Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Strong and Sudden Thaw

By R. W. Day

A sci-fi gay romance!

In a post-apocalyptic world 100 years in the future, David is a 16 year old growing up on a farm in a small community. Everyone believes that immorality was the cause of the new ice age they're in, so when the new healer in their town, Callan, is caught with another man, it's not good.

It's even worse that David and Callan like each other - a lot.

And there's a dark conspiracy going on across the land, that threatens to destroy everything.

Did I mention there are dragons rampaging about, too?

Part coming out story, part sci-fi novel, part gay romance, "A Strong and Sudden Thaw" was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in 2006!

Thanks to Hayden for letting me know about it, so I could share it with you!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for reading it, Lee! I also wanted to let you know that Ms. Day just finished writing the sequel to A Strong and Sudden Thaw. :)

And here's my review:


This novel isn’t marketed as YA, but it is a coming-of-age story - and one that’s post-apocalyptic at that, a rarity considering how GLBT YA publishing has yet to fully explore genre fiction. It goes without saying that I’ll give anything to read more GLBT YA fiction that falls along these lines.

Two important elements stand out in Day’s debut novel: David’s characterization and the way his world is developed. On the whole, the basic premise is pretty interesting and straightforward - a time in the future following a catastrophic Ice age of some kind, where civilization has back-stepped several paces to near-primitive living conditions. In David’s tiny, rural town, there’s no electricity, no running water, and physical remnants of the Before serve as reminders of the wealth and glory of long-dead years. David muses several times about the frightening and wonderful images his grandmother paints about the Before. It’s often amusing - and definitely touching - to see a young, barely literate boy from the backwoods compare notes, at times pooh-poohing the technological advancements of ages past in favor of simple country living because that’s the only world he knows.

As the protagonist, David is richly drawn and immensely likable. His biases, his opinions, etc., are realistic and give him a nice multi-dimensional quality that’s underscored by his simplicity, his good nature, and his quirks. The novel’s written in the first person POV, and we’re not only inside David’s head the whole time, we’re also hearing him express himself in rustic, grammatically incorrect language, which helps add to his uniqueness as a character and firmly fixes him in his environment. Throughout the novel, we see him discover and learn - the hard way, more often than not - and we’re treated to David’s progression and growth from an innocent sixteen-year-old boy to a slightly (figuratively) scarred young man of sixteen years. Yes, he loses something in the short time he undergoes this sudden and painful expansion of his world, but we still see bits of the old David in the end. Still idealistic, still blindly selfless and loyal, still hopeful - and a good deal wiser.

Moline, as the setting, also feels like a character in the story. What Day does well is create a world with such care and detail that it’s very easy to imagine the little obscure town as something we can find on a map and visit, and then see every building and every landmark just as described. With every scene, our senses are constantly engaged - sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste. Moline becomes - is - a living entity. It’s also peopled with a cast of colorful and fascinating characters. Healer Findlay, Callan Landers, Zack Tyree, Elmer Casteel, Taylor Mills, and most especially David’s family - all work together in breathing more life into a rich landscape. When all hell breaks loose in the end, and conspiracies are exposed, villains punished, and an entire town shaken to its core, it’s almost unthinkable imagining these simple folks debating on whether or not to leave their quiet, familiar little corner of the world for far more unsettling places. Why even consider leaving Moline and a comfortable yet simple life behind? The questions and the solutions posed by Day are neither easy nor simple, and I’m glad that she doesn’t offer us something so cut and dry.

If I were to nitpick, I’d say that the only weakness I found in the novel is the occasional heavy-handedness with which some of the social issues are treated. Sci-fi and fantasy, as genres, are excellent and effective vehicles in which authors can explore difficult social issues, but these problems are much better served when subtly woven into the plot. In Thaw, there were a few scenes where I felt as though I were being lectured about laws, religion, and homosexuality. For the most part, these were simply acted out, but there’s one involving a conversation between David, Zack Tyree, and Jeannie Findlay near the end of the book, for instance, that bordered on a real sermon, which momentarily pulled me away from the flow of events and hear the author talk, not the characters.

Despite this, I found the novel wonderfully entertaining, and as a classic problem novel involving a gay teen protagonist, it’s a refreshingly different treatment of issues faced by GLBT kids and adults. As a story written in our current political, religious, and social climate, it’s a thoughtful and poignant reflection of our time.

Brit Columbia said...

I loved this book too. I read it 3 times. Can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.

Erastes said...

The book has been reissued by Lethe Press, and I HOPE they will soon be publishing the sequel.