276 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: February 7, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
From one of the earliest feminist science fiction writers, a novel that envisions the fall of civilization—and the plight of the modern woman in a post-apocalyptic wilderness.
When war breaks out in Europe, British civilization collapses overnight. The ironically named protagonist must learn to survive by his wits in a new Britain. When we first meet Theodore Savage, he is a complacent civil servant, primarily concerned with romancing his girlfriend. During a brief war in which both sides use population displacement as a terrible strategic weapon, Savage must battle his fellow countrymen. He shacks up with an ignorant young woman in a forest hut—a kind of inverse Garden of Eden, where no one is happy. Eventually, he sets off in search of other survivors . . . only to discover a primitive society where science and technology have come to be regarded with superstitious awe and terror. A pioneering feminist, Hamilton offers a warning about the degraded state of modern women, who—being “unhandy, unresourceful, superficial”—would suffer a particularly sad fate in a postapocalyptic social order.
Susan R. Grayzel is Professor of History at Utah State University, where she researches and teaches about modern European history, women's and gender history, the history of the world wars, and war and culture. Her publications in these areas include Women's Identities at War (1999) and At Home and Under Fire (2012). Her latest book is The Age of the Gas Mask: How British Civilians Faced the Terrors of Total War (Cambridge University Press, 2022).
"Prescient both to Hamilton's time and to the current moment of war, plague, and refugee crises, this novel deserves to be rediscovered. Readers will have much to chew on."
“Hamilton always writes forcibly, and her present novel deals with the heart-shaking effects of the next war. It might, indeed, be used as a tract to convey an awful warning. . .”
The Spectator (1922)
“Miss Hamilton has spun so finely with the intimate fibres of human emotion and thought that the whole effect is startlingly real.”
The Bookman (1922)
“Terror falls from the skies, and within a few months England has become a collection of small tribes living separately and brutishly, tilling the soil and building hutments.”
The Fortnightly Review (1924)
“A particularly effective and chilling version of a theme that dominates British speculative fiction between the wars.”
Neil Barron, Anatomy of Wonder, ed.
“Hamilton is one of the first—and among the darkest—of those UK novelists whose vision of things was shaped by WWI, which they saw as foretelling the end of civilization.”
Clute and Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, eds.
“Challenging last century's assumptions about the invulnerability of imperial civilization, Cicely Hamilton's 1922 novel is a grim, swift read—and an argument for pacifism as the first principle of survival.”
Nisi Shawl, Nisi Shawl, author of Everfair and co-author of Writing the Other: A Practical Approach
“Brilliant, nuanced, and deep [….] a terrifying and prescient science fiction novel.”