I’m not big on classic science fiction, but I believe this was first recommended by someone whose tastes I trust, (but who was that???) so I checked it out and sure enough, it was re-issued this year (2023) and the New York Times did a very nice review of it. According to Wikipedia, it’s not Sherriff’s best selling nor most acclaimed work, but it’s great fun and, as the Times said, it’s timely.
The Hopkins Manuscript
by R.C. Sherriff
Read by Nicholas Boulton, Lameese Isaaq
originally published in 1939
Rating; A / classic dystopian fiction
Wikipedia, see above, identifies it as “a social-political dystopian novel” and goes on to report the book’s publishing history – it’s not been kept secret.
Whatever – after a brief Forward relating how, far in the future, the manuscript was found, and a chapter of how the narrative came to be written, the story is revealed. It’s the compelling self-told tale of one Edgar Hopkins, a retired 40-something school teacher who lives alone near a small town in rural England. Hopkins is a smug little man who thinks quite highly of himself and that can be quite humorous at times.
The year is indefinite but, except for the Forward, it takes place in the near future for when it was written – maybe 1946 or so. The rather pretentious Hopkins keeps busy with raising prize-winning chickens for breeding and is a member of the London Lunar Club. One evening the club members are told in confidence that a disaster is coming. It seems the moon has gone just slightly off course and will collide with the earth in a few year’s time. The members of the Club should obviously be informed – because they’ll likely notice on their own, but they are sworn to secrecy. That’s quite difficult for Hopkins, but he manages to keep the secret.
Several months later the general public is informed of the reality of their situation, but there is no panic as was feared. First, there was no real comprehension and then … well … no spoilers but things get exciting while staying funny for some time. Hopkins meets his. young neighbors, a brother and sister who live with their aunt and uncle and the three become close as the catastrophe looms nearer, precautions are taken, and then … well …
This is a really interesting and well-written story and cautionary tale of sorts. The narration is wonderful. I’m so glad it was re-issued as it is an excellent book for our times – for any times.