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Saturday, 9 June 2018

Book Review: Domain by James Herbert

The long-dreaded nuclear conflict. The city torn apart, shattered, its people destroyed or mutilated beyond hope. For just a few, survival is possible only beneath the wrecked streets – if there is time to avoid the slow-descending poisonous ashes. But below, the rats, demonic offspring of their irradiated forebears, are waiting. They know that Man is weakened, become frail. Has become their prey...

I've recently re-read James Herbert's trilogy of novels featuring the giant mutated rats that first made his name, and I must say that I think Domain is the best of the three. This time the action takes place during the aftermath of a Nuclear War. And it is this aspect that, for me, made this the most satisfying read of the three - the rats are almost second fiddle to the horrors our small group of survivors have to face.

I remember reading this book when it first came out and I didn't enjoy it as much as the previous two, perhaps because the Rats were not the greatest threat faced by the characters, and yet now that I'm older it is precisely this aspect that made the book stand out for me. The horrors of the nuclear war are chillingly created on the page  and alongside this the Rats seem a minor threat.

The main protagonist is Steven Culver, a pilot who, after the bombs start to drop, finds himself in a secret underground bunker, after he aids Government man Alex Dealey. The initial section of the book covers different points of view  as the missiles fall. This is incredibly powerful writing - during the period the book was written the threat of nuclear war was a very real concern for people, and in the world we live in today the threat seems to have returned, making Doman a particularly chilling entry in the series.

 For instance as I type this review the Doomsday Clock is set at 2 minutes to midnight - The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world. See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2018 time of the Doomsday Clock.

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