From the Publisher
"Wonderful...utterly engaging, full of adventure and excess, and 130 degrees in the shade."
Washington Post Book World
In the 1890s, "Lower California" is a land adrift, peopled by Indians and half-breeds, and now by the French as well. The Indians are indifferent to Western notions of time and industry The French, on the other hand, are sufficiently meticulous to import 2,348 pieces of cast iron to the desolate mining town of Santa Sofia, there to be assembled into a church under the supervision of a disciple of the renowned Gustave Eiffel.
This wildly impractical venture is the starting premise for this new novel by the author of The Five Gates of Hell, a writer the Washington Post has called "a virtuoso of the hallucinatory." As Theophile Valence attempts to re-create Paris in an outpost of hell and his wife, Suzanne, arouses the doomed passions of an American prospector anti a Mexican army officer Air & Fire fuses adventure and romance into a magnificent tale of conflicting passions and cultures.
"Absorbing.... More than anything else, it is the prose in which Thomson evokes [his character's] mental life that, with the concentration of a magnifying glass, kindles this novel's fire." The New Yorker
"In the tradition of Heart of Darkness, this is a very well-researched novel, with lovely descriptions of flora and fauna, of lava fields and basalt plains, of bats winging about at dusk. Thomson vividly evokes the atmosphere of colonial society." New York Newsday
"The brilliance of Air & Fire comes from the intelligence and insight with which Thomson constructs his story." Christian Science Monitor
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in 19th-century Baja California, an associate of Gustav Eiffel and his wife are sent to a copper-mining town in Mexico to set up a prefabricated iron church. (June)
Thomson's lyrical new work opens at sea as Suzanne Valence travels with her husband, Theopile, to Santa Sofia, Mexico. There Theopile, a protege of A.G. Eiffel, is directing the construction of a church. Much younger than her husband, who neglects her for his work, and unconventional without quite realizing it, Suzanne creates quite a stir in Santa Sofia: the French community doesn't know what to make of her, and she is relentlessly pursued by Captain Montoya. The one person who truly appreciates her is an American prospector named Wilson Pharaoh, who eventually risks his life to save hers--without, however, winning her love. Suzanne's growing alienation from those around her is paralleled by native resistance to outside domination, directed as much at the Mexican government as the Europeans, though the church is eventually destroyed in an uprising. Celebrating dignity in the face of disillusion, Thomson's exquisite tale boasts finely detailed settings, rich and apt characterization, and a flood of beautiful writing. His ability to get inside a woman's skin without turning her into a cause is particularly impressive. Recommended for most collections.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''