THE TIME BEFORE THIS by Nicholas Monsarrat


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The title given the clue to this rather strange story within a story, as recounted by Peter Benton, reporter for a Toronto paper, on assignment to a far frontier of the Arctic reaches. Peter, who fell in line with others in making fun of an ancient and half mad alcoholic in a bar, suddenly saw through to the tragedy of the man himself- and turned defender. With a young woman, Mary, who took care of him when things got too tense, Peter was eventually the old man's Good Samaritan -- and as a result heard the strangest tale of his not unadventurous life. For Shepherd's later years were dominated by an almost obsessive determination to make man see that civilization was doomed- as it had been doomed ago- ""the time before this"". And with the passion of his desire to make himself believed he tells his story of the discovery of an ice mountain, of a strange skin-armored race of men, dead in their tracks from some unknown ray, immobilized (as were the inhabitants of Pom). In the course of their duties- within a giant refrigerator. Here science had progressed far beyond today's known reaches; here food in vast quantities for a non-existent ""human"" race was maintained in the greatest of deep freezes; here solar ray power activated the operation of elevators, shelves, etc., while human motion gave the orders. All this- gone and, before he could tell Peter how to find it for himself, the old man died. Oddly, horrifying convincing, as one reads. And the lesson there for mankind today.

Publisher: Morrow-Sloane