The Death of Grass
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The Death of Grass

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  3,072 ratings  ·  275 reviews
The Death of Grass is a '56 post-apocalyptic sf novel written by the British author Samuel Youd under the pen name of John Christopher, the 1st in a series of post-apocalyptic novels by him. It deals with the concept of a virus that kills off all forms of grass. The novel was written "in a matter of weeks" & liberated Youd from his day job. It was retitled No Blade of...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published 1988 by Sphere (London) (first published 1956)
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Stephen
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...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”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.”

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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...more
Simon
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...more
Petra X
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
Mark
Jul 09, 2012 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Tfitoby

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 s...more
Robert
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...more
moshimoshineko
Feb 04, 2012 moshimoshineko rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Barks & Bites
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...more
Nikki
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...more
Veeral
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...more
Marvin
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
Mark
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...more
Martin Belcher
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
Tamahome

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...more
Sally906
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...more
Preeti
Feb 18, 2012 Preeti rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Kerrie
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...more
Neil Powell
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...more
Erin
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...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...more
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...more
Martyn
This apocalyptic novel, which belongs with Day of the Triffids and The Lord of the Flies as a particularly English affair, shows how society can descend into barbarism in a handful of days when all the food runs out. It's a classic stiff-upper-lip tale of two families who get wind of a terrible plot by the government to cull the population in order to survive an impending famine. They escape a blockade around London and head out on a journey to a farm belonging to one of the characters' brother....more
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...more
Paul Baldowski
Having watched, and read, ‘The Road’ and seen films like ‘The Book of Eli’ and ’28 Days Later’, I found ‘Grass’ far more harrowing and grim to read. Written in 1952 and very much a vision of the time, the story deals with a small group seeking a home, driven away from the rapidly declining state of society in the face of the progressive and possibly irreversible demise of all grass stocks. Without basic food stuffs and common land animals (due to lack of feed), the population face starvation and...more
trishtrash
I’m having trouble reviewing this book… John Christopher’s apocalyptic tale is both brilliant and horrible…. the tension-building global spread of the virus that kills all kinds of grass, including the edible grains, complete with imagery that is unsubtle and horrifying, really pulls the reader in. As meat farming becomes impossible, people in Britain hold out hope for each announcement that the problem is licked, and that the food shortages will be reversed. When the hope runs out, there’s the...more
Tom Ireland
The Death of Grass is set in a world where a virus is destroying the world's grass. It tells the story of society's (very quick disintegration) as a group of survivors attempt to make their way to a valley stronghold where they can be safe. Post-apocalyptic fiction has always fascinated me, it is my guilty pleasure. Books like The Road or The Last Man and films like Mad Max, I Am Legend or The Postman are at opposite ends of the artistic spectrum but I love them all. It is interesting to wonder...more
Paul
Written in the 1950s it's not surprising that the language and some of the attitudes expressed feel a little dated now. But the plot of The Death of Grass is one that could easily be taken from tomorrows headlines.

The novel is set against the background of an emerging and virulent virus that attacks and kills grass. All grasses, including rice, wheat, barley, maize... most of our staple foods, in other words. And with no grass, the grazing animals die out pretty quickly as well. Faced with the p...more
Loren
From ISawLightningFall.com

THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS

By definition, post-apocalyptic novels transpire after some sort of global disaster. This temporal perspective grants authors a bulwark behind which to build an exotic, busted-up setting and provides a buffer for readers against the immediate horrors of societal collapse. But when a writer changes that post into a pre, both barriers disappear, and the genre's shape shifts dramatically. That's exactly what John Christopher did in his first successfu...more
Peter Kebbell
If you keep in mind that this was written in the 1950s, and read it in that context, it makes a pretty good read. It does a good job of capturing some significant elements of post-war British politics and culture. The main problem is, it hasn't aged well.

The characters are very stereotypical for the 1950s: the men are the brave, calculating warriors; the women are all rather pathetic and highly emotional. What does make this an interesting read is that none of the characters are particularly lik...more
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Lost Classic? 4 28 Jul 25, 2013 09:04AM  
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2001324
John Christopher is the pseudonym under which the British science fiction author Samuel Youd has been most successful. Youd has written under the following pseudonyms:
• John Christopher
• Stanley Winchester
• Hilary Ford
• William Godfrey
• Peter Graaf
• Peter Nichols
• Anthony Rye

He is best known for The Tripods trilogy, published under the pseudonym John Christopher.

His novels were popular during the...more
More about John Christopher...
The White Mountains (The Tripods, #1) The City of Gold and Lead (The Tripods, #2) The Pool of Fire (The Tripods, #3) When the Tripods Came (The Tripods, #4) The Tripods Trilogy (The Tripods, #1-3)

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