In Children of Morrow, we meet Tia and Rabbit, slightly deformed (and oh P.S. telepathic) outcast children in a post-apocalyptic village. The primitive village grew out of a military base, worships a dead nuclear warhead, is patriarchal to a degree that would make Margaret Atwood blush at the crass obviousness of it all, and generally has no redeeming features whatsoever. Tia and Rabbit can’t wait to get the hell out of there.
Fortunately they are in regular telepathic contact with Ashira and Varas, the tall and beautiful leaders of a civilization called Morrow, where everyone is telepathic and beautiful and civilized. It turns out that Tia and Rabbit are the second-generation products of an illegal experiment in artificial insemination by a Morrowan scientist. When Tia accidentally kills a village Father, Ashira and Varas guide the children’s escape across the wastelands of California to the sea, where the Morrowans’ shiny clean white ship of beautiful people will be waiting to meet them.
In Treasures of Morrow, Tia and Rabbit get used to their new life… until Ashira and Varas force them to return to their village as interpreters. Y’know, for science.
Apocalypse how? Human-created environmental:
As the ocean’s enormous masses of plankton slowly died from the filth man continuously spewed into the water, as the oxygen supply generated by the plankton diminished and the air continued to be heavily polluted, as the plants and trees on the land sickened and turned brown or yellow before death, the chain began to break, link by link, and the slow suffocation of life on the earth began.
The Base survived, presumably, because there was some provision made for sealing up military leaders, but they didn’t retain any technology. The Morrowans’ ancestors had retreated to an underground stronghold designed to survive for many generations, until the earth was habitable again. They kept all the accumulated knowledge of the past, plus epicurean tastes and a vaguely seventies-Californian religious sensibility (which they break as often as Kirk breaks the Prime Directive) called the Balance of the One. Oh, and they breed telepaths. Obvi.
13 vs. 31: As you might have guessed, this didn’t hold up as well as the other Hoover book I reviewed, This Time of Darkness. It ain’t a subtle book. The Base people are short and stocky and have “scraggly” beards and “oily” hair. The Morrowans are always described as tall, clean, and beautiful. The Base people do a lot of greedily lording over one another, and have somehow managed to go umpteen generations post-apocalypse without inventing anything of use. The Morrowans are refined armchair psychologists with hobbies like growing perfect peaches (and a shocking naivete about anyone who’s led a less privileged life).
Tia and Rabbit, of course, are somewhere in between. What is of interest in this book lies there, in their journey (literal and figurative) to understand who they are and where they fit. This would have worked for me a lot better, particularly in the second book, if Ashira and Varas hadn’t always been there guiding their development with annoying perfection. They’re like the parents in a sitcom before TV parents had flaws.
I had a penchant for “makeover” books as a kid, and this falls into that category. The maligned children got to remake themselves in a perfect new world — what lonely kid isn’t drawn to that? As an adult, though, I needed more nuance.
Covers: The Treasures cover is the one of my childhood, but neither of the Children ones are. My cover has a fairly faithful rendering of Tia, Rabbit, and Ashira (to the point that I remember being disappointed that Tia, my hero, wasn’t beautiful). In contrast, please enjoy the second cover above, with its fresh-faced Aryan children and Aboriginal-stereotype Base villain. Classy. (The book, while it judges its characters plenty, at least avoids racial descriptions.)