The Long Tomorrow Critical Essays

Leigh Brackett


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although The Long Tomorrow won no major awards, its reputation has grown, and many critics recognize it as Leigh Brackett’s best work. They note how different it is from the swashbuckling adventure stories she wrote for the pulp magazines.

In its post-holocaust theme, this novel is related to literally hundreds of stories, among the better known being Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826), Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague (1915), Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie’s When Worlds Collide (1933), and Walter Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960). The structure of the story primarily as a journey through a wasteland makes it part of a subgenre that includes Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley (1969), M. P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud (1901), S. Fowler Wright’s Deluge (1928), and Wilson Tucker’s The Long Loud Silence (1952).

As a post-holocaust story, The Long Tomorrow treats two of science fiction’s most common themes: the impact of technology on human behavior and humanity’s relationship to its environment. The novel, which is rich in character development, also is a Bildungsroman. It explores Brackett’s ideas about religion, censorship, and freedom, and it is an allegory of the American westward movement. The novel contains most of the features identified by critic Gary K. Wolfe for such tales: It has a cataclysm, in this case...

(The entire section is 537 words.)