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After London: or, Wild England

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  642 ratings  ·  102 reviews
The meadows were green, and so was the rising wheat which had been sown, but which neither had nor would receive any further care. Such arable fields as had not been sown, but where the last stubble had been ploughed up, were overrun with couch-grass, and where the short stubble had not been ploughed, the weeds hid it.

Jefferies’ novel can be seen as an early example of po
Paperback, 236 pages
Published October 11th 2007 by BiblioLife (first published 1885)
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Average rating 3.08  · 
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2 - 2.5 stars

I would classify Richard Jefferies’ _After London_ as part of a somewhat obscure subset of post-apocalyptic fiction I like to call ‘post-apocalyptic pastoral’ along with books like Edgar Pangborn’s Davy, Richard Cowper’s The Road to Corlay, and John Crowley’s Engine Summer. Unlike the norm with post-apocalyptic fiction the world is not dominated by a radioactive wasteland, or rife with twisted mutants or lumbering zombies, and while life may be hard when compared to our own it often
‘After London’ has the distinction of being a very early post-apocalyptic novel, written in 1885. This is rather the most interesting thing about it, as although some of the details are striking, the plot is very formulaic. The book begins with a lyrical evocation of England after a mysterious, ill-understood environmental disaster. Said disaster could very well be retconned as climate change upheaval, as it results in a changed sea level and a new, massive inland lake. After this disaster, the ...more
First book read after my first cataract surgery and if I hadn’t been trapped at home, I’m not sure I would have finished it. The first whole section is primarily an info dump—how the U.K. has changed since some rather nebulous apocalypse (or maybe it was nebulous to me because I was struggling to read with one eye, a harder task that I anticipated).

I don’t require that the main character be likeable—I’ll take a curmudgeon any day as protagonist, but this young man was pretty clueless and it’s a
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was very different from the normal post-apocalyptic fare, and quite refreshing once I'd adapted to the slower pace. It was originally published in 1885, which surprised me, because I probably would have dated it at least 40 years later.

Don't expect a thrilling fast-moving adventure tale with a defined ending. Expect a detailed, immersive encyclopedic picture of the wilderness that took over from a civilisation over 30 years ago, of the animals' adaptations, of the human cultural changes and
Dec 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Described by the Observer as a strong candidate for the most beautiful of all Victorian novels, the fact of Jeffries being a nature writer shines through both in his scientific description of post apocalyptic England and the descriptions of the hero's voyages which teem with detail about the birds and landscapes he passes through. The strongest parts of the book are the descriptions of environmental collapse in the first part and Felix's trip through the nightmare landscapes of an extinct London ...more
Jack Wolfe
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Some "classics" are under-appreciated for a reason. The back-cover quote by A.S. Byatt is spot-on: the setting here is spectacular, and the book's first thirty pages, which describe the slow takeover of a post-apocalyptic London by its natural elements, have hardly aged a day (they're comparable to what Alan Weisman does in "The World Without Us," even). Sadly, "After London's" descent into "suck" territory is swift and profound-- it's like Jeffries expended all of his imaginative energy on back ...more
Sam Kabo Ashwell
Nov 19, 2010 rated it liked it
An early scientific postapocalypse, and a strange book. Jefferies was primarily a nature writer, and the first half of the book is dedicated to a biology-first view of succession and speciation in a post-collapse UK. River mouths have silted up, and much of southern England is now a great lake fed by the Thames and Severn; humans have divided into castes more or less based on Victorian classism, so that indigents become the savage aboriginal Bushmen, gypsies remain gypsies while getting more pro ...more
Marne Wilson
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
The first section of the novel is a “factual and scientific” account of what happened to the infrastructure of the city of London after British civilization fell due to an unknown catastrophe. It reminded me very much of The World Without Us, and it was fascinating to see that many of Alan Weisman’s conclusions had been anticipated by Jefferies almost 150 years earlier.

The second section follows a more traditional narrative structure and tells the story of Felix Aquila, a young nobleman in the
Ira Therebel
This is one of the first post apocalyptic books written which is what made me curious to read it. Regardless that I found this book mediocre it is pretty important to the genre.

