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The World in Winter

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  374 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Penguin reissues a classic work of science fiction from the author of The Death of Grass - now with a new introduction by Hari Kunzru

One year the UK suffers a terribly harsh winter: rivers freeze solid, food and fuel run low, the whole of Europe lies under snow. Months pass and the arctic weather remains. It gradually becomes clear that the world's climate has changed perm
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 29th 2016 by Penguin (first published 1962)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what I was expecting. Instead of an exploration of post apocalyptic England devoured by ice, we see a British couple try to make their way in Africa after the extreme weather hits home. The British pound has zero value after the country is devastated and the new immigrants from the north find themselves treated with the same condescending and racist manner from their African hosts that they had once applied to their former colonial citizens. This is Great stuff that's way ahead of its time f ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
After I read The Death of Grass six years ago I was blown away. But I didn't go on to read anything else by him; there didn't seem to be much else still in print. But when browsing the local bookshop the other day, my eye was was caught by the striking covers on the Penguin Worlds series which included a reprint of "The World in Winter". I had to pick it up.

This is another piece of apocalyptic fiction where we witness the collapse of society, this time because of a reduction in energy coming fro
May 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a difficult book for me to review, not only because it is a disturbing story but I also can't decide if it is prescient or whatever the opposite of that would be.

The story of how the world reacts to a new Ice Age starting is very reminiscent of the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow except that it is British and was written 30 years before the film came out. There is one scene where American refugees break down the border fence to get into Mexico that was very similar to scenes in the book
Mediocre, myopic post-apocalyptic novel.
Altered solar radiation leads to mini-ice age in northern climates. England becomes arctic. We follow 3 upper middle-class Brits as they flee to Africa. In a nice touch, Christopher has these wealthy Brits becoming the servants and concubines of their formerly colonized Africans.
Too much time is spent on the uninteresting relations of the 4 main characters (upper-class sexual meanderings: dull reading in the 21st century). Not enough (close to zero)
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this re-release of this SF-novel a few weeks ago, during the sales of an English bookshop in Brussels, Belgium. In other words, were it not priced lower, I probably would not have bought it, or not immediately.

The premise looked interesting: climate-fiction (cli-fi) in vein of e.g. Kim Stanley Robinson and others. See, for example, his Science in the Capital trilogy. Winter is extending its tentacles in northern Europe and America. As hell freezes over, because the sun is giving off less
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Essentially The Death of Grass but with snow instead of a disease that kills grass. The whole thing reads like the worst nightmare from the world of The Daily Mail, white people subservient to black people?! Swingers?! Shock after shock just keeps on coming for the upper middle class softies.
Stephen Curran
May 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
An odd one. The first part is a domestic drama, with trivial affairs and betrayals playing out in 1960s London while, in the background, a severe decline in the heat emitted from the sun causes society to incrementally unravel. Part two takes place in Africa, where our protagonist, along with the wronged wife of his friend, flees to take advantage of the hotter climate, but finds himself subjected to the same humiliations and disadvantages that black men suffered in his own country. Part three s ...more
Jedediah Smith
The most anemic, gutless, milquetoast protagonist I have ever read in this genre. I thought maybe this would be the guiding motif of the novel: the spreading cold of the northern hemisphere and its peoples, the loss of emotional heat, a Nietzschean disdain for the loss of will...but no, it never goes anywhere. Competent prose, and not much else.
John Christopher, as always, is great for an engaging sci-fi potboiler you burn through in a couple of days. This one’s an apocalyptic story about a calamitous weather event causing a new ice age which renders the northern latitudes inhospitable, similar to the film The Day After Tomorrow, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s also Christopher’s most nakedly political book, but discussing that will involve spoiling the entire plot, so duck out now if you want to read it.

Scene: London in the early 1960s.
S.P. Oldham
May 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Hodder
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Where the so-called “cozy catastrophe” is concerned, John Christopher falls midway between John Wyndham and J. G. Ballard. With Wyndham, his characters witness and survive, with Ballard they internalise and transform, but with John Christopher they experience and endure. I love all three authors, but JC is the one who most makes me invest in his protagonists. In THE WORLD IN WINTER, Andrew Leedon is an ordinary guy who finds himself caught up with unfaithful friends, unpredictable women, and a n ...more
Peter Tillman
A good short novel of a new Ice Age returning to the UK. You can read summaries in the first couple of reviews nearby. I'd had a copy unread for years and was getting ready to cull it, and I'm glad I read it first. Well-done and well-written, although the Nigerian Hovercraft expedition to icy London stretched my WSOD to the breaking point. Up to then, a 4-star novel.

