Description of Book
The world is ending. People, animals, plants – there is a universal dying-off of the planet. Rumours persist of a reprieve but none appears. Two dogs and their human companions bond, as they trace a vivid circuit in a region not dissimilar to Cape Town; they encounter the violence and decay as they travel, struggling to survive. It’s a tough passage through societies of degradation and unsettled by a war beyond the mountains that encircle them.
The answer may be in a unique union between humans and the animals they encounter – and with whom they share a form of communication.
The story is both dramatic and intense in its focus on the emotions of those afflicted by the calamity. The novel is Wilhelm’s first since The Mask of Freedom and takes that book’s issues even further – perhaps as far as they can go in beauty and tension.
All readers will find a new form of narrative, melting into a vision of despair infused with hope.
‘Whirlwind in the Thorntree is a powerful story about dogs, humans and the search for a home in a devastated landscape. There are fantastical elements, but the issues are real: violence, cruelty towards animals and the destruction of the planet itself.’
‘Whirlwind in the Thorntree, while it articulates with the tradition of South African post-apocalyptic fiction, is unique. It is consummately written: its elegant prose shifts between descriptions of desperation and passages that verge on whimsy. In several ways, the novel develops Wilhelm’s Mask of Freedom, a remarkable and sadly neglected work. I can only hope that The Whirlwind in the Thorntree is read as widely as it deserves to be.’
‘Peter Wilhelm has been one of South Africa’s leading fantasists for several decades now, but this novel shows him at his ingenious best. The blend of elements in this grippingly apocalyptic, deeply compassionate story is so audacious that several mainstream SA publishers chickened out of going with Wilhelm’s boundary-busting fiction. Shame on them.’
Leon de Kock
About the Author:
Peter Wilhelm is a novelist, poet, and journalist. He has written many books. LM and Other Stories (1975) comes out of his experiences in pre-independence Mozambique; two other collections of stories and the novel The Dark Wood (1977) explore colonialism’s legacy of violence and terror, as does The Healing Process (1988).
He demonstrates his interest in science fiction in some of the short stories and Summer’s End (1984), a book for children. The Mask of Freedom (1994), a dystopian view of South Africa’s destiny, is set in an indeterminate near future in which poverty, population growth, crime, and AIDS have determined social policy to radically limit human freedom.
He has won awards for his writing and reporting, including the Science Fiction Society of SA’s prize and the Pringle Prize for reviews; the Mofolo-Plomer Prize; and the Sanlam Award for Fiction. His work is widely collected.
He has helped edit the memoirs of Colin Eglin, Tony Leon, Jane Raphaely, and others.