I bought this book cause me mate Dave has a story in it. I read his story right away, but got bogged down after a while and have only just returned to finish the collection so I can qualify to review it. The overall tone is... grim. Dave’s story, while it has a few grim elements, was very much a gleam of light amid the depressing post-apocalyptic ruins. It is the first published piece, as far as I am aware, of a much broader vision he has of small-town weird Australiana. I have been waiting to see some of it all writ up for a long time. This fragment (“Seven Excerpts from Season One”) is seen through the lens of a group of high-school students doing a vidjo project, and it was worth waiting for. The main disappointment for me was that it was set in Victoria, rather than one of the rugby-league playing states, as I’d understood the original inspiration to have been Calliope in central Queensland, and had been assiduously feeding Dave bits and pieces from the New England for the past decade. Those aerial ping-pong people are foreigners to me. And the cast of characters seemed a little bit like they had been picked to tick off boxes on a diversity checklist. But I guess some Media Studies teachers probably sort their students into project groups that way.
The anthology is neatly bookended by two stories where our respective countries have gone over the edge, into the emptiness that defines them: Australia swallowed by the desert in “The Leaves No Longer Fall” and New Zealand by the sea in “And Still the Forests Grow though we are Gone”. Which titles run together in a nice “If on a Winter's Night a Traveller” way. Kudos to the anthologists on this symmetry.
One thing that struck me reading this collection was the contrast between the influence of indigenous culture on the two sides of the Tasman. Lots of the New Zealand stories had Māori words for Māori things and reference what seemed to be bits of Māori mythology. On our side... nothing. There was a line or two mentioning our indigenous people in me mate Dave’s story. Otherwise, if there was anything, I missed it. Aboriginal Australia was invisible. Just saying.
So as not to end on a bad note, I will get the bad part out of the way before going any further. For me, “Blindsight” was very unpleasant. YMMV. It did have a pretty neat core premise but the execution made me feel mentally unwell and detracted significantly from my overall experience of reading the book.
Okay, that’s out of the way. So what else did I like, beside Dave’s story? I liked “Hood of Bone” for the strong evocation of the sea as a character, and very much a malevolent character. We who dwell in the uplands fear tsunami and the dark abysses full of eyeless things. In “Crop Rotation” the bush was a malevolent character, and I think it was my favourite story not written by me mate Dave. It is how an Apocalypse should be: one tiny glittering speck, like a moth’s scale, to tell the tale of a catastrophe that has destroyed everything. I liked “Splintr”, which seemed reminiscent of the Strugatsky brothers’ “Far Rainbow”; and “The Island at the End of the World” which nicely evoked a sense of place and community; and “Crossing”, about which I have nothing particular to say but which was sweet. I found myself liking “The Great and True Journey” more than I expected. It had echoes of Robert Silverberg with its Mimbinus arguts and suchlike, which disposed me favourably towards it, and at the end I had the feeling it had some meaning but I was just too careless or dull to tell what it was.
I liked the world building very much in “Little Thunder”, and also in “One Life, No Respawns”, and would have liked to read longer, more-polished tales told in each of them. “Little Thunder” was marred for me by the sort of puerile jokes that we would have made if it had been a role-playing session of “Tales from the Floating Vagabond” rather than a short story, and both stories suffered from a surfeit of comic book violence. Why aren’t there more stories about non-violent conflict resolution? I know I can’t really talk. I have destroyed plenty of hapless bouncers and city blocks myself – to say nothing of cities and planets – and have torn more Calormenes limb from limb than I can count. But there are so many protagonists in these stories who resort to violence as the first and only way to solve their problems.
Like the violence in “Hope Lies North”. I had to keep reminding myself that the author is not the character, that because a story seems to have a message that doesn't mean the author is trying to push that message. I would like to rewrite this keeping the same words as much as possible, but making it a clash of civilisations story, and having the viewpoint character as a member of Islamic State. I think if I did that people would say it was a vile, disgusting story and I was a bad person. But it would be the same story. IMHO.
Finally, “The Architect” showed me a certain double standard in myself I hadn’t been aware of. If it had been presented to me as something translated from an obscure Eastern European or Latin American writer, I would have really liked it. But as something originally written in English by one of my own tribe it left me cold.
So, in conclusion, there is plenty of good stuff in this anthology to make it worth your while. I recommend that you gift copies of this book to everyone you know, since everyone you know ought to read me mate Dave’s story.
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- ASIN : B01EOZYOSA
- Publisher : Paper Road Press (1 June 2016)
- Language : English
- File size : 952 KB
- Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 412 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 477,584 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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*Not* a Collection of Stories Based on the Lady Gaga SongReviewed in the United States on 22 August 2016
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