The story takes place in England where after the collapse of civilization nature takes over again and surviving people live in a society pretty much the same as the Middle ages. A young men goes on a quest to find something that he can use to marry the woman that he loves.

I found the idea very intriguing but unfortunately
Kai Schreiber
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
The first part of the book is splendid, while the adventure story in the second drags a bit and ends very suddenly in the middle of things. So much so, in fact, that I went online to see if my Gutenberg Ebook was incomplete.

There are many themes in that narrative, none of which are seen through. This might actually be a design, to show the aimlessness of history, that the catastrophe in the first part is already pointing to, on a more private scale. Say the wrong thing and a story that seemed to
Bill FromPA
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, victorian
Starting in on After London immediately after Earth Abides, I felt at first that I was reading a different draft of the same novel. Like Stewart, Richard Jeffries tells how a radically depopulated land, England in this case, returns to a state of nature as cultivated land and domesticated animals become wild and untamed with the hand of man removed. Similarities between the two novels quickly disappear, however; where Stewart confined his story to the lifetime of one man following the fall o ...more
So I can't say I ...loved this book. It starts out with an interesting but lengthy and meandering bit of world-building, which was by far my favourite bit. The reader learns that the great cities of the ancients (us, 100 years ago-ish) have become flooded and the pollution and chemicals in those cities have made those marshes that were once great cities (London, ie. After London) too toxic and dangerous for people to travel through. Additionally, reading has become a carefully guarded secret of ...more
Ken Ryu
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
An apocalyptic event has decimated London. Jefferies does not dwell on the cause of the catastrophic events. He begins by depicting the changes to the flora, fauna and mankind. A Darwinian winnowing and transformation of plant and animal life is radical. Industrialization and the cities are decimated. The human population is greatly thinned out.

The book takes a sudden turn a quarter of the way in. We are introduced to a survivor in one of the more civilized towns. His name is Felix. The story t
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian-lit
After London is an interesting piece of Victorian literature. Jefferies' novel is both a post-apocalyptic speculative fiction and a sort of neo-medievalist fantasy. A devoted naturalist, Jefferies fills his fiction with detailed descriptions of flora and fauna, altered ecosystems, and man's relationship to the natural world. Unfortunately, Jefferies can get a little too into his nature writing--the narrative proper doesn't begin until about 50 pages into the novel--and at times the book feels li ...more
This is a gangly little chimera of a book. It straddles without perfectly integrating post-apocalyptic speculative world-building and medieval errant fantasy. The plot could be described either as unpredictable or as aimless, as its sulky and often hapless protagonist, Felix, routinely squanders what he gains on the journey that takes up most of the story. Jefferies does display noticeable craft in particular elements of the story, and the brief encounter with sunken London manages to enchant ev ...more
Diogo Muller
Apr 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People really curious about early sci-fi
This is an interesting book. It's a very, very early post-apocalyptic sci-fi book. In it, the world reverts back to the medieval times, thanks to an unexplained phenomenom. The world created by the author is creative and interesting. The fact that this book was written more than 100 years ago also makes it even more interesting - some of the science may be wrong, but most of the things described by the author sound plausible!

However, not everything is perfect. The plot has a few interesting mome
Maria Longley
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 19c-or-older, ma, 2017
A curious book in two halves. The first charts the re-wilding of Britain after an unspecified disaster wipes out London and most of civilisation. The second half is more like a medieval adventure story where Felix is off to find his fortune so he can marry his love in this new feudal society. This is an early example of post apocalyptic fiction (which had some nicer outcomes in it given that this is pre-nuclear).

Richard Jeffries is better known for his nature writing (well, at least I know him
Not a fan of this one, unfortunately! I found the narrative very disengaging, and the plot a little boring. I liked the idea that nature reclaimed England - that domesticated animals ran free and London was overgrown with weeds - but I found the actual story very dull. The characters had no development, and I was a little bored following only Felix around.

