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The Death of Grass (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 2 Apr 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 144 customer reviews

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£8.99 FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. Only 13 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141190175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141190174
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'The Death of Grass sticks with commendable perseverance to the surface of the earth we know... John Christopher has constructed an unusually dramatic and exciting tale' Daily Mail 'I know and admire The Death of Grass. It was published at roughly the same time as The Day Of The Triffids. In my judgement, it is by far the better book. The characterisation is better and the mood uniformly cold. It is a thrilling and sensible work' - Brian Aldiss 'Gripping ! of all science fiction's apocalypses, this is one of the most haunting' Financial Times

About the Author

Christopher Samuel Youd was a British writer best known for his science fiction published under the pseudonym John Christopher. His many novels include The Death of Grass and The Possessors. He won the Guardian Prize in 1971 and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1976, Youd also wrote under several other names including Stanley Winchester, Hilary Ford and Samuel Youd.

Robert Macfarlane was born in Nottinghamshire in 1976. He is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times. He is currently working on an illustrated children's book about the natural world in collaboration with illustrator Jackie Morris.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 21 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Having recently read the Tripods books, and discovered others of the author's books, I was keen to try this one.

This is an absolutely brilliant book, of the calibre which I have come to expect from the author of A Wrinkle in the Skin. Once again, the author has taken a situation which to most of us would seem insurmountable and broken it down into a day-by-day narrative of small actions that lead to bigger successes. In a world where grass and all related wheat and rice products can no longer be grown, how does mankind survive? In an England where law and order has broken down and the government plans drastic action to secure survivors, two men try to save their families and retreat to a place of safety far in the North. Along the way they meet people, honourable and dishonourable, and must make harsh and brutal decisions in a world that rapidly spirals out of anyone's recognition.

I had a look at the 1- and 2-star reviews of this book, and found them quite annoying. One reviewer felt that the book failed because it didn't give a breakdown of society's deterioration. No, it didn't - the story was that of one man and his associates, his family and his personal struggle. This is the type of story that John Christopher specialises in; not global broad societal change, but the change that comes to and from within one or two people. That's why the narrative is so gripping, and so demanding of attention.

I think it's important to remember that this book was first published in 1956. The men in the book, as indeed the men of the time in which this was published, had just served by the millions in a World War. They were not unused to the idea of death, of destruction, of survival by the fittest.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read this in my teens quite a long time ago and it must have left an impression on me as I have thought about the book on a few occasions over the years. So I thought it would be interesting to read it for a second time now. Like many book or film revisits they are often not quite as you think they are going to be but it is always important to remember the context and era in which they were depicted. This book was I believe quite innovative for its time and reading it as an adolescent I am sure it did lead to my interest in a good disaster tale, written or acted.

Having said that you really do have to remember it was written in the 50s when you read the stereotypical macho man and little woman roles portrayed here. In addition the way the main man takes to killing seems wrong until you remember that this was written not that long after the Second World War so I guess, faced with disaster, killing might come easier in order to survive but the descent into killing still seems a little rushed.

It is a relatively short book and concentrates more on the effect of the disaster on a few individuals rather than details of the science fiction. I do not think this is the best writing in the world but I do think John Christopher's Death of Grass truly did bring something important to the genre and ahead of its time when you consider modern concerns of GM crops, global warming, viral pandemics etc and so does deserve its place as a modern classic.

I also remember reading A Wrinkle in the Skin by this author and I remember enjoying that even more - I would love to revisit that book too but it doesn't seem to be available on kindle.
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Format: Paperback
...... do we revert to the Year Zero of the Pol Pot era in Cambodia? This novel is perhaps one of the best treatments of the ecological disaster theme, written with both intelligence and a clear understanding of the human condition when faced with life-threatening circumstances.
The storyline starts out with the news that a deadly, resilient plant virus known as the Chung-Li virus has virtually wiped all cereal crops, including rice, in China. Due to an initial Chinese government decision to suppress details of the ensuing famine, the full scale of the disaster is not made known until it is quite too late. Vaccine developed hastily by Western countries proves ultimately to be ineffective and before long, the virus has rapidly spread, reaching Europe including England and wiping out all the cereal crops (with the exception of potatoes) and grass of that particular region. Life in England starts breaking down with catastrophic consequences and the story then focuses on the attempts of the protagonist John Custance, his family and close friends, to reach safety in northern England where his brother has a farm newly set up for potato farming.
Initially the reader may gain the impression of the novel being a THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS clone but as the story progresses, it is clear that this is not the case. Whereas John Wyndham attempted to portray English middle-class values as being the best defence against total societal breakdown, John Christopher provides no such assurances. The transformation of Custance from comfortably middle-class Londoner through a deterioration of personality to that of a feudal clan chieftain is indeed very disturbing and the atmosphere throughout the novel is one of constant potential violence as people prepare to wage war on one another .... for a scrap of food.
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