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After London: or, Wild England (Librivox Audiobook)

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Jefferies’ novel can be seen as an early example of “post-apocalyptic fiction.” After some sudden and unspecified catastrophe has depopulated England, the countryside reverts to nature, and the few survivors to a quasi-medieval way of life. The first part of the book, “The Relapse into Barbarism”, is the account by some later historian of the fall of civilisation and its co Jefferies’ novel can be seen as an early example of “post-apocalyptic fiction.” After some sudden and unspecified catastrophe has depopulated England, the countryside reverts to nature, and the few survivors to a quasi-medieval way of life. The first part of the book, “The Relapse into Barbarism”, is the account by some later historian of the fall of civilisation and its consequences, with a loving description of nature reclaiming England. The second part, “Wild England”, is an adventure set many years later in the wild landscape and society. The book is not without its flaws (notably the abrupt and unsatisfying ending) but is redeemed by the quality of the writing, particularly the unnervingly prophetic descriptions of the post-apocalyptic city and countryside.


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Jefferies’ novel can be seen as an early example of “post-apocalyptic fiction.” After some sudden and unspecified catastrophe has depopulated England, the countryside reverts to nature, and the few survivors to a quasi-medieval way of life. The first part of the book, “The Relapse into Barbarism”, is the account by some later historian of the fall of civilisation and its co Jefferies’ novel can be seen as an early example of “post-apocalyptic fiction.” After some sudden and unspecified catastrophe has depopulated England, the countryside reverts to nature, and the few survivors to a quasi-medieval way of life. The first part of the book, “The Relapse into Barbarism”, is the account by some later historian of the fall of civilisation and its consequences, with a loving description of nature reclaiming England. The second part, “Wild England”, is an adventure set many years later in the wild landscape and society. The book is not without its flaws (notably the abrupt and unsatisfying ending) but is redeemed by the quality of the writing, particularly the unnervingly prophetic descriptions of the post-apocalyptic city and countryside.

