Tag Archives: Australian

Retro Review: When We Have Wings (2011)

Claire Corbett

Allen & Unwin (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-556-4

 

This book is a very interesting case from a marketing point of view – from what I’ve seen, it’s been marketed as neither science fiction nor young adult, and yet in could easily fit into both categories. Instead, the publisher seems to have been promoting it as a literary novel, which I can also see sense in, but given the content of some of the books I’ve seen shoved into the YA pigeonhole in recent years, I have to say I am a bit surprised they haven’t targeted that market. Still, I believe the book is selling well under their current marketing, so who is to complain!

When We Have Wings is an accomplished debut novel for Canadian-born Australian writer Claire Corbett. Sweeping in vision and scope, the story bounces between two very different points of view, that of cynical but solid private investigator Zeke Fowler, and a young nanny, Peri, who had risen to heights she could not have dreamed of from her humble beginnings, and then thrown it all away. Zeke is hired by Peri’s employers, high flyers (in all senses of the phrase!) the Chesshyres, when Peri apparently kidnaps their young son, and disappears with him into the wilderness.

The dual narrative shows both Zeke’s search for Peri, and the things he finds out about flier society along the way (which have a personal impact for him), and Peri’s journey to discover more about herself and the world she is now part of.

Part of what makes the story compelling is Peri’s role as carer for the baby Hugo – her love and concern for the child is believable and beautiful, even as she struggles with her desire to learn more about herself and her abilities, and grapples with her need to escape the flier world she has been thrust into. She refuses to abandon Hugo, even though her escape would be easier without him, and this love drives much of the narrative.

I thought Zeke’s story was perhaps the more interesting one though – the adult, living in a world he did not grow up in, trying to cope with the fact that his son could be, and may need to be, basically a different species to himself, if he wants to give him the best possible chance at a good life. While somewhat of a metaphor for any parent raising children in today’s technology-rich world, Zeke’s journey as a father is one of the more emotional aspects of the book, and I found it wholly convincing.

When We Have Wings is not perfect. I’m never a fan of overly young protagonists put in a situation of the kind Peri is – for me, if the story can be told with a slightly older character, I really don’t see the reason for making her that young, particularly as she rarely, if ever, behaves in a way that would make me believe that was actually her age. Additionally, I felt the book was somewhat overlong, and some events were unnecessary to the successful conclusion of the story being told.

Having said that, I think there were elements that Corbett got so right – the advancement of technology, and how that impacts on society as a whole, was spot on, an extrapolation to a not-too-distant future rooting exactly where we are today. And the writing itself is almost entirely wonderful – Corbett has a beautiful style and I would definitely read more from her.

In all, I would recommend When We Have Wings to lovers of science fiction, to literary fiction fans, and to readers looking to stretch their boundaries. It’s not a short book, but it’s worth the effort.

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Retro Review: The Darkest Kiss / Moon Sworn

Keri Arthur

Piatkus (2008)

ISBN: 978 0749939250

Riley Jenson #6

There is a danger with an ongoing series that the magic of the earlier books will wear thin; the combination of characters and situations will become stale; the author will start to stretch the friendship with more and more outlandish and unbelievable events. Luckily, although The Darkest Kiss is the sixth book in the Riley Jenson Guardian sequence, Keri Arthur has not yet run out of fairy dust to sprinkle through the pages.

While Arthur follows somewhat down the path beaten by fellow paranormal author Laurell K Hamilton in amping up the sexual situations as the books progress, at the same time this author amps up the suspense and crime-solving aspects as well, nicely balancing the “otherness” of the story with a solid detective yarn.

For those who came late, Riley Jenson is a rare half breed in a world where the supernatural exist among us. She and her twin brother, Rhoan, are half vampire and half werewolf, a combination that gives them unusual powers. These powers assist them in their jobs as officers for the Directorate of Other Races, which often means acting as sanctioned assassins of rogue supernatural entities. Added to her natural talents, Riley was previously subjected to experimental drugs that caused emerging changes in her abilities and physiology, changes that no one can predict an outcome for. Riley is unique, even among supernatural creatures, and this uniqueness has its own costs.

Central to the strength of the novel is the rich characterization and pacy plot. Although Riley is growing in power and becoming more comfortable in her role with the Directorate, she still struggles with the issues her changes bring with them. Arthur handles this conflict well, developing it without descending into the whiney “poor me” attitude such heroines can be inflicted with in other such novels (not mentioning any names.). Riley accepts and embraces her nature, and while she may be frustrated with the situations it places her in, including those to do with relationships, she finds ways to deal with it.

Set against a modern-day Melbourne background, Keri Arthur avoids the parochialism that sometimes invades Australian-set stories, and instead offers an insight into the city without a colonialism accompaniment, which is as it should be in today’s world!

In this sixth book we come across a number of familiar characters from the previous books as Riley tracks not one but two supernatural serial killers. Characterisations are expanded and relationships rearranged during the course of the story, while Riley continues to come to terms with her changing ability and searches for the answer to her ongoing relationship concerns.

With the multitude of paranormal crime, romance and fantasy books being published at the moment, it’s a challenge for any author to produce a novel that grabs you, pulls you close and suspends your disbelief for over 300 pages. Arthur continues to achieve this feat in her sixth Riley Jenson venture, and I continue to look forward to the next instalment.

