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Summary

A viral strain has attacked rice crops in East Asia, causing massive famine; soon a mutation appears that infects the staple crops of West Asia and Europe, such as wheat and barley, threatening a famine engulfing the whole of the Old World, while Australasia and the Americas attempt to impose rigorous quarantine to exclude the virus.

Christopher's classic post-apocalyptic novel follows the struggles of architect John Custance and his family as they make their way across an England that is rapidly descending into anarchy, hoping to reach the safety of John's brother's farm in an isolated Westmorland valley. Along the way, they find they must sacrifice many of their morals in order to stay alive.

Here is an unusual and absorbing piece of science-fiction about the relentless transformation of civilisation when the balance of nature is upset.

©1956 Samuel Youd (P)2011 Audible Ltd

Critic reviews

"I admire The Death of Grass. It was published at roughly the same time as The Day Of The Triffids. In my judgement, it is by far the better book. It is a thrilling and sensible work." (Brian Aldiss)
"Gripping! Of all science fiction's apocalypses, this is one of the most haunting." ( Financial Times)

What listeners say about The Death of Grass

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

The end of the world as seen from the 1950's

I fondly remembered reading John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy as a child so when I came across this I leapt at the chance to listen to one of his books for adults. I was not disappointed.

The publisher's summary offers a useful guide to the plot and the comparisons with Day of the Triffids are obvious. What was more striking (as the book progressed) were the echoes of Lord of the Flies (published two years earlier); the difference being that Golding chose to examine the impact upon children of their removal from civilization whereas Christopher describes the possible impact upon adults of a breakdown in civil society.

The result is fascinating and sometimes illuminating even if it ultimately remains a book of its time and William Gaminara does an inspired job of animating the relatively large cast of characters.

If you do choose to download then one last piece of advice. The recording includes an introduction by Robert Macfarlane. This is interesting but includes a number of significant spoilers. I therefore rather think that it would have been better included as an afterword. The novel proper begins with a "prodrome" at 19mins 40 secs and I would therefore recommend that you speed forward to that and listen to the introduction at the end.

70 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

The Dearth Of Laughs

Dour British post-Apocalyptic yarn originally written in 1956 by Tripods author John Christopher. Similar to his contemporary John Wyndham, Christopher's characters and attitudes are based in a parochial post-war middle-class sensibility and, like Wyndham's, are soured by a profoundly bleak view of humanity. Essentially, unpleasant people doing horrible things with unseemly haste, this novel is like a parody of castaways descending into cannibalism ten minutes after being washed ashore. Whilst his grim assessment may not necessarily be wrong, it, like the novel, leaves a bitter taste.
William Gaminara does his usual professional job on the narration.

4 people found this helpful

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Great idea especially timely

I love a cosy catastrophe book, this is not that!
I found myself annoyed at how quickly people started raping and pillaging after like a day of the.'catastrophe' get a grip!

4 people found this helpful

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Overall a good read

The writing style is showing its age, this book lacks any science and its very old fashioned, however I quite liked the book overall.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Odd plot but OK

You have to you suspend disbelief to accept the plot on this one. If you can do that then it is actually an okay story. Nothing more though.

3 people found this helpful

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One of my favourite books of all time

This is an incredible book and it is really well read. I would really recommend reading or listening to this one- probably one of my all time favourites.

7 people found this helpful

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Shame about the sexism

This novel could have been considered a classic if only the female characters had featured more in action and conversation and planning. It was hard to tell them apart or even recall that they were actually in the novel. The only defining characteristic of each female character was by her relationship to others - mother or daughter or assault victim or orphan. The men were always busy pontificating and planning. They have ideas of women being irrational which is fine as a trait in a character but the lack of involvement of the female characters in the novel suggests that the author shares the views of his characters. On the other hand the novel could well be prescient in that a small thing can topple a civilization or a species - in this case it's the demise of grass which has repercussions throughout the world; in reality we have a vast decline in the number of flying insects that we need to pollinate crops and there could be a similar novel written in the future, called. "The Death of Bees"... if only there weren't so many other environmental challenges that life on earth faces.

