Tuesday, June 22, 2021

38. The Cold Moons by Aaron Clement

Darned if I can't remember where I found this book.  It's a nice addition to my collection of animal adventure books.  I guess at the time it was quite popular and I understand that the badger cull is and was a source of public attention in the UK.

It took me a while to get into this book.  I checked on Goodreads and my reaction was not uncommon.  His writing style is a bit clunky and instead of actual dialogue, he narrates their conversations.  I am not against the idea, as I think the intention was to not make them too anthropomorphic, but it does distance you from the interactions you are reading about.  The plot is quite simplistic as well and you don't feel too much tension about where the conflict will come from.  Despite all that, once the real journey gets started, I found myself quite wrapped up in the story.  The maps were excellent (drawn by his wife whose credit you can barely find at the bottom of the rear flap) and really helped to keep me connected to the story.  I really wish more fantasy books with journeying and lots of geography would do this good a job with the maps.  The only problem was that they were in the wrong order!  

The story here takes place in Wales when hoof and mouth disease was threatening the livestock farmers.  Transmission was blamed on badgers and Britain in all its stupid post-colonial insecurity sends in the military to kill all the badgers in the land.  I don't know if this was a real plan, but it doesn't surprise me. This is the kind of cruel self-damaging stupidity that is at the very soul of these sorts of violent bureaucracies and is an important counterpoint to when the positive elements of the British spirit that I tend to admire in my fiction. The focus is on a particular community of badger setts, away from any farms that get an advance warning of the holocaust to come and flee to find a home far away from man (actually where they believe they can live in harmony with man).  Alongside evil man, we get the other antagonists of internal strife, embodied by an ambitious, evil badger and the elements and the journey itself.

The story is told mostly from the point of view of Beaufort, the capable but uncommitted badger whose father is the de facto leader.  When his father dies, Beaufort discovers his own innate leadership capabilities.  There are news clippings interspersed which detail the ongoing success of the military's badger cull and the growing public resistance.

A lot of people compared this unfavourably to Watership Down, which I haven't read in ages.  As I said, it is not a complicated book, but I really got into it and it made me love badgers.  It also has great descriptions of the Welsh countryside, which Clements clearly loved.  A nice find and a nice read.

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