HEAT AND THE HOT EARTH, THE: $6, 4 ¼” x 5 ½”, 61 pgs.

This novella (not quite a novel but longer than a short story) is broken down into four chapters. The chapters all involve a small group of characters in and around San Diego and Tijuana and while each character is not in each chapter, they all know one another and come from the same circle of friends. Each chapter also includes a dream, although it’s not necessarily the case that the chapter focuses entirely on the dream. The dreams seem to be the center of the novella, though. And in combination with the adventures of the characters outside of these dreams there are themes of longing, the redundancy and incomprehensibility of life, distaste for Southern California life, and, finally, (in the last chapter) an acceptance and peace in the midst of maturity. Adam Gnade’s style of writing is very descriptive, sometimes overly so, but it does well in helping to sculpt a scene. The second chapter, when the three friends are in Tijuana, is especially vivid, and Gnade does a fine job in exploring the environment. The reader is also shown a good sense of who these people are—and despite the fact that they hardly seemed like the type of people I would want to spend much time with—that’s not for Gnade’s inability to create interesting characters. He described them well enough for me to realize that I didn’t find these people to be my particular cup of tea. My problem with The Heat and the Hot Earth was the utilization of dreams as a centerpiece. This is primarily because the dreams are all told in such detail: how the person looked, what they did and what followed, what was in a room or the inflection on their face. I can never remember dreams this well. But, again and again, these people can recall the minutest item. It was rather unrealistic. That being said, dreams have always been good fodder for stories and I’d be interested in seeing what Gnade could come up with if he used some of the dreams told in these stories as the basis for stories in themselves. (Punch Drunk Press, 1075 Reed Ave., San Diego, CA 92109)