The Genocides – Thomas M Disch

TM Disch (1944 – 2008) wrote The Genocides – his first novel, in 1965. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for that year.

Some books I read and when its finished the characters, themes and prose, all drift away to that place where memories dissolve – never to be remembered. I read The Genocides in my teens, and the overwhelming feelings of humankind’s insignificance, the cloying, trapped feelings surrounding the principle players has always stayed with me. In 1965, the top players in the game were Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke – with Piers Anthony, Robert Silverberg, AE Van Vogt, Theodore Sturgeon, and many talented writers up and coming. In the Disch’s The Genocides, the whole of the Earth has been planted out by an unamed and unseen aliens. The alien crop is made up of giant, tubular plants that soon outcompete everything on the planet.

All that are left are the rapidly diminishing small groups of humans, who are being extinguished as pests by spherical robots. The story is written in the variable viewpoint 3rd person. Two disparate groups come together: the settled old order, and a party of ragtag people just trying to live hand to mouth. They clash and everything changes for both groups.

What has remained with me, from the novel, has been the incredible insignificance of the humans – their inevitable demise in the near future unrecognised in any way by the crop planting aliens. The people inhabiting the story are less than ants to the new overseers of the Earth, which is just a fertile meadow for them. The characters have their adventures, of course, and I won’t give any of them away.

I have written this from my memory of the novel as I read it more than 40 years ago. If you get a chance to see a copy, grab it.