The Long Winter

by John Christopher
Reviewed date: 2014 Mar 7
Rating: 3
208 pages
cover art

I read The Long Winter a couple of days ago when I had jury duty. I should have brought another book--I finished it by about 3pm.

Andrew Leedon is a television producer in 1960s Britain. While investigating a story about a drop in solar radiation, he strikes up a friendship with David Cartwell, who works in the Home Office. David has an affair with Andrew's wife Carol, and Andrew ends up (almost by default) with David's wife Madeleine. It's all very neat and very tragic.

The global tragedy is much more messy. The drop in solar radiation is neither minor nor temporary: a bitter winter stretches into summer, food supplies dwindle, and it becomes apparent that a new Ice Age has descended upon Britain and all of Europe. The wealthy and the lucky flee to warmer parts. David uses his influence to send Carol, Andrew, and Madeleine to Lagos, Nigeria.

Lagos is where the real meat of the story begins. The Long Winter is not about climate change, the fall of civilization, or even about affairs and divorces. It's about colonialism. The influx of white refugees into Nigeria sets up a kind of reverse colonialist system. Nigeria had been a British colony until 1960, but now the Nigerians are in charge. They relish the turnabout, and enjoy employing the British as secretaries and household servants, segregating them into the slums, and harassing them with racist anti-vagrancy laws. It's all great fun.

Andrew gets noticed by Abonitu, a man with powerful connections in Nigeria. Andrew had befriended Abonitu when he was an intern in Britain, and now Abonitu returns the favor by securing Andrew a job in Nigerian television--a position usually barred to whites.

But the best part is the reconnaissance mission to Britain. It's actually the first step of Nigeria's attempt to colonize Europe. Abonitu leads the expedition, and Andrew comes along--ostensibly to document the expedition for Nigerian television, but really more as a good luck charm. A white version of the "magic Negro", if you will.

Britain has been decimated. Maybe a tenth of the population remains. But the survivors know their history: they'll not willingly submit to being dominated by Africa as Africa had been dominated by Britain. They put up a fight, and now Andrew must choose where his loyalties lie. It's a hard decision--ha ha, no, he's British of course. His loyalties lie with Britain and the supremacy of the British people.

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