Wednesday, February 20, 2008

7. After the Rain by John Bowen

After the Rain picture

After the Rain picture

[For you paperback geeks out there, the image on the top is the version I found, a reprint from '65. The one on the bottom I found at the Fantastic Fiction page for the book and I suspect is the original cover. I find it interesting how thematically close they are, almost identical, yet they hired an artist to redo it. Why? And where are all these artists today?]

From the back cover:

The British are a hardy island people. At least two aspects of this country are world-renowned - the astonishing number of high calibre writers they produce, and their climate. AFTER THE RAIN is an impressive combination of both. In fact, Angus Wilson says: "If you like cataclysmic novels John Bowen's AFTER THE RAIN is as exciting as any deluge you can hope to find: but if you think deluges are too trivial, John Bowen has a surprise for you: his novel turns out to be satire of the first order."

I share this blurb with you, dear readers, because I found it gives an interesting peek into the marketing and mindset around this kind of sci-fi when it was published. The paperback I found is a reprint from 1965 (the book was originally published in 1959). I guess even back then the british authors had a certain reputation for writing "cataclysmic novels" (the latter is also an interesting term; I wonder when "post-apocalyptic" came about?).

If you haven't figured it out already, the cataclysm in this case is a non-stop, worldwide rainfall that soon floods the entire planet. The incessant rain and society's reaction to it is over quite quickly and most of the story takes place on a raft. Here the hero and a young girl he had met before join up with another group who have a full stock of Glub, an all-purpose food substitute. They are led by a guy called Arthur who first is the only one to demonstrate will and leadership. He then decides to become a god, then the head priest of that god. There is a lot of anxiety over the young girl hooking up with the simple bodybuilder guy on the boat (again with the 60s british sexual inadequacy; what was up with these guys!?).

As you can perhaps sense, After the Rain, falls into the allegorical category of PA literature. It takes a little while to get there and there is some humour and tragedy along the way (and a very good and disturbing scene of a mountaintop refugee camp from the rain), but the primary mission of the book seems to be about society and religion and how man may start over. Once again, this book made me think of Earth Abides. It skims along very similar themes. I kind of got into the book, in the end, because the characters were interesting and I wanted to see where it would all go. It also has a good sense of humour. I would have preffered a truly gritty and detailed look at what would happen to our world if it never stopped raining. We have enough allegory in the world today. When it comes to the end of it, I want details!

I did very much agree with the ending, which had the seemingly dull-witted bodybuilder kill the Arthur-god for going too far. It was a triumph of practicality and simple morality over excessive theorizing. Too bad the author didn't make the same choice at the beginning.

Here, I found a quote by him, where he admits as much, "My second novel, After the Rain, began as an attempt to do for science fiction what Michael Innes had done for the detective story: I failed in this attempt because I soon became more interested in the ideas with which I was dealing than in the form, and anyway made many scientific errors."

He had a fairly prolific career in television, including writing a screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's A Dog's Ransom! I would love to get my hands on that. His biography can be found here (and it's where I found his quote as well).

Here's Lantzvillager's review, with a very different and cool cover.


Unknown said...

Good review and an interesting comment on the covers. That second one, the original from 1959, was illustrated by Bob Blanchard. There were a number of widely used SF illustrators in the 60s including Jeff Jones, Jack Gaughan, Richard Powers and Kelly Freas. Frank Frazetta got his start in this era as well.

Not sure why they changed it for the reprint edition although Ballantine was putting out quite a few PA books at that point and maybe they wanted to punch it up a bit. For example:
The Tide Went Out

Also, I really love this Panther edition of After The Rain. So bleak.

WeSailFurther said...

Now this is a PA situation Redwing and I could handle!

OlmanFeelyus said...

I totally forgot that you had read this! As soon as I saw the cover, I remembered. You had talked about the cover (which really is cool) on your original posting. Again, I think we share similar views about this book. Glad we read it, and it had some cool stuff in it, but it wasn't quite there. I'll link to your review in the original post.

Nice rundown on the artists, btw. That was a great period of covers.