Grass, John Christopher
SPOILERS Greener than You Think far better, if you want an English-language novel of eco-collapse from this era, not only because of its anticapitalism and feminism, but because of its antihumanism: there, at least, grass has agency.
Here grass can just die, and we’re obligated to cathect onto some everyman human (a well-off white Englishman, an engineer and thus as clear a representative of modern culture as Christopher could imagine) and to play the standard make-believe of collapse novels by imagining what we will do to save our families when the end comes. That said, credit to Christopher for sending up the notion of British exceptionalism: they’re on their way to cannibalism, just like everyone else.
And…the women. Somehow Christopher’s worse than Wyndham. The women of Death of Grass are available only to be insulted by Tories, shot by jealous gun-nut husbands (the analogue to the old men of The Dog Stars), raped by ibid., or raped by others, and sometimes to dispense mercy to children and to intercede–like the BVM–with the father-gods to keep alit the flame of culture.
Cheers, though, to Christopher for an obvious fraud of an ending. It’s a lie, by design. Nothing will return to what it was. Custance will be a medieval tyrant, an obscene father, master of the women and children, keeping his Eden safe by murder and indifference.
And this isn’t the future. Calls in other reviews for a sequel, for a continuation, miss the point. We’re living in it right now, keeping ourselves alive through murder and indifference, clinging to our families, hoping that our wooden stockade keeps out the next virus that will come, inevitably, to destroy us all.