The Morrow duology, by H. M. Hoover (1973, 1976)

Children of Morrow cover #1
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.

Children of Morrow cover #2
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.

Treasures of Morrow cover
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.)

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11 Responses to The Morrow duology, by H. M. Hoover (1973, 1976)

  1. Patrick Kavanagh says:

    I could not get enough HM Hoover as a kid! I went to every library in the area to try and track down all her books. My favorite was “Rains of Eridan”. Somehow I suspected the Morrow books were her classics, so it’s interesting to hear that you didn’t feel they held up.

    Interestingly, I’m here because I’m currently watching Disney’s 1975 “Escape to Witch Mountain” with my son. The plot involves a brother and sister (named Tia!) with special telekinetic and psychic powers who are chased along the California coastline while trying to sort out their mysterious origins and find their own people. Some pretty similar plot elements, although not post apocalyptic. The book was written by Alexander H. Key in 1968.

    One more rare and very atypical HM Hoover book that I remember loving was “The Lion’s Cub” which was at my middle school library. This was a novelization of a true story involving a young prince, Jemal-Edin, who becomes a prisoner of Russian czar Nicholas. Interesting read as this is the only time I know of that she published something outside the sci-fi YA genre.

    • Sam says:

      Oh man, me too. Every time I went to a library or bookstore as a kid, I’d go straight to the H’s and see what I could dig up. They’ve almost all been weeded now, sadly, though as a librarian I get why — no kid is going to check these out when there’s so much wonderful stuff in a similar genre with shiny new covers to choose from. I wish Rains of Eridan and This Time of Darkness, at least, would be republished — I think they could work for a contemporary audience.

      Eridan, in particular, is a subgenre that hardly exists in YA today — interplanetary science thriller — but I have middle schoolers who read Asimov and the more sciencey Orson Scott Card and wish there were more.

      I don’t know Lion’s Cub! I very methodically worked my way through the children’s science fiction shelf as a child and rarely ventured elsewhere. :)

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  3. much like another poster, I too searched for this book for years googling up phrases like, “character named rabbit” “science fiction” and “children’s science fiction” with no good results until I met a friend who also read it. When I first read it – I was seven – and it was in the Children’s section. Absolutely loved it as a kid – as you mentioned – a lonely kid! Thanks for writing about this book. I’m going to buy a copy somewhere and stash it away. Funny that I’d not even realized the author was a woman science fiction YA writer.

    • Sam says:

      Oh, so glad you found it! I hope you stash some of her other books as well — as much as I loved them, I think these were probably the weakest. In addition to This Time of Darkness (which I also posted about), try Rains of Eridan. She’s so awesome; I keep hoping she’ll get reprinted and have a popularity (re?)surgence.

  4. much like another poster, I too searched for this book for years googling up phrases like, “character named rabbit” “science fiction” and “children’s science fiction” with no good results until I met a friend who also read it. When I first read it – I was seven – and it was in the Children’s section. Absolutely loved it as a kid – as you mentioned – a lonely kid! Thanks for writing about this book. I’m going to buy a copy somewhere and stash it away. Funny that I’d not even realized the author was a woman science fiction YA writer. Thank you again!

  5. saucypedanticwench says:

    When I saw This Time of Darkness on your site, I remembered that I had read that one as well however I have not read the next Tia and Rabbit book. Looks like it wasn’t quite as good. :)

    I remember reading a lot of post-apocalypitic stories… I think more post-nuclear apocalypse. I remember another story about an underground society that comes into contact with people who have had to survive on the surface – lots of stuff about mutations due to radiation etc. Good times! haha

  6. Sam says:

    Awesome! You’re welcome. I was hoping that would happen when I did all the Old-School Apocalypse April posts. Did you read anything else by H.M. Hoover? I read just about all her books in the late 80s myself and became rather obsessed.

  7. saucypedanticwench says:

    OMG~!!!!! I have been trying to find this book (Children of Morrow) for YEARS. I’ve tried multiple different google search word combinations and never quite been able to track down the title. All I could remember was that there was two children, the boy named Rabbit, a post-apolcalyptic society, and that the children had ESP. All my searches kept coming back with The Chrysalids.

    I must have read the book some time in the later 80s and I suppose it was a library book or I would have been able to find it again.

    THANK YOU.

  8. Michael says:

    Wow — you’ve just reminded me of a different post-apoc YA novel from decades ago, which I remember enough of to Google it out as John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. Again with the two kids, slightly deformed and telepathic and in touch with rescuers from an all-telepathic and more enlightened society. Yow.

  9. Martini-Corona says:

    I haven’t read these, but the Morrowans totally remind me of the Ovanonians from Colleen Doran’s A Distant Soil, which (having found that link) I just re-learned she started writing when she was 12. You can tell, because it is so fabulous OMG and also so ’80s. Contains adult themes, esp. later in the series, so not sure where it falls on the YA/A continuum, but I loooved it when I was 13 or so. Mine is all in VA or I would loan it to you — but I never finished the series because I got too tired of all the fabulous. The original GNs should be relatively tolerable, though.

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