CHRISTMAS WITH SERGEANT FROSTY Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace spends Christmas with Sergeant Frosty.
Variety is the spice of life, and sometimes throwing two wildly different spices together can enliven things substantially. That’s how all art works, and all creativity: taking things you see in the world and throwing them together in a new combination. That’s what David Flin does here, and he does it wonderfully.

David Flin is a stalwart over at Sea Lion Press, who has written many fantastic articles for its blog (I particular like his series of articles on his time serving as a correspondent in the Lebanon War in the eighties). He has had several books published by Sea Lion Press, as well as editing and contributing to multiple anthologies. More recently, he has established Sergeant Frosty Press, dedicated to publishing historical fiction for children and young adults.

The name for his new publishing house comes from what could be described as the outfit’s flagship character, Sergeant Frosty, a snowman wearing a Royal Marines beret. He forms the centerpiece of one of their newer books, Christmas with Sergeant Frosty. Having read a previous book featuring him and liking it, as well as another of Flin’s books from SFP (namely Green and Pleasant Land, the beginner of a series that I hope to finish soon), I started this eagerly looking forward to what he’ll bring.
This collection draws a lot from the author’s own experiences, and it is filled to the brim with in-jokes of all sorts for adults, including one big one for the alternate history community. In that regard, it's a enjoyable read to both its target audience of children ages eight to twelve and to older readers wanting something whimsical for this holiday season. In terms of content, Christmas With Sergeant Frosty is all over the place, in a good way. Several of the stories serve as a mashup between the traditional children’s Christmas story and some other genre, including various fantastical things and one tale that struck me as a light-hearted parody of a war pulp story (which involved tanks made of snow firing snowballs from their barrels).

Open up this book and you’ll find emus and dragons, ghosts and talking dogs, aliens and eager children. Emotionally, the core of it is a sense of childlike whimsy. You have one villain who is good or evil depending on whether a certain piece of headwear leans to the left or to the right. You have many amusing digressions exploring a concept using the logic of a precocious young one, like trying to figure out in precisely what country a self-owning tree is in. These are stories that you could easily read to a certain sort of child at bedtime; they’d come to be beloved by a generation if they could get the traction (which is why I love reviewing books from small presses on the sites I write for - perhaps I could get the ball rolling).

But when you dig down to the core of this small collection, there’s a very real heart. Flin's characters are motivated by the joy in Christmas we felt as children, and sometimes struggle against in a world that wants to suck all the wonder out of it (one story in particular concerns this). The very last tale is one which I won’t reveal any detail of, but is a truly moving story about what makes this holiday tick, both in its own world and in ours.

Most of the stories included within Christmas With Sergeant Frosty are, on the surface, adventure tales for children, but ultimately they’re about so much more. They’re about why we love the yuletide season, and the places we wish we could go, and the things we wish we could see. In times like these, when the joyful gathering of the season is denied by a microscoping thing few of us had expected even a year ago, these stories are warm, like an open fire and extended family and hot chocolate. Cherish them in these lonely times.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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