A while back, I posted a request for suggestions for a good old-fashioned nuclear apocalypse story, and one of the comments pointed me to a book called Aftermath by Roger Williams. I hadn’t ever heard of it, so I started doing some research, and when I saw that it had been described as Threads in print, I knew I had to read it.
I do most of my reading on my Kindle now days, but the book was written in 1982, and was never released electronically, so I had to do it the old-fashioned way and buy a used copy off Amazon. It arrived a few days ago, and it’s fairly short, so I was able to finish it in just a few days worth of lunch-hour reading.
Aftermath follows several groups of survivors after a limited nuclear attack on Great Britain. With bombs going off over London as well as smaller cities across eastern England, the challenges faced range from direct blast effects to dealing with the chaos of bureacratic rules with communication and transportation lines completely severed. I would have preferred it if the different story lines in the book converged or intertwined a bit more, but the way it was written did allow for the author to touch on different aspects of how a society would respond to an attack of this sort.
The story struck me as very realistic, but even so, it wasn’t quite as dark as I had hoped, especially when it has been compared to Threads, which I consider to be the most accurate depiction of the aftermath of a nuclear attack ever made. There was definitely no lack of destruction, suffering or death in the book, but it never reached the level of despair I would expect in such a situation.
Looking back, I wonder if that has to do with the stereotypical British “stiff upper lip” thing. When given warning that an attack was imminent, several characters continued what they were working on, knowing that it would make no difference in the end, and even when faced with piles of bodies, horrible injuries, debilitating sickness, or even their own deaths, there was very little emotion shown. If the story had taken place in the US, I’d definitely expect there to be a lot more weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But even so, it was well worth the read, especially if, like me, you have a particular nostalgia for Cold War era nuclear attack stories, and of course, if you can get your hands on it, which I hope to be able to help with. Stay tuned for more information on that in the week to come.