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not this one

Not This August

Not This August, also known as Christmas Eve, is a science fiction novel by C.M. Kornbluth. It was originally published in 1955 by Doubleday. A revised edition with a new foreword and afterword by Frederik Pohl was published in 1981 by Tor Books, ISBN 0-523-48518-2. The title comes from author Ernest Hemingway's "Notes on the Next War".

Plot summary

For the three years prior to the beginning of the novel, the United States has been at war with the Soviet Union and the Chinese People's Republic. All American males have been required to either perform agricultural work to feed the armed forces or be drafted into military service. Billy Justin, a 38-year-old commercial artist and Korean War veteran, is at his work as a dairy farmer in Chiunga Center, New York when he hears news over the radio that Soviet and Chinese forces have overrun the American line at El Paso. Over the next several months, the Soviets and Chinese consolidate their hold, dividing the United States at the Mississippi River and forming between them the Democratic People's Republic of North America.

Other than a military garrison, a formal disarmament, and the establishment of production quotas for vital foodstuffs, the surrender of the United States leaves Chiunga Center largely untouched, though the people who have helped prepare the way for the Soviet invaders (a custom paper maker and his wife, among others) are killed in the basement of the local school to keep them from organizing against the occupational government. One day, a paraplegic comes to Justin's farm asking for work. He's given some "make-work" but then has to leave. When Justin enters the nearest town, Norton, for much-needed supplies, he's drawn into a conspiracy with the paraplegic and some associates; the former turns out to be an army general from the previous war. Buried somewhere in Chiunga County is a half-finished weapons satellite that requires parts and technical know-how to place it in orbit. The Soviet military police soon capture, to Justin's knowledge, all of them but himself and the general.

Receiving messages hidden in the mail that Betsy Cardew delivers infrequently to his farm, Justin deduces that the contacts he needs to make are in Washington, Pennsylvania. With a traveling preacher, Mr. Sparhawk, Justin walks the hundreds of miles from Chiunga Center to Washington. When arrested by a military patrol, Sparhawk and Justin are separated, and Justin attempts to pass himself as one of Sparhawk's converts, and therefore should not be molested due to the Democratic Republic's freedom of religion. He and Sparhawk are exiled at the town border and soon arrive at Washington, where he is given instructions about an all-out assault planned for Christmas Eve on Chiunga Center to liberate the satellite. He and Sparhawk are sent back to Chiunga Center with one of their specialists, Dr. Dace.

Despite the Soviets' apprehension and torture of a local farmer, they are kept ignorant of what "Christmas Eve", a mild oath they've heard sworn by various citizens around town, means until the battle begins. Coordinated by General Hollerith, the paraplegic who introduced Justin to the American resistance, bridges around the area are blown up and nearby arsenals are sabotaged as the townspeople, most of whom are war veterans also, and armed and fight the soldiers as the satellite is launched. Hollerith's forces triumph, and a radio message is transmitted in English (and supposedly Russian and Chinese as well) that the invisible satellite launched from the United States is armed and will destroy Moscow and Peiping in twenty-four hours if occupation soldiers do not evacuate American soil and release prisoners of war. Hollerith offers Justin a position as his right-hand man or as assistant to Croley, the general store owner, in goods and services distribution, but he turns them both down and kneels in prayer with Sparhawk, fearing the fulfillment of mutual assured destruction.

Notes

References

  • Tuck, Donald H. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.

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