Empty World – John Christopher

Posted on: March 9, 2010

First published in 1977, Empty World was written by Samuel Youd, using the pen name John Christopher. I first read this book, near as I can recall, in 1983 or thereabouts. It was just after I had finished off reading the comic version of his Tripods trilogy that had been serialized in Boy’s Life magazine. Empty World was the first “real” book I read with a post-apocalyptic theme. As such, it will always have a place in my heart.

Neil Miller is a young lad living in England. His parents having recently been killed in a car accident, he is living with his grandparents. As the story unfolds, we learn there is a new plague rising up in India. It starts out fatal to the elderly and soon starts working down the age range. As it sweeps the globe, the disease is killing off all but the young. Essentially, it ages the body very quickly, such that a person in their late teens dies of “old age” in a matter of days.

Neil’s grandparents soon succumb to the virus, along with everyone else around Neil. Running low on food, Neil eventually decides to leave and look for other survivors. Along the way, he meets Clive, who has become mentally unhinged due to the stress of the pandemic, as well as two young girls.

This book fits very well into the “cozy catastrophe” category of post-apocalyptic fiction. In short, these are stories where all but a handful of humanity has perished and the survivors set about creating a new society. It was written for young adults. In spite of this, I found it just as enjoyable when I reread it a few months ago. It holds up pretty well for being over thirty years old.

No blazing gun battles, no hot women in need of rescuing (and their subsequent thanks given to the hero). Just one young man, scared and mostly alone, making his way across an abandoned English countryside. Very well done.

1 thought on “Empty World – John Christopher

  1. Plagues seem to be a popular malady….have you any opinion on The White Plague?


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