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Empty World

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  744 ratings  ·  105 reviews
When Neil survives a deadly plague and plunges into solitude, he must question everything in this gripping adventure from critically acclaimed Tripods author John Christopher.

Neil’s world is shattered when he and his family are involved in a horrible car accident that leaves him an orphan. He is sent to live in a small village with his grandparents, whom he loves but doesn
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by Aladdin (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  744 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read this book when I was a teenager and I have thought of it often since. It has haunted me, but I couldn't remember the name of the book or the author. I spent a lot of time researching before tracking the book down and finding out that it was out of print. I finally obtained a copy from ebay and was excited to read it again.

I found this book to be just as disturbing and thought-provoking as I remembered it. What an eerie, haunting book! Very short (134 pgs.), it imparts a lot, but leaves yo
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, boys
Empty World is another post-apocalyptic children’s novel by John Christopher. Neil Miller is left orphaned as the lone survivor in a car accident that kills his entire family. As he adjusts to his new life with his grandparents, a terrible plague sweeps the world, killing off just about the entire population. Neil, who survives the plague, is left in an empty, silent world. Neil deals with the everyday needs of survival as well as the loneliness of being alone in the world as he presses on, sear ...more
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Jadey by: Fate
I found this book with no cover re-bound TAPED to the underside of a shelf in my school library. I was in a dark place in my life and this book brought me the light and hope at the end of the tunnel I needed.
Lee Osborne
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book my wife read as a child, and I read it myself after we got together - as a lover of apocalyptic fiction, I loved it, and I felt it was time for another read after I just read "The Death of Grass".

Apparently this is one of no less than eleven post-apocalyptic novels John Christopher wrote for the young adult market, so I'm certainly keen to find and read more. This one is about a boy called Neil Miller, who has to go and live with his grandparents in a sleepy village after the rest
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dystopia
It's well written and mostly well thought through, good post-apocalyptic story. But I found the last third (when he joins other survivors) so terrible that I had to take 2 stars off. ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopian, 2020-books
3.5 stars for Empty World!
I’m quite tired so I’m just going to bullet point a few thoughts:

- Very scary to read about something that could potentially happen in reality at any point
- Makes me appreciate time with my family much more
- Very easy to read and fall in step with- makes you feel as though you’re actually in the story and makes turning countless pages easy
- Got straight into the action within the first few pages- made it easy to keep reading
- Easily flowing descriptions- not too hea
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, that was horrifying. Glad I didn't read this as a child as it would have given me nightmares. ...more
Ashutosh Sahu
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was blown away by this book when a teenager. There's something matter-of-fact in its starkness, huge events are happening but we see it through the very mundane lens of a high school student. On my first reading the setting seemed very exotic, I knew nothing about English culture or London's geography. I remember being particularly confused (very minor spoiler) about Neil and Billie's argument over how to pronounce 'books.' My parents couldn't explain it either ;)

Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being published before I was born (1977) this has aged quite well. Short but well developed it is not simply an apocaliptic story about the end of humanity but mostly an explorations of human's nature. And a very good one also. ...more
Sep 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. It's a bit frightening, especially now to think about a plauge killing of the adults. It's a good story but I would have loved it more as a early teen as thats when I was hooked on the show "the tribe" with a similar concept ...more
J.E. Anckorn
Great concept, ending so abrupt I thought it was a printing error, but typical of the era it was written in.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
A dystopian YA novel for our times! I really enjoyed this book about a teenage boy who thinks he may be the only person left in England, after a deadly plague sweeps through the world. It was written in the 1970s, but a lot of it still rings true. However, this was a time before smartphones and mass media and so there is less panic as the virus takes hold. Certainly, there is no stockpiling of loo roll mentioned in the book. Recommended lockdown reading.
Grace Fox
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning of this book feels very relevant to some of the things that have happened recently in the world. Accept, it takes it a step further and we get a glimpse of what could happen if only a handful of people were left on Earth. It was a great read and it kept me turning the pages - had it finished in a couple of hours. The copy of the book, which was salvaged by my sister, is a bashed up and well read copy from the late 1980s. The book is falling to pieces but completely adds to the stor ...more
I'm realising that post-apocalypse fiction is a guilty pleasure of mine. I just love it. I came across another one here.

In 1966, British sci-fi author John Christopher turned to sci-fi for adolescents. The most famous product of that decision was the Tripods trilogy, adapted for TV by the BBC in the 1980s. Empty World (1977), is just as good, a post-apocalyptic novel akin to Christopher's The Death of Grass (1956), but with children as the main characters.

For a book aimed at children, it's incre
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really meant for teenagers, this describes a plague and its aftermath for the few survivors (children, of course). It seemed to be rollicking along and then it just... ended. Sometimes books are too long, but this one could've used more of everything. ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Augh, a completely frustrating read! A unique idea with a focused beginning and a tight plot until it all unraveled about two-thirds of the way in. The ending was a complete disaster.
Gregory A
I read this in English class in 1988 and have never forgotten it.
I wonder if this is a good moment to read it again!
May 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It tells of a world in which there is a global pandemic (sounds familiar!) that has a disproportionate effect upon different age groups (again familiar), those age groups are the old (very close to home now). This pandemic - the Calcutta Plague - is both highly infectious and highly deadly. It results in a fatality rate in excess of 99.9% of the population, which is really where the story begins.

The story is about Neil and how he copes with living in a post-pandemic w
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 Stars. This book popped up in my Kindle recommendations as I recently finished (and loved) 'A Wrinkle In The Skin'. Reading a book about a virus that kills almost all of the world's population in the middle of the Coronavirus Quarantine was a little unsettling, but for the most part, I enjoyed this.

Until the last 1/3 of the book.

The story feels very disjointed as a whole. There's the beginning, where we meet Neil and his grandparents and learn a little about his life...there's the middle, wh
Vincent Desjardins
This book starts off with the main character, Neil, being orphaned when he is the only survivor of an automobile accident that kills the rest of his family. Shortly after going to live with his grandparents, they too die when a pandemic, that started in India, spreads to the United Kingdom. There is a lot of death in the first half of this young adult novel making it at times a rather brutal and sad read. There is also a disturbing suicide scene that although not graphically described, still pac ...more
El Hugh
May 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Empty World was a formative reading experience for me. It was assigned to us in our third year (year 9 in new money) English class and I remember being so taken with it that I stayed up until the small hours to finish it. This is the first time that I have revisited it in more than 3 decades so perhaps it isn't surprising that it turns out that I didn't remember very much of it and some of what I thought I remembered might have belonged to a continuation of the story that I penned as a homework ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an easy and short read, and nevertheless I needed a moment to figure out what it is that makes Empty World somehow pretty disturbing. On the one hand it is the description of the consequences of a disaster that kills almost everybody but the protagonist -Neil- and a few others. The way he sees how his grandparents die, the streets become empty and civilization breaks down is pretty gloomy. Neil more or less comes to terms with all that, sometimes he is maybe accepting his fate too easily ...more
Matthew Pullar
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I grew up on John Christopher's teen dystopian fiction, a genre that it turns out he more or less invented. I read the Tripods books, The Sword of the Spirits trilogy and a few of his standalone novels. But, while I remember this one from school library book shelves, I never read it, until I thought of it recently - in light of the pandemic we're going through at the moment - and managed to track it down. It's a remarkably subtle book for the shocking nature of the storyline, and the resonances ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book as an 11 year old, and decided to give it a revisit. Definitely did not remember how dark this book was, jeez.. Pretty sure the main character is already suffering from PTSD prior to the apocalyptic plague which wipes out most of the world's population, allowing him the emotional disconnect to deal with the unfolding shitstorm, (really, this poor kid does not get a break..) Meanwhile, my 11 year old self spent a great deal of time happily dreaming about how awesome it would be to ...more
Patrick Henry
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of isolation and tragedy kicked in early in the life of Neil a young teen gradually orphaned of family. The whole world is melting around him as the world population is overwhelmed by a plague. In real time of the winter 2020, the Covid pandemic provides a context.

I recommended this young adult fiction to one who is trying to increase her vocabulary. The story has elements that would appeal to youth. I found interesting the description of the shell of civilization suddenly bereft of mo
Tanya Turner
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-again
So, I've given this four stars, but also put it on 'never again' shelf.... That's because this was the first book to give me nightmares and lead to a long lasting distrust of apocalyptic fiction. I can admire the skills and effectiveness of the writing while having no desire to read it again. And it is effective writing, I still remember having to have the radio on at all times to reassure myself that I wasn't living in an 'empty world'. If you like bleak stories that start with nearly everyone ...more
Ian Banks
I read this book a couple of times a week from when I was 12 until I was almost 14. It was a book that I obsessed over and almost knew by heart. It was a story that resonated with more than almost any other story I'd read until that point. It's still pretty good. Christopher was brilliant at coming up with disaster scenarios and this one - a plague that ages you to death - was superb. It's also a pretty good metaphor for adolescence: a fear that getting older will leave you alone in the world wi ...more
Janet Jay
Really disappointing. Now I know that children-in-dystopian-future books have boomed since this book’s publication, but STILL. This seemed less like a book than... not quite a thought experiment but a story in the least flattering sense: a plot made up on the spot and stretched out until the kid goes to sleep. I didn’t feel this was a sculpted work with somewhere to go; it was just a mishmashof fairly cliche end-of-the-world-survival schtick. The beginning has little to do with the middle and ne ...more
Clark Hallman
John Christopher – Empty World: When a deadly virus kills off most of the world's population, including all adults, Neil, a teenaged boy, tries to survive in a seemingly empty England. Although devastated by the loss of his elders he must force himself to accept his difficult (even terrifying) situation and learn to survive by himself. Scavenging canned and preserved food and other necessities from empty homes and businesses provides most necessities. Loneliness becomes a difficult thing to deal ...more
Mitchell Gage
A good story, but felt underdone. The story just seemed to end suddenly when it really could have gone a lot further and explored more.

I think perhaps I'm too old to be reading it for the first time - definitely have had more impact on me add a younger reader, (as the author's other stories did).
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Sam Youd was born in Huyton, 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, cric

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