Review: The Female Factory by Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett

Amanda Wrangles

 

Amanda Wrangles is an award-winning crime and speculative fiction writer based in Melbourne. 

Slattern The Female Factoryprocreation is big business. Children are a commodity few women can afford.

Hopeful mothers-to-be try everything. Fertility clinics. Pills. Wombs for hire. Babies are no longer made in bedrooms, but engineered in boardrooms. A quirk of genetics allows lucky surrogates to carry multiple eggs, to control when they are fertilised, and by whom—but corporations market and sell the offspring. The souls of lost embryos are never wasted; captured in software, they give electronics their voice. Spirits born into the wrong bodies can brave the charged waters of a hidden billabong, and change their fate. Industrious orphans learn to manipulate scientific advances, creating mothers of their own choosing.

From Australia’s near-future all the way back in time to its convict past, these stories spin and sever the ties between parents and children.

As the latest joint offering from super-star writing duo Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett, The Female Factory lives up to all expectations we’ve come to expect from these two wicked masterminds.

Four novellas stitched together with the common theme of our innate need to reproduce, belong, love (and be loved); along with the often frightening lengths humans will go to in their craving to do just that.

The collection opens with ‘Vox’, a tale set in the near-future and my personal favourite. Protagonist Kate is desperate to be a mother, her empathy stretching far past what most would consider healthy, though it’s easy to care for this rather kooky character immediately. The authors absolutely nailed Kate’s emotional state in the early pages of this story with a good dose of both humour and darkness. And then comes the ‘surrender’, the ‘storage’ and the never ending search for voices – but only the right ones, of course.

‘Baggage’ plays with what if’s; what if some women had the ability to store multiple embryos at any one time? What if they could pause those pregnancies at will? Just how much would infertile couples be willing to pay a surrogate for the opportunity to become parents? And what lengths would those surrogates go to (or not) for the big bucks?

‘All the Other Revivals’ is quite a different story to the first two. A very Australian tale about small-town prejudice, a teen who doesn’t quite ‘fit’ and a magical billabong. A nice little nod to ‘Baggage’ is included in this one, if you look for it.

The title story, ‘The Female Factory’ concludes the collection. With an historical theme, this one is set around the convict era and the dark past of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and its female correctional facilities. A group of motherless children will do almost anything to find – or create – the love they’ve never known.

As with many of Slatter and Hannett’s stories (both as a duo and independent authors), I found I needed to read these stories twice. This collection is thought provoking and pushes the reader to uncomfortable spaces, making you ponder just how far you would go for the most basic of human needs. While they might make you squirm, these tales are also seriously beautiful, the words singing from the page. But – warning to readers – to allow yourself to get caught up in the song, to read too quickly or with a single passing is to do yourself a disservice. These are stories to be devoured with the luxury of time, at leisure and preferably with a comfortable couch and whole lot of quality chocolate.

Volume 11, Twelve Planets

ISBN: 978-1-922101-15-0 (pk)

ISBN: 978-1-922101-16-7  (ebk)

Cover Design by Amanda Rainey

Ebook Conversion by Charles Tan

Published December 2014

 


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Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

 

 

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