One of the original novels of post-nuclear holocaust America, The Long Tomorrow is considered by many to be one of the finest science fiction novels ever written on the subject. The story has inspired generations of new writers and is still as mesmerizing today as when it was originally written.
Len and Esau are young cousins living decades after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization as we know. The rulers of the post-war community have forbidden the existence of large towns and consider technology evil.
However Len and Esau long for more than their simple agrarian existence. Rumors of mythical Bartorstown, perhaps the last city in existence, encourage the boys to embark on a journey of discovery and adventure that will call into question not only firmly held beliefs, but the boys’ own personal convictions.
"She [Brackett] has created science-fiction to compare with serious mainstream literature." (New York Herald Tribune)
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A slightly dated classic
Yes, not least because it demonstrates how *relevant* science fiction could be even in the 1950s when it had yet to be considered respectable.
The protagonist, Len. He's a very credible character, an ordinary youth growing up in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. He does foolish things and he does smart things, just like a real person, and he grows as a character - something that didn't happen so much in SF at that time.
Hostetter is a good character too, a man of integrity burdened by knowledge.
Esau - well, I wouldn't like him if I met him in real life, but he's well portrayed here.
There aren't many strong female characters, despite the author being female, but I did like the grandmother.
His character voices, especially for Hostetter.
Not really a moment, but there was an overall sense of "these people have to live with the consequences of a horror that was all too possible at the time" about the story. There were also a fair few little character moments that were so spot-on that they made me smile.
The middle section of the book is less engaging than the rest of the book, as we're suddenly dealing with a new set of characters and a shift in narrative pace that means we're not introduced to them as well as we could have been.
Brackett was wise not to include mutants with extra heads or psionic powers. Surprisingly, though, I don't remember a single mention of birth defects, or fear of them, even though one character becomes pregnant.
All in all, this is a very insightful book, one of the most significant early speculations about the outcome of a nuclear war (along with Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz). It's not as exciting as Brackett's planetary romances such as The Sword of Rhiannon, but it is ultimately more rewarding.
- Dr Caterpillar