Pat Murphy: The City, Not Long After

The City, Not Long After
Pat Murphy
First Published 1989
Pan paperback edition 1991
320 pages

The holocaust has come and most of the human race is dead. The survivors live in small self sufficient communities. In California a military strong-man uses force to unify some of these communities into an alliance.

If the above scenario is too familiar, perhaps even boring, then fear not. Murphy uses this setting as the starting point for an unexpected and delightful fantasy.

The setting is San Francisco where a small group survive by scavenging for food and creating art. The whole city becomes the canvas on which they create their visions - one wants to paint the Golden Gate bridge blue. These human residents are protected by the city itself and the spirits of its dead - yes folks this is a ghost story.

Much of the book is spent getting to know the characters, developing their personalities and their relationships with each other and the city. Always looming however is the inevitable conflict with the outside world - the strong-man's army invades the city. The "battle" between the peaceful city dwellers and the invading army provides a climax in a book that is otherwise somewhat lacking in plot.

Written in a clean clear style, this book is very easy to read. You will not get bogged down by weighty turgid prose, nor become bored by lengthy descriptive passages which go nowhere. The text is plain simple (but not simplistic) language which leads the reader onwards.

Pat Murphy has created a vision of a city and its people which you can almost reach out and touch. If you can handle a fantasy novel with no dragons, no magic swords, no sorcerers and no ancient prophecies then try this book - you will be charmed.

Overall rating: A cold fruit juice on a hot Sunday afternoon.