» Cosy catastrophes ¦ What You Can Get Away With

There’s something about the way the volcanic ash story is developing that makes me feel we’re in the opening chapters of one of John Wyndham or John Christopher‘s world-ending novels of the mid-20th century.

Not that I’m claiming the eruption of an Icelandic volcano is the beginning of the civilization-ending apocalypse – though that’s exactly what you’d expect a character like me to say at this stage of the book – but I can almost see the opening lines of the book. It seems strange now, but back in the April of that first summer of the ash, all we were concerned about was an impending General Election… something in that vein, as the main character goes about his life somewhere in the Home Counties, spending the occasional evening in the pub with a melancholic friend who warns that Things Are Going On Behind The Scenes and advises our protagonist to prepare himself (and possibly his family, if they’re included in the book) for Things Going Wrong.

(Of course, ever since I heard him reading The Death of Grass for Radio 4, I find all these protagonists have started resembling David Mitchell. His ‘mustn’t grumble’ world-weariness captures the spirit of this sort of book – where traditional British values are placed under threat by unknowable alien forces – perfectly.)

The other option is that we’re slightly more advanced in one of the more outlandishly silly Bond films of the 70s and 80s and even as I type this, Roger Moore’s strategically raised eyebrow is chasing Donald Pleasance on a volcano-causing submarine somewhere in the North Atlantic.

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