This summer I discovered a new (to me) literary genre: post-war British Sci-Fi. The decades after WWII were (not surprisingly) rather rough on the Brits, and the zeitgeist found an interesting outlet in science fiction. What makes these books so awesome?

Primarily it's the tone of stoic despair, a la Orwell. These books are less about the implications of technology, and more about capturing the mood of the times. There's one science/technology schtick to get things rolling, and from there on out it's all about how dysfunctional society can get. Imagine a sci-fi Flannery O'Connor or Cormac McCarthy with a dose of classic British reserve.

I've read two books so far and I'm looking for recommendations for more, so don't hold back in the comments.

1. Inverted World, by Christopher Priest, 1974. The story is about a constantly moving city of Euclidian world survivors living in a world with a hyperbolic geometry. Living in a hostile world, having to constantly fight for survival, the civilization has shrunk down in to a defensive posture that is all about just getting through each day's challenges to existence.

The scientific resolution (I won't spoil it) was a little weak. The strongest aspect of the book is the portrayal of the corrosive effects on individuals and society when a community is extremely focused just on a relentless effort to neutralize threats. If you're really imaginative, you just might see some parallels here to the present day.

2. The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham. It's your classic post-nuclear holocaust, genetic mutant story. Wyndham, although completely off on the genetics, does a good job bringing up the key question of what it means to be genetically normal. (The answer, as you'll know if you follow what we're learning about genetic variation, is that there is no such thing as normal or genetically pure. We all have minor alleles for something important, and phenotypically, we generally have distributions, not 'normal' and 'abnormal' categories.)

The book is about an Amish-like farm community living on the frontier - the frontier of habitable territory. Their thing is genetic purity: they want to get back to some pre-apocalypse genetic ideal, and to do that they sterilize and ruthlessly exile anyone that looks like a mutant (usually soon after birth). Unfortunately for the enforcers of genetic purity, not all extreme variants can be detected just by looking. Mutants can grow up in the community, making social ties with friends and family. When they're detected, the breaking of social ties in the process of expulsion is much more painful, which raises certain questions among the populace, questions that those in authority find just a little unsettling.

The genetics and radiation biology aren't great in this book, but the biology works well enough in the context of the story.

Anyone else have recommendations for British Sci-Fi written between 1950 and 1975-80?

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