Sunday, February 26, 2012

Survivors- Terry Nation: A Review

Terry Nation's Survivors is a apocalypse-in-progress novel based on the British 1970s TV show of the same name.  It is not to be confused with the John Rawles' book book of much more recent vintage.  The television show was one of the most popular series on the BBC, and was recently re-released.  There was later a second derivitave attempt to relaunch the series.   I have never seen the show, but it is obvious from the storyline at Wikipedia that the novels plotline diverges greatly after what would have been the first half of the first season of the show.

The characters pictured here are from the 2008 T.V. series.

Terry Nation was a prolific television script writer in the 1970s.  He is best known for creating the Dalek characters on Doctor Who, and for intrducing the Survivors television show.

The novel starts off with what is the now fairly common mayhem that begins these pandemic-apocalypse novels.   The illness in this case is some type of mutated black death.  The gestation period is just long enough (6 days) for people to wander around and give it to others.  Survival is generally a matter of luck.  A few of the characters seem to be immune to bug, and others simply survive the sickness.  With maybe 3% of the population surviving there is no immediate supply problems because there are plenty of supplies laying around in the now empty stores.

As these stories go, the novel is a relatively light read.  The more horrific activities occur "off screen" and are heard about third-hand or through narration.   The book highlights two major points, the difficulty in gathering together enough knowledge to be able to re-advance civilization, and the political problems of the would-be-emperors who make life miserable for other survivors.

The novel is somewhat episodic, the story line disjointed.  To some extent it could be viewed as the highlight reel of a 5-year period.  Not a bad way to move time along, but the characters don't seem to develop or learn much over the period.

Unlike what I understand of the television show, it is not a cosy (British spelling).  There are a few fun and games when all the people go, but by the novels end survival success is very much in the air.  Their tiny village can barely keep up with growing their own food, and almost all their other needs are met by the dwindling salvage.  As  a side note, gasoline never goes stale, but on the flip-side, no one seems to re-introduce horses.  With the almost unlimited pasturage available, that would be a very easy route to go.

It was an entertaining novel.  The loss of so many people so quickly makes for a very strange scenario.  It is a little like living in The World Without Us- with a handful of people not getting the message that they were supposed to dissapper.  The author did make some interesting observations, and you can see a few shadows of ideas that are played out in later, more intense works, such as Alex Scarrow's Afterlight.  Our auther left the TV series in a huff, and he seems to insert little moments of payback.  He seems to have had some issues with teh actress who played Abby, going so far as to  make a point of describing her small breasts at one point.  Possibly true (she is pictured below), but rather beside the point within the context of the story.

For our descriptive (not qualitative) descriptions, rated 1 to 7 with 7 being highest:

For realism/grittiness:  It is important to note that the apocalyptic scenario itself is not included here: 

The novel exists in the here and now.  People die, and people have a hard time getting by.  There is a certain fuzziness to some of the activities, and not a lot of consequence actual happens directly to the group after the settle down period.  Their security measures are close to non-existent.  Understandable given  the rather random odd lot of people that make up the talent pool.  Group cohesion, or lack of it, are realistically portrayed.  Unlike the survivalist books where somehow these little clusters of special forces operators manage to run into each other, here it is a much more realistic grouping of people.  I will say that its realism is well above average at 67.

The second criteria, readability, is much more straightforward:

It is a fast, relatively uncomplicated, easy read.   I will knock off a point for the low activity level and call it a six.


Survivors had a sequel, called Survivors: Genesis of a Hero. It was written under a pseudonyme and I don't think anyone has ever figured out who the actual other was. It has been said to be a fairly good read, but I never saw many details on it.
I ran across this highly entertaining review of the sequel at the Quill and the Keboard.
Review: Survivors: Genesis of a Hero.
The original Abby and Greg


Kelly Robinson said...

The recent version of the show was excellent. One of the best post-apoc TV series I've seen. Maybe the best.

russell1200 said...

I have never seen them, although both versions are available on DVD.

Have you seen the first one?

There was a second book written as a (sort of) sequel to this one that is apparently a pretty good: it is based on the son's experiences and is a bit grittier. It was also a little bit pricey on the used-book market when I last looked.