Third Day, The Frost
Book 3 in "The Tomorrow Series" by John
the plot of this novel
Please don't read on if this concerns you
Triumph and disaster
At the start of "The Third Day, the Frost" all
the characters, bar Fi, are emotionally devastated by what they
saw and did in "The Dead of the Night" but this
is nothing compared to what happens to them by the end of this book.
By the end of "The Third Day, The Frost" Fi and
all the other survivors are physically safe but crushed - emotionally,
physically and mentally - by the experiences they have undergone
in these few hundred pages.
Yet before that they find the strength within themselves to accept
the events of "The Dead of the Night" and again
act. This time picking a target with such precision and moving against
it with such cunning that they change the course of the war and
elevate themselves to public enemy number one.
As they journey to reconnoitre Cobbler's Bay they have cope with
the implications, both emotional and physical, of their land being
overrun by colonists and learn to hide from everything. When they
rescue Kevin and see his reaction to their co-ordinated, gruesome
strangling of the enemy soldier they to face how much they have
been changed by what happened in "The Dead of the Night".
They have to face the fact they are losing the war and find the
courage to continue. They have to face their fear, their terror,
at the huge leap in what they are attempting.
The journey to Cobblers is tense, but along the way Robyn again
shows her resolution, Ellie the shear power of her will and Homer
how much he cares. There really is a lot to admire in these (fictional)
children from Wirrawee.
The preparations for the attack are nicely done. The way that they
identify and overcome obstruction after obstruction. Ellie's terror
at what they are attempting, which grows as each obstacle is to
attempting the attack is defeated. The confrontation between Ellie
and Fi about how wise the attack is. How would Fi's breezy confidence
about the risks Ellie was running come back to haunt her when Homer
returned without Ellie and she is still missing as night falls?
The way pride forces them to act when they get into the container.
Ellie wanting emotional support but not wanting to look less cool
than Homer. I'll bet you dollars to sand that Homer was feeling
exactly the same about not looking any less cool than Ellie, the
one who never looks scared. (See Fi's comment, p169, "The
Dead of the Night")
The attack itself. The way the wait in darkness nibbles away at
their courage. How both Ellie and Homer are terrified but neither
will say it. How they comfort each other without either having to
admit how they feel. How they talk while they wait and find that
what they dream of has become so simple now. How they forgot to
bringing water with them into the steel shipping container on what
turns out to be a nice sunny winter day.
The evasion afterwards. The escape across the deck, with Ellie
saving them both again. The pursuit through the water, with shear
bloody minded determination getting Ellie through. The escape from
the Helicopter and hiding in the bush. The poignant memories of
home and her lost life that posses Ellie through the night. Ellie's
reaction to seeing what they have achieved. The shock of the confrontation
with the soldiers, the powerful way that is written - even if John
Marsden can't tell the difference between a automatic pistol and
a revolver - and the decisiveness of Ellie as she puts her life
on the line again to save her friends. Follow this with Ellie's
heroic driving - the best driver never to have a licence, you have
to smile at what she gets up to - and how Robyn takes care of her.
Hiding. How Ellie is so totally wiped out she can't even stand
when they are in the wreckers due to the emotional toll of what
she had done. It is probably only 30 minutes, certainly no more
than an hour since she killed three people in as many seconds. The
imagery in the wreckers is so dark that I thought it was night time
but going back and checking it is about midday, it is her feelings
that are so black. The excitement and then crushing disappointment
of their contact with New Zealand. How Homer fades into the background
and Ellie slowly comes to realise that there is something terribly
wrong with him; that the time in the container, the escape through
the water and the three soldiers after have broken something in
him, that he is real trouble. But then she can't act on that knowledge
as events overtake them. How Fi takes charge, recognises the problems
they are having, proposes a break and comes up with a plan to get
them there. This is the first and the last time Fi asserts herself
like this, rather understandable since the flaws in her plan lead
directly to their capture, their imprisonment and the death of Robyn.
From then on she insists others take the moral risks of planning
- even to the point of giving Ellie the right to decide if she lives
or dies in "Burning for Revenge".
The prison, Harvey. The team may be great in the field but they
are pathetic with a cover story. What cover story ? They haven't
discussed it at all. Who is Kevin supposed to be ? Where are they
supposed to be hiding out ? What are their names ? OK, Harvey is
involved and so they are gone, but even if it had been someone else,
blind Freddie with a stick could have knocked their story apart
in a few minutes. Ellie is very lucky she is not required to spin
a good line again until Judy in Camp 23 (when she fails dismally
once more). I did love the "Banana's in Pajamas" episode
The escape. I can be a bit flippant about the teams preparation
of a cover story and the prison, but I can't be flippant about Robyn.
In a world which, as I write (Feb 2003), is consumed by suicide
bombers filled with hate and buttressed by a promise of paradise;
this passage moved me to tears, something no novel has done is years.
Technically it is very well written, emotionally it was like getting
punched in the face. It is certainly the most powerful scene in
the series. Here Robyn choses a course of action that is guaranteed
to end in her death as a means of giving her friends a chance to
survive. She choses to die so that the people she loved could live
for at least a few minutes more. Could you imaging doing that ?
Could you imagine pulling the pin on a grenade and listen to the
hissing fuse as you counting down the remaining seven seconds of
your life, knowing that all you have to do is toss it away and you
are safe, but find the strength in your love of your friends to
not do so? I can't. You have to respect Robyn Mathers and the love
she had for her friends.
A lovely piece of writing about some very human heroes.
here for Thomas Myer's excellent review
another view of this novel, check out Declan Stylofone's comments
Interesting what different people see as important. I, for example,
see "Darkness" as the key breakpoint for Lee, where he
goes from being willing to kill with his hands, to wanting to do
so; a very major change. Here, for me, he is still sane. Hurt, but
sane. That all changes in the next novel.
and, of course, there is Tim
Chmielewski's view as well.
Go to the commentary on
"Darkness, Be My Friend"