30 review for After London: or, Wild England (Librivox Audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    2 - 2.5 stars I would classify Richard Jefferies’ _After London_ as part of a somewhat obscure subset of post-apocalyptic fiction I like to call ‘post-apocalyptic pastoral’ along with books like Edgar Pangborn’s Davy, Richard Cowper’s The Road to Corlay, and John Crowley’s Engine Summer. Unlike the norm with post-apocalyptic fiction the world is not dominated by a radioactive wasteland, or rife with twisted mutants or lumbering zombies, and while life may be hard when compared to our own it often 2 - 2.5 stars I would classify Richard Jefferies’ _After London_ as part of a somewhat obscure subset of post-apocalyptic fiction I like to call ‘post-apocalyptic pastoral’ along with books like Edgar Pangborn’s Davy, Richard Cowper’s The Road to Corlay, and John Crowley’s Engine Summer. Unlike the norm with post-apocalyptic fiction the world is not dominated by a radioactive wasteland, or rife with twisted mutants or lumbering zombies, and while life may be hard when compared to our own it often does not display the level of nasty and brutish shortness more common in other examples of the genre at large. To be sure our advanced society has fallen and life has reverted to a much simpler mode (usually, as is the case in this volume, one approximating the Middle Ages), but this reversion to simplicity is often seen as an improvement, or at least is not denigrated as a curse. The book itself is divided into two main sections. The first, “The Relapse into Barbarism”, is narrated from the point of view of a scholar of the latter days, and is partially a history of the fall of civilization (though there is so little in the way of information that calling this a history is really a bit of a misnomer), and is in greater part an enumeration of the flora, fauna, and tribes of mankind that have since survived and overrun a newly ruralized England. Given Jefferies’ position as a nature writer, and even perhaps something of an early environmentalist, it is not surprising that his lingering descriptions of the reclamation of the world by nature dominate this section. Indeed the details of what actually prompted the fall of the Victorian era society of ‘the Ancients’ is never fully explained (aside from some tantalizing references to a tradition that a ‘dark body’ passed by the earth, or even implications that climate change and flooding may have prompted it) and in some ways his insistence on the utter destruction of nearly all traces of the old world doesn’t quite mesh with the lack of any known apocalyptic event (even one only vaguely remembered at a great distance). It is not surprising then that I’ve seen it argued that this book isn’t really an example of post-apocalyptic fiction and that the set-up is merely a veneer to which a Victorian adventure story has been applied. Indeed as the main story narrative develops in the second half of the novel, “Wild England”, it begins to seem that the entire apocalyptic set-up does little more than allow the author to set his adventure in a pseudo-medieval world, so one does begin to wonder why he didn’t just set it in the actual Middle Ages instead? Once the second part of the story comes to what might be considered the epicentre of the fall, the site of the lost city of London itself, I think the post-apocalyptic element of the story becomes important for what Jefferies wanted to accomplish and shows itself to be more than simply a veneer. Indeed the title “After London” homes in on what might be considered the underlying conceit of the novel and the entire reason for this to be post-apocalyptic at all. We see here Jefferies’ distaste for the modern city-based civilization of his day and his yearning for a ‘simpler’ life dominated by nature rather than human society (though the latter still looms large in the world and is as fraught with problems and corruption as ever). Indeed while Jefferies presents what he perhaps considers to be a ‘better’ mode of human life in that it is largely agrarian it is far from an idyllic arcadia of man in union with nature. This is a world where man is at odds with both nature and his fellow man, though as always it is in the latter conflict where the greatest evil lies. Our protagonist Felix is a scion of the noble house of Aquila which has fallen on hard times and is out of favour with the court. Restless with the apparent lack of opportunity to improve his prospects due to the oppressive constraints placed on him by his rigid society, Felix decides to leave his home and make a voyage upon the great inland lake that now dominates the centre of England in the hopes of finding his fortune and winning the hand of his great love Aurora. So far so medieval romance, especially as his first adventure puts him in the army camp of a venal prince besieging a nearby town. The camp itself is dominated by the unruly display of posturing knights and degradation of the servant class and Felix’s hopes of advancement are ultimately dashed by the ignorance of those around him. When Felix flees this example of human depravity, even in the midst of what passes for ‘civilization’ in this world, he ends up voyaging into a world much more familiar to readers of post-apocalyptic fiction. Stumbling upon the site of fallen London Felix finds a landscape that is no longer the lush riot of nature that has dominated the world thus far and we see something that reminded me of nothing so much as a post-nuclear wasteland. The earth itself is dead, some portions hard as iron, others crumbling as though made of rotten wood. Emanations from the ground produce a toxic miasma the hangs over everything and we even see human remains whose depiction astonishingly reminded me of the after-images of a nuclear blast. Not strange at all for the genre in general, but quite strange when one recalls that even the inkling of nuclear fallout couldn’t have been anywhere in Jefferies’ mind and this is all simply the result of the decay of the ancient city and its pollutants (exhibiting Jefferies’ distaste for both the physical and moral corruption of urban society). Felix manages to escape from this poisonous wasteland and eventually stumbles upon a society of primitive shepherds to whom his somewhat more advanced knowledge, and especially his ability to ward off their gipsy enemies with the long bow (a weapon unknown to them), win him a place of leadership amongst them that may bring about the realization of all of his hopes and dreams. The story then ends incredibly abruptly as Felix begins his return journey to find his love in the hopes of bringing her back with him and I was left to wonder if Jefferies had died while writing the story (he hadn’t), or planned a direct sequel (no inkling of this that I was able to discover). Ultimately it was a pleasant enough story, though somewhat frustrating and even haphazard in the inconsistencies that appear to exist between the set-up and ultimate execution.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    ‘After London’ has the distinction of being a very early post-apocalyptic novel, written in 1885. This is rather the most interesting thing about it, as although some of the details are striking, the plot is very formulaic. The book begins with a lyrical evocation of England after a mysterious, ill-understood environmental disaster. Said disaster could very well be retconned as climate change upheaval, as it results in a changed sea level and a new, massive inland lake. After this disaster, the ‘After London’ has the distinction of being a very early post-apocalyptic novel, written in 1885. This is rather the most interesting thing about it, as although some of the details are striking, the plot is very formulaic. The book begins with a lyrical evocation of England after a mysterious, ill-understood environmental disaster. Said disaster could very well be retconned as climate change upheaval, as it results in a changed sea level and a new, massive inland lake. After this disaster, the population is greatly reduced, for the very prosaic reason that everyone with enough wealth to leave has departed. This results in the return of a prelapsarian natural environment, largely consisting of forest. I very much enjoyed the account of the progress of brambles across the roads and saplings across the fields, the return of dogs, cows, and pigs to a predomestic state. Subsequently the book follows the aptly-named Felix, a very highly strung young man who leaves his home (and much more pragmatic sweetheart Aurora), setting out in a canoe to have adventures. His encounters suggest that parts of England have lapsed into Malory’s Le Morte d' Arthur, whilst others resemble the Old Testament. For the time in which it was written, the book is deeply reactionary. Not only does it glorify an environment unspoiled by man, with lavish descriptions of the wildlife therein, but it vilifies the remains of civilisation. The London of the title is a poisonous wasteland, an area of pollution and death. Nothing lives there and people foolish enough to venture in are lucky to escape alive, as industrialisation has poisoned its air, soil, and water. Few structures or artifacts remain from this tainted past; even technologies of the Middle Ages have been forgotten. On the other hand, the plays of Sophocles have survived and the story includes a performance of Antigone. The author seems to yearn for simpler times, perhaps a return to some mythical Ancient Greek golden age. That said, the society depicted is a deeply flawed one, something that Felix unwisely cannot keep quiet about. There is a strong critique of feudalism to be found here, notably in the ironic fact that most poor people are slaves, yet use of the word slave is taboo. As a novel, ‘After London’ doesn’t have a terrific amount to recommend it. As an early post-apocalyptic vision, it is interesting to compare with Mary Shelley’s The Last Man. And as an ode to radical rewilding, it certainly paints a delightfully vivid picture.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    First book read after my first cataract surgery and if I hadn’t been trapped at home, I’m not sure I would have finished it. The first whole section is primarily an info dump—how the U.K. has changed since some rather nebulous apocalypse (or maybe it was nebulous to me because I was struggling to read with one eye, a harder task that I anticipated). I don’t require that the main character be likeable—I’ll take a curmudgeon any day as protagonist, but this young man was pretty clueless and it’s a First book read after my first cataract surgery and if I hadn’t been trapped at home, I’m not sure I would have finished it. The first whole section is primarily an info dump—how the U.K. has changed since some rather nebulous apocalypse (or maybe it was nebulous to me because I was struggling to read with one eye, a harder task that I anticipated). I don’t require that the main character be likeable—I’ll take a curmudgeon any day as protagonist, but this young man was pretty clueless and it’s a wonder that he survived the book. And that despite the fact that very little happens. Then, at the end, when things begin to happen, the author yanks him out of the plot again, and sends him off on a mission that seemed to me to be quite hopeless. The end. I am very unsure how this novel ended up on the Guardian’s list of 1000 novels that everyone should read. I could only recommend it as an example of many things that should not be done in a post-apocalyptic novel. Read The Earth Abides or Alas, Bablyon instead and leave this one in the library. Certainly save your money and do not buy it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    This was very different from the normal post-apocalyptic fare, and quite refreshing once I'd adapted to the slower pace. It was originally published in 1885, which surprised me, because I probably would have dated it at least 40 years later. Don't expect a thrilling fast-moving adventure tale with a defined ending. Expect a detailed, immersive encyclopedic picture of the wilderness that took over from a civilisation over 30 years ago, of the animals' adaptations, of the human cultural changes and This was very different from the normal post-apocalyptic fare, and quite refreshing once I'd adapted to the slower pace. It was originally published in 1885, which surprised me, because I probably would have dated it at least 40 years later. Don't expect a thrilling fast-moving adventure tale with a defined ending. Expect a detailed, immersive encyclopedic picture of the wilderness that took over from a civilisation over 30 years ago, of the animals' adaptations, of the human cultural changes and the understanding that what caused this destruction has probably been lost in the transition to oral history. The first fifth gives the reader a view through the distant lens of time, as if a time lapse camera were panning across the scene. (view spoiler)[What emerges is a quasi-feudal society, where a younger, landless son must set off on a quest to find something of value to win the hand of the woman he loves, finding his understanding of real life somewhat flawed in the process. (hide spoiler)] Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lizixer

