The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
Read by Ben Rameaka
Length: 8 Hrs 27 Min
Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: The Long Tomorrow is a novel that will make you think, without ever forcing what you should think onto you. It’s an interesting blending of neo-luddite science fiction and a coming of age tale that fans of Post Apocalyptic novels should definitely have in their library. While it can be dated at times, it contains many issues that are relevant to our era, which are still being explored in modern Apocalyptic fiction.
As the temperature begins to drop, and jolly fat men with bells replace Cheerleaders and Girls Scouts standing outside of retail establishments asking for your money, you know the year is coming to an end. 2012 was a great year for fans of classic post apocalyptic audiobooks. We saw the release of one of the all time classics, Stephen King’s The Stand released in its fully unabridged glory, as well as some of my all time favorites, like When Planets Collide, and MK Wren’s beautiful and heart wrenching post nuclear classic, A Gift Upon the Shore. While I was quite aware of the impending release of The Stand, many of Audible Frontier’s Post Apocalyptic novels came as a pleasant surprise to me. A few weeks ago, another surprise Post Apocalyptic favorite of mine appeared on the digital Audiobook shelves of Audible, Leigh Bracket’s The Long Tomorrow. The Long Tomorrow was first released in print in 1956, just as the Cold War, and the politics of mutually assured destruction were beginning to cement itself in our culture. I read The Long Tomorrow about 20 years ago and it was the first novel I remember that explored a post nuclear neo-luddite society. In Brackett’s vision, the cities are destroyed by Nuclear War, changing the balance of society to one favoring rural groups used to supporting themselves. Religions form, many based on Mennonite philosophies, which teach that God destroyed the cities and any attempts to revive technology was an affront to god. The government passed laws limiting technology, the size of settlements and regulating trade to prevent central hubs which eventually morph into population centers. People who embrace technology are banished or worst. Then, Brackett places within this society, two young boys, fascinated by stories of the past, with natural curiosities that could get them killed.
Len and Esau Coulter, two young boys being raised in the New Mennonite Church, just wanted a bit of excitement. They slip away one night to see the radical preacher and his congregation, who have been known to speak in tongues and roll around on the ground. Yet, when a man is accused of being from the mysterious Barterstown, a supposed city of technology, he is stoned in front of the two boys. Rescued by a kindly trader, the boys find a small box, they believe to be the radio their grandmother had spoken of. When caught with the technology, and some hidden books, and severely beaten by their fathers, the two boys run away, in search of Barterstown and knowledge. When I first read The Long Tomorrow, I was fascinated by the world Brackett had created. The Long Tomorrow was one of the first Post Apocalyptic novels I had read, and since then, I have read hundreds more. So, I was pleased that many aspects of the novel still stood out. While definitely dated, many of the issues Brackett tackled are still relevant to today, and are still being explored in Post Apocalyptic fiction. The story itself has a very cyclical nature. The progression of Len and Essau often reflect the progression of the world they inhabit. Although they are in a search for knowledge, they are also products of their environment, with the ingrained mistrust of technology. This leads to some interesting situations as the two boys attempt to find a place within two divergent worldviews, neither of which they are comfortable with. Brackett did a wonderful job with these characters, providing an outsiders view to key moments in the world’s development. It’s definitely a coming of age tale, particularly for the main perspective character, Len. I think if The Long Tomorrow was written today, it could easily be marketed as a young adult novel. The novel itself never attempts to force feed you any sort of ideology. It handles many interesting ideas, like Xenophobia, religious intolerance, blind acceptance of the status quo, understanding your history so as not to repeat it, and nuclear paranoia, in a manner that leaves it up to the reader to figure out where their morality and ideology fits in a vast spectrum. My only real issue with the novels is it’s technology, particularly in regards to computers and processing is almost laughably dated, but for a novel written in the mid-1950’s this is no surprise. The Long Tomorrow is a novel that will make you think, without ever forcing what you should think onto you. It’s an interesting blending of neo-luddite science fiction and a coming of age tale that fans of Post Apocalyptic novels should definitely have in their library. While it can be dated at times, it contains many issues that are relevant to our era, which are still being explored in modern Apocalyptic fiction.
I really enjoyed Ben Rameaka’s reading of The Long Tomorrow. Nothing he did really blew me away, he just gave a straight forward reading, with strong characterization. He did a good job giving Len and Essau young voices, without making them sound like annoying petulant teenagers, even when they were acting like annoying petulant teenagers. Rameaka reads the story with a nice, modern tone, that smoothed over the dated feel of some of the parts of the novel. At first I struggled with some of his female characterizations, but as the novel progressed these definitely improved. I don’t think he reading will stand out as one of the great performances of the year, but it was solid, and he did his job. The Long Tomorrow plays out nicely in audio form, and I highly recommend it to people who love classic Post Apocalyptic science fiction.
Note: This review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. Click on the banner below for more posts.