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The Ragged Edge
The Ragged Edge
Author: John Christopher
extreme earthquakes on a worldwide scale, which reduce towns and cities to piles of rubble and plunge the survivors straight back into the Stone Age. Much of western Europe is drastically uplifted, transforming the English Channel into a muddy desert overnight - whist elsewhere, lands are thrown down and drowned under inrushing seas. — The catacl...  more »
ISBN: 53931
Pages: 254
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.

3.5 stars, based on 1 rating
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Book Type: Hardcover
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As a kid, I very much enjoyed John Christopher's books: the Tripods Trilogy ("The White Mountains", "The City of Gold and Lead", and "The Pool of Fire") as well as the related book "When The Tripods Came"; and also his Sword of the Spirits Trilogy - "The Prince is Waiting", "Beyond the Burning Lands" and "The Sword of the Spirits".
The first trilogy is a sort of "War of the Worlds" scenario where human survivalists struggle against the alien Tripods that have taken over Earth. The second trilogy is a post-apocalyptic scenario where after nuclear holocaust, England has reverted to a medieval feudal society.
I also liked "Dom and Va," a prehistoric story about a boy and a girl, one from a hunting society, the other from a more agrarian background...
But I never knew that Christopher, (real name Christoper Samuel Youd) had written over 70 books, many of them adult novels.
The 1965 book "The Ragged Edge" (also published under the title "A Wrinkle in the Skin") is in the post-apocalyptic vein he is known for. However, it is definitely not a teen novel.
In this case, the apocalypse comes in the form of massive, world-wide earthquakes. It's not believable - I'm not sure if the problems stem from Christopher's lack of knowledge of plate tectonics, or the state of geological knowledge in the 60's - but hey, just ignore that and get on with it. Big earthquakes strike.
Our protagonist, a somewhat reclusive man named Cotter, living on the British island of Guernsey, survives.
After meeting up with some other survivors, and forming a father-son type bond with a young, orphaned boy, he goes on a somewhat obsessive quest to try to find his teenage daughter, who had been away at college.
The book gives a very negative and rather sexist(?) viewpoint on humanity. The positive aspects and outcomes feel sort of tacked-on - like, after the other things that have been shown, they don't ring true.
On the island, the first group of survivors fall instantly under the sway of a "strong" man named Miller, who seems to have gained control simply by bossing people around. OK, I can hang with the breakdown of society & all that - but within TWO DAYS, this guy has appointed himself leader, and demanded sexual control of the surviving women, and is talking about founding a dynasty. I can't imagine people, even in the face of disaster, going along with something like that. The first survivor-woman, who goes along with it, is really just referred to as a "slut," as if that explains it. Seriously, I think after losing all your family, friends, belongings, etc, it would take most people a while to even start WORRYING about sex.
Anyway, when, on his quest to the mainland, Cotter falls in with another group of survivors, this group seems a lot better. The main woman in the group seems strong and intelligent, and they have a civilized attitude, and an educated doctor in the group, etc. But soon Cotter discovers that his assumptions have been a sham, that the woman have simply learned to accept repeated violent rapes from marauding looters, and to acquiesce to the lusts of even the most civilized-seeming men in the group.

I don't know. I don't actually think of myself as having a very high opinion of people in general, but on the other hand, there seems to be this weird urge to think of people as being worse than they are. Or maybe it's that we want to believe that people NEED structure and authority in order to behave well, and without it, things will fall apart instantly?
It reminds me a lot of the reportage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans - the news was talking about how aid couldn't even get in because it was chaos, people were being raped and murdered left and right, wild looters were shooting at aid helicopters, etc...
But when the actual facts came out, one person had fired a blank into the air to try to attract the attention of the aid helicopter - because they needed aid! And the rapes and murders for that time period were actually MUCH LOWER than the number of rapes and murders that usually happened in New Orleans on an AVERAGE day!

In my perception of things, I really think that, for many people, disaster can bring out the best in them, rather than the worst. I think many people will find themselves capable of banding together, cooperating and helping one another to an extent that in normal, day-to-day life, they would not.

So, that's my positive, pro-humanity statement for today!