    Described by the Observer as a strong candidate for the most beautiful of all Victorian novels, the fact of Jeffries being a nature writer shines through both in his scientific description of post apocalyptic England and the descriptions of the hero's voyages which teem with detail about the birds and landscapes he passes through. The strongest parts of the book are the descriptions of environmental collapse in the first part and Felix's trip through the nightmare landscapes of an extinct London Described by the Observer as a strong candidate for the most beautiful of all Victorian novels, the fact of Jeffries being a nature writer shines through both in his scientific description of post apocalyptic England and the descriptions of the hero's voyages which teem with detail about the birds and landscapes he passes through. The strongest parts of the book are the descriptions of environmental collapse in the first part and Felix's trip through the nightmare landscapes of an extinct London which are truly gripping. I was less enthralled with the descriptions of future feudal societies although there is some interest in Jeffries proto-socialist philosophising about the corruption of the nobility, the inability of the lower classes to overthrow a society that they recognise to be rotten and which enslaves the vast majority of them and the eulogising of a society of workers (the Shepherds) where men and women's work is of equal value, sharing and hospitality are the norm and war is for defence rather than glory or gain as in the other societies Felix encounters, which, perhaps, were the parts that were said to give William Morris such inspiration for his News from Nowhere in which "absurd hopes curled around... [his]... heart as... [he]...read it."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jack Wolfe

    Some "classics" are under-appreciated for a reason. The back-cover quote by A.S. Byatt is spot-on: the setting here is spectacular, and the book's first thirty pages, which describe the slow takeover of a post-apocalyptic London by its natural elements, have hardly aged a day (they're comparable to what Alan Weisman does in "The World Without Us," even). Sadly, "After London's" descent into "suck" territory is swift and profound-- it's like Jeffries expended all of his imaginative energy on back Some "classics" are under-appreciated for a reason. The back-cover quote by A.S. Byatt is spot-on: the setting here is spectacular, and the book's first thirty pages, which describe the slow takeover of a post-apocalyptic London by its natural elements, have hardly aged a day (they're comparable to what Alan Weisman does in "The World Without Us," even). Sadly, "After London's" descent into "suck" territory is swift and profound-- it's like Jeffries expended all of his imaginative energy on backstory, leaving no wit or creativity or interest at all for his characters (Felix Aquila has to count as one of the least likeable protagonists I've ever encountered), plot arc (where is the damn CONFLICT?), or even prose style (we get it, RICHARD... there is an island up ahead... OOH). If you skipped pages 30-130 of this novel, you would not only NOT miss out on a single thing of importance-- you would save yourself a hundred pages of sheer boredom (if you know of a less thrilling or erotic love story than Felix and Aurora's, please alert me so that I can never experience that story myself). Heck, if you skipped pages 30-230 (i.e., the end) of this novel, you wouldn't miss out on much... Whatever point Jeffries has to make is deftly summarized by his wonderful first several chapters. This book might work in a classroom, where the author's concern with society would be contextualized and deepened by outside sources... On it's own, "After London" is mostly a total drag.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sam Kabo Ashwell

