Boy, did I never know Jack London.
I had thought I did. I’d read White Fang and Call of the Wild. I thought he was a man’s man, a frontier prose poet who celebrated, venerated, the conquering of man over hostile nature.
But he wrote speculative fiction — so much speculative fiction — and he was so good at it, so intelligent and almost prescient, that I can’t understand why he isn’t better known for his work in the field.
From The Scarlet Plague, a post-apocalyptic nightmare from 1906, to Before Adam, this prehistoric novel of paleolithic man, his imagination knew no bounds as he tells the story of racial memory, in which a modern man dreams of his life in the forest, as an ape-like hominid of limited communication skills but a very definite sense of self, as he navigates the brutal world of clan politics, dangerous predators and new innovations in the Stone Age. It’s Clan of the Cave Bear, but better. So much better. (It’s not eight million pages long, for a start.)
What is perhaps most remarkable about this book is the anthropological theory that it imparts. Take, for example, this sentence:
“… his conduct, in remaining by me, in spite of his fear, I take as a foreshadowing of the altruism and comradeship that have helped make Man the mightiest of the animals.”
This is a pretty new theory, actually, and was not even accepted as probable until this century, a hundred years after this book was written.
Jack London really was a remarkable writer. I am very much looking forward to discovering more of his non-Alaskan works.
TBR DAY 212: Before Adam by Jack London
GENRE: Classic, Historical Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: 10 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Of course.