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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing for the sake of Living
"The Death of Grass" is John Christopher's best known novel and probably the ultimate disaster story. The world is dying of starvation. Every kind of grass we need for food is being destroyed by a virus, resulting in carnage, anarchy and a rapid descent to barbarism.
In England, now a brown and unpleasant land, two of the principal characters learn of a government...
Published on November 26, 1999 by Greg Hughes

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of Tolkien's Favourites
J R R Tolkien regarded this as one of the better works of science fiction, so I got it to see what he liked in SF. I would say that if Tolkien were alive today, me and him would disagree on what constitutes good science fiction, but that would come down only to a question of personal preference. Who are you going to believe - me or Tolkien?

Still, this book...
Published 19 months ago by D. J. Rout


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing for the sake of Living, November 26, 1999
"The Death of Grass" is John Christopher's best known novel and probably the ultimate disaster story. The world is dying of starvation. Every kind of grass we need for food is being destroyed by a virus, resulting in carnage, anarchy and a rapid descent to barbarism.
In England, now a brown and unpleasant land, two of the principal characters learn of a government plan to depopulate the country. The only way to survive is to escape the hungry mobs and make it to a refuge in the countryside.
Like "Lord of the Flies", this story shows how civilized decency and good manners will easily slip away and expose the brutality within us when faced with a fight for survival.
John Christopher's writing reminds me of John Wyndham, another writer known for his end-of-the-world scenarios. "The Death of Grass" is a frightening story because in the beginning we identify with the people and their normality. As the book progresses the people become something less than human, but in the end we get a glimmer of hope.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it when the world gets it!, August 30, 2005
By 
Jason Harris (Calgary, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
This isn't the latest book I've read but it is probably the best book I have read in a long time. It's a basic end of the world story. Some disease attacks plants of the grass family, eventually spreading across the whole world wiping out a pretty hefty portion of the world's food supply. So with no wheat and no rice things get a little tense, especially when all the livestock starve to death. And so it goes. All of it. And, like all such stories, there is a band of survivors seeking salvation; in this case a brother's natural fortress of a valley farm.
The action isn't particularly quick but I was on the edge of my seat pretty much the whole way through the book. It's not that it is suspenseful (I had figured the general shape of the story early on), it's how so normally some people approach this incredible disaster. Don't get me wrong, Christopher isn't a stilted writer and there are plenty of characters who act just like you would expect people to act in a whole-world-goes-belly-up situation. This story is about what happens when a bunch of people start thinking for themselves calmly and rationally about the titanic heap of crap they are in rather than wait for a festering mob of self-interested politicians to tell them what to do and that everything will be just fine. Then, these people start to act. They start tossing away social 'norms' like smelly old shoes as the situation worsens and brutality means survival. The protagonists don't actually become brutes themselves. They just figure out which brutal actions mean the difference between their next meal and going hungry. That's what kept me on the edge of my seat. The incredible tension that built up within and between characters as they consciously crawled down off the lofty moral peak of Western Civilisation into something less than barbarism, more or less intellectually intact. Christopher's writing delivers this tension right into your core.
Unlike my reviews, Christopher's descriptions aren't peppered with colourful simile and metaphor. They are crystal clear so that you really get the sense of the atmosphere. However, probably because he was writing in 1956, some events are kind of softened with contemporary euphemisms which kind of jolts the reader a little for their incongruity. But, it doesn't detract so much from the book as a whole and it's probably a better book for not having absolutely every detail of those events described with the same clarity as a grassless landscape. I enjoyed this book and will probably read it again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The societal earthquake is the death of grass., October 18, 1999
By 
Irja (Gladstone, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Death Of Grass (Hardcover)
The Death of Grass speaks of how much of our civility in society is hinged to the availability of food, and how a group of Englishmen and women find new order. The emergence of a virus in Asia spreads throughout the world and in its wake upturning the every day pattern life and societal behaviour. The virus attacks monocotyledons, which includes rice, wheat, oats, grass, etc. As not only people, but livestock and other animals are affected. The implications of such a virus are staggering to consider and not that far removed from our current day. The author's grasp on the reader seems as if the book was written today, or reported in a daily newspaper, not of a book written in the 1930's. With the increased scarcity of food, anarchy sets in the cities and hamlets of England. Ordinary citizens form bands looking for a means to feed, clothe and protect their members. There is little love lost and distrust between the groups of nomads that now travel through the lands. Despite the supposed flattening out of the structure of society, leaders, followers, and betrayers emerge as the situation reaches a flash point for our nomadic group. A new order is established and the outcome for our new order entrepreneurs is not expected, but as close to human nature and sibling rivalry as one would prefers not to experience. I had this book, but ironically, it was attacked by mildew and now I am looking to replace the original.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Suffering hits home, Pity is no more, November 15, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Death Of Grass (Hardcover)
I read this book, although of the title _No Blade of Grass_ just recently, and because I always enjoy the author's work.
A virus is affecting grasses. At first only rice in the Far East, and then all grasses. No wheat, no rice, no oats, none of the staple plants needed by man to feed himself and his livestock. Panic strikes the world. A few small families have the hope of a farm on the other side of England, and flee London when they can.
They survive. But how would you change if you were constantly deciding between your own humanity and your family's well-being?
Find the book, and read it. I don't think you will be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When there is nothing to eat but each other..., April 21, 2008
By 
John Christopher (real name Samuel Yowd) writes some pretty gripping science fiction novels about alien invasions (The Tripod trilogy) catastrophic shifts in the earth's weather (The Long Winter) and terrifying tales of the savagery that humans revert to when civilization breaks down (A Wrinkle In The Skin)-- potent stuff indeed. His books share with JG BALLARD a fascination for post-apocalyptic settings but are also psychological character studies about how people change to fit their environments. This book is perhaps Christopher at his starkest and most frightening. A man simply tries to take his family safely out of London to his brother's farm in the North after a genetically engineered bio-weapon gets out of control and wipes out the world's food supply, causing anarchy and chaos to erupt all over the globe.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of Tolkien's Favourites, December 8, 2012
By 
D. J. Rout (Golden Point, Australia) - See all my reviews
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J R R Tolkien regarded this as one of the better works of science fiction, so I got it to see what he liked in SF. I would say that if Tolkien were alive today, me and him would disagree on what constitutes good science fiction, but that would come down only to a question of personal preference. Who are you going to believe - me or Tolkien?

