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No Blade of Grass

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,336 Ratings  ·  372 Reviews
A post-apocalyptic vision of the world pushed to the brink by famine, John Christopher's science fiction masterpiece The Death of Grass includes an introduction by Robert MacFarlane in Penguin Modern Classics.

At first the virus wiping out grass and crops is of little concern to John Custance. It has decimated Asia, causing mass starvation and riots, but Europe is safe and
Paperback, 190 pages
Published May 1980 by Avon Books (first published 1956)
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It’s a depressing sack of sadness that this exceptional post-apocalyptic story is not more widely read…534 ratings as of the time of this review...a travesty. I’m going to try and spread some love and hopefully find this wonderful book some more friends with whom to spend the holidays.

The central theme of the novel: How delicate and fragile is the veneer of civilization and how quickly the survival instinct can subdue, handcuff and gag the better angels of our nature.

Written in the 1950’s, thi
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 07, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
”Pity always was a luxury. It’s all right if the tragedy’s a comfortable distance away--if you can watch it from a seat in the cinema. It’s different when you find it on your doorstep--on every doorstep.”

 photo RedRice_zps5c821a32.jpg
Red Rice Field

It was called the Chung-Li Virus and first appeared by destroying the rice crops in China.

That is too bad, those poor Chinese.

What did you think of the coffee today wasn’t it bold? It is from somewhere in Africa. We’ll have to get more of that.

I hear the Americans are sending s
Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another post-apocalyptic novel. The story is always the same, some agent, natural, military or even super-natural, causes the end of civilization-as-we-know-it. People in the know have stockpiled supplies, guns and a remote place that is hopefully impregnable by the starving hoardes. There is always at least one person with some technical knowledge. Finer feelings disappear, violence, theft, rape reappear. Men dominate, women cook. In the group the book identities as heroes, they are always dist ...more
Apr 06, 2010 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I don't know who it was that said we're only ever three meals away from revolution but this book brings that phrase to life by showing that, no matter how civilized we think we are, however stable our society seems to be, we are never that far away from barbarity.

This book may have been more aptly named had it been called "The Death of Civilization". Yes, a virus does emerge that attacks all forms of grass and spreads virulently across the globe defying mankind's attempts to halt it in its track
Feb 02, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
There's a good introduction in this edition that discusses, among other things, how this work compares with John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids and William Golding's Lord of the Flies. In that analysis Day off the Triffids comes of badly.

The reason for the comparison is obvious: both are apocalyptic SF novels where plants are at the root of the problem ( Ducks flying rotting vegetables in response to that pun. Oops, another one slipped out...) set in Britain by British authors writing in the same
Sep 16, 2012 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, lit

The world-famous novel of the ultimate famine!

The Death of Grass by John Christopher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Essential Must-Read Seemingly Forgotten Dystopian Classic

Blurb: The Death of Grass is an entirely original kind of science-fiction - it is not about space-travel, time-travel, or mechanical men. It recounts the terrifying changes on the face of the earth when the balance of nature is upset - and it takes place not in the future but now.

The characters are middle class people who live
Jul 09, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who overly love their lawns
Recommended to Mark by: Stephen
A number of people have remarked at this novel's similarity to the novels of John Wyndham and I would agree up to a point. I have always loved the novels of Wyndham and all his chilling elements run rife here. That sense of ' Good grief, this could happen if such and such took place'. The disaster arising out of ordinary lives, the horrifying realization that this is happening to people who are only divided from me by a few decades, that it is therefore my society which is being torn apart not s ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Tania rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF fans, fans of dystopian novels, sociologists
Shelves: 3-star-wonders
I really wanted to give this book 4 stars as I was reading it - I found it incredibly engrossing and the character and situation they find themselves in are pretty believable and amazing all at the same time.

However, like Day of the Triffids, this one left me cold at the end. Where is the proper ending to this book? Surely that couldn't just have been it! But it was and it made me sad and hoping for a sequel- I read this in a matter of hours and that's rare.

So the book follows John Custance as
Bark's Book Nonsense
Jun 07, 2010 Bark's Book Nonsense rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
This was a little bit of a slow starter but once I could see where things were heading every sentence was laden with a sense of dread and impending doom.

A widow leaves a dreary London behind and returns to her girlhood home along with her sons. She is anxious to reunite and repair her strained relationship with her dad and share the joy of a hillside surrounded by lush green pasture with her boys.