2 people found this helpful

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A satisfying Post-Apocalyptic Offering

Would you listen to The Death of Grass again? Why?

This sort of book is not one I would listen to again, though I enjoyed it once. A lot revolves around the plot, but I now know what happens next.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mr
  • 07-04-13

How humans change!

A simple premise - the death of grass leads to world-wide famine and the ensuring chaos. Often chosen as a secondary school text for study due to the character dimensions that change rapidly as a result of the situation. When faced with survival - how would you change? What would you do? What wouldn't you do? A fantastic story, quite grim too.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great audio version of a great story

I remember getting this book at a second hand bookshop decades ago. 1950s post war British sci-fi is not necessarily what people are looking for when they go to the sci-fi part of the store - but perhaps they should. With its tight focus on just a handful of characters as they make their way across England to hoped for safety and then occasional allusions and asides to give a hint of the scale of the global disaster, this book keeps pulling you in while simultaneously horrifying you with the brutal reality of a world falling apart. William Gaminara does a wonderful job as narrator, showing great sympathy to the text. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Richard Ferrie
  • 30-06-18

Surprising Rediscovery

This book has haunted me since I read it as a young teen many decades ago. It came into my hands as an item from the Science Fiction Book Club subscription series. Sheltered, innocent for my age, I knew that I didn't understand certain aspects of the book. Perhaps some of my appreciation now comes from filling in those blanks. But I expected something else, something raggeder, less concise and unflinching. I recognize here the obvious origins of McCarthy"s THE ROAD as well as several recent post-apocalypse films. This is anything but a young adult book. It is a small masterpiece.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda B
  • 28-03-11

Excellent, frightening story

This story is terrifying, and it is sad that one can imagine this would be a likely scenario given such events. It is well paced and moves along nicely. If you like end of the world science fiction, you will probably like this.

One warning however, there is an introduction in which someone tries to place the novel in its literary istorical context and comment on various aspects of it. Though interesting, the reviewer gives away major portions of the plot and dialogue and it really hurts the story. I advise you skip that as it contains significant story spoilers, and listen to it afterward, if you are curious.

10 people found this helpful

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  • deadandburied
  • 12-12-20

Hyper violent survival thriller

It started off with the big scope of science and distrust of media and government but changed midway. The second half became a survival tale with situational scenes based off of callous violence. I wish it could have been more even toned as I didn't care for the main protagonists after a point of excess. It is still impressive for the time period.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Bear
  • 28-10-20

Death of Grass

More satisfying than the scent of freshly mowed grass, The Death of Grass isa an audiobook you'll find yourself listening to your driveway 10 minutes after you've pulled up to your house.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michelle D. Sebly
  • 01-06-20

Love this author, since I was little!

Frighteningly similar to our times at present. Author a visionary. Strong grasp of human nature. Story well done and keeps the reader gripped.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Neil Ring
  • 08-03-20

A New Virus: Imaginative & Very Believable Novel

I first read ``The Death of Grass'' in the early 1970's when it was reprinted as a ``Science Fiction Classic.'' The book is indeed a Classic and I enjoyed listening to it in 2020 as much as I enjoyed reading it some 40 years ago.
The author explores the impact on modern society when a new virus attacks grasses worldwide. How quickly society crumbles in panic and what an ``average man'' does to protect his family and those that are attracted to him because of his leadership.
The narrator, William Gaminara, does wonderful work on assuming the distinct accents of a variety characters.
``The Death of Grass'' also stands as an introduction to the future world as portrayed in the recently published ``The Second Sleep by Robert Harris.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-06-21

If it was suggested, you must read it.

One of the best apocalypse fictions I've ever listened too. Will be reading it again. Puts even the film the day after to shame.

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  • Simone Warbrick
  • 17-01-21

good Read

good storyline very good Read well Worth the time .makes you think about how dependent we are on grass.