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Saturday, June 29, 2013

MALEVIL – Robert Merle

Showing my age here... In the late sixties and early seventies my friends, brothers, and I immersed ourselves in post atomic bomb lit like Failsafe, On the Beach, A Canticle for Leibowitz, I am Legend, and many more mostly mass market paperbacks for which remembering the titles is fruitless. We had great fun and devoured those books one after another. Recently my interest has once again been piqued for post-apocalyptic literature and not only the kind pivoting on nuclear war. I have branched out into zombies and vampires I must admit. This past year, thanks to a generous brother's Christmas present I find myself in possession of a hard copy in really good condition of an old favorite, Malevil by Robert Merle. I have reread it and enjoyed it all over again. For an older post-apocalyptic read you might try this one. Not long and pretty easily read in a day or two.

Reading Malevil with a much more mature mind however makes for a quite different experience. Questions came up that never occurred to me the first time around. For instance why is it assumed immediately that a man will be in charge of everything, and why immediately is there a quest for women with which to procreate? Oh well...

In the rural countryside of France a young man has acquired on old castle, Malevil, nestled up under a cliff. He is in the process of making it into a type of resort for vacationers. It has been renovated, stocked with food, wine, livestock, and servants when the dropping of some kind of bomb or bombs takes place. Emmanuel, his employees, livestock, and several of his friends who are visiting him survive because of the strength of the castle walls and the protection of the cliff, only to discover that the landscape and all the people around have been incinerated.

From there on this is a book about survival with the people of the castle reverting to a medieval lifestyle and an agrarian society. Not only do they need to plan for remaining fed and clothed in the future, but also to plan for defending the castle against marauders. Soon they find that there are survivors in a nearby village. In this village there are women of childbearing age who of course the men of Malevil want, and also weapons and ammunition. Conflict is quick to arise as the village is being lead by a sociopathic cleric in cahoots with a band of militiamen.

There is a little bit of something for everyone here. Some blood and guts (but not too much), a little religion, a love story or two, and survival planning. It may not be as shockingly good as I remember but still a good read for a rainy day. The book is presented as being narrated and written down by Emmanuel (interesting name don't you think for the leader of a new civilization?) with notes interjected by Thomas his friend, which was interesting.

I am thinking about trying to find a copy of Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. I wonder if I can get anyone else interested in rereading that great oldie?

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