Khairul H.'s Reviews > The Death of Grass

The Death of Grass by John Christopher
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's review
Feb 13, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read from February 11 to 13, 2012

(Review copied and pasted verbatim from my blog, The Malaysian Reader

Well, this one’s a downer. Written in 1956, Death of Grass tells the story of a world gripped by starvation when a virus strain that kills rice has mutated and begins to eradicate all other crops like wheat and barley. Our British protagonists weren’t too concerned when only East Asians were dying (one character quipped, ”There’s an awful lot of Chinks in China. They’ll breed ‘em back again in a couple of generations”) but when the virus arrives in Albion, all of a sudden it’s the end of civilisation as we know it.

It starts slow but the horror really picks up when John Custance decides to flee London with his family and travel to his brother’s farm in the north. Along the way they encounter the swift decline towards violence among the British people who justify it as the only way to survive seeing as how Law and Order had given up and left everyone to their own devices. Soon enough, even the protagonist and his family succumb to the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’. It’s a pretty grim, pessimistic, post-apocalyptic story that pits moral dilemmas at the protagonists again and again and the outcome is always the same: morality loses all the time. Even when the group reaches the safe haven of the farm, they are faced with an issue because John’s brother refuses to admit all of them in. It’s not a spoiler to say that it won’t end well for everyone.

The problem is Death of Grass isn’t very well written. The early chapters are one big info dump and the protagonists seemed all too willing (at least to me) to turn to savagery when the chips are down. No hesitation, no second thoughts.

It’s a slim novel with just under 200 pages and it’s a gripping read but some patience may be required to go through the 1950s clunky dialogue.
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