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After the Fire 

by John Lockley


From "Recommended Reading:  AFTER THE FIRE"


I've recently been reading John Lockley's novel After the Fire. I've written in my other blog about its treatment of the theme of crises of faith. But it's a richly-woven enough book that it has plenty of other themes that are significant too.

See the full text of Shelly Bryant's review of After the Fire at Recommended Reading.



During the summer, I finally got around to reading a book I’d picked up a few years ago called After the Fire, by John Lockley. I remember the day I bought it, standing at a stall temporarily set up in the middle of a big shopping center, with loads and loads of cheap paperbacks. I read the blurb and thought this looked like just the sort of book I could get into, from one of my favorite subgenres of speculative fiction, the post-apocalypse tale.


The post-apocalypse story focuses on survivors after a period of war, plague, or some similar disaster that wipes out most of humankind. The survivors have to learn to make their way in the new no- or low-tech world, without all the conveniences we’ve become used to. Some of those end up being pretty cheesy, like a lot of the movies that came out during the big Y2K scare. But some can be very insightful. I remember a pair of such books from my growing up days, The Girl Who Owned a City and Lord of the Flies (though Lord of the Flies may not really qualify as post-apocalypse, it serves many of the same functions).


It took a little while for me to get into After the Fire because it seems that the first 100+ pages are all about setting up the scenario. (Though there was some interest there for me, as it reminded me of the SARS scare in the region here a few years ago.) The event seems more important, in the early going, than the characters. After the stage has been set, though, the book begins to focus in on a cast of characters who are going to survive the mess, and we begin to see how they will deal with the new situation in which they find themselves. That’s where it starts to get good. There are many issues explored and discussed, and it makes for a very interesting read because of that.


I liked one repeated argument in the book -- that the knowledge from the pre-plague world wasn’t lost, but was simply not yet accessed by the survivors. Their tenacity in sticking with it and trying to gain the knowledge that was sitting idle in their libraries, bookstores, and so forth, was an interesting problem to follow as it unfolded in the story. I suppose that whole thread fit right in with one of my fundamental values in life (never give up), which happened to be the focus of a lot of attention in my personal life at the same time that I was reading the book.


Another of the themes explored in the story that made it a very interesting read was the problem of people who would rather not fit in to society’s expectations, but insisted on taking from the community all the same. There was the individual anti-social character, a gang of similar people, and a profit-mongering doctor who all played into the development of this theme. From these characters grew an exploration of the role of war, law, and punishment in a healthy functioning society. It didn’t offer all the answers to this sticky set of problems (how could it?), but it did provide a well-thought-out exploration of the issues.


The final big theme that really appealed to me in the novel was the crisis of faith faced by one of the characters. It was a compelling read, as he eventually discovered that his crisis was more about himself than it was the particular tenets of his belief system. I liked that look into the human psyche and its relation to faith.


I’ve loaned the book to several friends since I finished it, and all have enjoyed it as much as I did. It is, apparently, the first book in a trilogy, but I have not been able to locate any of Lockley’s other books yet. After the Fire was a compelling enough read that I will gladly take the time for the rest of the books in the series... as soon as I can get my hands on them.


©2007 Shelly Bryant




From "PC Reading List: AFTER THE FIRE:

I like reading a book that gives me several things to think about at the same time. John Lockley's After the Fire, a book I picked up while rummaging through the "cheap offers" bin at a book sale some years back, turned out to be that sort of book for me.

See the full text at PC Reading List.


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