D. Robert Grixti is an up and coming author from Australia, and this is a review of his debut novella. I’m dropping the normal Shortbus attitude for this review. I’ve posted a nearly identical review on my other site, and decided that some of you here would probably appreciate this book.
Here is an excerpt from Sun Bleached Winter,
–Night has fallen. We’re eating dried biscuits by the light of the campfire. The flames glow weakly, dimly. Dying. Flakes of snow drift down from the sky and threaten to bury everything under a blanket of white. Nothing can live here.–
Atmosphere––Mr. Grixti does it very well. The bleak world inhabited by narrator Lionel and his sister Claire has been crispy fried by nuclear war. A blanket of smoke, dirt, and clouds blot the sun’s light, embracing every day in fallout winter. Lionel and Claire are the central characters in the story, but things spice up with the introduction of Jessica, a gun toting firecracker wearing clean clothes. Lionel is conscripted to do a dirty job with Jessica, and if he survives, he’ll earn entry into New City for himself and Claire.
Expertly done, setting was consistently used to keep the weight of doom and uncertainty lingering with every turn of the page. Here is another tease,
–I stay awake, staring into the blackness, and thinking about what tomorrow may bring. What future is there for us, waiting for us, perhaps mocking us, beyond the void of time? Is it a good one, or a bad one? I find myself struggling to wonder how those terms can still have meaning, in a world where human life is reduced to something abstract, something indefinable and killing can be so easily justified in the name of survival. There can’t be such things as good or bad in a place where everything is grey. People will continue to do what they have to do, and thus the only future that awaits us is one that’s as bleak as the present.–
Irony would be another great descriptor for Sun Bleached Winter. As Lionel and his sister struggle to survive in the wastelands, they also struggle to maintain the humanity that has been burned from the world. Is New City going to be a budding society, or just the shadow of what once was?
Is it medicine that makes a society? Labor? Can it be defined as protection from the marauding hordes of cannibals? Does civilization depend upon which side of the gun you are standing? Beware of the dogs––the marauders sometimes use them to corner their quarry.
–It growls once more, and then unleashes a spine chilling howl, its hind legs tensing behind it, preparing to pounce forward and take its prey. Panicked, I feel through the snow beside me with my left hand, praying that I’ll find the cold, familiar shape of the revolver waiting for me. The dog starts barking furiously and then it charges, running at me with lightning speed. I close my eyes, preparing for the sharp fangs to drill into my face, when I finally feel the grip of the handgun, already starting to sink into the deep snow.–
Action is quite challenging to write. For the most part, I felt D. Robert Grixti’s execution of action was done with great agility as a first time author. As you saw, that last passage offered fantastic visualization. Most of the action in Sun Bleached Winter held tension, but in a few instances it faltered a little. Nothing to fret over, as Mr. Grixti evolves as a writer, those hiccups will pass.
For the most part the editing was solid. There were a few words inserted that weren’t quite right. I found “Illegible” where it should have been “Unintelligible,” there was one or two other not-quite-correct words placed throughout the text.
Although I’d smiled at the end of the last page, fully appreciating this story’s irony, I felt there were enough instances of grief to drive anyone to the one character’s final decisions. I felt the hallucinations seemed a little overkill, but as we’ve seen here on the Shortbus, I’ve been very wrong before, and I promise I’ll be wrong again, maybe even here.
All in all, I enjoyed this story and hope others do to. Sun Bleached Winter is a quick, fresh read, artistically written well enough to start fun dialogue between readers.
For the record—I’d received a PDF copy from this author with the expectation of a balanced review.