More About Thunder Dreamer




A young man stands at the top of a hill in the middle of a vast landscape in western South Dakota contemplating the rising sun. Suddenly he notices on a nearby hill another figure, stripped to the waist, arms held out as though worshipping the morning rays. Then the stillness is shattered by the sonic boom of a jet from nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base. When the young man looks again, the other figure has vanished.

That moment captures much of the underlying tension in Thunder Dreamer, a novel by Ron Robinson. The story's narrator, Rodney Deuce is trapped between old and new, between the European world of his inheritance and the Lakota culture he has learned to admire.

The novel is filled with reminders of the deceptiveness of appearance: a stutterer who turns out to be a bully, a grotesque former wrestler who now reads Dante, a madame whose ambition is to retire to genteel respectability. The Golden West, a tourist trap that purports to represent a typical frontier town, is one chimera most satisfactorily punctured in the book.

The catalyst forcing Rodney to face the contradictions in his life is Daniel O. Quick, a delightfully irreverent throwback to the Old West. Quick's flight from a nursing home where Rodney is an orderly sets off a pilgrimage that takes the unlikely pair to the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Badlands, Deadwood, and the Black Hills.

By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Thunder Dreamer captures much of the incongruity of the contemporary West. It describes a world where natural wonders are defiled by tourism, mining, and development; where would-be warriors of the plains are reduced to soap-box politicians; and where unbridled passion is tamed by sexual correctness. In short, it portrays the "sivilization" so much feared and loathed by another literary wanderer.

For readers who like their serious reflection leavened by humor, Thunder Dreamer is sure to satisfy.

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