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After the world is invaded by monsters and modern civilization collapses, the English countryside becomes a dangerous wasteland, and a heroic band leaves London by train in an attempt to transport some now valuable vegetables to Manchester. The idea for this book might have come from National Enquirer: hideous demonic monsters invade England, laying it waste and devouring most of the inhabitants. Embargoed by the rest of the world, the English barricade themselves underground. After five years on the defensive, an armored, heavily-armed train is built to attack and, if possible, find the source of the plague: the Cockatrice Belle and her crack Cockatrice Corps crew. The train sets out for Manchester, and by chance it picks up Sauna, a young girl who embodies both cause and cure.
Joan Aiken's characters are evocatively Dickensian and strange--Sauna, Dakin, Clipspeak, Bellswinger, Tom Flint. This send-up of every other alien-invasion story is a quirky, inventive fantasy.
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