I am looking for an environmental Armageddon-type story, from the 70's-ish. Mine had a river catching on fire, a kudzu-like vine taking over and a rather unforgettabe 'TV-dinner from hell,' featuring a man who bought up a lot of these cheap, chemical-laden convenience 'food' things, discovered they didn't taste very good and finished up feeding them to his little dog.

Only problem was when he took the dog for 'walkies' he farted and detonated himself. At least it wasn't a person exploding (though I think there were a few of those in the story as well).

The river that burned had been so polluted they'd come up with the idea of floating a sheet of some blue-ish liquid chemical over top of the water to make it appear clean. I think that was the stuff which caught fire. It might've burnt the city down as well.

Ring any bells for anyone?


I am almost certain that you're referring to The End of the Dream (1972) by Philip Wylie, except that the "blueish liquid" was actually silver in color.

But I remember the exploding dog and the rest of the items. I'll look for a copy to verify if that is indeed the book you remember.

This review on Amazon mentions the food causing those who eat it to explode:

Dystopian ecological hard science sci-fi. Between 1970 and 2000 the world's biosphere implodes due to successive ecological disasters. The prose style is documentary instead of story narrative. The author uses fictitious transcripts, reports, meeting minutes, letters, raw interview material, classified documents, newspaper articles, etc. Each of these bits of flotsam may seem insignificant and unconnected yet when amalgamated point toward an irrevocable truth: Humans have just enough intelligence for short-term survival and profit but not for long term harmonic viability and sustainability within the Earth's biosphere. This short book sums up the horrific (and hauntingly prophetic) concept that humans have perfected short-term knowledge about how to exploit the planet for all that it is worth without any long-term consideration of the biosphere's sustainability. Military bio-weapon research leaks into the environment and starts causing mayhem. Spent nuclear piles devastate the environment. Rivers catch on fire. The oceans become a breeding ground for toxic and virulent mutations, both chemical and animal. Even TV dinners cause people to blow up! Overall, this is a scathing and epic wake up call to the idea of sustainability. Wylie, writing circa 1970, may have got some of the details wrong (a diversionary chapter on religion and sex, for example) but got the overall gist right. One of the scariest chapters follows a meeting convened between top government officials and industrialists to discuss turning America's rivers, already beyond ecological redemption, into raw industrial and sewer dumping channels and how to sell the idea to the population. The final chapter, set in the 1990s is an interview transcript in which a survivor describes a land invasion of mutant deadly shrimp who start killing off humans and animals by the thousands along the Florida coast. Easy to read, thoughtful, ominous, not fun reading, short. Contains a brief introduction by sci-fi writer John Brunner.

The exploding dog was called Tumsie:

Tumsie’s plan was delayed when he spotted a man coming by on foot. He sauntered to the place where no gate was and looked at him with a murky doubt, too hot to bark, too old to back up any barking. The man had a cigar in his mouth and as he drew near he struck a match on his pants to relight it. A motorcycle passed, bellowing, with boy and girl locked together.

The man, a renegade priest yet soured on life, didn’t wave out the match because he spotted Tumsie. A dog-hater, he tossed the match at the mongrel, not with any expectation of effect, just to be mean. And at that moment Tumsie’s recent feeling of flatulence became a promise of potential easement. He broke wind, the match fell behind him and he blew up.

And as you say, humans blew up too:

The second episode concerned Father Trentchel, pastor emeritus of the Elk Hill Episcopal church, St. Anson’s, a self-important man who, like Tumsie, had recently been aware of abdominal discomfort—gas, he called it. He did not associate these unpleasant symptoms with the diet that Emily, his daughter and housekeeper, had recently been giving him. For at the supermarket Emily had discovered the new Master Mixfrozen Foods, so cheap, so tasty, so easy. It was a pity Father Trentchel didn’t put two and two together, for one day he eased his flatulence by breaking wind as he was standing with his back to a blazing fire and, again like Tumsie, he blew up. When Emily, alarmed by the noise, ran into the room, his entrails were running down the walls.

Lovely :-)

  • 2
    I have the book so I've added some supporting extracts. Please roll back my edit if you're not happy with it. – John Rennie Apr 7 '18 at 10:18

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