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Crisped + Sere (Immemorial Year, #2)
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Book Series Discussions > Crisped and Sere, by TJ Klune

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Ulysses Dietz | 1589 comments Crisped and Sere (Immemorial Year Book 2)
By T.J. Klune
Dreamspinner Press, August 2016
Cover design, Paul Richmond
Digital ISBN: 9781634770682
340 Pages
Five stars

For reference, here's my Backlot posting on the previous book of this series:

I checked out all of the online pages for TJ Klune’s other books. Every one of them has gotten hundreds more reviews on Goodreads than his two epic dystopian Immemorial Year novels. This is not a surprise. Sales of these two books have not been great. Again, I’m not surprised. The author has been saddened by the relative lack of success of these two books. I understand this, but I don’t want him to be sad.

So, this review is my open letter to our Travis, a man who 3500 people (along with me) have friended on Facebook because of his inimitable, quirky, passionate novels. TJ is young enough to be my son, but more talented a fiction writer than I’ll ever hope to be. I admire him deeply, both his skill and his courage. He has made the brave choice to write as a gay man for those who want to read about gay men and about love. He has found his audience. I have loved all of this books.

Travis, be proud of “Crisped and Sere” and its companion. They are splendid. They are also dark and ugly and fierce. They are not what your vast circle of fans expects from you – all those folks who embrace your complex visions of flawed humanity and gay romance. Yes, you’ve hinted at darker things in “Into this River I Drown,” and even in your werewolf romance, “Wolfsong;” but in “Crisped and Sere” you go really deep. You have plumbed the depths of your darkest places, and you have brought up a dystopian world as grisly and harsh as any I’ve ever experienced. These books were not fun for me to read; but I never once was bored. I never once ceased admiring your masterful prose or your austere, intensely vivid characters.

The narrative in “Crisped and Sere” is relentless, exhausting, even moreso for the fact that there are moments of almost lyrical gentleness that stand in jarring contrast to the gruesome violence at the core of Cavalo’s story. The sense of place is both bleak and claustrophobic; a post-apocalyptic wilderness just a little more than a century into our own future. Cavalo is a broken man, a loner, whose tortured mind reveals itself bit by bit as he finds a destiny he never sought forced on him by others more afraid and desperate than he is.

His counterpoint is Lucas, mute refugee from a cult of savage radiation-damaged nomads, whose own madness hovers as near the surface as Cavalo’s does, but for reasons that defy reason. The volatile, edgy relationship established between Cavalo and Lucas in the first book expands here, tapping into emotional resources neither man thought had survived the horrors of their individual lives. It becomes the nuclear core of the narrative, pulsing with a dangerous heat, always on the verge of cataclysm. Klune manages to avoid most of the accepted clichés of romance, while creating one of the most intensely counterintuitive couples ever put to the written page. As one character wryly comments during a rare quiet moment:
“It’s disconcerting to think that potentially the fate of our known world rests in the hands of two people who can’t stop growling at each other like animals.”

One of greatest miracles in this book is Bad Dog, a character that offers glimmers of the silliness for which Klune is known. Somehow, with a limited (possibly imaginary) vocabulary and the basic simplicity of a family pet, Bad Dog becomes a note of light in an ocean of darkness. He is a post-apocalyptic Lassie, and Toto, too. He is sidekick and muse, and his non-human soul keeps Cavalo rooted in his own fragile humanity.

SIRS, the C-3PO-like robot who runs the abandoned Idaho prison that Cavalo and Bad Dog call home, is another brilliant balancing act. In a story that is all about lost humanity, SIRS becomes both assistant and savior, offering wisdom and wry comic relief in situations of increasing despair. He brings forth the old science-fiction trope of the robot with a soul, but does it in a way that transforms him into a character as powerful and affecting as any of the actual humans.
“I have a heart that beats. And Cavalo, I swear it beats because of you. It beats for you.”

It is not an accident that it is this trio – the monster, the machine, and the dog – who save Cavalo from his darkest self. They are the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly lion to Cavalo’s Dorothy. Only this is a very ugly OZ, liberally splashed with blood and battle. In the end, however, Cavalo pushes aside his own monster to help people as lost and alone as he is:
“My name is James Cavalo, like my father before me, like my son who came after me. They’re gone now. I do this for them. And I will do this for you.”

So, TJ Klune, I exhort you: sales and quality are not the same thing, even if your livelihood depends on your writing. Harper Lee wrote only one good book in her life (and I’ve read both of her books). You’ve already written a lot more than she ever did. “Crisped and Sere” is as strong and moving and well-crafted as any best-seller that the mainstream press will offer to its legions of mainstream readers. Be proud. Yes, write what your fans expect and they will reward you for it. But treasure these two books for what they are, not what they earn. They have earned my respect.

FantasyLiving Wonderful open letter/review. I agree with everything. This was one of my favourite books this year (along with W+S) and I'm sad there won't be more.
I love my books dark, and this really worked me over while making me feel good about what I was reading. The landscape was intricate and amazing. The character depths where inspiring. This story will stay with me a long time, and I'm sure will get a workout on re-reads. True quality.

Jason (jason_williams) | 18 comments I agree. This story was my favorite from him. From a literary standpoint this was his best work I think. And I would have thought that this one would have been a more successful release, being that I think it would appeal not just to the MM Romance crowd, but to the masses. But yes, TJ should be proud of what he penned in this story, one I will remember for a long time.

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