Modern Post Apocalyptic stories has a pretty dim view of the future. The Terminator has mankind crushed by intelligent machines. The Road has all life coming to an end. The Matrix has man surviving as nothing more than fuel cells for more evil machines. Waterworld is a wet world filled with evil people. The Postman and Mad Max are a dry worlds filled with evil people. My favorite post apocalyptic books are by Octavia Butler and deal with a world where all kinds of bad things happen, but there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
I found myself without anything to read while out of town recently and I bought The Girdle of Solitude. Written in 1977 there is a strong feeling of Tune In, Turn On, and Drop Out to it. Our heroes are redneck Pagans living in parts of the former United States and in possession of a number of interesting mind powers. The villains are a group of Christians and a group of Scientists. There is horse back riding, shooting of bows and arrows, and occasional wild sex in the woods. The key moment in the story is when a woman leaves The City and hooks up with one of the men from the Shandos-one of the Pagans with the gnarly mind powers. Their son, Singer, is a key figure who has even more powerful mind skills than those he grows up.
I liked the story, a nice mixture of Questing, Warring, and Ethnic Cleansing, but the writing left a lot to be desired. Characters were killed off in amazingly blunt fashion, as in they were an intricate part of the story in one sentence and they were dead and forgotten in the next. Characters were introduced and I expected them to be important, only to have them shoved off stage immediately. Scenes shift from place to place and person to person, sometimes in the same paragraph so that I had a hard time figuring out who was doing what.
There was a kind of Logan’s Run feel to The Girdle of Solitude, only from the outside in. Our heroes are the scattered remains of humanity, not the sequestered few obsessed with their own pointless pursuits. Among the odd little predictions that didn’t quite pan out are a set of Heinlein style Rolling Roads and a computer that takes up vast amounts of The City’s power just to sit in readiness to answer a question. I know that personal computers were still a couple of years off in 1977, but hadn’t the idea of Rolling Roads been put to bed by then?
I was expecting a bit more magic, either evolutionary or technological, than I found. Near the beginning of the story three people travel to a forbidden zone city in search of the lost Girdle of Solitude, while there, they meet with an unnamed evil. This evil is described in terms that brought to mind the Smoke Monster from LOST. Later, more people travel back to this same cursed city and are confronted by the same evil again-it turns out to be rats. Maybe this was a better monster back in the days of Willard and Ben. Reading it now I am shocked by the idea. Tidal waves of rats-Really?
The Girdle of Solitude was pretty good, and there was a sequel. But I am not going out of my way to find it.