Set nearly a hundred years after an apparently worldwide apocalyptic event, A Strong and Sudden Thaw follows the developing relationship between David Anderson a farmer’s son and Callan Landers the new assistant healer in the town of Moline. In a world where homosexuality is a criminal offence, every meeting and encounter is filled with the risk of discovery. It’s through Callan being discovered in the arms of another man that David finally acknowledges the truth about himself. And also how he learns what price he may have to pay as Callan suffers the punishment for his ‘crime’.
But the town of Moline is also under threat from an unexpected source. When livestock and children are attacked by dragons and the government representatives do nothing. It will be up to David and Callan to save the town .
One of my top three favourite books of the year. I loved this book!
Just to address first of all a couple of comments I read on some of the Amazon reviews. (Wanted to check these comments but looks like the book is being re-released at the end of December so the reviews have been pulled. Hope my faulty memory is remembering these comments reasonably okay).
Some reviews state they think it’s unrealistic that the world would regress so quickly following the Ice Age. Having seen a documentary about what would happen if human beings left the world I’m not so sure. Taking into account the huge death toll that’s likely to occur during such events and the fact that I (and I suspect the vast majority of people) don’t know how to fix a generator let alone run a nuclear power station, I don’t find it difficult to believe that the majority of the human race quickly finds itself back in a pre-industrial revolution state. (I’m sure there’s a significant minority that land in roses rather than shit, but this book isn’t about them).
Other comments reference the poor grammar. This I’m sure is intentional, the story is told from David’s point of view. He has common sense but not book learning and therefore doesn’t always use the correct verb or turn of phrase, but I liked this, it kept us firmly inside his head and his feelings. So I'm assuming any comments about the book being poorly edited reference this, and that the reviewers kind of missed the point.
One of the early analogies in the book is about the similarities between a human mob and a flock of sheep. And that sheep are essentially stupid animals. When the chips are down, humans have a tendency to behave like sheep, it takes people/characters with strong conviction to be able to stand against a crowd, even if they know that the crowd is wrong.
"(Pa) says sheep and people are alike, mostly. I don’t know that I agree, but he says I just haven’t lived long enough yet."I love the way the characters are drawn in the book. You get a very real sense of the individuals and the community in which they live. And I loved the relationship between David and the members of his family. Just from the first few pages you are immediately drawn into the town of Moline. Which although it has a future post-apocalyptic setting, reminded me of the old west.
The thread that holds the story together is the relationship between David and Callan. David who at the beginning doesn’t even know what homosexual (or sodomite) means. But from his first meeting with Callan, he is drawn to the new healer in a way he has never been with anyone else.
"His hair reminded me of sunlight and shadow dancing over a field of wheat, dark in places, light in others, and his eyes were the almost invisible blue of the spring sky."I love that they come together through books - Huckleberry Finn, Ivanhoe, Lord of the Flies. And how David comes to take what he learns from these books and apply it to the world around him. The loss of individuality and identity that comes from the mob - Lord of the Flies, doing the right thing even if it isn’t the legal thing - Huckleberry Finn. The books and Callan, open him up, start him thinking for himself. He no longer relies on what his elders tell him to be true, he wants to discover his own truth.
If you have never read a m/m book before and want to know a good place to start. I would recommend this book. The love scenes are beautifully written and erotic but not graphic.
"Please. That’s the most erotic word in the English language, you know."Their relationship progresses slowly and there is a wonderful sense of falling in love for the first time - right before everything goes to shit because of course in this time a man falling in love with another man is a criminal offence and in certain circumstances punishable by death.
You’re aware as you read that something terrible happened to Callan before he came to Moline. Little hints that slip from him. And when we eventually find out what happened - it’s awful and terrible but at the same time it allows him to understand the sacrifices human beings are capable of to save the ones they love.
And then there are the dragons. Someone wants the town of Moline to die and they aren’t too concerned about who gets hurt in the process. Although a lot of the questions raised early in the book are answered by the end and there is a satisfactory conclusion to David and Callan’s story. There’s the feeling that there is more to come. That the story is being told by a much older David. I hope at some point in the future to be able to read the sequel to ASAST, as I don‘t think David and Callan‘s story is quite finished yet. Highly recommended.