Sunday, September 18, 2011

Underground Reading: The Rest Must Die by Richard Foster

Ed here: I ran across this review by accident. I liked this book when I read it in high school. Made a lot of sense to me. I haven't read it since. This review is interesting because it uses the novel to demonstrate how sexist and he-mannish it was--and how it perfectly reflected prevailing attitudes. As I was reading it I thought of how little this theme (and it beliefs) --after The Apocalypse--has changed. And yes I mean you Cormac McCarthy. The review becomes an essay on the Fifties. This is reviewed reviewed by Jared. For the entire essay go here

Underground Reading: The Rest Must Die by Richard Foster

Richard Foster's The Rest Must Die (1959) begins with Bob Foster, advertising executive, returning from a boozy lunch. He's busy dreaming up his new cigarette campaign on the walk back to the office when the air-raid siren goes off. Like the well-trained Cold War civilian that he is, Foster dives into the nearest shelter - a subway station.

The hundreds of New Yorkers in the station stand around awkwardly, waiting to return to their lives above ground. But (drumroll) this is not to be. One rumble after another means that something is happening on the surface - and then one man stumbles down, face burned, screaming about the mushroom clouds.

The book follows the surviving New Yorkers as they fashion a rough subterranean society underneath the radioactive remnants of their city. Initially, survival is a rough scramble for the basic necessities: food, water and shelter.

As those are sorted, the focus broadens to the group's social dynamics. Now that the world has changed, who is in control? Police officers and air-raid wardens try to keep order, but even the tiny civilisation in the subways has its malcontents. A few hardened criminals lead a breakaway group, a cop snaps and goes "bad" and, of course, there are the hundreds and hundreds of people who adjust to the new world (dis)order by turning, essentially, feral.

Fortunately, some men (and a rare few women) rise to the occasion. Bob is one of them. Despite losing his entire family to the bombs, he quickly puts himself in order and takes command. From the opening minutes, Bob is a voice of calm, rational thought. He's also one of the first to adjust to the concept that society-as-we-know-it is over, suggesting to the reigning police cabal that they destroy the alcohol, ration the food and horde the weapon

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