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A shallow account of nuclear holocaust
on 29 December 2015
I found this interesting but I give more credit to the interesting subject than to the writing itself, which disappointed me in several ways.
Even allowing for the time it was written, the ignorance and naivete the author assumes in his readers is extraordinary. He explains the concept of survival of the fittest and the self preservation instinct as though to a ten-year old. He even explains what a placebo is. The characters in the book are equally ignorant. Even in 1959 people stockpiling food for an apocalypse would have the wit to think that it is better to buy canned food than fresh meat. And when the power went out they would go straight to the freezer to work out how to salvage as much as possible, rather than leave the contents to rot because they forgot that freezers don't work without power.
My final frustration is perhaps a matter of personal taste. I found the generosity, the patriotic spirit, the determination to be fair and civilised through everything, and the conviction that America would win the war and civilisation would be saved, unrealistic. It felt to me that the characters behaved rather too much like The Waltons and not enough like the people in Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
It may help if I give a few examples of the tone:
He said aloud but speaking to himself rather than the others, "survival of the fittest"
"What do you mean?" Lib said.
"The strong survive, the frail die. The exotic fish die because the aquarium isn't heated. The common guppy lives, so does the tough catfish. The house cat turns hunter and eats the [bird] If he didn't, he'd starve. That's the way it is, and that's the way it's going to be."
Florence had stopped crying. "You mean with humans - you mean we humans are going to have to turn savage...Well I can't do it, I don't want to live in that kind of world."
"It couldn't be a sort of epidemic, could it?" Randy asked.
"No it couldn't. Radiation's not a germ or a virus. You can eat or drink radioactive matter... it can fall on you in rain, it can sift down on you in dust or in particles you can't see... But you can't catch it by kissing a girl."
Randy thought how he would feel if someone killed and ate [his dog] He was revolted and yet it was a matter of manners and mores. In China, men for centuries had been eating dogs stuffed with rice. It happened in other meat-starved Asian countries.