The Scarlet Plague

Jack London
The Scarlet Plague Cover

A true classic, but London was no Wells


The Scarlet Plague is actually short enough to be considered a novella rather than a novel, but it is always published as the later, so I will treat it as such.

I've long wanted to read The Iron Heel, but my favourite horror fiction podcast HorrorBabble did a chapter-by-chapter weekly reading of this, so I listened.

It takes the form of so much late Victorian and Edwardian science fiction--an adventure story told as a flashback, a tale of survival against all odds.

The "degeneration and renewal thesis" popular in the era (culminating in Spengler's Decline of the West) threads through the narrative, along with London's socialist (yet distinctly American) politics originally showcased in The Iron Heel, with its worries over oligarchy, the decline of democracy, and the subjugation of the working class, burning bright with bitterness.

This is well worth your time (a voracious reader could digest it all in one sitting), but London to me is still no Wells when it comes to apocalypse by gaslight.