Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Sunlight Pilgrims

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Crown/Archetype: 7/19/16
advanced reading copy; 310 pages
ISBN-13: 9780553418873

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

~ Robert Frost

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan is a highly recommended frigid and prophetic character study set in 2020. The polar caps are melting, cooling the oceans, stopping the warm Gulf Stream and the world is being thrust into a new ice age. In this new increasingly dangerously frozen world, the illusion of three suns, commonly called Sun Dogs, or Parhelia, is common. In November of 2020 it is -6 degrees. As the months go on, the temperature continues to drop... -19...-38...-56. It is going to be a record breaking winter as snow is falling across the world places where snow never falls.

Dylan MacRae leaves London with the ashes of his beloved grandmother and mother in tow after the art house cinema his family has owned for 60 years goes bankrupt. He heads north to the Scottish harbor town of Clachan Fells where his mother left him a caravan. He is planning to eventually spread their ashes in the nearby Orkney Islands where his grandmother was born.

Living next door to Dylan's caravan is 12 year old Stella and her mother Constance. Dylan quickly becomes infatuated with Constance and friends with Stella. Thirteen months ago Stella used to be a boy named Cael, but having always realized she was meant to be a girl, her name is now Estella. Constance's goal is to stop the bullying of her trans daughter and survive the worsening weather. Once Dylan, Stella, and Constance become friends, they begin to work together to survive both Stella's journey and the worsening weather. And then there is the huge iceberg that is heading for the Clachan Fells Harbor.

It's helpful for the USA audience to mark that if the temperatures given are in Celsius, -6 C is 21.2 Fahrenheit, -19 C is -2.2 F;  -38 C is -36.4 F, and -56 C is -68.8 F. It's also interesting to note in passing that in the 1970's, rather than global warming, a coming ice age was the global weather prediction, so I've kind of been waiting for this end to the world, although perhaps not with the tie in to melting icecaps, but we'll go with it for the story rather than debate the science, cause I'm all about a good story. And, in all reality, the world is probably ending, but the focus is more on the lives of these three alienated people and Stella's struggles as a transexual. The weather is also a character, a beautiful and cruel character.

This is an extremely well written novel. It is not a science fiction novel, even though it has sci-fi elements as a consequence of the weather and coming ice age. It is more a character study of these people who chose to try and survive the deteriorating weather in an even crueler northern climate. The characters and their interaction are what make this novel.

Finally, you need to be mindful of the fact that, at least in my advanced reading copy, dialogue is denoted by a dash, as:
 - Do you really know who is talking?
- It's me. Aren't you paying attention?

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher via Library Thing for review purposes.

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