25 years later John has taken to life in the city and fathered two children; David has devoted his l
There's a sense in which all post-apocalyptic novels feel the same. In all of them, we see society collapsing, torn apart by the pressure of finding a way to survive. The Death of Grass is no different, but it's very well written and well structured. There's a Chekhov's gun or two, a good structure which takes us from calm gentility to the feudal need to survive terrifyingly believably, terribly fast. It's horrible, but you can understand the characters, understand their decisions.

And if you can
How many pages are absolutely necessary to tell a gripping, frightening story? 50? 200? 400? 1200, in case your editor died? Editors are extinct anyways.

My favorite is the shortest science fiction story written by Fredric Brown called “The Knock”, only two sentences long and as it happens; has fewer words than this paragraph. Here it is, in its entirety:

“The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door….”

17 words. And yet it implies toward innumerable possibilities, eac
Nov 27, 2012 Marvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Very good post-apocalyptic novel that realistically depicts the break-down of society in the wake of a global disaster. In this 1956 obscure but classic sci-fi thriller, the breakdown is caused by a virus that annihilates all grasses on earth. But while civilization devolves into dog-eat-dog, I couldn't help thinking how our protagonists were so damn polite about it. Every time they took a savage reaction they would verbally explain it to others. I guess that's the British for you. But seriously ...more
Sep 02, 2012 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was not good. This was, in fact, dreadful. The writing was crap, the characters were all unlikable, it was racist and misogynist, and the plot was incredibly boring. That's right, a book about people trying to survive an apocalypse was boring.

So, I guess, good job on that, John Christopher. You wrote a shitty, boring book about an apocalypse, which is kind of difficult to do.

ETA: I think what makes me the most angry about this book is that there are plenty of ways to write about how thin th
Lorenzo Berardi
What? Only three stars?
Am I sure? Did I give this rating by mistake?

Yes, yes. And no, I'm afraid.

Don't get me wrong, folks.
For 'The Death of Grass' is a good novel. Well, actually a very good novel. And I do believe that you should give this book a chance and read through it from page 1 to page 194.

It won't take that long. You won't get bored. But, nonetheless...
Oh well, I don't want to spoil your expectations any longer.

This book was out of print for many years, but the Penguin fellows have re
Dec 05, 2014 Otherwyrld rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disturbing and at times deeply depressing novel about how quickly the veneer of civilisation disappears when a catastrophe strikes. This book is widely regarded as a classic and is often compared with novels such as Day of the Triffids (which I read last year) and Lord of the Flies (which I really must get around to reading soon). However, I felt it also had a resonance with the recent film Interstellar - this is the part that the film never really got around to exploring, being too busy trave ...more
Apr 10, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The republishing in the UK of this classic, long out of print, is an unexpectedly good read, though its content is very, very bleak. Now perhaps in these days of global warming, Asian bird flu and genetically modified crops, it is perhaps time for a revaluation.

The story begins with the announcement of a virus, the Chung-Li virus, appearing in Asia wiping out grass and members of the grass family species. Though the announcements are made, little change is noticeable to John Custance and his fam
Oct 01, 2012 Tamahome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Shows what happens in an apocalypse when all grass is dead and everyone has to fight for the leftover potatoes. Unfortunately the cattle live on grass so they die out too. (Wait, don't the factory farms feed them corn and soymeal)? Moral lines become fuzzy, hell they're obliterated. Not exactly a light, breezy read, but well done. Short and dialog driven, 'Scalzi-an'?, works well as an audiobook, if you can find it. Goodreads says it's only 200 pages. Who writes novels that short these days? I h

--The Death of Grass
Martin Belcher
Jun 13, 2012 Martin Belcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
This is the "grandfather" of post apocalyptic novels, written in 1956, it tells of an environmental disaster which seems all to real and just as relevant now as it may have seemed in a different post second world war 1950's world. A virus which attacks all strains of grasses (grass, wheat, barley, rye) begins to ravage Asia there seems no cure to it. First wave hits China and South East Asia hard, wiping out all grasses including rice, mass food shortages and panic and riots take hold ending in ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
AKA No Blade of Grass (in the USA), this book is on a lot of lists - Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels : An English-Language Selection, 1949-1984 by David Pringle (which I want to read everything on) and the further reading list from Wastelands compiled and edited by John Joseph Adams (a list I've been working through for 4 years!). We discussed it on the SFF Audio podcast.

