This was my first reading of either of the two Science Fiction novels written by DW - the other being 'Star of Ill Omen'.
Lavina Leigh is an attractive 23 year old Film starlet who is making her way up the career ladder by ensuring that she appears at the right places at the right times with the right people.
She is about to get married to the rich businessman (Sir Samuel Curry) who is approaching his Fifties. Life was good.
On taking him to meet her parents in Stapleton , Surrey he is introduced to her relatives friends and neighbours just prior to the wedding which is to be held at the house.
Her uncle Oliver who works at the Greenwich observatory felt that he had to pass on the news to his immediate family and friends that a large Comet was on a collision course with Earth.
The news was naturally quite a shock but somehow they didn't really quite believe (or want to believe) that this could happen and even if it did the odds of it hitting them would be very slight.
So they just got on with life.
One of the friends of the family was a Mr Fink-Drummond, an ex cabinet minister who was keen to profit from the news by spreading the word to the nation thus discrediting the opposition Government due to the fact that the public hadn't been told of this potential catastrophe. (Despite the fact that the Government were withholding the info in order to stop panic spreading).
Lavina's father, Gervaise saves the day by spiking his drink and locking him up!!!
News of the Comets approach is eventually leaked to the public. With weeks to go until the supposed impact the family and friends of Lavina decide it would be safest to be afloat as & when & if the impact occurs. They decide to imitate the Biblical Noah by arranging for a modern 'state of the art', build it yourself 'Ark' to be sent to Stapleton with the intention of assembling it on the large lake in the grounds of the house.
While the family are waiting for the Ark to arrive Lavina and friends decide to enjoy themselves in central London (as do many other people). Drunken brawls start all over the city, people are being attacked and killed and the Police are only able to do so much. Lavina and her friends are heavily involved in this action but when one of them gets killed (Roy Stapleton) both she and Derek Burroughs get locked up in single sex temporary jails - The men in Hyde Park and the women in the Grounds of Buckingham Palace (The normal prisons being full) time starts running out for them as they need to get back to Stapleton to board the Ark.
Hemmingway Hughes (Sam's Private Secretary) comes to their aid and he and Lavina have to get back primarily on foot to Stapleton (Nr Dorking). In the meantime Derek Burroughs has managed to get himself separated from Lavina and Hemmingway.
The trek back home is quite an escapade and show's how they cope with gangs of thugs, car thieves, and people behaving in the weirdest of ways - supposedly due to the nearness of the Comet. (Comet madness as opposed to Moon Madness).
What happens next when the Comet does arrive makes excellent reading. I really managed to become part of what was happening in the book and found myself asking what would I do in their position.
This is real escapism.
DW certainly likes this theme of Countries in Chaos where 'Law is breaking down' as in Black August and The Golden Spaniard.
I had previously read a few comments in the Library forum that DW's second Science Fiction book 'Star of Ill Omen' was one of his worst books and so I was not expecting particularly great things from 'Sixty days to live' but I'm pleased to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. I found it to be a real page turner right to the end of the book.
There are not too many info dumps in this book but there is an interesting section towards the end of the book when Hemmingway is talking to Lavina about Buddhism and her being 'Twice born' (or more in his case). Hemmingway refers to Lavina as;
"being on a higher spiritual level than her Sister Margery as Margery just accepts the dogma's she's been taught; whereas you have your own code and never allow yourself to be influenced by accepted standards or by what other people may think. By that I don't mean to imply that either of you is better than the other; only that if one regarded life as a school you would have to sit for your exams at a much higher form?"
Gervaise Stapleton - Lavina's Father
Margery - Lavina's Sister
Oliver Stapleton - Gervaise's Brother
Roy Stapleton - Oliver's son
Derek Burroughs - Neighbour & Friend
Sir Samuel Curry - Lavina's Husband
Hemmingway Hughes - Sam's personal Secretary & Friend.
Mr Fink Drummond - Family Friend
Captain Rupert Brand - Pilot Friend of the family
Page 9 - Lavina has 'Blue-Grey' eyes.
Page 32 - Rupert Brand has Light Grey eyes.
Page 68 - "When the Comet hits, Countries might disappear under tidal waves as Atlantis did".
Page 113 - Roy is killed by a well aimed Champagne bottle!!!.
Page 186 - As Hemmingway and Lavina are trekking back to Surrey, Lavina says, "Thank Goodness I had Day shoes (walking shoes) on when I left St. James Square".
Page 189 - Hemmingway has trained himself to wake at any time by using his body clock. From memory I believe Gregory Sallust uses this ability quite frequently in the World War II books.
Page 194 - Lavina's heel gets caught in a grating and breaks the heel off. (What happened to the walking shoes????)
Page 194 - Earth tremors start to be felt as they near Stapleton. It starts???
Page 245 - Justerini and Brooks get a mention.
Page 323 - Buddhism 'chat' mentioned above
There are not too many facts, figures and comments that I have managed to dig out whilst reviewing Sixty days to live, however I can sincerely say that I enjoyed this book and if you haven't already done so I would thoroughly recommend that you give it a try.
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