The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Davy’s coming-of-age story is not unique to science fiction, and Edgar Pangborn has no use for typical science-fictional devices such as spaceships and ray guns. Nevertheless, Davy is science fiction because of its vivid future world. In the late twentieth century—the “Old Time”—nuclear holocaust, plagues, and increases in world temperature and ocean levels destroyed human civilization. After about a hundred years, in the vast wilderness of what once was New England, a new civilization began to grow, a collection of small, bellicose countries dominated by the Holy Murcan Church, an organization forbidding books, free thought, gunpowder, and atoms. Because the Old Time people squandered the world’s resources and the remnants of humanity have lost the Old Time science, the fragile civilization is ignorant and superstitious.

In the year 331 of this transformed world, Davy, at the age of twenty-eight, begins writing several intertwining stories: his growth to manhood, his relationship with his wife, their attempt to enlighten the benighted age, their founding of a colony, and the history of his era. The most compelling conflict in Davy next to that between enlightenment versus ignorance is Davy’s struggle to tell his stories honestly and effectively.

Red-haired Davy was born in a whorehouse, reared in an orphanage, and bonded out as a yard-boy for a tavern. At the age of fourteen, he runs away, in the process...

(The entire section is 512 words.)