Wednesday, May 26, 2021

33. The Time before This by Nicholas Monsarrat

I found this one in the free shelf somewhere.  It's a really nice old Pan (1962) in quite good condition.  I like Monsarrat as well, but was suspicious of the vague concept and empty pullquote from the beginning and the thin size.  What was this book about?

My suspicions were correct.  This is more of a fictional essay musing on war and mankind. The plot is basic. A reporter is in the Canadian north doing a story on its recent economic growth.  In the bar in a makeshift town that is already dying, he encounters a drunken old man who rants at everybody and then gets picked on by some bullies.  The bartender informs the reporter that the old man is a troublemaker and has been doing this for a long time.

We get almost half the book with the reporter wrestling with his conscious and then finally deciding to help out the old man.  There is a young woman named Mary who cares about the old man and the two of them help him out of jail.  Back in his boarding room (with a nasty old woman who runs the place; an excellent portrayal of Canadian cheapness and meanness), the old man finally reveals his secret.  He discovered a giant hi-tech refrigerator on an island off of Baffin Island, with frozen armadillo-skinned humanoids frozen to death in a state of surprise.

He believes (and I think this is the point of this story), that his discovery proves that there was a superior civilization who died by its own folly.  If only others could believe this, they would realize that current day humans are on the same path.  It was well-written and I dug what Monsarrat was putting down about the folly of humanity and the stupid cruelty of war.  I am just not sure why this got a separate novel treatment of its own.  Ah, I just read the back!  This is a part of a series.  I guess Monsarrat was big enough at this time that he could justify it.  Probably interesting to read them all.

No comments: