Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The World in Winter

John Christopher
Penguin Books

The World in Winter is the terrorising story of what happens when a new Ice Age devastates the Northern Hemisphere, when civilisation disappears into a voiceless polar night, when men and women turn into wolf packs in their agonised struggle for survival.

 A few years ago before I started writing this blog I listened to an audiobook of John Christopher's other, more famous, apocalypse novel, 'The Death of Grass'.  It's a brutal and uncompromising story that showed the ease in which social conventions crumble and morality is cast aside in the pursuit of survival.

'The World in Winter' is a perfect companion piece.  Here it's a new ice age that has wreaked devastation on the UK, along with the rest of Europe and the US, but has left the African nations untouched.  This turn of events results in hordes of refugees making their way south and the balance of power tipping in favour of the former colonial subjects over their disenfranchised former masters.

We view this change of circumstances through the eyes of one Andrew Leedon a film maker evacuated from London to Nigeria.  There he finds himself in drastically reduced circumstances before a simple act of kindness made some years before comes to his aid.

Where 'The Death of Grass' is a story of a group of people finding refuge and a hope for survival within a devastated environment this book tells a different story.  It tells of power, control and revenge but it also tells of ideas of intolerance and racism and at times makes brutally uncomfortable reading in the language it uses and the attitudes expressed.  Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between what is intentional and what is a product of the time the book was written (1962) and a reflection of the concerns of the times as Britain's former colonies break free of it's governance and the sun seems to be finally setting on an empire still not entirely recovered from the deprivations on the second World War.  

It's a novel that is bleak in setting, events, attitude, outlook and execution that I found to be a compulsive but not necessarily enjoyable read that, I think, will haunt me for some time to come.

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