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Deluge (Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction Series) [Paperback]

Sydney Fowler Wright , Brian Stableford

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Book Description

13 Aug 2003 Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction Series
First published in 1927, Deluge is one of the most famous of the English catastrophe novels. Beautifully written and action packed-RKO Radio Pictures even filmed this story-the novel depicts a flood so severe that it destroys modern civilization, leaving the few survivors to adapt to the rigors of the natural world. Like other English writers responding to the trauma of World War I, Sydney Fowler Wright expresses a loathing of the worst aspects of industrialization. The flood, in his view, becomes an opportunity for the remaking of society. The protagonists soon realize that civilization and technology have divorced them from the knowledge and skills necessary for survival. Released from their over-reliance on social regulation, they struggle to overcome their own brutality to develop a new sense of community. For over 75 years readers have praised this book for its style and wisdom, and debated the meaning of its controversial ending. This Wesleyan edition is graced with an excellent introduction and annotations by leading science fiction scholar Brian Stableford. "Stableford's edition presents a significant 20th-century text with a definitive frame of scholarship, and could serve as a linchpin for the study of British Fiction of the interwar years."-John Clute, co-author of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction "The real value of this edition lies in Brian Stableford's extensive and informed introduction and notes-he is among the most knowledgeable and meticulous scholars in the science fiction field."-Gary K. Wolfe, author of Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy

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"Stableford's edition presents a significant 20th-century text with a definitive frame of scholarship, and could serve as a linchpin for the study of British Fiction of the interwar years." -- John Clute, co-author of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

About the Author

SYDNEY FOWLER WRIGHT (1874-1965) wrote science fiction, poetry, biography, detective novels, short stories and translations. BRIAN STABLEFORD is Lecturer in Creative Writing at King Alfred's College Winchester and author of Scientific Romance in Britain (1985). He also translated Lumen (Wesleyan, 2002).

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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Natural Apocalyptic story 16 Jan 2005
By T. bailey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a Natural Apocalyptic story.

Sequal is Dawn by S. Fowler Wright (1929)

"'Deluge' is an archetypal disaster story in which a geographical upheaval causes the greater part of Britain to sink beneath he sea, turning the Chilterns into an archipelago of tiny islands. The hero plays a key role in helping to restore some semblance of social order out of the violent anarchy which follows. The book is a direct ancestor of the similarly structured novels which John Wyndham and John Christopher wrote in the 1950s. The story was continued in a sequel, 'Dawn' (1929 in the US; 1930 in the UK), but a projected third volume was never written. Because so many copies were printed, the US edition of 'Deluge', published by Cosmopolitan, is much more common than the relatively scarce Fowler Wright edition, while Cosmpolitan's edition of 'Dawn' is also easier to find than the later UK edition."

"Film rights to his novel 'Deluge' (1927), which he printed himself some seven years after writing it, were sold to Hollywood, and the US edition of the novel then became a bestseller."

"He is a collectible author both here and in the USA, and the recent rediscovery of the film version of 'Deluge' - which had been thought lost save for the often used special effects footage of the inundation of New York - may help to re-ignite interest in his work. (The film was screened in some USA cinemas in 1994, but has not yet been shown in the UK.)"
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1920s Scientific Romance 24 Jan 2008
By Dave_42 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Deluge" by Sydney Fowler Wright is another book in the Early Classics of Science Fiction series, the excellent series from Wesleyan University Press. Deluge was first published in 1927, and falls into the category of Scientific Romances which experienced a revival between the two World Wars, largely due to Sydney Fowler Wright's novels (The Amphibians, which later became part of the larger work The World Below, and Deluge) as well as his short fiction.

Deluge is an early example, if not the earliest, of a disaster story in which most of the civilized world is wiped out by the land slipping beneath the waves after a series of tremors and is about the fate of civilization for those who remain through the eyes of a few key characters. To the modern reader, the science of the disaster is poor, and his description of the chaos and lawlessness of those who survive probably errs on the side of civility, but as those points are not the point of the story they are easily set aside for those who are interested in this work as part of the history of the genre.

The story is centered on three main characters: Martin, Helen, and Claire. Martin and Helen are married at the time of the disaster, but become separated in such a way as to make them think that the other has died. Claire is on her own, but is victimized by men until she uses her own athletic ability to escape by swimming until she is fortunate enough to find land. Her escape results in her being found by Martin, who has created a safe living place for himself within some caves. However, a group of people who live by taking from the weak are in the area, and ultimately they are found and Helen captured. Martin then performs a rescue and the two find themselves trapped in Martin's caves.

During this time Helen has found safety in a community of people, though their law would give her as the wife to the man who has rescued her, she has become convinced that Martin is still alive and his debt to her husband keeps him from taking her as his wife until he can prove to her that Martin is not still alive. This results in his searching the known land for Martin and ultimately rescuing Martin and Claire, though not until Martin has agreed to take Claire as his wife. Martin, because of his status prior to the disaster as a respected lawyer, is given leadership over the community that has rescued him, and they return in time to rescue the rest of the community from yet another group of men, this time a militant group lead by a self-appointed military man. This results in an end dilemma for Martin and Helen and Claire, which is only partially resolved, in a somewhat surprising fashion, as the intent was for the story to continue in sequels, of which one was published (Dawn) in 1929.

The story touches on a number of themes, including commenting on how fragile civilized society is and the differences between classes in the society of the time. Sydney Fowler Wright wrote without deciding how his stories would end, and this was a method which really works for his style of writing. The story flows easily, and one is not left with a clear cut well-defined ending and that is all to the better. The decisions he makes regarding how man carries on and forms a new society would probably not have come about if he had come up with an ending before writing the story.

Overall, the story has dated a bit, and one could certainly criticize the ending as being sexist, though I personally would not go so far. Instead, I would say it is a product of its time. The period between the World Wars was one of uncertainty, and this is reflected in the disaster theme as individuals are forced to try to survive circumstances which are completely outside their control. The open-ended nature of the ending, though meant to be filled with sequels (one was published), also suits this aspect of the time.

As with most of the Early Classics of Science Fiction series, this edition benefits greatly from the supporting material. Brian Stableford provides an outstanding introduction which covers Sydney Fowler Wright's life and writings and puts it all in context with regards to the period in which he lived. There are also very good notes for those who want more information. This is another very strong entry in the series.
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