MERIDIAN 144 by Meg Files


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 In the tradition of visionary, end-of-the-world novels, Files's debut rates low, as a woman survives a nuclear holocaust only to spend the rest of her time on earth contemplating her botched-up love life. The time is now, the place is a Pacific island something like Guam that's divided up arbitrarily among the natives, Japanese tourists, and the US military. Catherine Manning, a schoolteacher recently escaped from a joyless marriage and neurotic urban lifestyle on the US mainland, is scuba-diving off the coast with her current beau, an Air Force captain, when there's a sudden flash of light, an earthquake-like shudder, and an eruption of underwater debris. The captain is killed, and when a panicky Catherine, gulping mouthfuls of bottled oxygen, emerges from the watery depths, it is to find a world decimated by nuclear war. While repairing to the local dive shop to stockpile more bottles of uncontaminated air, releasing her dog from the island's quarantine pen (where it has miraculously survived), and scouring the island for packaged food, decent shelter and other survivors, Catherine begins to turn her thoughts inexplicably to the cindered remains of her own love life. Descriptions of her anxiety-ridden childhood, her unhappy marriage, and a series of sordid extramarital affairs are not only interspersed quite awkwardly with vivid evocations of a post-holocaust world and of violent confrontations with other survivors, but they're given equal weight--a decision that would be funny if it weren't so depressing. In the end, Catherine manages to join a group of ``good'' survivors to try to carry on the human race--though the reader, chilled to the bone by Catherine's phenomenal narcissism, may wonder why they bother. An oddity--cheerless and somber, with all the trappings and none of the import of literary profundity.*justify no*

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-939149-59-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991