Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells

In stories which start with the end of the world, the protagonist is usually a person who escapes the cataclysm by some unusual twist of fate. However, this novel dares to break the pattern – teenage boy Danny Lodge, around whom this story is centred, is forced to live in the direct aftermath of a nuclear war, with a band of fellow survivors from his town, right in the middle of the devastation … and the radiation.

The book packs plenty of punches. We read about the loss of loved ones, ever-increasing hunger, radiation sickness leading to death, man’s inhumanity to man in the fight to survive, and worst of all, fears about mutation – whether mankind will be able to give birth to normal human beings again.

On the brighter side, there’s a love story that runs through the book. Also, an interesting sub-plot involving a second surviving community, one dressed in anti-radiation suits and carrying guns.

Swindell succeeds in painting a very gloomy picture, and I found myself wondering how this book was going to come up with an ending that would make the telling of the story worthwhile. It does manage to, but only just. Make no mistake, this is bleak stuff, almost disturbing stuff, and I don’t think I’ll ever read it twice. However, I am glad I read it once, and Swindells is to be admired for daring to write something of such depth for a teenage audience.