The best review here is Aaron's,
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Christopher is probably best remembered for The Tripods books, but he did write two particularly good adult science fiction stories. The first was The Death of Grass, and the second was The World In Winter. Written in the 50s it's a bit old fashioned by today's standards, but if you like John Wyndham's books then you'll probably enjoy John Christopher's too. ...more
Kathleen O'Nan
Good, solid SF about climate change taking us to the new Ice Age. Africa becomes the desired place to live but Africans are not prepared to be prey again. Racism is explored in an interesting way when European whites become the minority servant class and are treated much the way they'd treated blacks in the past. This is the first book I've read by Christopher but not the last. ...more
John Wiltshire
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an odd and disturbing dystopian tale. The plot is relatively simple. The Northern Hemisphere (this is set in England, where London is the focus) goes cold. Permanent new Ice Age. Inhabitants of these new cold climes flee south, many to Nigeria (ex-Colonial connections). Life in Nigeria for the English is terrible. One goes home.
So why did I find this so disturbing? I think my main problem with this book is that it is set in the early 1960s, and is thus detailing a period of my own lifeti
Imagine a natural disaster causes you must leave everything behind, fleeing your home for a foreign land where you are unwanted and treated like a second class citizen by law. Your prior training and work experience is ignored and you are only allowed to perform subservient jobs for a fraction of going salaries. The only housing you can afford is substandard and lacks utilities. And you are separated from your children and wife who has become a mistress of a wealthy man for survival. Pretty rele ...more
Daren Kearl
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Judging from some of the negative reviews on here and my pre-conceptions of this novel before reading it, I think many readers were expecting some sort of The Day After Tomorrow sci-fi adventure but the Ice Age scenario is simply a means to make white Europeans refugees. In a complete topsy-turvy to current climate change where we are getting hotter temperatures and peoples from the equator will need to probably re-locate north and south, The World in Winter sees the British displaced and having ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
An intriguing sci-fi classic from 1962, with many parallels to things going on now, such as climate change and economic and political growth of post-colonial countries, but also some endearing anachronistic anomalies e.g. Woolworths, Lyons Tea Houses, non-digital communications (but it is presumably set in the 'not too-distant future'). Feminism and Racial Equality movements still had a way to go too, which is evident in how many of the characters are treated and the language used, but this stil ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Disturbingly realistic portrayal of our world entering a new ice age. The science is believable, the process well thought out and the characters are so real, so well-constructed, I became thoroughly involved with their lives.

The added element of the race role-reversal -as those in the Northern hemisphere are forced to relocate to the warmer equatorial regions- was fascinating and brutally understandable. It is awkward to read casual 60s racism, including certain 'N' words, but at the same time i
Mark Woods
Feb 02, 2021 rated it liked it
A post-apocalyptic novel from almost half a century ago, this book eerily predicts an oncoming ice age due to environmental climate changes.
One couple flee London for Africa, but eventually find themselves returning to a very different home than the one they left behind.
This book is an all too often overlooked piece of classic science fiction that focuses not so much on the science, but more on the main two characters and how they are directly affected by this sudden upheaval to their lives.
It i
Dan Coxon
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this. I was a huge fan of Christopher/Youd's children's fiction when I was young, and it's great to see that his adult novels don't disappoint. While this has dated poorly in a few places - some of the racial attitudes in particular suffer from this, as noted by Hari Kunzru in his introduction - the story doesn't suffer too much from it. The third act in particular is beautifully realised and enthralling from start to finish - if anything, I'd have hoped for more of that. A re ...more
Mike Clarke
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
White flight: from the fingers that typed The Death of Grass comes an apocalyptic tale of global cooling, cataclysm and death. Comforting stuff in these times when you can see the army manoeuvring as a precursor to quelling civil unrest that may result when the brandy and paracetamol run out after Brexit. If the middle and end aren’t quite as gloomily captivating as the beginning, it’s still got a prophetic haar lingering, and feels right for these days. Suddenly, Lagos has never looked so appea ...more
Joachim Boaz
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full review:

"Although known for his famous young adult Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), John Christopher produced a substantial corpus of science fiction works for older readers — most notably, the post-apocalyptical tale No Blade of Grass (1956). The Long Winter (1961), one of Christopher’s lesser known works, is on the surface another post-apocalyptical novel [...]"
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, gcc-library
Interesting take on a post colonial world, written at a time when African nations beginning to assert their independence from European powers. It touches on the prevailing attitudes on races in the British Empire and on the ethnic divisions of nations within nations, although not prescient of how horrific an issue that became in many cases.

If there are lessons for today they are that past glories are no indicator of future success and that you reap what you sow.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Novel about the interesting relationship between a man, his ex-wife, one of the guy she cheated on him with, the former's wife, and a friend. The themes of social codes in couples, friendship and racism are explored with different angles.

The entire post-apocalyptic setting is made irrelevant past the point of the basic action that throws the main character into the story, which subsequently doesn't feel like it's going anywhere up until the very end.
Klaas Roggeman
Jan 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi, read2018
Interesting, though flawed science fiction novel from 1962. With the current harsh winter in some parts of the world it seems especially apt. The flaws have mainly to do with some racist undertones. The best thing about science fiction is the ideas that are put forward and in this, this book very much delivers.
Eric Secrist
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good one. Well-written, interesting and thought-provoking. The book is more about relationships, race, and human nature than science fiction. The state of the world and especially London is really secondary to the characters. The book is the first I have read from John Christopher. I will probably read another of his books soon.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: popfiction
This book left a very strong impression on me as a kid, as it might have, since I was living in Africa and it imagined a scenario where Africa turned the tables on its old tormentor Europe!

But apart from that aspect the relationships were also interesting, with their love triangles and subtle drama. I believe this is the first place where I saw reference to the play "Tristan und Isolde."
Andy Ritchie
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In much the same way as he did in The Death of Grass, John Christopher again manages to overlay the personal on top of the apocalyptic to great effect.
And there's a stark, uncontrived believability about the main character's change in fortunes, both in love and in the rapid collapse of society which is matched by the subtle tables-turned colonial overtones.
In short, a cracker!
John Ryan
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Ridiculously racist, but reads very well in context of brexit and the last UK election. The glimpse into the diseased colonial brain was probably the best of the novel, but the emotional through line of Arthur and Maddie's relationship was unexpected and welcome in context of how cold British sci fi can come off. ...more
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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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