Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

Paperback, SF Masterworks, 240 pages

Published February 2013 by Gollancz (first published 1955)

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (1956)

Leigh Brackett may not be a household name to most Sci-fi fans in this day and age but she was a ground breaking writer during the pulp era. At time when Ace was publishing most of their science fiction in doubles Leigh Brackett published dozens of space operas and fantasies ( that took place on Mars and Venus) far enough back that it seemed possible. One thing that made her a trailblazer is she didn’t hide her gender like a several women writing at the time.

She is most often remembered for the screenplay she wrote just before her death for the Empire Strikes Back. She also wrote several classic westerns and noir films like Rio Bravo and The Big Sleep. The word is that her screenplay for Empire was very different from the final product that was greatly over hauled by Lawrence Kasdan. So What? George Lucas thought enough of her space opera to give her the first crack. It is cool that Brackett was one of the first people to sit down with Lucas and has out the story. I think in high school I bought a couple of her books because she wrote Empire I have vague memories of reading them. During the Solar Lottery episode of Dickheads (the PKD podcast I co-host) we talked about that book being a double with Leigh Brackett novel. That book sounded interesting. I looked it up at the library and they didn’t have it. They did however have The Long Tomorrow and It was considered a masterpiece of 50’s post apocalypse fiction. Anyone who has read my blog for anytime knows I love a good end of the world story.

It was a cool surprise for me by the time the book showed up on my library holds and I got around to it, I had forgotten what it was about. Interesting timing as I was about to read Carrie Vaughn’s sequel to Bannerless that is set in a similar world. It is interesting to compare those novels and how they reflect the fears of the times. Brackett’s novel is inspired by the very real nuclear fears of the 50’s while Vaughn’s Bannerless books see the reset of the world being a outcome of environmental waste and climate change.

The Long Tomorrow is one hundred years after a Nuclear war in the Midwest. This is a very different novel from the bulk of Brackett’s but it is a hero’s quest just like many of her books. This quest is more Tom Sawyer than Frodo because the midwest of this future has gone back to the primitive, not by choice they are survivors. That said the beliefs and laws of this society have adapted and despite surviving books the idea of embracing technology and going back is a big no no.

So enter our Hero Len Coulter who is very focused on the journey to find the city where technology and the old world are embraced. Along the way there is a love triangle with his brother, and many adventures. He dreams of this place and the central question of the third act is this dream all he believed it would be. The society that survived is fighting to prevent any of the seeds that destroyed the past world from being planted again.

You may be thinking – I have read or seen this story one thousand times, and this story is cliché. Well this novel was released in the 50’s so this is one of the trailbliazers along with Alas Babylon and On the Beach. It is the reason for the Cliche and is very different.

The Long Tomorrow shows its age at times, but I am glad I read it. It is a classic of the genre and it is important that we don’t lose these classics. I wouldn’t say it is a barn burner, but it has enough important themes and its role in the genre is undeniable. Yeah you should read it.

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