The Death Of Grass by John Christopher
People like to daydream about the end of the world, and about the preparations they would make. Right? It’s not just me? That’s what post-apocalyptic fiction is, and why it’s so enjoyable to read about how other people survive, or learn about how they don’t. In The Death Of Grass, it’s the end of the world in 1950s Britain thanks to massive crop failures, but the story is so simple and powerful, and still so relevant it could happen today, that it’s unsettling to read about how quickly things fall apart.
I found the ending especially chilling, not for how fast civilization crumbles, but for how little it is implied that civilization actually means. Is humanity such a thin veneer that we can assume or discard it’s mask just by crossing a threshold?
At first the virus wiping out grass and crops is of little concern to John Custance. It has decimated Asia, causing mass starvation and riots, but Europe is safe and a counter-virus is expected any day. Except, it turns out, the governments have been lying to their people. When the deadly disease hits Britain, society starts to descend into barbarism. As John and his family try to make it across country to the safety of his brother’s farm in a hidden valley, their humanity is tested to its very limits.