Email this review


In Call Back Yesterday (1981), Forman described the events leading up to the nuclear outbreak of World War III in 1988: Doomsday. Now it's Doomsday plus twelve, the year 2000; industrial society, except in Japan, has vanished; millions have died from radiation and plagues. But, in pockets along the US coast, like Fort Blanco, Oregon, survivors are just starting to live semi-normal (if simpler) lives again: 15-year-old Val Tucker, adopted daughter of civic leader James and doctor Marion (who saved baby-orphan Val in 1988), is a cheerleader fro the Fort Blanco football team. But a militaristic mood has recently started spreading up from San Diego--with recruiting posters for the People's Army, urging young people to join in actions against the dominant Japanese traders (""to resist the Oriental scourge""). Worse yet, news now arrives that the military clique down south has gotten its hands on a nuclear sub--with imminent plans for an anti-Japanese attack! So Val, who has always had a feeling that she's ""well, meant for something special,"" joins a peace group called ""Doomsday Plus""--and learns about the horrors of nuclear combat from WW III veteran Vic Ellis. Soon, in fact, Val is making a great rally speech in support of Vic's peace-crusade idea. (""The audience went wild. . . Cries of 'Let her lead! Let her go before us. The great day is coming' rang in her ears."") And the novel's second half then follows the crusaders--Vic and wife Sandy, Val and her pals, about 1000 others--as they trek south toward San Diego, ""marching, marching toward that bright star that burned before them all."" There are the usual crusade ordeals: hunger, thirst, the less hardy folk who fall by the wayside. There are run-ins with Indians and a gang of bikers (eventual converts). There are Joan or Arc-ish doubts in the desert. (""Had she brought doom upon them all? But wasn't it worth the try? Could there be any greater human goal than preventing war?"") But the survivors do eventually reach San Diego--where, despite military attacks and threats of prefrontal lobotomy, the Crusade succeeds in stirring the local populace into triumphant rebellion: the sub is scuttled, the warmongers are captured, the world is saved. . . all with implausible ease. Well-meaning and right-minded, to be sure, but preachy, speechy, and flatly peopled--without the suspense and credibility that helped to give Call Back Yesterday some snap.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Scribners