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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reviewed by Jamie Marriage

What is reality when all people see is artificial? What is control when all people have is submission? What is truth when all people know is a lie?

Graham Storrs doesn’t answer these questions, but he touches on them and attempts to reveal the morality of all-encompassing change.

Heaven is a Place on Earth is a speculative tale constructed around the idea of artificial reality and its impacts on humanity, concepts that aren’t simple imagination for us today. An upcoming vote seeks to bring all national network content under the control of local government, giving them the power to control, edit, and remove any information they find disagreeable. Written during a time when these issues are under hot debate, Storrs brings relevance to what is, at its core, a wonderful, action-packed and philosophical story.

Divided into four parts, the novel’s third person narrative alternates between Ginny, a struggling freelance composer, Rafe, a journalist attempting to return to the media world after a traumatic experience in his last case left him scarred and paranoid, and Della, corporate powerhouse and concerned friend of Ginny, just trying to keep her safe.

When Ginny delivers a mysterious package as a favour to a flirtatious acquaintance, she is quickly drawn into a world far beyond her comfort zone. Gone are the usual tired struggles for composing contracts, family squabbles, and unsatisfactory relationships, instead replaced with the struggle to stay out of prison—and alive—in a world where her every movement is trackable and every truth is a possible fabrication.

Interwoven with plots and sub-plots, Heaven is a Place on Earth pits Ginny against an anti-technology terrorist group, the Australian police force, and a consortium of international business owners chomping at the bit to have the new network control laws put in place for their own reasons. Storrs manages this complex interplay without leaving the reader confused, which is a grand feat in the circumstances.

Heaven is a Place on Earth is not a simple book, but it is a very fun book. It is a clever mix of conspiracy theory and technological speculation, with more than enough for fans of both genres. 

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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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