Imagine Chevy Chase’s Vacation where Clark W. Griswold isn’t a dumbass, and he and the fam are being chased across the country by hijackers, murderers, and rapists. In England.
Initially published in the UK as The Death of Grass, John Christopher’s 1956 novel tells the story about how a catastrophic food shortage caused by a plant virus plays out amongst humanity in general and two wealthy brothers with a close relationship in particular.
Essentially, wealthy City Brother discusses the growing problem of the famine with wealthy Country Brother who lives on the family estate out in the sticks. They agree that if things continue progressing, society will collapse and City Brother will get out of Dodge with his family and head for the family estate.
When the shit hits the fan, City Brother and family head for the hills. They are forced to run several gauntlets along the way: some successfully; some decidedly not so.
Along the way, City Brother manages to accumulate some decent folk who band together with him for safety in numbers. By the time they reach the family estate, they are a small army twenty or thirty in number who have battled and overcome many threats together and have formed close bonds as a result.
You see where this is going, right?
City Brother and Country Brother meet outside the walls of the estate which now houses all of the people the Country Brother banded with to provide shelter and food in exchange for their help in defending the estate against marauders. Of course, they all see City Brother’s group as said marauders.
Country Brother tells City Brother he and his family can come in, but the rest of the group will have to go. City Brother explains that they fought together and saved each other’s lives, and that means something. Country Brother points out he already has a large group he can’t feed.
Thus, drama ensues. The tragedy of it all is that the circumstances setting brother against brother are not driven by envy, ambition, or any real character flaw. The brothers love each other and are, generally, men of character, and it is this strength of character and loyal support of those who supported them in their respective times of need that have put them, ironically, at odds with each other.
So the story is strong. It was made into a film in the early 1970s named after the American title of the novel, No Blade of Grass. Technically…the movie ain’t great, but the story still is, and to their credit the movie makers preserve the story elements that make it compelling and this, surprisingly, makes the movie watchable and interesting if not a great movie.
While it contains all of the horrifying bits accompanying societal collapse–murder, rape, extended road trip with family–it also cleverly demonstrates how intra-family rivalry (and worse) can and often has developed throughout history to change the course of families, clans, and dynasties.
Disclaimer: I read the novel 20 years ago, and saw the shitty movie last week, so some novel and story elements may be mixed-up in the above. Guess you’ll have to check out both.
But it’s the Coronapocalypse. What else you got to do?