Disaster Novel: John Christopher’s The World in Winter

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle explores a forgotten work of post-apocalyptic fiction

March opened on a comparatively milder note, but there was still no thaw. Food prices, which had been rising for some time, began to rocket, and there was a wave of strikes throughout the country. … The Government, which had proclaimed a State of Emergency and taken necessary powers, showed no sign of yielding them again. There was strict censorship, and the police were armed. Rationing and price controls were introduced for a wide range of foods; patient queues lengthened in the grubby snow outside provision shops. Press and television called on the people to endure, to show their ancient phlegm. ‘If winter comes,’ quoted the Prime Minister in his clipped and confident voice, ‘can spring be far behind?’

This passage comes near the beginning of Chapter 7 of The World in Winter, a novel, now thankfully back in print as The World in Winter (Penguin Worlds), by a forgotten author who I was switched onto by Christopher Fowler in his brilliant and revelatory The Book of Forgotten Authors (which I reviewed here).

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A Summary and Analysis of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

One of the most original and endlessly thought-provoking dystopian novels of the whole twentieth century, A Clockwork Orange (1962) is Anthony Burgess’ best-known novel. But what is the message behind this curious novel?

Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1971 film adaptation of the novel departed from the novel in some respects, so it’s worth offering a brief summary of the plot of A Clockwork Orange before we ponder the meaning of this novel and offer some words of analysis. (We have compiled some curious Anthony Burgess facts here.)

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Eros in Dystopia: Fred Saberhagen’s Love Conquers All

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews a 1970s dystopian novel in which sex has become the new religion

The population of the world has reached 8 billion. Overpopulation and Malthusian fears that the world’s natural resources will run out are very real. Parents are limited to having two children; if a woman falls pregnant with a third, she must have it aborted, and to fail to do so is a crime. The word ‘triplet’ is a curse word, as are ‘purity’ and ‘chastity’. Love is little more than Freudian ‘sublimation’ of sex: an unwholesome and undesirable state. ‘Eros’, too, is a curse word, replacing ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘God’.

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Crusoe in Concrete: J. G. Ballard’s Concrete Island

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reappraises J. G. Ballard’s 1970s masterpiece

‘Art exists because reality is neither real nor significant.’ This remark by J. G. Ballard, who has a claim to being one of the most important English writers of the second half of the twentieth century, strikes at the heart of what drives his fiction. And although it’s not his most famous book, for me the remarkable tour de force that is Ballard’s 1974 novel Concrete Island best demonstrates this.

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