Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wilson Tucker - The Long Loud Silence

Waking in a dirty, run down hotel, Corporal Gary finds that his drunken binge has left him in a really bad fix. While he slept off the alcohol the United States has been attacked. Nuclear weapons and germ warfare have left the Eastern States of the USA plague ridden and deadly. Desperate to return to his beloved army, Gary finds that the bridges across the Mississippi have been destroyed. The river now forms an internal border, the existence of the plague on the eastern side has left a few survivors, but these are carriers. Should they cross the river they'll spread the disease and decimate the rest of the Americas.

Given this short science fiction novel was written in the early 1950s, it has dated very well indeed. Wilson Tucker has written a short, tight and very readable novel that examines what happens when people are suddenly cut off from their own support networks. The United States government forgets the survivors in the east. When they try and cross into the safe areas they're mercilessly gunned down. But the radio tells stories of another enemy spy prevented from entering.

To say much more would ruin the plot. If you want to get the spoilers, the Wikipedia entry has a fairly comprehensive breakdown of what happens. Tucker portrays a dog-eat-dog world. But one with surprising amounts of human solidarity. Given its early publication date (1952), I was surprised to see a polygamous relationship at one point. Tucker may well have been ahead of the curve when compared to some other SF writers of his era.

One final point. The original story had a darker, bleaker ending according to Wikipedia. Interestingly, given that this barely ends on a positive note, I think I'd have preferred his original one. Wilson Tucker was a new author for me, but one I shall return to on the strength of this novel.

No comments: