The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace

Another post-apocalypse novel published (like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road) as mainstream fiction rather than science fiction. The Pesthouse (2007) won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and got good reviews, but I’m afraid it left me cold.

It’s a journey, the writing is “sensitive” and competent, the two protagonists suffer and change, the typical after-the-fall elements are present (religious nuts, violent raiders, superstitious greedy villagers)… Maybe if you don’t read sf this would all seem original and riveting, but I got bored and started skimming less than half-way through just to see if anything better came along and to find out how it would end. I think some sf writers have done much better on this theme, though as genre writers they never get much attention. Topics for another day: the genre label, and better stories on this theme.

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