An unforgettable book, for those of us who remember *****
This is a novel of a post-nuclear-holocaust world in the United States. At
the time it was written (and I first read it), the scenario depicted in it
was a real threat. People were building bomb shelters in their back yards.
I considered it, but did not because I knew enough to realize that such
measures were futile.
The protagonist, Randy Bragg, moves his family to the small Florida town
of Fort Repose when he realizes that a nuclear attack is imminent. The
book, though, is not primarily about the military aspects, or science, or
fighting back. It is about survival of the people after the attack has
destroyed the infrastructure of society and anarchy reigns, and how they
cope with it. Contrary to the opinion of many, it is not science fiction.
It is an attempt to warn people who lived at the time it was written, and
such an attack was a real possibility, what problems they would face if
and when it occurred. The characters are well-drawn, the situations
realistic and well-thought-out, and the subject was of immediate
interest--in fact, its possibility haunted us all, in those days.
In point of fact, it is the kind of situation that could, even today,
follow any major natural disaster or terrorist act which would disrupt the
normal functions of government and the operations of public utilities,
resulting in anarchy and the "law of the jungle."
When one reads the criticism of today's high school child, that it was a
"boring" story, it demonstrates how far we have come since those days of
the Cuban missile crisis, for example, when I worked fifty miles from
home, and worried when I went to work that I might be separated from my
family, including my wife and five young children, by a nuclear strike and
not see them again. In those days, it was a real possibility, likely to
occur at any moment, and we all knew it.
It was not boring. It was a daily, living nightmare.
This book made the same impact on me, when I first read it, as Nevil
Shute's book, On the Beach. At the time I read them, I prayed that they
did not reflect the future, but thought they might.
It was a time I'm glad we've passed through, and that modern children
cannot remember or sympathize with. But a time we should not forget.
This is easily a five-star book, but it clearly does not have the impact
today that it had when it was written.
Character-driven survival story ***
I like this book, but not for the reasons I expected. First, unlike most
post-nuclear books, this is mostly a strict survival story with few nuclear
elements. In fact, the characters only encounter radiation in one small subplot.
Therefore, the nuclear war is merely a backdrop.
The book tells a survival story where a small town is cut off from the rest of
the world (which mostly no longer exists) and must make do with existing skills
and resources. The central hero, Randy, is appealing and believable.
The characters are the main reason to like this story. None of the main
characters "turn bad" post-apocalypse style, so the tension is mostly generated
by sympathizing with these people and their trials. A simple story, but
certainly worth reading.