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4.0 out of 5 stars Biting Satire of Colonial and Post-Colonial British Attitudes subsumes Post-Apocalyptical Adventure
Although known for his famous young adult Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), John Christopher produced a substantial corpus of science fiction works for older readers. The Long Winter (1961), one of Christopher's lesser known works, is on the surface another post-apocalyptical novel (or sorts). However, the...
Published on June 16, 2012 by Mithridates VI of Pontus

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3.0 out of 5 stars Racism survives the next ice age
As a kid I'd devoured John Christopher's "The White Mountains", the first in the Tripod series. I readily identified with the three young boys who wanted to avoid assimilation into the mediocrity by being "capped" and controlled by the alien Tripods. Instead they set off for the White Mountains where they can live as nature intended despite the harsh conditions. It's such...
Published on December 5, 2011 by Sean Meriwether


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biting Satire of Colonial and Post-Colonial British Attitudes subsumes Post-Apocalyptical Adventure, June 16, 2012
This review is from: The Long Winter (Hardcover)
Although known for his famous young adult Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), John Christopher produced a substantial corpus of science fiction works for older readers. The Long Winter (1961), one of Christopher's lesser known works, is on the surface another post-apocalyptical novel (or sorts). However, the post-apocalyptical elements are subsumed by a bitting satire on colonial and post-colonial British attitudes towards their colonies. The publication date of 1962 is of vital importance in understanding the work. Nigeria gained its independence from the British in 1960, Ghana in 1957...

Instead of a sustained dark and disturbed romp through the winter wastelands of a new Ice Age which has covered most of Europe with a layer of ice, Christopher has his English characters flee before "men and woman turn into human wolf packs" to the ex-British colony of Nigeria. In short, discussion of those who remain (suffering) in England under layers of ice is not the focus of most of the novel. The fate of the cadre of main characters who set off on a "Nigerian adventure" and are treated by the now independent Nigerians as the British once treated their colonial subjects forms the bulk of the novel.

Unfortunately, the satire is weakened by an often overbearing infusion of the melodramatic (the couples have the habit of running off with each other). For many readers, the early 60s time specific British context might be off-putting as well as Christopher's less than politically correct treatment of race (remember, it's a satire). The inverting of the colonial gaze is the modus operandi of the work. That said, I prefer The Long Winter to Robert Heinlein's later, and infinitely more ham-fisted and contrived attempt to discuss race through an inverted society where those of African descent are in power, Farnham's Freehold (1964).

Brief Plot Summary (some spoilers)

Andrew Leedon, who works for English television, learns about the Fratellini effect which postulates that the radiation cycle of the Sun will plunge the Earth into a new Ice Age in the near future. Andrew meets David Cartwell, who has insider government knowledge of the Fratellini effect, and his wife Madeleine Cartwell. Here melodrama threatens to turn the work into a soap opera.... David Cartwell is attracted to Andrew's wife Carol and Andrew is almost forced to visit Madeleine.... blah, blah, blah. Moving on. One might have grounds to claim that Christopher's focus on the disintegration of two families heightens the emotive force of the erosion of British society, due to decreasing temperatures, which remains a visceral/destructive/ever-present spectre around them.

Eventually, as England slowly reverts to an ice-covered state, Carol decides to head to Nigeria (which has recently gained its independence) with Andrew's two children. Andrew and his new lover, Madeleine, soon follow. When Andrew meets Carol he finds out that she's become the "private secretary" of a wealthy African.

David promises to come down but decides to stay in England. Andrew's plan is to find employment in the Nigerian state television service. However, he quickly finds out that the Nigerians treat the British, who have fleed in mass numbers to the Africa, as they were treated by the British: most jobs except the most menial are open only to Nigerians, wealthy Nigerian's want British women to be their "secretaries," accounts of British men raping Nigerian women are circulated prompting irrational crackdowns on white "vagrants" wandering the beaches and streets with less than ten pounds in their pockets, white women are forced into prostitution and perform degrading stage acts, and most whites are forced to live in the worst slums of Lagos, etc.

