Thursday, 1:17 p.m., by Michael Landweber: Surviving a Frozen World

Thursday, 1:17 p.m. thursday($13.95, 208 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-357-0) is Michael Landweber’s second work of fiction. After the death of his mother, seventeen-year-old Duck finds that he is the only moving being in a world where all other life forms appear to be in suspended animation, raindrops hang in the air, and only manually operated machines can function.

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Landweber’s first novel, We, won ForeWord Magazine’s quarterly debut novelist award and a bronze in the General Fiction category of ForeWord’s Book of the Year Contest. We was also a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Independent Books.

Thursday, 1:17 p.m. is an unconventional and intriguing novel that blends thoughtful insight with an irreverent, anything-goes attitude reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk. It’s a fun read that also gives something to think about after its final page.”  Read more….

—Bradley A. Scott for ForeWord Reviews

“Landweber’s hybrid novel Thursday 1:17 p.m. is a provocative, stop-motion parable for an accelerating world.”  Read more….

—Steven Felicelli for Necessary Fiction

“The writing in Thursday 1:17 pm is affable, even breezy at times, and yet easily slips into tender and even wistful moments, giving them weight without weighing them down.  This is a very fast read, and yet one that satisfies both in context and style.  I truly, utterly enjoyed this book, and it gave me a lot to ponder, but in a way that was invigorating rather than dismal, despite there being so much isolation in subject and action. I would heartily recommend it to literally every reader, young or old, of any genre or style. Do yourself a favor, and find yourself a copy of Thursday, 1:17 pm; it is not mere hyperbole to call it a gem of a book. Put simply—it shines.”  Read more….

—Sharon Browning for LitStack

“Landweber is able to combine joy and darkness, lightheartedness and heartbreak in the slim novel Thursday 1:17 p.m. This balance is a delicate one, and readers can see how even Duck himself attempts to walk such a line in his lonely trek through a frozen D.C. and beyond. With the wry humor of a teenager, the vivid, sensory scenes, and a complex emotional range, Landweber’s novel provides both humor and food for thought. What would you do if the world around you stopped? Would you stop with it? Or would you push forward on your bike and draw pictures in the rain?”  Read more….

—Melanie J. Cordova for The Quarterly

Thursday 1:17 p.m. was sweet, and it was devastating. Its themes are thought-provoking and tough, yet the book manages not to be a downer. There is plenty of action throughout, even humor. This was a super fast read that I read straight through: I couldn’t put it down.”  Read more….

—Monika for Lovely Bookshelf

4 Stars: “Landweber’s first-person narrative puts readers squarely in the mind of his protagonist, who deals head-on with life and death. Amidst anger and sadness, there’s also humor and hope. The author’s understanding of teens is spot on, and the framing of the tale as a how-to survival guide fills in the necessary backstory. Get ready for a surprise reveal at the end.”  Read more….

—Karen Sweeny-Justice for RT Book Reviews

“For the most part, this book comes across as light entertainment — but there are (at least) two big dramatic stories at play here in addition to the fun and games. There’s death, the nature of love (and reality of lust, teenage style), growing up, friendship, hurting others . . . and Duck coming to grips with all of these, and coping with them isn’t done in a heavy-handed, or overly serious manner. On the whole, while you’re chuckling about something he’ll slide right into a consideration of one of the heavier themes. Over and over again, Landweber does this seamlessly so you barely notice it. No mean trick to pull off…. You really want to go get your hands on this one, readers, you’ll enjoy it.”  Read more….

—The Irresponsible Reader

“The book is written with a light, irreverent tone that is very catchy. It’s easy to like Duck, easy to ignore that he is ignoring his problems even as they are revealed through flashback scenes. I also enjoyed the asides—the guide to your frozen world sections—where Duck instructs readers on what to do if this ever happens to them. It reminded me a bit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  Read more….

—The Shelf Stalker

“With the keen understanding of a young teenage mind, the wit to witness it, and the talent to play around with space and time and the laws of physics, Michael Landweber has written a coming-of-never-more-aging tale sure to entertain anyone with a soul and a brain.”

—Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World and Other Stories

“With Thursday 1:17 p.m., Landweber has taken the trope of Last Man on Earth and turned it into something far more troubling and thought-provoking. Whatever your plans were for being completely alone on the planet, this book will force you to revise them.”

—Bryn Greenwood, author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Last Will, and Lie Lay Lain

“How much mischief can one stressed-out teenage boy get into when everything else on Earth is trapped in a permanent game of freeze tag? Would you write a guidebook? Tip zoo animals? Tip people? Stop a suicide? Landweber’s magical extravaganza pays homage to Groundhog Day, The Graduate, Fight Club, and The Fermata, in an episodic see all, tell all, with an ’80s soundtrack. Duck, the reluctant virginal hero, learns way more than he wants to about friends, family, his crush, and reality, in his search for a way to reboot the world.”

—Richard Peabody, Editor, Gargoyle

Duck is 17. He will never be 18. Tomorrow is his birthday. It will never be tomorrow.

Time stopped at 1:17 p.m. on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in Washington, DC. Duck is the only person moving in a world where all other living beings have been frozen into statues in an endless diorama. Duck was already in limbo, having lost his mother to cancer and his father to mental illness. Now, faced with the unimaginable, he approaches his dilemma with the eye of an anthropologist and the heart of a teenager trying to do the right thing under the strangest of circumstances. Ultimately, he realizes that while he doesn’t understand the boundaries between friendship and love, that uncertain territory may be the key to restarting the world.

Says Landweber, “We’ve all wanted to stop time. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. started with the idea that this particular wish could turn into a curse if you weren’t able to start time up again. After the initial thrill of being the last person moving in a frozen world, how would a person deal with the loneliness? Or the temptation to do things that you would never consider doing in the fully functioning world? But what interested me most was turning that potential nightmare into a story about one person finding meaning in a world that makes no sense.”

Michael Landweber lives and writes in Washington, DC. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines such as Gargoyle, Fourteen Hills, Fugue, Barrelhouse, and American Literary Review. He is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor for Pop Matters. Click here to find Michael online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I was pretty worked up by the time I got to the museum. It was farther from GW than I remembered. Even pedaling non-stop, skidding my way around the corners, weaving in and out of the motionless cars, trying not to hit any pedestrians, I felt like I was moving impossibly slow, like I was running out of charge and winding down to a stop. It wasn’t true, of course. I was flying. Dangerously so. Reckless. I could have easily brained myself on a tree or monument. But I made it.

There was a line out the front door at Natural History. There usually is. Things get backed up at the metal detector as the guards rummage through bags. I hopped off my bike without stopping and let it roll away from me into a jersey barrier. Admired it as it went. It was nice to see something else move on its own.

But I had no time for nostalgia. I had a goal. Find Grace. She was somewhere in the massive building before me. Before I could stop myself with logic—such as the fact that I had no idea where anything was in this massive building or that I wasn’t even really sure that Grace worked here—I bounded up the stairs past the line and inside.

I had started to get used to the frozen people, but I had never been quite so surrounded by them. The atrium was packed. I went through the metal detector—on the off chance that I might set it off and wake up the world—then into the fray. It was hard to walk in any direction without bumping someone. Tour groups clustered together, taking up large chunks of real estate: Japanese tourists following a yellow flag, elementary school crossing guards wearing bright orange belts, a church group proudly sporting Jesus on their t-shirts. In between them were the families trailing toddlers and pushing strollers, the couples whose clasped hands created additional barriers, the singletons who were gazing earnestly around the room searching for their companions. Their collective inactivity had a movement of its own. So much potential that I could almost fool myself into thinking they were moving beyond my peripheral vision. Not true, of course.

At the center of the atrium was the elephant. Proudly raising its trunk above the crowd. Stuffed. Not supposed to move. I stared at it for a moment, wondering if freezing the world would lead to the static exhibits coming to life. My mom loved Night at the Museum—particularly Attila the Hun. His rebirth would have been a nice tribute to her, but the elephant remained stoic and still.

So there I was. Where to start looking for Grace? Not in the main exhibits, certainly. She’d be somewhere behind the scenes. In the guts of the building, which really is massive.

 

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