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Literature / Brother In The Land

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A 1984 novel by Robert Swindells.

One summer's afternoon in Skipley, Yorkshire, teenage Danny Lodge, after a humid day of minding the family shop, takes his bike onto the nearby moors and, caught in a shower, shelters in a pillbox left over from the last world war. He dozes off, wakes to be dazzled by a distant flash, and sees, on the horizon, an enormous mushroom-shaped cloud. A masked soldier confiscates his bike, orders him back to the town, and kicks him in the stomach.

Back in Skipley, life drags painfully on, with worldwide devastation, minimal food, and the only sign of law enforced by a troop of soldiers who reputedly shoot on sight anyone who approaches the supermarket. On befriending local girl Kim, Danny hears rumours of an automated commune on the land of smallholder Sam Bramwell...

This novel provides examples of:

  • After the End: Small, disparate communities struggle to survive.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played unflinchingly straight.
  • Babies Ever After: The more efficiently equipped commune on Holy Island sees the birth of several babies unharmed by mutation, the latest of which is expected by Dan and Kim.
  • Babies Make Everything Better:
    • Subverted with the death of Kim’s sister’s baby.
    • Ultimately Played Straight with the birth of several healthy babies on a more efficiently equipped commune on Holy Island.
  • Break the Cutie: Curiously subverted with Dan’s seven-year-old brother Ben, who seems to take in his stride the ruination, shortages and danger.
  • Cool Old Guy: Sam Bramwell, with limited resources, leads a benevolent, efficient commune.
  • Crapsack World: With much of humanity dead, survivors contend with shortage of safe food and water, murderous neighbours, ravaged terrain, and a regression of law and order to medieval tyranny.
  • Crazy Homeless People: “Spacers” wander in a traumatised delirium.
  • Disaster Scavengers:
    • Murderous "Goths" roam the land.
    • “Purples” eat people.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Discussed. Sam Bramwell theorises that desensitisation to carnage through newsreels has eroded human capacity for empathy.
  • Jerkass: Rhodes, brusquely snide former PE teacher, and second in command to Bramwell, whose idealistic benevolence he disdains.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: At nearby Kershaw Farm, an elite of sheltered survivors shoot hoarders, execute the sick, and enforce agricultural toil on penalty of starvation.
  • Oop North:
    • Skipley, West Yorkshire.
    • Danny, Kim and Ben flee Oop even further North to Holy Island, Northumberland.
  • Precision F-Strike: Whereas Swindells books tend to avoid outright swearing, here we have “piss off” and “bastard”.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Flight across a nuked England necessitates eating local wildlife.
  • The Plague: Radiation sickness, which emerges as a “creeping dose.”
  • Parental Abandonment: Mrs Lodge was killed in the blast. Mr Lodge is later killed in a raid on the shop.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Gas Mask: The Kershaw soldiers’ radiation masks lend a terrifying mystique.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Early on, Kim aims a killing blow at a murderous raider, and aspires to abandon sentiment. Subverted with her breakdown over the radioactive deformities which threaten and cause the death of her sister’s baby.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: The benevolent cooperation aspired to by Sam Bramwell ultimately proves more prosperous than the brutality of raiders.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Aspired to by Mr Lodge, but subverted by the Kershaw soldiers, who ambush the family shop.