First up! Apologies for the slightly tardy post – this was supposed to go up on Wednesday night but life events and pints got in the way… Oops?
Remember “The Empire Strikes Back”? Yeah? Well, Leigh Brackett worked on that screenplay…. and “The Big Sleep” and a ton of other stuff…
“The Long Tomorrow” is set in the U.S.A. around two generations on from a global nuclear war that wiped out most of the world’s great cities. Needless to say, consumerist pig-dogs like myself didn’t fare too well in the immediate aftermath – what with the lack of 24 hr Spars and all that – and religious sects who practiced abstinence from modern technology have risen to dominance. Only the pensioners remember a life of chocolate bars, television and risqué attire.
Len and Esau, two cousins, grew up in this back-to-basics world in a New Mennonite settlement called Piper’s Run. Outsiders are rare, scientific knowledge is kept to a minimum and creative or independent thought is positively discouraged by way of public canings and the occasional lynch-mob. Rebelling against this restrictive environment Len and Esau begin a long quest for the fabled last city, Bartorstown, a place that is barely whispered about.
Throughout the novel, Len struggles to find purpose and has an uncomfortably mixed reaction when confronted with the science that he so craved. This is a slow burning study of society and small town psychology that takes no prisoners when unmasking Len’s hopes and dreams for a scientifically utopian life. There are a couple of elements of the novel that I particularly enjoyed – the almost anthropomorphic relationship that “The Machine”, a giant computer, has with its township and the lead up and suspense around Len’s final decision. I did not like the portrayal of the female characters within the novel, who came across as whiny, immature and willfully seductive. However, I don’t really know if Brackett was trying to make a point about women’s roles in society here, as both of the girls had attempted to rebel against both their scientific and religious “prisons”, or if she’s just better at writing from a male perspective. Judge for yourself when you read it!
I would probably recommend this to anyone to be honest and I don’t think you particularly need to be into science fiction to appreciate Brackett’s characters. A good read from an interesting author – Thumbs up I say! 🙂