Termush by Sven Holm, translated by Sylvia Clayton – review

Published by Faber

Publication date – 4 May 2023

Source – review copy

The day we came up from the shelters four people were found dead on the steps of the hotel.

Welcome to Termush: a luxury coastal resort like no other. All the wealthy guests are survivors: preppers who reserved rooms long before the Disaster. Inside, they embrace exclusive radiation shelters, ambient music and lavish provisions; outside, radioactive dust falls on the sculpture park, security men step over dead birds, and a reconnaissance party embarks.

Despite weathering a nuclear apocalypse, their problems are only just beginning. Soon, the Management begins censoring news; disruptive guests are sedated; initial generosity towards Strangers ceases as fears of contamination and limited resources grow. But as the numbers – and desperation – of external survivors increase, they must decide what it means to forge a new moral code at the end (or beginning?) of the world…

An unnamed narrator tells of their stay in Hotel Termush, a luxury resort in an unnamed country. Only this is a hotel with a difference. The guests have all paid huge fees for the privilege of spending their days in a safe environment following a nuclear apocalypse. They wander the radiation free grounds, eat meals prepared for them and served in the plush dining room and don’t have to worry about that pesky radiation sickness. But the outside is getting closer and the guests can’t agree on whether to help survivors turning up at the door.

Termush is a short novel, only 119 pages, but those pages transport the reader to a post fallout world inhabited by those rich enough to pay for salvation. Buffeted from the outside world by freshly washed gardens and security personnel, they simply have to worry about how to fill their time between meals. But then the outside world begins and the guests divide into those who want to help the survivors outside and those that don’t. It is an examination of how humans react to a crisis. There are those who want to help, who feel it it is their duty or simply the right thing to do. Then there are those who don’t, because the outsiders haven’t paid for the privilege of safety, because to help others could be detrimental to themselves. It is a morality tale of the ramifications of choosing between saving yourself and saving others.

Originally published in 1967, the story reads as if it is set in present day, or a not too distant future. There’s a timelessness to the narrative. The sense of desolate helplessness, of the threat of nuclear war is one that can be easily imagined. The examination of human nature, of the selfishness or otherwise of people is one that is sadly still relevant today.

An eerie short book that is all the more impactful because it could easily be imagined as a likely occurrence to an actual nuclear apocalypse.

You can buy a copy of Termush here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount should you buy through it. You can also find the book in your local independent bookshop.)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds very effective, Janet – Faber are reprinting some interesting sci fi books lately!


  2. Love dystopian books šŸ™‚


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