Darkness and Dawn by George Allan England
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Darkness and Dawn by George Allan England(1877 – 1937)
Darkness and Dawn is a compellation of three novella by G. A. England, written from 1912 to 1914 and tells the story of two survivors of a Dying Earth type event that takes place around 1920 or somewhat eight to six years in the future of their publication. It's a well written story from its time and has the disadvantage of reflecting views and beliefs of that time; but sometimes I think opinion about that tends to be colored by overactive expectation. What I mean by that is there are accusations of it being specifically racist-(which it could well be)-based sometimes on erroneous interpretation (though I too could be erroneously interpreting things myself).
The problem stems from something that might be considered a spoiler; so there's the warning, though I don't think it will spoil the plot itself: only expectations. There are a number of questions that crop up in the story that get bandied about and never really get solved: from the readers point of view.
I love the way the story starts. Beatrice Kendrick, a young woman at work, awakes to find herself within the decimated ruins of her office. The story goes on to explain how even her typewriter has had the keys dissolve to dust. And this beginning almost gets the readers hope up, in that perhaps this is going to be about a strong female character. Don't get me wrong she does often come on strong, but once Allan Stern, her boss, enters the picture it seems to become his story. The point here though is that several mysteries are presented. One is that something catastrophic has happened and everyone else is gone and a long time has passed and somehow these two not only survive the disaster, but have slept through over a thousand years without aging. After this there are more mysteries such as the Horde which are some sort of Hominid aberration. And here is the spoiler: don't expect these mysteries to be solved. They are greatly speculated about by the characters, but the final answers are not really there: unless you want to subscribe to speculation.
The Horde is what often get mislabeled as the Racist part. And in part this is from the constant speculation going on from the admittedly uninformed Allan; at first referring to them as dark and upright walking like men. Later they are referred to as Hominids that, from description, sound closer related to apes with less fur and skin that is bluish gray. The parts I noticed that did seem racist don't get mentioned as often if at all by those reviews; but they are when Allan and the narrator voice keep referring to civilized man as being white. That declaration occurs far too many times to the annoying point of trying to drive something home; though I'm baffled as to what.(Perhaps just helping us get a grasp of the thinking of people in the early nineteen hundreds.)
As to the plot of the story; that seems to hover mostly in the area of the genre of dying earth stories. For me my earliest ventures in that genre might be H.G.Wells Time Machine. And in a way the Horde seem a lot like the Morlocks. But I could go back further to Le Dernier Homme (English: The Last Man) by Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville and even The Last Man by Mary Shelley. We could jump forward to Philip Francis Nowlan and his Armageddon 2419 AD. It seems in all of these there is some catastrophe that ends most of life or at least civilization as we know it. This in a way seems a bit of a conceit in a couple of ways one of those being that we obliterate civilization and then find that it’s a man from the past who can help bring us forward again. Or that somehow the future generations are unable to survive the catastrophe and either all men die or they lose knowledge.
In this story the first novella, at the onset, I'm led to believe that all men have died and been replaced by the aberration that is the Horde; and the only hope for the future of mankind are these two inexplicable survivors. And still, there more mysteries. The Earth has rotated on its axis and there is a second object in the heavens besides the moon that is much closer to the earth and is always describe as being dark. These will be explained to some extent (As in somehow a chunk of the Earth blew into space and is now a satellite while the Earth shifted because of the catastrophe) but how they occur is never more than speculated upon by the survivors. Eventually more people are found; but they have devolved to somewhat primitive warring factions.(Well the technology has devolved.)
It falls upon our two Main Characters to bring civilization back to the Earth; though all things considered coming out of Allan's and the Narrator voice it seems that that civilization can only come out greatly flawed in ways that might be beyond Allan's comprehension. And though both Allan and Beatrice seem to be of high intelligence, they seem to stumble in and out of trouble because of overconfidence and carelessness.
The high adventure in the story is written much similar to the style of Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars and Barsoomian novels that run contemporary to these novels. And I could even put those novels in the same genre though technically they are Dying Mars (maybe Dying Planet).
Another Great SFF Classic in the Dying Earth tradition, just be mindful that many of the most intriguing questions are left up for the reader to decide which interpretation or speculation might apply: if any.
George Allan England seems to love long sentences. I'm quite fond of them also; so that's a good thing.
In the first novel he has this one:
For of the room which she remembered, which had been her last sight when (so long, so very long, ago) her eyes had closed with that sudden and unconquerable drowsiness, of that room, I say, remained only walls, ceiling, floor of rust-red steel and crumbling cement.
England, George Allan (2012-05-17). Darkness and Dawn (Kindle Locations 44-46). . Kindle Edition.
:And this does an adequate job of describing conditions
But in the next two there are these at the very beginning:
A thousand years of darkness and decay! A thousand years of blight, brutality, and atavism; of Nature overwhelming all man's work, of crumbling cities and of forgotten civilization, of stupefaction, of death! A thousand years of night!
England, George Allan (2012-05-17). Darkness and Dawn (Kindle Locations 1842-1843). . Kindle Edition
Life! Life again, and light, the sun and the fresh winds of heaven, the perfect azure of a June sky, the perfume of the passionate red blooms along the lips of the chasm, the full-throated song of hidden birds within the wood to eastward--life, beauty, love--such, the sunrise hour when Allan and the girl once more stood side by side in the outer world, delivered from the perils of the black Abyss.
England, George Allan (2012-05-17). Darkness and Dawn (Kindle Locations 4965-4968). . Kindle Edition
:Both are quite flowery, but the first (for the second novella) I found quite compelling; whereas the second (for novella three) seemed almost over the top. And he has many more of these gems.
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