|Vintage Pulp||May 30 2022|
You can make it, honey. Just imagine the future satisfaction you'll get blaming me for coming here in the first place.
This is a dramatic piece painted by Ed Emshwiller for Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's 1955 novel A Town Is Drowning. Did Emshwiller run out of paint, or is the fact that the town in the background is a mere ink drawing symbolic of its fragility and impermanence? We're pretty sure it's option two, and the result is a very striking cover, with some nice color bleeds as one of its main features.
The story is exactly as the title suggests, with fictional Hebertown, located somewhere in the American northeast, being hit by precipitation from a hurricane that sends the local river well over its banks to destroy large portions of the town. The rains and flooding are over by the halfway mark, at which point Pohl and Kornbluth focus on various aspects of social collapse, from infrastructure breakdown to looting.
Disaster-triggered social regression has been written many, many times. Some of the best efforts along those lines kill the soul to even read. A Town Is Drowning is a decent pop fiction undertaking on a non-apocalyptic but still somewhat harrowing scale. It isn't bad, but we think it's a little too impersonal. We'll concede that the authors' ambitions were to have a large array of people to show many different perspectives, but that makes getting to know them—hence caring about them—difficult. At least two characters could have been ditched to allow others to come to the fore.
But what do we know? Pohl and Kornbluth collaborated half a dozen times, so they clearly loved the result. They would go on to much acclaim, with Pohl peaking with the Hugo and Nebula Award winner Gateway, and its sequel Beyond the Blue Event Horizon. A Town Is Drowning is not on that level but it's interesting to catch Pohl here early in his career.
Ballantine BooksHugo AwardNebula AwardFrederik PohlC.M. KornbluthEd Emshwillercover artliteraturesci-fi