In the apocalyptic novel FAMINE by Graham Masteron, author of THE MANITOU, a mysterious blight destroys the nation’s crops while sabotage destroys the grain reserves, resulting in famine in the United States and Canada. Law and order quickly break down as people scramble for food, causing the country to implode.
This is an older novel I picked up in a secondhand bookstore (originally published in the UK in 1981). It’s not available as an eBook, but you can get the paperback new or used on Amazon. It’s definitely quirky, but I had a lot of fun with it.
The idea of destroying a nation’s food supply with a virus that impacts food instead of people appears frighteningly simple, much more so today than in 1981. Even without the sabotage of the food reserves (also frighteningly simple), this alone would result in incredible hardship and potential chaos.
The resulting collapse was realistic but in my view a bit extreme. Very quickly the banks shut down, and then the electric grid fails. I can see looting and chaos, but not the swift collapse of all infrastructure. Similarly, the government appeared strangely prone to the attack. It doesn’t protect its food assets or do much else to ensure continuity of government. At the start, the nation’s food supply appears to be at the mercy of a single corrupt senator, who of course puts a get rich quick scheme ahead of saving the nation from mass starvation and collapse. The suburbanites forced to fight to survive waste a lot of energy on pointless cruelty instead of getting food.
The writing is very good, though at times we’re reminded we’re reading a ’70s apocalyptic novel, with its pornographic sex scenes, tough men (but not overly macho) and helpless gorgeous women, sense of Blacks and Whites as antagonistic alien races, portrayal of liberals as naive head-in-the-clouds do-gooders (instead of people with a different solution that might or might not work), and of course sadistic bikers. The characters are vividly drawn and you will find yourself caring whether they survive. The pacing is excellent–once you fall into Masterton’s rhythm, you feel like every sentence moves the story forward, without any waste. I’m no agriculture expert, but he appeared to do his homework; the story reads as if it’s realistically founded. It also tugs at your heart strings: There’s a scene where a hopeless father must kill his children (to save them from a long, painful death from hunger) that was really horrible and haunted me for days.
In short, FAMINE is a fun apocalyptic story with an American ’70s flavor.
Masterton wrote some other interesting apocalyptic novels I hope to check out–BURIAL (America sucked underground), MANITOU BLOOD (vampires) and BLIND PANIC (mass blindness)–all based on his original novel MANITOU.