    An early scientific postapocalypse, and a strange book. Jefferies was primarily a nature writer, and the first half of the book is dedicated to a biology-first view of succession and speciation in a post-collapse UK. River mouths have silted up, and much of southern England is now a great lake fed by the Thames and Severn; humans have divided into castes more or less based on Victorian classism, so that indigents become the savage aboriginal Bushmen, gypsies remain gypsies while getting more pro An early scientific postapocalypse, and a strange book. Jefferies was primarily a nature writer, and the first half of the book is dedicated to a biology-first view of succession and speciation in a post-collapse UK. River mouths have silted up, and much of southern England is now a great lake fed by the Thames and Severn; humans have divided into castes more or less based on Victorian classism, so that indigents become the savage aboriginal Bushmen, gypsies remain gypsies while getting more prominent (but no less vicious), and the urban population is ruled by the fragments of the former educated class. This might be expected to be a cheap justification for a lazy-medieval setting, and the social stuff does default to a handwavy, vicious Dark Ages, owing a good deal to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. But this doesn't feel like the primary interest; the setting is what Jefferies is really interested in. The second half is an wandering-hero narrative, burdened down with unenthusiastic stock elements -- a lady-love who can only be won by leaving her to seek adventure, the noble-born, educated hero's displays of techne and prowess that lead to his rapid elevation to leadership of lesser men; even the brutal nature of Dark Age politics feels by-the-numbers. The narrative is scrappy and often pointless; many loose threads are abandoned, almost all are concluded without much development, and the story cuts out abruptly as the newly-powerful hero begins a journey home to woo his lady. A great deal of time is wasted on ponderous descriptions, and as a hero Felix is the stuff of sulky adolescent wish-fulfillment. Certain elements -- a blighted marsh, thick with ancient corpses, its miasma a physical manifestation of the indelible corruption of modernity; the slow, meticulous attention to the process of travel and the land travelled through, the emphasis on worldbuilding -- feel like much more modern fantasy; this book was a big influence on William Morris, and through him J.R.R. Tolkien.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marne Wilson

    The first section of the novel is a “factual and scientific” account of what happened to the infrastructure of the city of London after British civilization fell due to an unknown catastrophe. It reminded me very much of The World Without Us, and it was fascinating to see that many of Alan Weisman’s conclusions had been anticipated by Jefferies almost 150 years earlier. The second section follows a more traditional narrative structure and tells the story of Felix Aquila, a young nobleman in the The first section of the novel is a “factual and scientific” account of what happened to the infrastructure of the city of London after British civilization fell due to an unknown catastrophe. It reminded me very much of The World Without Us, and it was fascinating to see that many of Alan Weisman’s conclusions had been anticipated by Jefferies almost 150 years earlier. The second section follows a more traditional narrative structure and tells the story of Felix Aquila, a young nobleman in the medieval society that has arisen in Britain hundreds of years after the fall of civilization. Due to the many dangers that lurk in the wilderness, people have taken to living in walled encampments and rarely venturing beyond their borders, but Felix, much like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, is a hunter and regularly escapes over the walls surrounding his family’s fort. One day he decides to build a boat and explore as much of the great inland sea as he can, and the rest of the story details his adventures on this journey. This book is not without its flaws, most notably that it ends abruptly without much of a resolution, but it is definitely worth reading, both as a source of many of the ideas for later post-apocalyptic fiction and as a gripping adventure story in its own right.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ira Therebel

    This is one of the first post apocalyptic books written which is what made me curious to read it. Regardless that I found this book mediocre it is pretty important to the genre. The story takes place in England where after the collapse of civilization nature takes over again and surviving people live in a society pretty much the same as the Middle ages. A young men goes on a quest to find something that he can use to marry the woman that he loves. I found the idea very intriguing but unfortunately This is one of the first post apocalyptic books written which is what made me curious to read it. Regardless that I found this book mediocre it is pretty important to the genre. The story takes place in England where after the collapse of civilization nature takes over again and surviving people live in a society pretty much the same as the Middle ages. A young men goes on a quest to find something that he can use to marry the woman that he loves. I found the idea very intriguing but unfortunately the plot was pretty boring. There is pretty much nothing about the apocalypse. Considering that it is barely mentioned the book could have just taken place in the Middle Ages and the story wouldn't be any different. Of course I can see why Richard Jefferies made it a post apocalyptic science fiction book. He was a naturalist who mainly wrote about nature. He wanted to show life without modern civilization. I would even say he didn't see it as dystopia but as utopia. This is pretty obvious when Felix comes across the ruins of London. This was pretty much the only time when it being a sci fi book was of importance and the two chapters that I actually enjoyed reading. One can see the author compare the toxicity of "ancient" London with natural environment of the new England. And this was pretty interesting. Climate change being the trending topic in our time, especially very recently considering that the big climate change march just took place yesterday, I would think this book would be of interest to many, nature defeating the toxic humanity. Even though we never find out what exactly happened. I would really like this book more if it would address this topic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kai Schreiber