Andrew, with no chance at procuring another job, attempts to join the Nigerian military (whites are allowed but only in the lower ranks in separate regiments). However, he's unable to pay the dash for the commision, i.e. a bribe that has become a standard component of Nigerian culture. There's a hilarious sequence when a desperate barefoot Andrew, for a slight dash, consents to be the subject documentary on how the poor whites live in the slums. He's asked by the African crew to "buy" (with the documentary crew's money) any object he wants from a market stand. Little does Andrew know that the object he bought was a monkey's penis charm meant to ward off bad luck! The African documentary crew desperately attempts not to giggle... Shortly afterward, Madeleine heads back to England looking for David.

When Andrew had been in England working for television, he'd taken on a Nigerian intern named Abonitu. They had become "friends." Andrew referred to Abonitu as `Abo' (a derogatory British term for the Aborigines of Australia). When Abonitu, back in Nigeria, sees Andrew buy the monkey penis charm in the documentary he feels pity and finds a job for him through his powerful uncle, despite the laws against whites working in television. With their social positions reversed, their relationship becomes more than a "colonial overlord" being condescendingly paternal to a "colonial subject." After a night of drinking. Abonitu tells Andrew about an exploratory Nigerian expedition in the works with a mandate to asses the possibility of re-colonizing (!!!) England. Andrew volunteers....

Final Thoughts

The Long Winter is primarily a biting satire of colonialism and less of a horror story replete with endlessly depressing descriptions of a post-apocalyptical England (there are a few sequences in the beginning of extreme violence which adequately encapsulate England's plight). If you expect a work of 60s social science fiction along the lines of Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold then you will be pleasantly surprised. The work's biggest flaw is the moments of melodrama that clogs the first third of the work detailing the interrelationships between Andrew, Carol, David, and Madeleine.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Biting Satire on Colonial/Post-Colonial British Attitudes subsumes post-apocalyptic adventure, June 16, 2012
This review is from: The long winter (Mass Market Paperback)
Although known for his famous young adult Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), John Christopher produced a substantial corpus of science fiction works for older readers. The Long Winter (1961), one of Christopher's lesser known works, is on the surface another post-apocalyptical novel (or sorts). However, the post-apocalyptical elements are subsumed by a bitting satire on colonial and post-colonial British attitudes towards their colonies. The publication date of 1962 is of vital importance in understanding the work. Nigeria gained its independence from the British in 1960, Ghana in 1957...

Instead of a sustained dark and disturbed romp through the winter wastelands of a new Ice Age which has covered most of Europe with a layer of ice, Christopher has his English characters flee before "men and woman turn into human wolf packs" to the ex-British colony of Nigeria. In short, discussion of those who remain (suffering) in England under layers of ice is not the focus of most of the novel. The fate of the cadre of main characters who set off on a "Nigerian adventure" and are treated by the now independent Nigerians as the British once treated their colonial subjects forms the bulk of the novel.

Unfortunately, the satire is weakened by an often overbearing infusion of the melodramatic (the couples have the habit of running off with each other). For many readers, the early 60s time specific British context might be off-putting as well as Christopher's less than politically correct treatment of race (remember, it's a satire). The inverting of the colonial gaze is the modus operandi of the work. That said, I prefer The Long Winter to Robert Heinlein's later, and infinitely more ham-fisted and contrived attempt to discuss race through an inverted society where those of African descent are in power, Farnham's Freehold (1964).

Brief Plot Summary (some spoilers)

Andrew Leedon, who works for English television, learns about the Fratellini effect which postulates that the radiation cycle of the Sun will plunge the Earth into a new Ice Age in the near future. Andrew meets David Cartwell, who has insider government knowledge of the Fratellini effect, and his wife Madeleine Cartwell. Here melodrama threatens to turn the work into a soap opera.... David Cartwell is attracted to Andrew's wife Carol and Andrew is almost forced to visit Madeleine.... blah, blah, blah. Moving on. One might have grounds to claim that Christopher's focus on the disintegration of two families heightens the emotive force of the erosion of British society, due to decreasing temperatures, which remains a visceral/destructive/ever-present spectre around them.

Eventually, as England slowly reverts to an ice-covered state, Carol decides to head to Nigeria (which has recently gained its independence) with Andrew's two children. Andrew and his new lover, Madeleine, soon follow. When Andrew meets Carol he finds out that she's become the "private secretary" of a wealthy African.

