Thommy Ford Reads

A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

The third novel from the Library of America’s new anthology American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s (SF American)

In the upcoming weeks I’ll be reviewing each of these nine novels. The books are available in our SF section, and further materials about them are available at the Library of America’s website.

Len Colter and his cousin Esau are New Mennonites. They’re raised in a post-apocalyptic America in which cities can no longer exceed a population of 1,000 and technology is the ultimate taboo. Fueled by the pre-destruction stories of their nonagenarian grandmother and sparked by the ritual stoning of a man who dared to use a radio, Len and Esau embark on a nation spanning search for a mythic city supposed to preserve the old technological way of life.

Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow is a step above most of the post-apocalyptic literature of the ’50s and ’60s. For one, it’s perfectly paced. The Colter cousins’ adventurous journey holds our attention and is, at the same time, laden with carefully constructed incidents meant to reveal their subtly changing attitude towards science and technology. Plus, at a time when science fiction produced one cardboard character after another, Brackett’s are all fully fleshed-out and develop realistically, while the ideas they seem to embody are never over simplified.

Sure, the novel lacks some color (it is, after all, set in an Amish future), and can’t match the strangeness and gonzo spirit of the other eight books it’s anthologized with, but the power of it’s ideas is enough to make it stand out. Even now, six decades after it was first published and with cold war anxiety a distant memory, it’s a novel that will make you think and probably push you to question some of your beliefs.

Highly recommended for readers of SF and dystopias, and wouldn’t seem too out of place on a shelf with Huxley and Orwell.

Review by Matthew

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2012 by in Book Review, Fiction, Science Fiction and tagged , , .
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