    The first part of the book is splendid, while the adventure story in the second drags a bit and ends very suddenly in the middle of things. So much so, in fact, that I went online to see if my Gutenberg Ebook was incomplete. There are many themes in that narrative, none of which are seen through. This might actually be a design, to show the aimlessness of history, that the catastrophe in the first part is already pointing to, on a more private scale. Say the wrong thing and a story that seemed to The first part of the book is splendid, while the adventure story in the second drags a bit and ends very suddenly in the middle of things. So much so, in fact, that I went online to see if my Gutenberg Ebook was incomplete. There are many themes in that narrative, none of which are seen through. This might actually be a design, to show the aimlessness of history, that the catastrophe in the first part is already pointing to, on a more private scale. Say the wrong thing and a story that seemed to be going somewhere is suddenly over. But even if it is, it still did not quite work for me. But the first part really is captivating. I recommend reading just that, and leaving the adventure part for another life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bill FromPA

    Starting in on After London immediately after Earth Abides, I felt at first that I was reading a different draft of the same novel. Like Stewart, Richard Jeffries tells how a radically depopulated land, England in this case, returns to a state of nature as cultivated land and domesticated animals become wild and untamed with the hand of man removed. Similarities between the two novels quickly disappear, however; where Stewart confined his story to the lifetime of one man following the fall o Starting in on After London immediately after Earth Abides, I felt at first that I was reading a different draft of the same novel. Like Stewart, Richard Jeffries tells how a radically depopulated land, England in this case, returns to a state of nature as cultivated land and domesticated animals become wild and untamed with the hand of man removed. Similarities between the two novels quickly disappear, however; where Stewart confined his story to the lifetime of one man following the fall of civilization, Jeffries quickly leaves the never defined catastrophe that struck Britain, and perhaps the world, centuries in the past. In the novel’s relatively short first part, “The Relapse into Barbarism” he sketches the rise of a feudal society with primitive technology and little personal freedom. The story of the novel proper is contained in the much longer second part, “Wild England”, which relates the adventures of young Felix Aquila, the oldest son of a minor nobleman. The introduction by John Fowles suggests that it is a mis-reading “to conclude that the book is a kind of bastard medieval romance” but, except for a powerful SF-like section where Felix visits the site of a largely submerged London, that seemed to me pretty much what the novel is. After London could have been a part of Lin Carter’s early 1970s paperback series Ballantine Adult Fantasy where Jeffries’ world of knights in combat, explorations in sailing vessels, and densely overgrown forests, would fit quite well with the works of his fellow Victorians William Morris and George MacDonald, which were included in the series. Of course being a fantasy set in a pseudo-medieval world doesn’t mean it is only a pastiche, which is perhaps what Fowles implies; like those other writers, Jeffries uses his tale to explore ideas about human nature, such as the attitudes of established power toward innovation and the fragile enthusiasms of youth. I wasn’t expecting a fantasy of this sort when I started the book, but I found that the story held my interest and I enjoyed it quite a bit; needless to say, I've delighted in quite a few of those Adult Fantasy titles in my time. I should warn potential readers not to expect non-stop action: there is much more anticipation of danger than actual scenes of combat or peril, and when danger does come, it is often unanticipated. There is also a tendency of events not to turn into stories: when Felix joins the King's Levy to participate in a war, we see one small skirmish in which our protagonist is only an observer and shortly afterward the war is left behind and its progress and outcome undisclosed. Similarly the London section is left as a mere hint of the fate suffered by Western civilization, and the reader, knowing a considerable amount about the world that preceded Felix's, is left pretty much as ignorant as the uninformed youth about exactly what it is he encounters in its ruins. This avoidance of closure, which is definitely intentional on Jeffries' part, may be intended to offset the story's obvious fantasy elements with a sense of realism, undercutting any sense the reader may have that he is being told a fairy tale. I had some minor quibbles with Jeffries’ style. I understood that Part One was a document by someone living at the time of Felix or slightly earlier; I thought that maybe the reader was supposed to think it was written by Felix himself, since we are told about his writings at the time he is introduced, but it may also have been intended as “Sylvester's ‘Book of Natural Things’” mentioned in Chapter 24. Part Two started off as a more traditional limited third person narrative, but a few lines, such as the following from Chapter 8, indicated that this also was written by a narrator living “after London”: The house, erected in the time of the ancients, was not designed for our present style of life; it possessed, indeed, many comforts and conveniences which are scarcely now to be found in the finest palaces, but it lacked the breadth of construction which our architects have now in view. Despite a few such passages (and there are very few) I don’t feel that stylistically Jeffries really committed himself to having Part Two told by a post-apocalypse narrator, though such an idea might also be used to explain the sudden ending.