David promises to come down but decides to stay in England. Andrew's plan is to find employment in the Nigerian state television service. However, he quickly finds out that the Nigerians treat the British, who have fleed in mass numbers to the Africa, as they were treated by the British: most jobs except the most menial are open only to Nigerians, wealthy Nigerian's want British women to be their "secretaries," accounts of British men raping Nigerian women are circulated prompting irrational crackdowns on white "vagrants" wandering the beaches and streets with less than ten pounds in their pockets, white women are forced into prostitution and perform degrading stage acts, and most whites are forced to live in the worst slums of Lagos, etc.

Andrew, with no chance at procuring another job, attempts to join the Nigerian military (whites are allowed but only in the lower ranks in separate regiments). However, he's unable to pay the dash for the commision, i.e. a bribe that has become a standard component of Nigerian culture. There's a hilarious sequence when a desperate barefoot Andrew, for a slight dash, consents to be the subject documentary on how the poor whites live in the slums. He's asked by the African crew to "buy" (with the documentary crew's money) any object he wants from a market stand. Little does Andrew know that the object he bought was a monkey's penis charm meant to ward off bad luck! The African documentary crew desperately attempts not to giggle... Shortly afterward, Madeleine heads back to England looking for David.

When Andrew had been in England working for television, he'd taken on a Nigerian intern named Abonitu. They had become "friends." Andrew referred to Abonitu as `Abo' (a derogatory British term for the Aborigines of Australia). When Abonitu, back in Nigeria, sees Andrew buy the monkey penis charm in the documentary he feels pity and finds a job for him through his powerful uncle, despite the laws against whites working in television. With their social positions reversed, their relationship becomes more than a "colonial overlord" being condescendingly paternal to a "colonial subject." After a night of drinking. Abonitu tells Andrew about an exploratory Nigerian expedition in the works with a mandate to asses the possibility of re-colonizing (!!!) England. Andrew volunteers....

Final Thoughts

The Long Winter is primarily a biting satire of colonialism and less of a horror story replete with endlessly depressing descriptions of a post-apocalyptical England (there are a few sequences in the beginning of extreme violence which adequately encapsulate England's plight). If you expect a work of 60s social science fiction along the lines of Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold then you will be pleasantly surprised. The work's biggest flaw is the moments of melodrama that clogs the first third of the work detailing the interrelationships between Andrew, Carol, David, and Madeleine.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Racism survives the next ice age, December 5, 2011
This review is from: The long winter (Mass Market Paperback)
As a kid I'd devoured John Christopher's "The White Mountains", the first in the Tripod series. I readily identified with the three young boys who wanted to avoid assimilation into the mediocrity by being "capped" and controlled by the alien Tripods. Instead they set off for the White Mountains where they can live as nature intended despite the harsh conditions. It's such a gay-boy story without intending to be that it earned a prize place on my boyhood bookshelf. Christopher's "The Long Winter" is an adult version of this adventure that ties neatly into our current ecological crisis but in reverse--a drop in solar radiation has caused the first modern ice age. Europeans flee the frigid north for the African continent to survive, only to find themselves thrown off balance by the ruling black majority. What is interesting is that Christopher does not play up the ecological disaster, but rather the domestic troubles of TV producer Andrew Leedon, his promiscuous wife, her stubborn lover and his "tried and true" wife whom Andrew falls in love with, all with this horror show--eternal winter, wars and cannibalism--in the background. The novel tracks Andrew from the newly arctic London where the general populous has been left to their own devices, his humbling and eventual resurrection in Africa, and his return to London via hovercraft to reclaim the city and woman that he loves. In this unpresumptuous novel are the racial mores of 1960's, the philsophy behind needing to identify not only with one's country but with one's race, and an interesting case study of an Englishman's inability to let go of Queen and Country in the face of certain death. Maybe not a great book, but a fascinating read.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars social satire, war story, disaster tale limply rolled into one, January 23, 2006
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This review is from: The long winter (Mass Market Paperback)
This book deals with a new ice age enveloping the world. It spends far too much time on the romantic triangle that forms an unnneccessary core of the plot. Frankly, I didn't like any of the characters except the African, Abonitu. There was some nice bits of social satire showing the displaced refugee Brits getting the royal screwing over and exploitation from their African hosts that they so richly deserve but for the most part this book is a rather dull exploration of what should have been a ripping good yarn.
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The long winter
The long winter by John Christopher (Mass Market Paperback - 1968)
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