AKA, what I read while avoiding finishing A Game of Thrones.

* Warning: here there be spoilers *


I’m having issues with Game of Thrones. It has tonnes of characters. Many of them are asshats (that may be my favourite American word). Bad stuff never stops happening to the nice people and pets get killed – this is the worst fiction sin an author can commit.

I understand that this is all probably building up to a massive arse kicking for the really bad guys, but God it’s tough to read.

So, I’ve been diverting myself with a post-apocalypse fiction splurge.

First, I read a trilogy called Surviving the Evacuation, by Frank Tayell, then I picked up The Death of Grass, by John Christopher – AKA Samuel Youd. For all the similarities between these books, there’s one major difference that makes me prefer one author’s vision of the apocalypse over the other’s.

Surviving the Evacuation: books 1 -3

Published 2013-14

In an attempt to find a cure for every known disease (duh, that never works – don’t these people watch Doctor Who?) scientists and the Government unwittingly infect people with a virus that turns them into a zombie.

The British Government acts quickly and begins evacuating people to coastal regions. At least, that’s what the propaganda says…

Caught up in this is a Government spin-doctor who broke his leg just as the zombie problem started. His best friend/boss dumps him back at his flat with some supplies and leaves him alone so that she can go and do whatever it is that government people do in a zombie plague situation.

The books follow him on his journey from helpless man in a London flat, to intrepid, roaming, zombie slayer. On his journey he meets men, women and children who he forms an alliance with, some of whom turn out to be skeevy in the extreme.

The overall message of the books is that, yes, there are some bad people in the world. There are also good people, who will turn into bad people if their survival is at stake. Yet if people work together for their mutual benefit they stand a much better chance of surviving and living a decent life.

The Death of Grass

Published 1956

In the 1950s, Asia is riddled with a virus that attacks grass. In an attempt to combat this, scientists look at 1) making a resistant strain of grass 2) killing the virus. Killing the virus is a quicker option so they go for it. Unfortunately, they killed off several strains of the virus and allowed a less dominant version to take hold – one that attacks all forms of grass, including wheat. This new virus then spreads around the world rapidly.

The “hero” of this story is a thoroughly respectable architect chap, with a nice wife, and two kids in boarding schools. Oh, and a best friend in the senior civil service. Our hero has a brother who inherited the family farm – a farm that just happens to be situated in a valley that is impossible to penetrate apart from one narrow entrance. The farmer brother tells the city dwelling brother that he should move up to the farm pronto because this situation is only going to get worse. But he doesn’t want to leave his cushy job, so keeps his family where they are.

The situation deteriorates almost overnight, and our hero’s government friend tells him that they must leave for the farm asap. After picking up a random gun nut, and his poor wife, they arm themselves (because they know that 1950s England is going to turn into one large Hunger Games arena) and head off to various boarding schools to rescue little Archibald and Verruca.

The rest of the book deals with them trying to get to the farm. It’s basically the book version of Threads – which is the grimmest TV drama of all time. The message of this book? People are bastards.

I prefer the Surviving the Evacuation trilogy over Death of Grass. Unsurprisingly, the trilogy depicts women as equals, while admitting that they usually have less physical strength than men, and are therefore at quite a bit of risk. In Death of Grass, it takes society less than 48 hours to collapse, and for most men (at least all the men that the reader encounters) to turn into savages, and women into beaten, downtrodden chattels. Lovely read, I don’t think!

And no, I still haven’t finished A Game of Thrones.