My first novel by this author was an historical one, very good, about Cicero. The narrator was his slave Tiro, who developed a type of shorthand so that he could record his masters’ speeches. So I was surprised to find that Mr. Harris’ new novel takes place in the future. It isn’t a very bright future though. This story takes place in England several hundred years hence, after ‘Armageddon’, the name given to the collapse of civilization as we know it today, which happens around 2025, as best I can decipher. All that is left of our current day civilization is glass, plastic bits and useless cell phones. A great deal is made of the fact that many of these devices show the emblem of an apple with a bite taken out of it. The church has seized power again. People who did not starve sought the stone churches built before the industrial age because they were the only shelter available. Civilization seems to be stuck somewhere around the dark ages. Father Christopher Fairfax begins his journey on horseback to a small village in Wessex, where Pastor Lacy, a resident of thirty years, has just died. His purpose is to perform the funeral and return to the Bishop at Exeter but heavy rains cause a mudslide across the road and Fairfax is forced to remain in the village overnight. During the period between the first and second sleep (before electricity, most humans slept in two periods each night, with a period of wakefulness in between), Fairfax discovers that Pastor Lacy has heretical books on the study of the ancients. All curiosity regarding the lives of those who brought on the Apocalypse and their way of life is strictly forbidden by the church. Not only was Lacy searching for knowledge of the ancients, the author of some of the books, Dr. Shadwell, had received a letter from the old pastor and was in town at the time of Lacy’s death. Christopher becomes involved in the search for what the pastor had discovered regarding the ancients.
A very interesting perspective on how precarious our dependence on technology has become.
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