Once you have read this tale, it stays with you forever. I have already read this book many times and was concerned that my copy was beginning to fall apart, which is why I ordered this one. I much prefer the cover on my old copy, which gives a hint of what the old man saw in the ice. I just wish Mr Monsarrat had developed the story a little further, although perhaps it is the mystery which keeps the reader interested. It is a story which holds your interest from the start and you actually care for the character of the old man - how many of us have told the truth about something only not to be believed? Not your run of the mill science fiction, but a story which makes you believe that the old man really did have a glimpse of the past, whether it is our past or not is the intriguing point of the whole tale. Beautifully written by a consummate storyteller, this is a book to be read again and again.
I have wanted to re-read this for years as it left a lasting impression on me when I was young.. The subject is becoming more timely again with the world becoming dangerous. Maybe civilisations have come and disappeared for hundreds of thousands (millions)? of years and some didn't include humanity. Wiped out by floods, meteors or wars.
Between 1962 and 1965 four short Monsarrat novels were published under the working title 'Signs of the Times'. Each of them was succinctly dramatizing an issue, either personal or general, weighing upon men's minds in the mid-Twentieth Century.
"The time before this" is the first part of the series. Had Monsarrat been focusing on the story and fleshed it out more the result would have been a thrilling science fiction drama. However, he wanted to bring a message across, and this curious book with little more than 100 pages was (and is) enough to do just that.
Against the backdrop of men's possible annihilation by a nuclear conflict, this book would have been perceived as grave and alarming when first published.
Monsarrat writes that "we may be growing too proud and too greedy for the world's good". In times of a global financial crisis, climate change and global warming, "The time before this" is just as valid and important as it would have been in the 1960s. I couldn't put this book down. Only four stars though because I would have loved to read more.