Keri Arthur

Piatkus (2010)

ISBN: 987-0-7499-4227-4

Riley Jenson #9

 

I’ve really enjoyed the Riley Jenson series. It’s been a year or two since I’ve picked one up for some reason, but I’m really glad to have got back into these books. Riley is a great character; Arthur has managed to keep her interesting without being overpowering (literally and figuratively) and the situations the books find her in are credible and well-crafted. It’s Australian urban fantasy at its best, and holds its own against the big overseas names in this genre impressively.

In this, the ninth episode of the Riley books (and the last, I think, although apparently there will be an offshoot series), Riley is wrestling with the decision of whether to quit her death-dealing job and concentrate on her family, or continue in a role she excels at. The forthcoming birth of babies that will tighten the ties between Riley and the men in her life, the loss of her soul mate, and the harsh toll that her job takes on her body, and those around her all make her question the way she lives. Then without warning, she loses it all, and is suddenly on her own, in a way that is baffling and strange. With none of her usual support mechanisms, Riley must figure out why she suddenly feels so strange in her life, and find the way home.

Riley is a fabulous character and Keri Arthur works the characters and story beautifully, crafting a detailed and plausible plot populated by appealing people. I’m impressed with the way this series has been sustained through nine books without losing momentum or becoming overdone., no easy thing to do. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read any of Keri Arthur’s other series novels, but now that Riley has wrapped up, I’ll be looking out for alternatives!

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Retro Review: Wings of Wrath (2009)

Celia (CS) Friedman

Orbit (2009)

ISBN: 978 1 84149 533 0

The Magister Trilogy #2

Kamala is the only female Magister in a brotherhood of magicians – except that most of them don’t know she exists and has accessed the secret of their power. Outsiders don’t know the secrets of the Magisters, so Kamala is a massive threat to their supremacy, being not only a woman, but not being as constrained by the rules that bind the rest of them to keep their secrets. Kamala has secrets of her own, and is forced to keep her powers hidden under the guise of witchery, the only other option for a woman with her abilities. She has proven to herself and her master that she can hold her own as a Magister, but the events unfolding before her test her will and her own self-belief. Continue reading

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Belatedly, my 2016 Snapshot interviews!

Things have been a bit bonkers lately, with a heck of a lot going on at work and home. One of those things earlier in August was the Aust SF Snapshot, a (basically) biannual interview blitz where a bunch of us try to interview as many people in and around the Australian spec fic writing scene as we possibly can in a (basically) two week period. It’s been going for 11 years now, and from its humble beginnings with Ben Peek it now takes a big stack of us to take on a huge number of folk (almost 200 this year!). Loads of fun, but loads of work, too, especially when you’re the silly person who says “yanno, a website would be good…” and queues up all the posts! While still doing interviews too 🙂 Anyway, it was a good few weeks and kind of zapped my brain for any other blogging, but I thought I’d better do my round up before it became completely irrelevant – oh hello September, I see you around that corner there…

So, I undertook the following interviews, and was in return also interviewed by the excellent Alex Pierce (see my ramblings here):

  1. Alex Adsett
  2. Lee Battersby
  3. Lindy Cameron (Clan Destine Press)
  4. Stephen Dedman
  5. Thoraiya Dyer
  6. Richard Harland
  7. Narrelle M Harris
  8. Edwina Harvey
  9. Erica Hayes / Viola Carr
  10. Lian Hearn / Gillian Rubenstein
  11. Andrea K Host
  12. Amie Kaufman
  13. Bren MacDibble
  14. David McDonald
  15. Claire McKenna
  16. Meg McKinlay
  17. Foz Meadows
  18. Garth Nix
  19. Stephen Ormsby (Satalyte Publishing)
  20. Angela Slatter
  21. Cat Sparks
  22. Jo Spurrier
  23. Suzanne J Willis

Also on the new website we have archived every single one of the previous five Snapshot projects, from Ben Peek’s first in 2005 right through to the present day, making one handy dandy repository of Australian SF history all in one spot. And it’s been catalogued at Pandora for posterity, which is awesome!

So there’s lots of other stuff going on, including a pending move interstate and job seeking and all that jazz, but right now I’m focussing on getting a book to print in time for Conflux and looking forward to a few social events with friends in the next month or so, including another quick trip to WA in early October for the WA Premier’s Book Awards ceremony – can’t wait!

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Retro Review: Museum of Thieves (2010)

Lian Tanner

The Keepers, book 1

Allen & Unwin (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-157-3

Welcome to the city of Jewel, where children are coddled and overprotected to the point of effective imprisonment. In a place where this has happened for decades, impatience and boldness are considered very wrong, and adults are almost entirely weak and ineffectual. Goldie Roth finds herself in a highly unusual situation when the ruler of the city, the Protector, tries to loosen the ties on the young by releasing them early from the guardchains of childhood, only to have an explosion suddenly destroy the fragile steps she had begun to take. The Fugleman, the city’s spiritual guide and leader of the Blessed Guardians – who ensure the safety of children (whether they need taking care of or not) – has his own agenda, one that is not at all on the same wavelength as the Protector’s. Continue reading

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