The Second Sleep by Robert Harris - A book, because I knew nothing about it beyond it was written by Harris and was doing well, that surprised, even startled me.
I thought, for a few dozen pages, that the book, set in “the Year of Our Risen Lord 1468”, was taking place in 1468 A.D. To my surprise it was set after the Apocalypse. It is set 800 years later than 1468 A.D.. Scientism has been rejected and archeological research rendered criminal by the Church for “[T]he path to Hell begins with too much seeking into the past”.
Father Christopher Fairfax ventures into rural England to Addicott to conduct the funeral of a priest, Father Lacy, The priest has died from a fall, an “evil chance”.
Wonder on whether his death was by chance besets Fairfax when he finds that Father Lacy’s library includes the prohibited volumes of The Proceedings and Papers of the Society of Antiquaries.
He is shaken to read in a volume a report on possible scenarios that could result in the Apocalypse. Church teaching had been for centuries after the Fall that “God had punished the ancients for their elevation of science above all by bringing down upon the Earth the four terrible riders of the Apocalypse - Pestilence, War, Famine and Death - as foretold in the Book of Revelation; and that thanks to a revival of the True Faith, they were blessed to be living in the time of the Risen Christ, when order had been restored to the world.”
Finding records extending back centuries before the Fall he is drawn to stay in Addicott.
The book is interesting as a form of archeological mystery in which the current investigators seek to determine what befell a far more advanced technological civilization. The Church’s explanation is God’s wrath. The fragments of history suggest a catastrophic breakdown of society in 2022 A.D.
Our current world is dependent on complex interconnected systems. Few of us sustain ourselves from the food we produce. Our huge cities require massive amounts of food to be transported to them daily. Could our society collapse? It is hard to know how close we came in the financial meltdown of 2008. Money and its movement and faith in currency was at grave risk just 12 years ago.
While interesting I was not caught up in the story. The plot plodded for almost 200 pages with hints and minor exposures of the past. Finally, a small band form to dig for the truth of the Apocalypse and the science by which people could fly and communicate by devices bearing the symbol of a “bitten apple” (interpreted to mean a bite of the forbidden fruit in Genesis). Interpreting a fictional distant past more advanced in technology is little easier than the efforts of contemporary real life archeologists deciphering the artifacts and writings of long ago civilizations.
Harris is often great, sometimes nearly great, occasionally far from great. My judgment of The Second Sleep is far from great. The premise is fascinating but not the plot.
Harris, Robert - (2002) - Archangel; (2004) – Pompeii; (2008) - Imperium; (2012) - "H" is for Robert Harris; (2014) - An Officer and a Spy; (2016) - Conclave and The Conclaves of Malachi Martin, Walter Murphy and Robert Harris;