Sunday, September 1, 2013

After London or, Wild England (Richard Jeffries)

After London or, Wild England
Richard Jeffries
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Sci-Fi
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Centuries ago, the ancients ruled the Earth by land, sea, and sky. Their buildings reached to the clouds. Their science cured disease. Countless miracles and wonders were the stuff of everyday life. Then, at the very apex of their civilization, came the fall. Few relics survive of those times, and fewer records.
In the years since, the wilderness that they had tamed rose up to reclaim the lands. People slowly began rebuilding their lives, falling back into the brutal ways of constant warfare and slavery, with only those of high birth permitted to learn the art of reading. In this world, true thinkers and explorers are few and far between, their talents ridiculed by a populace that considers brute force or clever alliance the only worthwhile measures of a man.
Felix Aquila, son of an eclipsed Baron, knows he's different. He never took much interest in the martial arts, like his brother, nor does he care for the games of courtly intrigues that elevate his peers in the eyes of the Prince. His lack of prospects makes his love of Aurora, daughter of a nearby noble, all the more hopeless; she may profess her love of him, but her father's political ambitions will never condone a marriage to a young man of so little influence. But Felix's studies of the ancients have given him a keen and curious mind. To seek his fortune and make his mark, he sets forth to explore the vast, uncharted Lake that covers much of southern England since the fall of the ancients.

REVIEW: I had high hopes for this book. The first third or so, explaining the world that arose from the ashes of our fallen civilization, drug now and then, but was overall fascinating, a speculation (if a somewhat dated one) of what animals might survive, what cultures might arise, and how the very landscape would react to the devastation of its primary distorter, modern humans. It would've made for a great basis for an RPG, actually, setting up the geographical and political landscape a player would have to navigate. Then the story abruptly shifts from an overview to a narrative... one that repeats much of what the overview already told the reader, only filtered through a dull omniscient point of view. The earlier part, therefore, becomes a spoiler for the latter, as the chronicles were written well after Felix's adventures on the Lake. Felix himself makes an uninteresting main character. Moody and judgmental and repeatedly oblivious to obvious problems, he mopes and trudges dully through an adventure that theoretically became nearly legendary in his world. Aurora, like many females in elder-day books (and a depressing number of modern ones), is nothing but a stained glass image of a woman, a lovely work of art to gaze upon, full of holy light, but ultimately thin and transparent and hardly even human in her seeming perfection. More than once, the story stops dead in its tracks for pages on end while the narrative natters on about this irrelevant detail or that unrelated point of interest. And then it ends, leaving both Felix and the reader in the middle of nowhere.
I tried to make allowances for the age of the book (this being a public domain work, originally published in 1885.) Given its age, it read remarkably like a more modern work; I didn't have to struggle as much as I have with some classics. It also had some interesting speculations, at least at first, about a post-apocalyptic world. But those speculations were wasted twice over, in a book that not only told its story twice, but actively sabotaged itself.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Remnants: The Mayflower Project (K. A. Applegate) - My Review
The Transall Saga (Gary Paulsen) - My Review
The Time Machine (H. G. Wells) - My Review

No comments:

Post a Comment