  12. 5 out of 5

    mica

    So I can't say I ...loved this book. It starts out with an interesting but lengthy and meandering bit of world-building, which was by far my favourite bit. The reader learns that the great cities of the ancients (us, 100 years ago-ish) have become flooded and the pollution and chemicals in those cities have made those marshes that were once great cities (London, ie. After London) too toxic and dangerous for people to travel through. Additionally, reading has become a carefully guarded secret of So I can't say I ...loved this book. It starts out with an interesting but lengthy and meandering bit of world-building, which was by far my favourite bit. The reader learns that the great cities of the ancients (us, 100 years ago-ish) have become flooded and the pollution and chemicals in those cities have made those marshes that were once great cities (London, ie. After London) too toxic and dangerous for people to travel through. Additionally, reading has become a carefully guarded secret of the noble elite and people have mostly returned to a pastoral life. There are "bush-men" and "gipsies" who are painted as the violent outsiders/Others in this world, distinct from the people living in/around the great castle/fortresses of the nobles/gentlefolk/traditionally "English". (Going to gloss over the inherent racism in Jefferies' choice to use those two specific terms and the inherent colonialist stereotypes of both his days and today). The protagonist, Felix, doesn't quite fit in, because he's not quite physical and brutal enough to fit into his social caste in this post-apocalyptic return-to-medieval-pastoralism scene, and his peers don't respect his intellectualism. I found him a relatable at times, but more often than not, he felt like a bit of a male-nerd entitlement fantasy - I'M SO SMART YOU MUST RESPECT ME EVEN WHEN I'M BEHAVING AWFULLY. Except the book agrees with his assessment of these matters, even as it actually does mention that he's reacting to a perceived but unreal problem. To win the hand of the fair love interest Aurora (who mostly could be a sexy lamp), he builds a canoe to go on an exploratory voyage, so that he is able to prove his worth (Aurora's already into him, it's her father who doesn't like him, but, sadly, women in Jefferies' world are all kind of helpless and incapable). In the course of his travels, he meets with adventure, largely due to his own carelessness (view spoiler)[ie. he joins a pointless war, gets kicked out for treason, travels into post-apocalyptic London, and then meets some pastoral shepherds who worship him and declare him their king leader because he's so smert and knows stuff they don't know. Of all of this, I particularly liked his accidental voyage into the yellow-smoked post-apocalyptic London, although it felt pretty short and minor in the great scheme of the book. (hide spoiler)] This book very much feels like British Colonialism - the Wise British Man Brings Civilization To The Savages, but also has a healthy (or, rather, unhealthy) dose of Entitled Social Outcast Becomes Ruler Because He Deserves It Because He's So Smert. It also has this very weird balance of referring to the "ancients" - the ruins of Victorian England, but never really describing what happened to them (or maybe I just glossed over that?), but the book mostly felt like historical fiction - like what Jefferies really wanted was to write a little book about adventure in a fantasy medieval-Britain setting. The ending (view spoiler)[felt weirdly abrupt - he starts on his journey home, because he feels ready to court and marry Aurora, and then bring her back to his new kingdom leader-land, and has essentially commanded his new subjects followers to build a road to help connect his new home with his old home, but the book only takes us to where he's starting his journey home, and no further, so there's really no telling whether he makes it or not. (hide spoiler)]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ken Ryu

    An apocalyptic event has decimated London. Jefferies does not dwell on the cause of the catastrophic events. He begins by depicting the changes to the flora, fauna and mankind. A Darwinian winnowing and transformation of plant and animal life is radical. Industrialization and the cities are decimated. The human population is greatly thinned out. The book takes a sudden turn a quarter of the way in. We are introduced to a survivor in one of the more civilized towns. His name is Felix. The story t An apocalyptic event has decimated London. Jefferies does not dwell on the cause of the catastrophic events. He begins by depicting the changes to the flora, fauna and mankind. A Darwinian winnowing and transformation of plant and animal life is radical. Industrialization and the cities are decimated. The human population is greatly thinned out. The book takes a sudden turn a quarter of the way in. We are introduced to a survivor in one of the more civilized towns. His name is Felix. The story then transforms into an adventure story with Felix exploring the British Isles in a handmade canoe. He is witness to a siege where gunpowder is absent and weapons from the Dark Ages are employed. His weapon of choice is a crossbow. His skill with this now advanced technological weapon gives him an edge on the outlaws and gypsies that might do him harm. There is a love story as well as Felix aims to return back to his sweetheart Aurora after his explorations. If the plot sounds quirky and disjointed, that is the case. The merit is that the adventures of Felix are exciting and keep the reader engaged. The apocalyptic angle which Jeffries begins with is mostly abandoned once Felix's story begins. The setting allows Felix to gain prominence as technology, central governments, education and communication systems have collapsed. Felix's ingenuity and intelligent allows him to rise in the sparely populated and tribal environment. The book lacks cohesion, but does well when it is accepted as an anachronistic adventure book rather than a post-apocalyptic novel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    After London is an interesting piece of Victorian literature. Jefferies' novel is both a post-apocalyptic speculative fiction and a sort of neo-medievalist fantasy. A devoted naturalist, Jefferies fills his fiction with detailed descriptions of flora and fauna, altered ecosystems, and man's relationship to the natural world. Unfortunately, Jefferies can get a little too into his nature writing--the narrative proper doesn't begin until about 50 pages into the novel--and at times the book feels li After London is an interesting piece of Victorian literature. Jefferies' novel is both a post-apocalyptic speculative fiction and a sort of neo-medievalist fantasy. A devoted naturalist, Jefferies fills his fiction with detailed descriptions of flora and fauna, altered ecosystems, and man's relationship to the natural world. Unfortunately, Jefferies can get a little too into his nature writing--the narrative proper doesn't begin until about 50 pages into the novel--and at times the book feels like a real slog. There's plenty of complaints that can be made about After London: the story itself can be a bit of an unsatisfying mess; as protagonists go, Felix is pretty weak; at times Jefferies' writing is just plain boring. Still, the book kept redeeming itself and developing in weird, unexpected ways just when I was ready to dismiss it completely. Jefferies has a lot to say on a lot of different topics, commenting on Victorian society, masculinity, social Darwinism, and gender roles, just to name a few. I found the novel's resonance with Arthurian legend really intriguing, and there are some haunting, surreal, beautifully written scenes in later chapters. You also have to admire the novel for being something completely different for its time; when you think Victorian literature, post-apocalyptic tales don't immediately spring to mind. While by no means a great book, After London can at least claim to be interesting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rex

