Greener Than You Think: Ward Moore – A Forgotten Gem
Ward Moore’s classic novel “Greener Than You Think” posits a world with Bermuda grass running out of control — choking out every other plant and destroying the food supply of animals and humanity alike. Originally published in 1947.
I’m a cheapskate, so I often listen to free Public Domain audiobooks on the site Librivox.org … which is how I stumbled upon Ward Moore’s novel Greener Than You Think (1947). It has fallen out of copyright and was available there as a complete audiobook.
Ward Moore did not write much genre fiction. He is mainly known for the seminal ”Alternate History” novel Bring The Jubilee (1953), set in an imaginary present where the South won the Civil War.
However, Greener Than You Think is the novel he ought to be known for today, for it is more timely than ever. This is an unusual mix of satire and apocalyptic ”eco-horror” – and it manages to be both ghastly and very funny.
The story begins in America shortly after the end of World War II, and is narrated by the protagonist Albert Weener. Weener is a greedy, short-sighted opportunist, an incompetent businessman looking to make a quick buck, always boasting and lying about his talent (see, I told you it was a timely book), obsessed with ”positive thinking.”
He comes across a mad scientist, Miss Francis – and I mean a genuine stone-cold crazy genius, who only cares about her own work. Francis is working on a chemical formula that can mutate the ability of plants to absorb nitrogen. And then Weener gets the ”brilliant” idea to sell what is really a growth formula as a weed-killer.
Ignoring the mad scientist’s misgivings, Weener spreads the formula on a patch of crabgrass, assuming the weed will ”grow itself to death.” But the crabgrass just spreads… and keeps spreading… and grows bigger… and it proves to be completely unstoppable.
The comedy of the narrative lies mainly in how the protagonist (who shares character traits with Donald Trump) keeps insisting that he is on top of the situation, even as it just keeps getting worse… and how he either makes it worse still, or tries to profit from the disaster.
The ghastliness comes from what happens to the world; the author mercilessly depicts the slow retreat and extinction of all humanity before the advancing, mindless grass.
A lesser writer could easily have stumbled here and made the apocalypse too ludicrous or too comical. Ward Moore actually makes it work as both straight horror and satire – no small feat. He makes room for the small, poignant moments as well as the grand sweep.
He also makes the point, between the lines, that Weener and Francis – mindless capitalism married to heartless science – are the true menace.
At the present moment, the reality of the greenhouse effect makes any sane person deeply concerned about our future. Greener Than You Think is then not only relevant reading but can serve as a kind of catharsis. If humanity has indeed doomed itself to extinction, then why not read the novel about how it could have happened in 1947?
The Public Domain audiobook: Greener Than You Think
Greener Than You Think on Project Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg
A. R. Yngve (1969- ) is a Swedish writer, illustrator and computer game designer.
He writes in Swedish and English, and his short fiction has been published in Sweden, the UK and China.
Yngve has written the horror books BLOOD & SWINE and PRECINCT 20: DEAD STRANGE.
His books are mainly available on Amazon
His retro games are available from the UK indie label Psytronik Software
Yngve’s official website: www.aryngve.com