At a crossroads

Comus with his charming-rod about to compel the Lady to drink the potion. William Blake 1801.

Doomsday Morning
by C L Moore.
Gollancz Golden Age Masterworks,  2019 (1957).

Set in the early years of the twenty-first century, Catherine Lucille Moore’s speculative novel is also a thriller, the action moving from the midwestern prairies of America to the East Coast and then California. For a tale written in the 1950s there is much that would appeal to male SF fans of the time: gadgetry, a hard-bitten, hard-drinking protagonist, lots of doublecrossing, and of course violence and explosions.

But there is more to Doomsday Morning than meets the eye. The fifties in the US was of course when McCarthyism was at its height and Moore’s plot has more than a hint of authoritarian repression. It is also, for all SF’s outward credentials as pulp fiction, a very literary novel, with allusions to Shakespeare, Chekhov, Steinbeck and Milton embedded in the text.

It’s also prescient in many ways in its anticipation of driverless traffic, covert electronic surveillance and the US’s alarming propensity to lurch towards totalitarianism when the conditions for it are prepared.

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