Friday, January 16, 2015


Speculative fiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements.

Flanders by Patricia Anthony is labeled "speculative fiction."  It is the story of a young Texan who joins the British army during World War I.  Told through his letters home to his younger brother, Travis Lee Stanhope describes life in the trenches during his services as a sharpshooter. There are elements of supernatural.  Stanhope has visions of those who have died around him, those who are important to him.  But this is not a ghost story.  This in not a only a war story; it is a coming of age story. Travis Lee is an outsider.  The men around him accept him but only as a novelty "yank."  His one true friend is an outsider as well, an officer who is Jewish. 

Flanders gets a five star rating from me.  While I was reading, there was that tightness in the back of my throat that comes when sobs threaten. I would try to put it down so I could breathe but I soon picked it back up again.   More than any of the other World War I books that I have read this month, I saw just how cruel war can be.  The book doesn't have more gory scenes or more harsh battle descriptions, but the effects of battle on the soldiers is more evident.  It is felt more by the reader.  To say this is a beautiful story is misleading but nevertheless it touches the heart.

From Publishers Weekly

In Flanders Fields, where so many died so horribly during WWI, an American volunteer named Travis Lee Stanhope finds terror, death, forgiveness and, ultimately, an odd sort of salvation. Anthony (God's Fires), one of speculative fiction's brightest talents, has written a novel of the Great War that is worthy of comparison to Erich Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Travis Lee is a wonderfully complex character, a wild boy from Texas who had the brains to win a scholarship to Harvard, a survivor of childhood abuse who hates his alcoholic father but fears he may be turning into him. Uncomfortable at home and at school, Travis, like many young Americans in 1916, enlists in the British army in search of adventure. What he finds instead is the monstrous human meatgrinder that is Flanders in northern France. Few writers have succeeded so well as Anthony in describing the horrors of trench warfare, the mud and disease, the rotting bodies and unending bombardment, the virtually universal madness that turns men into killers and rapists. Travis Lee is a talented sharpshooter, but as months of terror go by and the number of his kills grows, he beings to see things, at first in his dreams and later on the battlefield itself. Ghosts begin to haunt him, unwilling or unable to leave the shell craters and barbed wire where their lives ended. Told by a battlefield chaplain that he's gifted with the Second Sight, Travis Lee repeatedly finds himself wandering in an unearthly cemetery, a melancholy place that nonetheless hints at the possibility of eternal life. This is a harrowing and beautiful novel, demonstrating?again?that Anthony is one of our finest writers, in and out of the genre.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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