Category: Reviews

kimberley-rat-city-cover-600wShannon Dane has tried to keep a low profile ever since his best friend died in an incident that Shannon might have prevented. When a gorgeous girl (Ally) from school approaches, asking him to give her brother a textbook, Shannon changes his mind about staying off the radar. At first he might only be hanging out with Felix to be closer to his hot sister, but things change.

Felix is a nerd and oddly emotional at times – as well as having weird hoarding tendencies – but he’s also loyal, insanely clever and interesting. Ally isn’t just gorgeous; she’s adventurous, astute and self-possessed. Best of all, neither Felix or Ally have any interest in the rumours surrounding the fate of Shannon’s dead best friend.

They have enough problems of their own. As Shannon moves further into their world, he begins to realise that they’ve got things going on that make his problems look tame. And Ally is afraid that if they don’t tackle the “issue”, it will grow into something that none of them can control.

Rat City is the debut Young Adult novel of Brisbane author, Ree Kimberley. As always, it’s lovely to read a local author. While Rat City isn’t specifically set in Brisbane, the novel does have a familiar Australian feel in the way characters speak and their interactions.

The novel plays with quite a few genres, most notably horror, sci-fi, romance and mystery. For me, the mystery side was a little lacking but the sci-fi and romance plot-lines are solid. It’s refreshing that Shannon doesn’t immediately drop everything to please Ally. That when she starts seriously considering breaking the law, he’s not willing to go along with it.

In the novel, Rat City is what Ally and Felix call their uncle’s dilapidated, rat-infested mansion. Considering the book title and the way the characters talk about the place, I was expecting that when the place made a proper appearance in the novel, it would be overwhelming. The atmospheric build up to Shannon’s foray into Rat City is done well. It makes the place seem dark and threatening. Not much of the novel takes place in Rat City though, and I think that this is quite a missed opportunity.

I adore rats, so the fact that the plot revolves around their intellect and resilience is a highlight. Their behavioural quirks are only touched on in Rat City, so hopefully it’s something that will be further explored in future novels.

While this is a Young Adult read, it’s certainly suitable for more advanced middle grade readers. It leaves the door wide open for a sequel, but doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger. With the crossed genres, this is sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers, so anyone looking for a new series should give this a go.

 

Rat City – Ree Kimberley

Pronoun Books (2016)

ISBN: 9780995387003

slatter-vigilHuman children are going missing around the city. The Weyrd population is worried that another paranormal butcher might be at work and history might be repeating. Verity Fassbinder is determined to find whoever is behind the disappearances. Years earlier her father had been discovered carving local children as delicacies for those who had not grown out of the taste of flesh. Some of his clients are bound to still be around and if they are sourcing human meat from a new butcher, they need to be found before they expose the Weyrd community to the world.

On top of that, the mangled bodies of Sirens are falling from the sky; some strange new beast is decimating civilians – Weyrd and human alike – and it looks as though a plot against the rulers of the Weyrd world is in play.

Vigil is Angela Slatter’s first novel. Set in Brisbane, it follows Verity Fassbinder, a woman whose life has been a study in balancing her right to autonomy against her self-appointed vigil for her city. It’s rare that I manage to find an urban fantasy set in my home city, let alone one as compelling as this.

Being more interested in the story than the packaging, I rarely comment on cover art, but here I’ll make an exception. The cover of Vigil is one of the most stunning pieces that I’ve seen in years. Even if I were not already a fan of Slatter’s work, I would have looked into this novel. It suits the story as well; atmospheric, dark and lovely.

I’ve loved several of Slatter’s books of short stories, and was delighted when I found out that she had a novel coming out. Her writing style is unlike anything that I have come across before. She has a deft way with words that makes each line, paragraph and scene she writes say so much more than any other writer I’ve read. This writing style is echoed in Vigil, but the novel is very different to her other works.

The mythology in Vigil is beautiful. It may touch on Greek, Roman, Biblical and other myths, but Slatter has re-imagined the old tales in entirely new ways and then laid them over the glass, concrete, and metal fabric that is Brisbane. In many ways, it has the feel of a modern tale from the brothers Grimm, but one that is more concerned with character than with plot.

Which isn’t to say that the plot is inadequate. If anything the plot is too epic for our sleepy city. It’s the sort of storyline that belongs somewhere far more ancient and cultured. In this newly imagined Brisbane, however, it fits.

The characters are simply more gripping than the plot for a myriad of reasons. While they don’t all have tightly woven relationships, they do slot together in their own ways as neatly as a jigsaw. The interactions are natural and immensely readable. The motivations, too. Verity’s guilt for the actions of her father and her need to work at protecting the city even at risk to her own life makes her story an absorbing one.

This is a wonderful start to a new series. With richly imagined characters, setting and mythology, it is the perfect read for those who enjoy urban fantasy.

 

Vigil – Angela Slatter

Jo Fletcher Books (July 7, 2016)

ISBN: 9781784294021

mcmahon-Tau-Ceti-Diversion-severed-ebook-cover-MediumDistant space. A single lonely spaceship. A hope for a new world to revive a fractured humanity. A commander with too much to hide. Something was bound to go wrong.

The Tau Ceti Diversion is the latest work by Brisbane-based Aurealis short-listed author Chris McMahon; and it’s a cunningly written example of survival against odds of an inhuman scale, written against a masterfully-crafted space opera backdrop.

Awakened from his long hibernation in stasis by the Starbursts artificial intelligence, Karic Zand is quickly brought into a situation where he needs to make a choice: risk the life of the thirty something crew under his care by waking them prematurely on their long trip to a new world, or let them sleep through what could be a lethal radiation surge. His choice leads to further troubles, as those he once looked to for command, prove to have more important things in mind than the survival of the crew.

Drawing close to the Tau Ceti system, the Starburst finds itself in an a place far too alien for its crew to comprehend. This hostile and uncompromising area of space that they spent so many years sleeping to discover, could be the death of them all, or the source of their very salvation. However, there are forces at work here who see these strange invaders as a threat to a life they have known for millennia.

The Tau Ceti Diversion harks back to a golden age of science fiction exploration. The setting quickly shifts from familiar to extra-terrestrial, the characters from friendly and direct to conniving and alien, even the pace is reminiscent of the glory days of space and the unknown, with life and death struggle a real and present challenge at every turn.

This is a great novel from an talented novelist of our age. McMahon has written a book that will not only take you out of this world, but draw you into something far greater than what has come before.


Marianne will be launching Chris McMahon’s SF novel Tau Ceti Diversion on September 22nd at Books@Stones in Stones Corner. It’s open to the public and you can find it as a FaceBook event.

Marianne has known Chris for many, many years and is thrilled that Severed Press are publishing it. Register for the Facebook event and join their In Conversation.

 

 

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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