Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chill factor

I've just fired up the stove - piled it high with kindling and hawthorn logs - and am waiting for the warmth to kick in. It's been a dreary old day with little to recommend it. Clouds akin to grey flannel drape the hills. Things drip. Damp pheasants hunker down in the hedge bottom keeping out of the drizzle, emerging only for a desultory peck at anything green that grows (damn them). The killer sheep in the field across the lane nibble their way across the field and back. (It's difficult to say if they notice their surroundings at all.) Shortly after four o'clock the hens go to roost and I light the fire.

Fond as I am of the Long Mountain's low and rolling contours, clefts, humps and dingles, I have to admit this season does not show it in the best light. Extremes I think are good; hottestcoldestblowyfreshgreenicesnow - whiteover..........whatever.

I have been reading - courtesy of The Eyechild - John Christopher's 'The World in Winter'.

I'm not a great fan of Sci-Fi - my inability to suspend belief perhaps - but having run out of other words to read it was this or nothing. First published in 1962 - this Penguin edition dates from '63 - this novel is the story of an arctic winter ushering in a contemporary Ice Age and, as the blurb says 'a cold cold nightmare'. 'Solar radiation decline' brings permafrost to the northern hemisphere and London's familiar cityscape becomes one of ice and privation where society as we know it has broken down. Think frozen Thames, ice floes beyond Tower Bridge and omnipresent thuggery. Scary. Brrr. A recognisable London appears to be populated by 4 named people and 'the mob beyond The Pale'. Refuge is sought in Africa - Nigeria - from where, eventually, a sort of reverse expeditionary force sets out to England - in erm, a fleet of hovercrafts.

It's a bit of a period piece - lots of smoking - and its characters more than a little two dimensional, naively and literally black and white. It's uncomfortable reading in these post colonial, multicultural times.

The notion of cold weather being the enemy sends - no pun intended - a chill through me though. There's nothing we can do about the elements is there? They are ultimately all-powerful - as anyone who has watched a little stream become a raging torrent will testify. This winter when the world outside gets a little cold and crispy, white all over, I shall be looking out of my window with a frisson of unease. Just in case.

PS Did covers get better than this, by Bruce Robertson for Penguin Books? Simple, stylish and understated. A lovely bit of design.


Diary Farmer said...

Sorry to hear that you ran out of words to read. D could have emailed some of her's to you!!

Totty Teabag said...

Nothing to read? Get your priorities right Missus; books before bread every time! I agree with you about the Penguin cover; my copy is a 1978 Sphere paperback edition and has a very uninspiring image of the Post Office Tower covered in icicles. Now that I have got it down off the shelf, I shall read it again and then decide if it is worth putting back on the shelf, or if it should be stored elsewhere for use an an emergency heat source...

The Eyechild said...

Women don't like science fiction – Fact. To be fair, the manly world of science fiction is mostly about things and ideas, rather than people, so characterisation often suffers. I didn't think this was so bad though.

This story is quite reminiscent of JG Ballard's disaster novels (The Wind From Nowhere, the Drowned Earth). John Christopher went on to write The Tripods, a take on War of the Worlds that was adapted for TV by the BBC.

And yeah, the cover is dope.

L3m0n said...

I agree with eyechild 'the cover is dope', and when perusing second hand book shops i must admit that the buying of a book is helped by its cover, and sometimes the book is just bought for its cover.

I disagree with his comment that women don't like science fiction. totty, (my mother) being a fine example of a women who loves science fiction, but then she'll read anything thats got type on it!

Myself i fall into the "Women don't like science fiction-Fact" sector.

GeraniumCat said...

Women don't like science fiction?! I cut my eye teeth on it. When I was a kid I used to go to the library to select it for my father and me to read.

I haven't read this one, though my sons loved the Tripods. And I agree about Penguin covers - I always buy old Penguin editions when I can.

Fennie said...

Oh I recognise that just having lit the fire scene - do hope it warmed up OK. I don't do sci fi either - never quite seen the point, though I did love Blake's Seven that we all used to watch together when the children were small.

Really grey here. Just been for a walk - windy and wet but quite warm.

Marianne said...

Fires and stoves make winter bearable, the short grey days and long damp nights. A fire and a book are always a winner, better than any party when I'm in the right mood.