Still, this book is famous in the sub-genre of 'cosy catastrophes' and describes a more brutal, because more far-reaching disaster than <i>Day of the Triffids</i>. Brutality lies just under the surface of every honest Englishman, it seems, and this is a somewhat more plausible viewpoint than John Wyndham's. If anything, it remidns me more of Nevil Shute's <i>On The Beach</i>, not ecaue of the brutality, but because of the dispassionate way that's treated..

Since the book has been out of print for so long, I'd advise anyone interested in British SF to pick this up for a read, but for a good read I'd stick to Wyndham.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not about the darkness, but the light, January 13, 2000
By 
E. Scoles (rochester ny usa) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Death Of Grass (Hardcover)
I read this years ago as _No Blade of Grass_, reissued in a Science Fiction Classics series. While it's set against a doomsday scenario, like most of Christopher's novels it's more concerned with the dynamics of leadership and the basic resiliency of human society at its most basic, small-band level. [Note: This seems to have gotten detached from its subject. The review was for an old John Christopher novel (for adults) that was titled here _The Death of Grass_.]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Think of Walter Tevis or Huxley and you are ready to read this book, February 17, 2014
By 
Of the billions of sci-fi efforts, of the many rockets and apocolyptic takes, John Chrsitopher stands far aprt from the general drivel most offer us. This is a novel whose story teaches us, whose moments move us and whose purpose is clearly running to the philosophical.

The world as we know isn't in great shape and Christopher offers observation and insight, as Walter Tevis does in Mockingbird and The Man Who Fell To Earth, as to what we humans would be like in a future where things aren't anything like they are today. Where Hollywood has provided such pablum as The Day After Tomorrow, Christopher steers well clear of the scientifically ridiculous.

Best known for his Tripods trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire) (and this set is most highly recommended) Christopher lends a voice to the existential and the literary.

If you are still wondering whether or not to buy this book then you haven't been listening: it is a novel whose breadth and worth has lojg been known to readers, particularly in the UK where the author hails from. And I hail this author with a deep appreciation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars end of humanity, November 7, 2013
By 
Joseph A. Corcoran "tkos" (perth, western australia) - See all my reviews
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best doomsday novel ever written bar none such a simple premise but truly belivable and does not pull any punches
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5.0 out of 5 stars From architect to warlord, from citizens to vassals - a reflection on fragility of modern society and all civilization, September 30, 2013
By 
Maciej "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Death of Grass (Paperback)
Although quite old (first published in 1956) and not very long (barely two hundred pages), this is a very good "post-apocalyptic" novel, which didn't age much and still packs an impressive punch.

As the title indicates, the story develops in a time when a deadly virus decimates all kinds of grass on the whole planet - and that includes all the main crops... This causes a worldwide collapse of modern society and this book describes those times in Great Britain, on the example of tribulations of a group of people gathered around an architect named John Custance. The small band travelling through the country to find a safe refuge includes Custance's friend Roger Buckley (a civil servant), a certain Harold Pirrie (a somehow aged gun shop owner - a particularly interesting and important character) and their families.

The story of their trek through a country where all civil order quickly collapses is an excellent study on the fragility of complex and advanced societies when the situation forces people to focus on the most basic priority - physical survival of themselves and their families, at all price, in an extremely hostile environment, in which every error, hesitation and/or weakness means a horrible death. All involved will find in themselves surprising ressources and will do - finally quite easily - things they wouldn't even believe possible barely a week before. The transformation of John Custance and his small tribe during this voyage is almost incredible and the way it is described constitutes the reason why this book didn't really age. I believe "Death of Grass" will be still as relevant and interesting in AD 2056 (one hundred years after its first publication) as it is today...

I do not want to provide too much SPOILERS, but be warned, that this is a very tough book and it can particularly shock women - and especially for any feminist the reading of some of the pages can be life threatening, as in this new horribly barbaric world strong and violent men exerce an almost total power...

The ending is extremely sad and shocking, but also very clever and highly symbolic, clearly inspired by some of the most ancient myths, like the foundation of Rome and the Arthurian legends (sovereignty of a warlord being confirmed and sanctified by the receiving of a "magic" weapon).
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The Death of Grass
The Death of Grass by John Christopher (Paperback - 2009)
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