Wednesday, February 09, 2005

10. Fugue for a Darkening Planet by Christopher Priest

Fugue for a Darkening Planet book pictureThis is another obscure post-holocaust dug up by master bouqiniste Lantzvillager and man this one is dark! The basic premise is that a nuclear war in Africa sends millions of immigrants flooding to the rest of the world. They hit England the hardest, where they come up against a newly elected and badly organized racist administration. It was written in the '70's so the initial response by the government seems unrealistic. Basically, the refugees boats aren't stopped and they end up swarming the land, taking over peoples houses and turning the nation into chaos.

The story is told from one man's point of view. Though it is written in the first person, it's extremely objective, almost cold as if he's watching over himself like a scientist. The structure of the book is interesting too, with no chapters, just brief sections divided by an asterisk, jumping around between 4 different narrative threads of time: the guy's life growing up, his deteriorating marriage, his flight from his suburban home with his wife and daugher and his lone travels after they are abducted from him. These are quite well woven around, so that it doesn't get confusing and you are driven forward to find out what happens.

This book presents a very pessimistic view of mankind. The island becomes divided roughly into four groups, the organized Afrim army, who seem to be supplied with weapons by the soviets, the official british army, who is trying to regain control, a renegade british army who is sympathetic to the african refugees, nationalist troops who are racist and all the refugees, now english and african. It's quite a mess as you can see and the atrocities are realistic and disturbing. Ultimately, the main character, who begins as a liberal-minded professor must slowly confront the feelings of anger and fear that are changing his behaviour.

The british are good at this sort of stuff. Like War of the Worlds, Fugue describes small details that give the reader a real sense of the breakdown of society. It makes you feel scared to have loved ones. A quick and absorbing read, I strongly recommend it.


Buzby said...

First to 10, congratulations! This book sounds cool, I will pick it up and use it as a starting point for a renewed forray into Sci-Fi literature.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Great. I think you'll appreciate the british mentality. I'll send it to you. It might be hard to find.