Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Strong and Sudden Thaw by R.W.Day

In a sentence this is a cross between The Day (After the Day) After Tomorrow and Reign of Fire with a m/m romance.

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.


Erastes said...

Great review and thank you for drawing attention to this lovely lovely and much overlooked book.

The author is in the process of changing publishers after Iris went out of business so it should be relaunched in 2009 I believe.

I hope this results in new interest for a very talented author. She has got a sequel written already, too.

Mary M. said...

Nice review Lesley! Someday I really need to give this book a try. I've only heard good stuff about it. And it,s good to know for sure that it ends on a good note. Given the setting I was always afraid the characters wouldn't get a happy ending.

jessewave said...

Powerful review Lesley. I love the care you took with the story and characters as well as debunking some of the naysayers. You painted such wonderful pictures without giving away too much, which is what a review should do - I struggle every day with this aspect.

I have this book in my amazon cart and it was going to be my next purchase. Now I'll probalby wait for the newer, revamped version to come out. Thanks for a great job.


LesleyW said...

Erastes - Thanks for the sequel info. I hope the change in publishers means they'll be publishing that too.

Mary - I have to admit I was a little worried and checked with some people who read it. Who managed to reassure me about the ending without giving it away.

Wave - I sometimes worry that I'm being a little too vague. But I do my best not to give too much away. I look forward to reading your review of the book when it's re-released.

Carolyn Jean said...

Wow! This looks like a wonderful and sort of frightening book. I love the whole dragons thing, and MM in this setting is sort of unusual, at least to me, but post apocalyptic stuff scares me so much...what to do. Anyway, I'm glad to see this is getting rereleased.

DonnaB said...

Okay, I'm going to read this book. I too was worried about the ending being too sad. I've lost some very important people in my life to AIDS and really didn't want a sad ending to this story. But I'm going to give it a try. If I cry for a week, it'll be YOUR fault, Lesley.

On the quick deterioration of society ... one of the best books I've read with this as a theme was Larry Niven's Lucifer's Hammer. A meteor hits Earth and society devolves very, very quickly. Also Frank Herbert's "White Plague." In the real world, when I was in grad school, I did a lot of research about post-nuclear war scenarios and believe me, it's totally realistic that society would break down VERY quickly.

Thanks for the rec, Lesley.

LesleyW said...

Carolyn Jean - I don't think you're bashed over the head with the post-apocalyptic stuff. It very much has an Old West feel to it (for me). But being set in the future allows certain commentaries to be made - for example the Lord of the Flies references.

Donna - There are moments where you'll cry in this book, (I think I welled up in at least two places and at one point had to put the book down for an hour) but there are also moments where you'll smile and maybe even a moment where you'll want to punch the air and go "Yeah!" and then check that no-one's watching you. :) I'm looking forward to finding out if you like it.

JenB said...

I bought this a few months ago, but then I got burned out on paranormals and fantasy, and now it's collecting dust on my shelf (the same shelf that also holds 315 other TBR books).

I wish I could clone myself. Then I could read multiple books at once.

Mary M. said...

I wish I could clone myself. Then I could read multiple books at once.

Sigh. Tell me about it...

LesleyW said...

JenB - It's not really paranormal or fantasy - so get it down off that shelf! Okay there are dragons, but it's more like they were genetically manipulated and they only play a small part in the story. Mostly it's about David changing from a boy into a man.

Mary - I'm not sure about the cloning thing. But I definitely wish there was more time in the day to read.

Brie said...

Really excellent review. I've only read M/M subplots, but I have been looking for a good book to dive headlong into a M/M romance. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one.

Thanks for the review.