Literature: Sun Bleached Winter
In this world, there are massive trees.Sun Bleached Winter
is a post-apocalyptic/psychological horror novel written by Australian author D. Robert Grixti, perhaps better known as the "Dark Gaia Studios
" responsible for a series of popular RPG Maker survival horror games
. It was first published on December 1st 2012 by Damnation Books LLC and is available in paperback and ebook formats. Sun Bleached Winter
currently holds the distinction of being one of the first (if not 'the' first) published novels to come from someone in a community usually known to only turn out short Japanese role playing and adventure games.Sun Bleached Winter
is the story of Lionel and Claire Morton, two siblings left to survive in a crapsack post-apocalyptic world
in the aftermath of a worldwide catastrophe. The novel follows their day to day efforts to stay alive as they brave a series of increasingly dangerous threats (such as post-nuclear winter, deranged cannibals and rabid, mutated dogs) while trying to get to "New City", a mythical sanctuary where civilization is said to have been preserved. The psychological horror element of the novel comes from the fact that it is presented in first person from Lionel's point of view, and the reader gets to see him gradually succumb to depression and insanity as he copes with the consequences of having to make immoral choices to survive and the psychological effects of various terrifying events he and sister experience.
Much like 'The Road', Sun Bleached Winter
really plays up the emotional part of living in a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Lionel's outlook is pretty grim from the start and the author isn't afraid to kill off major characters to make the tone even more bleak and hopeless than it already is, and early reviewers have noted the book's depressing slant to be its main defining feature.
Sun Bleached Winter contains examples of these tropes:
- Action Survivor: Most prominently Lionel, as he does survive a fair number of gunfights, though basically everyone who appears in the book (particularly the people of New City) is this to some degree.
- After the End: Fairly obviously. The book takes place roughly two years following an unspecified event that ended civilization.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Type 2 for Lionel. When he finds a crate of water bottles, only to have it stolen by two wanderers, he's desperate and thirsty enough at this point to beg them to let him have it back.
- There's also the Marauder woman in the farmhouse, who begs Lionel not to kill her and her children.
- An Aesop: According to Word of God, the main themes of the book are grief and morality. Thus, the book often prompts the reader to consider what these concepts mean to them.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Tom Morrow, the leader of New City. He only allows able bodied, "useful" people stay in his enclave, and executes or exiles anyone deemed uncivilized. His justification? He's trying to build a better future for his people.
- Anti-Hero: Lionel counts as one, at least in the first half of the novel.
- A Friend in Need: When Lionel's gun runs out of ammo and he's about to be killed, Jessica shows up in the nick of time and saves him.
- This is also the reason why Jessica is there in the first place, as she's trying to rescue a captured friend, though fails horribly.
- Anyone Can Die: In fact, the catalyst for Lionel's final descent into madness is Claire dying suddenly in Chapter Fourteen.
- Apocalyptic Log: The novel is presented as a series of writings from Lionel as he recounts everything that's happened to him.
- This is possibly subverted in the prologue though, which deals with him finding the notepad and deciding to write everything down.
- Apocalypse Anarchy: With civilization collapsed, everyone's busy killing each other. The only place this isn't happening is New City, though quality of life there is decidedly as bad as it is outside.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The guards of New City are also trained soldiers. Don't do what they say? They'll shoot you.
- Art Major Biology: Radiation is given as the reason for Claire's wound getting so bad within a short period of time. It's a clumsy explanation, at best.
- Funnily enough, according to the author's website, he 'is' an actual liberal arts major, making this trope literal.
- The Bad Guy Wins: In that nobody wins, and the world remains just as crappy as it was before.
- Bittersweet Ending: The ending is somehow happy, sad and a little frightening at the same time, because while it sees Lionel having finally come to terms with a post-apocalyptic existence, he's also walking around completely insane with an imaginary manifestation of his dead sister.
- Body Horror: There are many points in the novel where the characters come across dismembered limbs, heads on pikes, skeletal remains buried in the snow, and other gory things.
- Cannibal Clan: The Marauders. To be fair, there isn't anything else to eat since it's impossible to grow crops and animals have all died out.
- Crapsack World: For multiple reasons. Firstly, the whole world is locked in a never ending nuclear winter, it's impossible to grow food, most of the planet's wildlife is extinct, and everybody's trying to kill each other.
- Character Development: Pretty much the whole point of the novel, with Lionel's outlook on life being entirely different by the book's close than it was at the beginning.
- Death Seeker: This is Lionel towards the end right after Claire's death. He wanders out into the wilderness specifically pointing out to the reader that he doesn't care if he lives or dies since there's nothing left for him to live for.
- Driven to Suicide: The deceased ranger on whom Lionel finds his gun.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Something that Lionel starts to realise after arriving in New City.
- Ghost Town: The characters pass through one roughly halfway through the book. It doesn't go well for them.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Claire gets one after her head wound gets infected. Sure enough, she dies.
- Living Shadow: As Lionel starts to go mad from his experiences, he begins seeing these with increasing frequency.
- Their presence in the book could possibly be a reference to the author's One Night series, where they are the main antagonists.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: Mainly used to enforce the bleakness of the setting.
- Mind Screw: The ending attempts to be this, especially if you don't quite grasp the implication of it at first.
- Noodle Incident: The apocalypse itself. The book never specifically explains what caused the end of the world, though based on what we do know about it, nuclear war seems a likely explanation.
- Though if one really pays attention to the evidence in the book, an asteroid strike seems more fitting; the world's locked in a never ending winter, for one, and a huge layer of dust blocks out the sun. Plants struggle to stay alive, and most of the planet's wildlife is extinct (not to mention that Lionel says that the world's oceans have turned into poisonous black gunk).
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Basically everyone who does bad things in the novel tries to justify it with the fact that they're doing whatever they can to survive.
- Psychological Horror: The scariest parts of the book are reading Lionel's reactions to various events.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Claire's main role in the story is to die so that Lionel can go mad with depression.
- Scavenger World
- Shout-Out: The main character's name shares his name with the protagonist of the author's Legionwood 2 game, and they both experience the death of a loved one, though they're otherwise completely different.
- There are also a few references to T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland.
- Talking to Themself: Depending on whether you take the shadow people as real or imagined, Lionel probably spends a good chunk of the end of the book literally having conversations with himself.
- The End of the World as We Know It: It's made pretty clear that humanity will never be the same again.
- Title Drop: About halfway through the novel, Lionel finds a poem in an abandoned farmhouse. The first line is, of course, "sun bleached winter".
- Twenty Minutes into the Future
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Pretty much why Tom Morrow does some horrible things to the people he rules over.