I found the country's relapse into barbarism a little strange - Jefferies put emphasis on class, such as the lower-class being more susceptib
Jeff Danhauer
Nov 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
I can't remember where I heard about this book - but I recall thinking - "a sci-fi classic written in the 1880's..... I have to add that to my to read list!" It's not a long book but feels extremely much longer than it in reality is. The author is so taken up with providing LOTS and LOTS of excruciatingly extensive details about the changes in the ecosystem and the societal and governmental structure in the 'past' that brought about the complete collapse of the 'modern' 1880's world (referred to ...more
Dan Sumption
After London, a post-apocalyptic novel written in 1885, begins with a long description of how the English countryside reasserts itself, and subsequently evolves, following the unspecified disaster that has befallen England's cities and driven out most of its human population. There follows a rather mundane story of Sir Felix, a nobleman in the feudalistic society that arises following the fall. In the final part of the book Sir Felix goes questing, and the pace of the story picks up a little, as ...more
Sam Browne
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The first half of the book was a masterclass in telling a non-anthropocentric story. We instead get a gods eye view of the landscape as it changes. This blurs the gap between the reader and the world until the character itself is the landscape and the death and life that takes place within it become an inconsequential ebb and flow to the overall story. Time becomes a fluid thing that moves as it needs and feels ultimately unnecessary.

Then a point of view is introduced and time is introduced and
Neil Limbert
Two books in one. Both quite peculiar. Neither book actually gets anywhere so they fail as novels. However, they are both worth the read because of their superb descriptions of the natural world particularly in “After London”. And I loved the descriptions of farm life in the second book. The authors love of nature and old fashioned farm ways shines through. But he does get a bit bitter and sarcastic towards the end of the second book- I understand the author was dying so that is probably the cau ...more
Some beautiful descriptions of the English countryside after modern civilisation has suffered an unspecified "cataclysm", as you'd expect from Jeffries, who was mainly known for his nature writing. But the plot is an afterthought, and Felix is pretty insufferable, so it was a slog to finish. Theoretically interesting as one of the first post-apocalyptic novels, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it. ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
More like 3.5 stars. slow paced but the world is wonderfully described. Very very early post apocalyptic SF (sort of) and it shows in the many many left open threads but its a good take on what might happen to society if everything goes tits up. I don't need to know what caused the problem so that didn't bug me about the novel, puts the reader in the same boat as the characters since they don't know either. ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘Never, as I observed before, was there so beautiful an expanse of water. How much must we sorrow that it has so often proved only the easiest mode of bringing the miseries of war to the doors of the unoffending. Yet men never weary of sailing to and fro upon it, and most of the cities of the present time are upon its shore. And in the evening we walk by the beach, and from the rising ground look over the waters, as if to gaze upon their loveliness were reward to us for the labour of the day.’
Enola Stevenson
Feb 05, 2021 rated it liked it
I'm so torn about this book. Part one was absolutely fascinating faux-history, and part two an enjoyable story which put me in mind of A Strange Manuscript Found In a Copper Cylinder.
The descriptive language is very evocative and paints a wonderful mental picture of this imagined land - clearly the author was a naturalist.
However, it ends so abruptly! I felt invested in the characters and would have liked to have known their fate.
Ida Aasebøstøl
Jun 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
Curious for being an early post-apocalyptic piece. There's no story (really, just words stacked on words stacked on a young man's revenge/grandiosity fantasies), but if you just read part I -and perhaps chapter 23 - you get a gist of the story there could have been.
Part I with an illustrative map could easily have been published on its own.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
book 1 is pure world building and one of the best apocalyptic settings ever created.
book 2 is a story happening within that setting. the story is quite generic and often boring. there's a dinner scene that drags on way too long. I wouldn't fault someone for skipping book 2.
Paul Reid
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At Last!!

At last, a beautifully crafted, beautifully formed, and highly realistic post apocalyptic world! No Hunger Games here! An absolute pleasure to read. I want more of this world.
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apocalyptic
For a book written in the 1880's a very informed and well-though out view, especially on the development of the countryside and society after an apocalyptic event.

The main story line is VERY Victorian in its rendering, it could almost have been written by a Pre-Raphaelite artist, but entertaining anyway.
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(John) Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) is best known for his prolific and sensitive writing on natural history, rural life and agriculture in late Victorian England. However, a closer examination of his career reveals a many-sided author who was something of an enigma. To some people he is more familiar as the author of the children’s classic Bevis or the strange futuristic fantasy After London , wh ...more

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