    This is a gangly little chimera of a book. It straddles without perfectly integrating post-apocalyptic speculative world-building and medieval errant fantasy. The plot could be described either as unpredictable or as aimless, as its sulky and often hapless protagonist, Felix, routinely squanders what he gains on the journey that takes up most of the story. Jefferies does display noticeable craft in particular elements of the story, and the brief encounter with sunken London manages to enchant ev This is a gangly little chimera of a book. It straddles without perfectly integrating post-apocalyptic speculative world-building and medieval errant fantasy. The plot could be described either as unpredictable or as aimless, as its sulky and often hapless protagonist, Felix, routinely squanders what he gains on the journey that takes up most of the story. Jefferies does display noticeable craft in particular elements of the story, and the brief encounter with sunken London manages to enchant even after nearly a century and a half of post-apocalyptic genre writing. But taken as a whole, After London is seriously flawed. Readers interested Jefferies's ecological speculations will be disappointed by how rarely they intrude on the main narrative, and readers who manage to enjoy the hodgepodge adventures of Felix will find the pace often slowed to a crawl by observations that add little to the experience. The relationships are largely insipid, and the point at which the novel ends feels almost wholly arbitrary. Despite flashes of diversion, most readers are likely to end up bored. A pity.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diogo Muller

    This is an interesting book. It's a very, very early post-apocalyptic sci-fi book. In it, the world reverts back to the medieval times, thanks to an unexplained phenomenom. The world created by the author is creative and interesting. The fact that this book was written more than 100 years ago also makes it even more interesting - some of the science may be wrong, but most of the things described by the author sound plausible! However, not everything is perfect. The plot has a few interesting mome This is an interesting book. It's a very, very early post-apocalyptic sci-fi book. In it, the world reverts back to the medieval times, thanks to an unexplained phenomenom. The world created by the author is creative and interesting. The fact that this book was written more than 100 years ago also makes it even more interesting - some of the science may be wrong, but most of the things described by the author sound plausible! However, not everything is perfect. The plot has a few interesting moments, but it also has big boring segments. Some parts of the book were a chore to read - even if the ideas are good, the way they are presented is a bit boring. The main character is boring, and the pacing is a bit uneven. However, some parts of the book are engaging, and those are kiiinda worth the chore. Still, I'd recommend it only if you are curious about early sci-fi. It's not the best I've read, but it's also far from the worst.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maria Longley

    A curious book in two halves. The first charts the re-wilding of Britain after an unspecified disaster wipes out London and most of civilisation. The second half is more like a medieval adventure story where Felix is off to find his fortune so he can marry his love in this new feudal society. This is an early example of post apocalyptic fiction (which had some nicer outcomes in it given that this is pre-nuclear). Richard Jeffries is better known for his nature writing (well, at least I know him A curious book in two halves. The first charts the re-wilding of Britain after an unspecified disaster wipes out London and most of civilisation. The second half is more like a medieval adventure story where Felix is off to find his fortune so he can marry his love in this new feudal society. This is an early example of post apocalyptic fiction (which had some nicer outcomes in it given that this is pre-nuclear). Richard Jeffries is better known for his nature writing (well, at least I know him for that) so it's not great surprise that the nature writing in this imagined future is detailed and believable. I found that to be the best part of the book anyway. The adventure story is fairly standard but more stories should have a go at describing the ecological succession of the landscape after a disastrous change in it!

