If Cormac McCarthy’sThe Road
got you interested in the sort of post-nuclear-apocalypse novel that’s usually left to cheap science fiction, then you’ll find Jim Crace’sThe Pesthouse
a worthy successor.
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Set hundreds of years past whatever it was that decimated America, The Pesthouse depicts the lives of two people trying to fight and scheme their way across an outlaw landscape to get to the dreamed-of boats that take people across the ocean to safety (Unlike disease-wracked America, the popular talk goes, people across the ocean are so healthy they’ll travel a hundred miles just to see a person sniffle.)
The book includes many of the standard inventions of the genre – the marauding gangs preying on travelers, the ancient and baffling items such as a Lincoln penny, the hopeful ending – but Croce is a fine writer who never feels clichéd.
Like The Road, this novel deals with the spirit of its subjects, the compromises they make, what they decide to hold dear and what they abandon. And as with McCarthy’s book, it’ll stay with you for a long time. – Richard Connelly
The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace. Doubleday, 255 pages, $24.95