Thursday, 19 May 2011

FFB: QUATERMASS by Nigel Kneale

This is the fourth and final instalment in the saga of Professor Bernard Quatermass.
It was written at the same time as the 1979 ITV serial of the same name. The difference between the two is that the novel contains more scenes than the serial.

Quatermass has retired to Scotland where he is guardian to his granddaughter. But there is a generation chasm existing between them and she runs away. Coming to London to appear on a TV programme and search for his granddaughter, Quatermass finds a world gone mad. Anarchy rules and a war rages between two factions - the Badder-Mindhoffs and the Blue Brigade.
Arriving at the TV studios he is witnesses the destruction of a joint Russian and American space project. A beam from outer space spears through the spaceship on its trajectory towards earth.
The target is ancient sites around the world. Places where the strange hippy like cult of the Planet People gather. They believe that the time has come to be lifted up to the Planet.
Meeting scientist Joe Kapp, Quatermass is taken to a research establishment close to an old henge known as Ringstone Round. Believing his granddaughter to have joined the Planet People he goes in search of her and witnesses the destruction of the those that are gathered at Ringstone Round.
There is a survivor who is slowly crystalising. Quatermass tries to get her to London for treatment but becomes separated and rescued by a gang of old age pensioners.
Meanwhile, the Badders and Blues are throwing down their weapons. Joining the Planet People they march to the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium where the inevitable happens.
Quatermass sees a way of halting the madness and sending a message to the Planet. The only way to do this is to use the old people to build a bomb. Why? Because 'the Planet' seems to ignore the elderly.

The story is neatly woven together with some well drawn characters. Bernard Quatermass is world weary and distracted by his need to locate his granddaughter. Then there is Kickalong, a Planet People leader, who is a bully and will use any means possible to ensure his tribe reach their destination.

On the whole maybe a fitting epitaph for Bernard Quatermass.

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