  18. 5 out of 5

    lauren

    Not a fan of this one, unfortunately! I found the narrative very disengaging, and the plot a little boring. I liked the idea that nature reclaimed England - that domesticated animals ran free and London was overgrown with weeds - but I found the actual story very dull. The characters had no development, and I was a little bored following only Felix around. I found the country's relapse into barbarism a little strange - Jefferies put emphasis on class, such as the lower-class being more susceptib Not a fan of this one, unfortunately! I found the narrative very disengaging, and the plot a little boring. I liked the idea that nature reclaimed England - that domesticated animals ran free and London was overgrown with weeds - but I found the actual story very dull. The characters had no development, and I was a little bored following only Felix around. I found the country's relapse into barbarism a little strange - Jefferies put emphasis on class, such as the lower-class being more susceptible to barbarism because they don't have the privilege to be otherwise. Also, I found it quite disheartening that education was virtually none existent. Only the upper classes had education, but they chose to neglect it because it wasn't that important. An interesting dystopian, especially as I haven't read any from the Victorian period, but not a very interesting story...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sumption

    After London, a post-apocalyptic novel written in 1885, begins with a long description of how the English countryside reasserts itself, and subsequently evolves, following the unspecified disaster that has befallen England's cities and driven out most of its human population. There follows a rather mundane story of Sir Felix, a nobleman in the feudalistic society that arises following the fall. In the final part of the book Sir Felix goes questing, and the pace of the story picks up a little, as After London, a post-apocalyptic novel written in 1885, begins with a long description of how the English countryside reasserts itself, and subsequently evolves, following the unspecified disaster that has befallen England's cities and driven out most of its human population. There follows a rather mundane story of Sir Felix, a nobleman in the feudalistic society that arises following the fall. In the final part of the book Sir Felix goes questing, and the pace of the story picks up a little, as well as touching some more on the nature of the apocalypse. As a story, it's nothing very special, but I really enjoyed Jefferies' descriptions of nature, and of the prolific bird, tree and plant-life in this new England.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sam Browne

    The first half of the book was a masterclass in telling a non-anthropocentric story. We instead get a gods eye view of the landscape as it changes. This blurs the gap between the reader and the world until the character itself is the landscape and the death and life that takes place within it become an inconsequential ebb and flow to the overall story. Time becomes a fluid thing that moves as it needs and feels ultimately unnecessary. Then a point of view is introduced and time is introduced and The first half of the book was a masterclass in telling a non-anthropocentric story. We instead get a gods eye view of the landscape as it changes. This blurs the gap between the reader and the world until the character itself is the landscape and the death and life that takes place within it become an inconsequential ebb and flow to the overall story. Time becomes a fluid thing that moves as it needs and feels ultimately unnecessary. Then a point of view is introduced and time is introduced and there is plot and there is people and their is drama and it all feels like well trod ground. I stopped reading it here and I won't read further but that beginning is reason enough to re-read it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Louisa

    Some beautiful descriptions of the English countryside after modern civilisation has suffered an unspecified "cataclysm", as you'd expect from Jeffries, who was mainly known for his nature writing. But the plot is an afterthought, and Felix is pretty insufferable, so it was a slog to finish. Theoretically interesting as one of the first post-apocalyptic novels, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    More like 3.5 stars. slow paced but the world is wonderfully described. Very very early post apocalyptic SF (sort of) and it shows in the many many left open threads but its a good take on what might happen to society if everything goes tits up. I don't need to know what caused the problem so that didn't bug me about the novel, puts the reader in the same boat as the characters since they don't know either.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    ‘Never, as I observed before, was there so beautiful an expanse of water. How much must we sorrow that it has so often proved only the easiest mode of bringing the miseries of war to the doors of the unoffending. Yet men never weary of sailing to and fro upon it, and most of the cities of the present time are upon its shore. And in the evening we walk by the beach, and from the rising ground look over the waters, as if to gaze upon their loveliness were reward to us for the labour of the day.’

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ida Aasebøstøl

    Curious for being an early post-apocalyptic piece. There's no story (really, just words stacked on words stacked on a young man's revenge/grandiosity fantasies), but if you just read part I -and perhaps chapter 23 - you get a gist of the story there could have been. Part I with an illustrative map could easily have been published on its own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Harry

    book 1 is pure world building and one of the best apocalyptic settings ever created. book 2 is a story happening within that setting. the story is quite generic and often boring. there's a dinner scene that drags on way too long. I wouldn't fault someone for skipping book 2.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Reid

    At Last!! At last, a beautifully crafted, beautifully formed, and highly realistic post apocalyptic world! No Hunger Games here! An absolute pleasure to read. I want more of this world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Spurnlad

    For a book written in the 1880's a very informed and well-though out view, especially on the development of the countryside and society after an apocalyptic event. The main story line is VERY Victorian in its rendering, it could almost have been written by a Pre-Raphaelite artist, but entertaining anyway.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roo MacLeod

    Heavy I could not get into this tomb at all. It was like reading my own obituary and finding out I was seriously boring

  29. 5 out of 5

    Enrique Puricelli

    Interesting book but inconclusive ending. As if author wanted to write a sequel which never came to be.

  30. 5 out of 5

    knig

    The literary equivalent of Wiseau's 'the room' : worst of breed.

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