Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an Australian SF writer who lives Sydney. He has a keen interest in cyberpunk and Japan.

Stevenson_Horizon_C2D2Half a century from earth, six explorers sleep dreamless sleep on a journey to explore a planet that could lead to either salvation or destruction for humanity. That planet; Horizon.

Decades after the events that caused the formation of a few, all-powerful mega-nations, Cait Dyson emerges early from deep sleep aboard the star ship Magellan to find one crew member dead, another in a coma, and the shipboard artificial intelligence turned off. A fearful situation in a crew of those you know and trust; but far worse when your ship contains a half dozen people from other nations cobbled together in a feigned display of camaraderie.

In very short order, Cait is confronted by a crew that doesn’t trust her, no way to call for support, and in a ship many light years from earth and plunging towards possibly the only habitable planet within humanity’s reach. To top it all off, the events taking place back on earth are rapidly forcing her hand to make decisions she is far from comfortable with.

Horizon is a masterful novel set in the cold void of space between solar systems, where trust is as much a valued resource as air or food. The premise behind the original mission is simple enough and pretty standard for Sci-Fi; a group of explorers are sent on a deep space exploration mission to investigate a near-earth planet that could one day be suitable for habitation. This mission quickly degrades in the light of new orders and differing opinions. As each of the characters come from radically different cultures, background tensions become readily apparent, and interactions turn hostile rapidly in such a close environment. As a result, conversation is tight and abrupt, but Stevenson manages to keep the short dialogues relevant and concise; making up for lack of quantity with sharp efficiency.

Stevenson has taken to the harsh reality of space with the tools of a craftsman. The cold ruthless efficiency of space travel is accented with distinct and descriptive technology: deep-space engines, near-human artificial intelligences, and cybernetic design that is not quite viable at the moment, but feels so real in prose. Every character has his or her own flaws and agenda- evidence of a life that is no longer possible so far from everything they know and love. And the bitter reality of what is happening far behind them is a stark reminder of what humans can do.

All that said, Horizon isn’t a depressing novel. It’s cold and terrifying at times, sure, but tinged with purpose and beauty. Not quite hard Sci-Fi, but far from soft, Stevenson has written about a world like our own, in a future that could almost be, with people very close to us. True science fiction, and a true pleasure to read.

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an Australian speculative fiction writer based in Sydney. Find out more about Jamie’s work at his website.

ings-wolvesDystopia is a prevalent theme in the modern world: environmental collapse, political upheaval, economic degradation, and uncontrollable technological evolution. These topics are difficult to ignore, and even more difficult to acknowledge.

Wolves isn’t a novel about the Big Bad Wolf coming to gobble up fairy-tale animals and children; it is about far darker creatures…the black prowling creature that lives within us all, awaiting the opportunity to escape, awaiting release–lies, misdeeds, hidden truths that lurk and feed in the dark.

Set in a real world on the brink of collapse, Wolves is a novel about how change is both beautiful and sad, euphoric and brutal, afraid of the dark but turning to face it head on. The setting of a placid English town is already fractured for the young protagonist, Conrad, and his father. Living in a hotel purchased by his bi-polar and financially incompetent mother, Conrad and his father Ben are trapped in a life of inconsistency. Conrad tries to live his adolescence through his best friend Michael. He seeks a sense of stability, something he doesn’t receive from a father caught up in his work running a hotel and assisting with the recuperation of soldiers blinded in a unexplained military conflict; and a mother who spends half her time creating commercially un-viable products to sell to hotel patrons, and the other half in a women-only protest camp.

Conrad is soon confronted with the suicide of his mother in bizarre circumstances, and in his panic he commits guilty acts that stalk him for decades to come.

The story often flashes between Conrad as he ages, and himself a young man–a flowing narrative that builds his own story and that of those around him. We see Michael and his growth from paranoid survivalist to celebrity author, cashing in on his fears of the coming apocalypse; Hanna, Michael’s partner, who Conrad spends a night of uncontrolled lust with after being abandoned by Michael at a party and the unexpected child that results; and the world itself, as it comes to term with evolving technology that changes both how humanity perceives the world, and how it perceives itself.

Nothing is simple in the world of Wolves. Simon Ing has drawn a world complicated in the extreme, with layers of depth under every paragraph and within every conversation. Yet the difficulty is not in understanding the tale, but in the realisation in that we are already on a course similar to that which Ing has penned, on a ship impossible to steer.

Wolves is a dark book; it’s not friendly. It’s not a tale of non-stop action or steamy romance; important plots are not met with a grand upheaval, but rather with an uncomfortable feeling in the gut. Sexual encounters between Conrad and other characters are awkward and confused. Conversations are raw, emotional, and realistic affairs that more often than not, leave the characters worse off.

This being said, it is also deeply enjoyable. Realism and speculation meld beautifully in this novel; each character is deep, and sadness is often drawn tight with a silver lining. This is a tale with a message that needs to be fully absorbed before it can be comprehended: a message of loss, and hope, and change, and fear.

A message of the future, for the future.

Reviewed by Jamie Marriage

Prizefighting is easy when you have a few special talents up your sleeves. But when a stranger who knows more of his secrets than anybody should, knocks at his door, Alex Caine is both rightly suspicious of, and completely unprepared for, the chaos to be unleashed upon himself and possibly the world.

Bound is the first novel of the surreal and harsh Alex Caine series by Australian dark fantasy author, Alan Baxter: a novel that doesn’t relent in its vicious story-line and beautifully flawed characters.

Starting in the cage fighting realm of Sydney, Bound opens with Alex Caine fighting for his life and his career–trading blows with people far bigger than him, for the largest prizes. His only advantages are the discipline instilled in him from his martial arts handler and a strange gift for being able to see the intentions of others before they act. These attributes have made him a comfortable lifestyle and also turned him into a valuable commodity to those who would rather he fight for them.

When he refuses one big boss too many, Alex finds himself in a dangerous position–one that could leave him dead. His salvation arrives in the guise of a curious Englishman with deep pockets and answers to questions Alex never knew he had.

Swept off to England with the promise of money and sanctuary from the hostilities in Australia, Alex is exposed to the truth of his bizarre gift and the limitless possibilities of the magic he never believed in. But in a matter of days, he is also introduced to hostile creatures that appear bent on his destruction, and a strange book that seems to have a plan of its own for his life. His only way out may lay with a woman whose curiosity in Alex is matched only by her thirst for blood.

Bound is a fantastically gritty and modern view of dark fantasy, with twisted mythologies, sexual deviancy, and unapologetic characters. Most chapters have plenty of action, but not enough to hide the fact that there is a great story-line and dialogue going on from cover to cover. Greed, gluttony, wrath, and lust are all demonstrated in large portions throughout, and no character is without their vices and imperfections. It all comes together to create a book that’s difficult to put down and thoroughly worth re-reading. Baxter has proven he has real skill with this genre, and if this first novel is anything to go by, there are even greater things to come.

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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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