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The Death of Grass

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  7,383 ratings  ·  641 reviews
The Chung-Li virus has devastated Asia, wiping out the rice crop and leaving riots and mass starvation in its wake. The rest of the world looks on with concern, though safe in the expectation that a counter-virus will be developed any day. Then Chung-Li mutates and spreads. Wheat, barley, oats, rye: no grass crop is safe, and global famine threatens.

In Britain, where green
Paperback, 222 pages
Published May 26th 1982 by Sphere (London) (first published 1956)
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Lippy I'm ready to barricade the house and garden, stock pile beans and dog food.....I get my hands on a few guns and a cross bow....regardless of when this…moreI'm ready to barricade the house and garden, stock pile beans and dog food.....I get my hands on a few guns and a cross bow....regardless of when this book was written, the basic human instincts are to survive at all costs! (less)
Shelley Death of Grass is the UK version, the American version was titled No Blade of Grass.

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
”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.”

 photo RedRice_zps5c821a32.jpg
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 s
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
Susan Budd
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Death of Grass is not a feminist novel, but it can be read as one. It teaches a lesson that half the world already knows: When society breaks down, it’s going to be worse for you if you’re a woman. I don’t think John Christopher set out to make this point, but he made it anyway.

John Custance is the main character and the novel charts his growth as the leader of a little band of survivors trying to reach the safety of his brother’s farm. But it is not John who interests me. It is the women.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, lit

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 charac
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Paul E. Morph
One of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read, all the more so because the events portrayed could be just around the corner. A decidedly chilling book for my last novel of 2019.
Aug 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF fans, fans of dystopian novels, sociologists
Shelves: 3-star-enjoyment
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
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
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
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
Sep 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Rebecca McNutt
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book offers a frightening prospect, as well as an eye-opening view of human nature and a post-apocalyptic environment. The Death of Grass was well-written, vivid and haunting, with complex characters and a strange, original plot.
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I am so angry with this book. I was drawn into the story, the first half was probably some of the more terrifying end of the world stuff I have read. Leave it to the English and the whole stiff upper lip and tightening of the belts. THEN it changed. I get things were going to get rough. But I began to have some major issues with how things were proceeding. I kept trying to say, Jennifer it was published in the 50's, but that just didn't work. I could not forgive it. I shall list the reasons why. ...more
Dec 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Great premise: grass dying and hence our food, and a famine leads to the unravelling of society. It’s been compared to Lord of the Flies and just like with Lord of the Flies I wasn’t a fan of the execution.

It’s a male power fantasy. Once laws are a thing of the past, the man is in charge and can kill his wife then take a teenager as his new wife the next day. Okay?

Everyone suddenly felt the need to randomly (and unnecessarily) rape and kill. Basically over night. I do believe society can unrav
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
May 20, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

At first this book was amusing, then it quickly descended into absolute filth.
If you have a list of classics aging badly, this book should take the crown. What was the point?

John Christopher: Humans are morally reprehensible creatures. Not giving Mother Nature her due

Reader: Well Yes but...

JC: TERRIBLE TERRIBLE I SAY!! Hmm should write a book about this.

Reader: John your characters seem to have no nuance. Everyone is just terrible for the sake of being terrible

Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fa
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disturbing and at times deeply depressing novel about how quickly the veneer of civilisation disappears when a catastrophe strikes. This book is widely regarded as a classic and is often compared with novels such as Day of the Triffids (which I read last year) and Lord of the Flies (which I really must get around to reading soon). However, I felt it also had a resonance with the recent film Interstellar - this is the part that the film never really got around to exploring, being too busy trave ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
E. G.

--The Death of Grass
Lee Osborne
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some years ago, I read Empty World, another of Christopher's post-apocalyptic novels, and I loved it. I heard about this one and really wanted to read it, but it's been largely out of print for some time, and quite hard to get hold of. I was very pleased to spot a copy on the shelf of my local library.

The Death of Grass was one of Christopher's early successes, and it's bit of a pioneer in the world of post-apocalyptic fiction. The plot revolves around a virus that destroys all grass-related pla
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Martin Belcher
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
I'll be honest, I picked this up solely because of the title and do you know what? I was not disappointed. I love stories like this, that have an element of the possible and that result in nature showing humanity that we really are not the ones in charge after all (kinda morbid and a little twisted I know but what can I say, human arrogance really annoys me). Not only did this appeal to my inner horror fan but also my outer ecologist as the science of how the virus mutated and spread was well wr ...more
Oct 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
(first review, be gentle)

It's a good idea on how fragile our 'civilized' societies are, and I don't doubt that ordinary, polite middle-class British folks would stoop to violence and murder to survive, but I don't agree they would jump to doing it so quickly, and in such cold blood. Most of the male characters turn into hard, calculating automatons half-way through the novel, abandoning all civilized morals overnight almost.

And, being written in 1950s Britain, there's the usual sexism and racism
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