This story revolves around a virus that kills rice in China first, then rapidly morphs into a resilient virus that takes
Rebecca McNutt
May 07, 2015 Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book offers a frightening prospect, as well as an eye-opening view of human nature and a post-apocalyptic environment. The Death of Grass was well-written, vivid and haunting, with complex characters and a strange, original plot.
Angelo Giardini
Enquanto eu não leio O Senhor das Moscas, este livro pode ser o meu O Senhor das Moscas: uma parábola da pequena distância que o homem civilizado está da barbárie.
May 21, 2011 Sally906 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
DEATH OF GRASS (aka No Blade of Grass) is a terrifyingly good book. Terrifying because in this day of genetically engineered crops the plot is plausible and you wish that it wasn’t.

It is dystopian (or doomsday) tale where the world is facing death by starvation. In DEATH OF GRASS the end of the world as we know it is brought about by the Chung-Li virus. This is a disease that starts in China and kills off all grass species – not just the grass on the front lawn but rice, wheat, barley and rye. F
Feb 18, 2012 Preeti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: post-apocalypse fans
Recommended to Preeti by: Stephen
On the back cover of the version I own, there is a blurb from the Financial Times: "Gripping... of all fiction's apocalypses, this is one of the most haunting."

Gripping is the perfect word to describe this book. I would also add scary and horrifying.

The story follows the family of John Custance as they travel across England to try to make it to his brother's farm, after a virus ravages the world, ridding it of all forms of grass. This includes the entire family of Gramineae, all 10,000 species o
I'm not one for sci-fi (other than classic Trek). Fantasy doesn't do it for me either. But where I do make a major exception is when the story centers around the extinction the humanity (or threat of extinction). The rapid disintegration of the veneer of civilization that humans flatter themselves into thinking makes them better than the "baser animals" is a fascinating topic, and a topic which the best sci-fi writers have explored. This classic story captures it perfectly.

A virus destroys the w
MB Taylor
I'd like to give this book 4 stars, but I can't quite bring myself to do so.

The first half or so of the book is excellent, then it becomes darker than I expected. About two thirds of the way in it becomes even darker and I stopped reading it for over a month. I finally picked it up again yesterday and finished it. The ending isn't totally satisfying, but it's hard to imagine an ending that would be.

As is common in reprints of classics, the introduction gives away a little more of the story than
Neil Powell
Jun 04, 2010 Neil Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A chillingly portentous post apocalyptic vision of England. The novel was written in post World War 2 fifties Britain (as was Day Of the Triffids), when nuclear war was a very new and very real threat.
To begin with, both novels share alot of similarities: the main protagonist display the "stiff upper lip blitz spirit" characteristics from that era; the end of civilisation caused by a global disaster. However, the similarities suddenly end about halfway through. Where "Day Of The Triffids" has th
Aug 28, 2013 Matt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
(first review, be gentle)

It's a good idea on how fragile our 'civilized' societies are, and I don't doubt that ordinary, polite middle-class British folks would stoop to violence and murder to survive, but I don't agree they would jump to doing it so quickly, and in such cold blood. Most of the male characters turn into hard, calculating automatons half-way through the novel, abandoning all civilized morals overnight almost.

And, being written in 1950s Britain, there's the usual sexism and racism
Jan 10, 2015 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had been wanting to read this famous book for a long time, and was so excited when it was reprinted (second hand copies were very expensive)
It is not a comfortable read. When a virus kills all the world's grass - that means rice and wheat as well as the green stuff - civilisation, which relies on regular meals - just breaks down.
As the characters travel together to a remote valley, so the world they are now left with becomes more and more frightening and brutal, until at last they themselves a
Emma Audsley
Just finished one of the most prophetic, enthralling & revealing books in the genre of apocolytptic/spectulative fiction.
The author does not just give a terrifying glimpse into what could happen when the world falls apart but he also reveals the impact it could have upon the minds, morals & the very essence of man & society overall.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It holds many a lesson for us all to consider & take to heart- the very fragility of life as we know, un
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Sam Youd was born in Lancashire in April 1922, during an unseasonable snowstorm.

As a boy, he was devoted to the newly emergent genre of science-fiction: ‘In the early thirties,’ he later wrote, ‘we knew just enough about the solar system for its possibilities to be a magnet to the imagination.’

Over the following decades, his imagination flowed from science-fiction into general novels, cricket nove
More about John Christopher...

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“A long time ago. I came to the understanding that all men are friends by convenience and enemies by choice.” 8 likes
“«La pietà è sempre stata un lusso. Tutto va bene quando il dramma è a una distanza considerevole, quando lo si guarda stando seduti nelle poltrone di un cinema. È molto diverso quando te lo trovi sulla soglia di casa...»” 0 likes
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