Book review: The Pale by Clare Rhoden

About The Pale

The Outside can be a dangerous place.

But so can the inside.

It’s been years since the original cataclysm, but life has been structured, peaceful, and most of all uneventful in the Pale. The humachine citizens welcome the order provided by their ruler, the baleful Regent.

However, when one of their own rescues a human boy, Hector, from ravenous ferals on the Outside, their careful systems are turned upside down.

As Hector grows more and more human-strange, the citizens of the Pale grow uneasy.

What will happen when the Outside tries to get in?

My Thoughts

The Pale is science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Amid the destitution of the Broad Plain, the Pale itself is a policosmos, a walled colony ruled by a tyrannical Regent and filled with humachines – machine-augmented humans not known for their empathy. Tad, a humachine that cares a little too much, lets in a human child, Hector, when he arrives at the Pale’s gate. Outside, the caninis struggle to survive after a devastating earthquake destroys their habitat. The tribes and the Settlement also struggle for survival. Four groups, four distinct societal structures. What unfolds is a tightly woven plot that centres around a struggle for survival in the harshest of conditions.

Rhoden demonstrates tremendous descriptive powers and impressive world building, The Pale reminiscent of the intelligent science fiction novels of old. I am reminded of my favourite science fiction author, Phillip K. Dick. The Pale is filled with well-crafted and engaging characters – including dogs –  in what amounts to a classy read with an important moral message, making the reader question where we are heading and whose side we are on and what it means to be fully human. Add to this an elegant writing style which makes The Pale accessible to teens and adults alike, and I imagine it won’t be too long before this novel catches on big time.

The allegorical aspect of The Pale provides much fodder for contemplation in today’s pre-apocalyptic climate change reality, something all good high school teachers should relish were they to lay their hands on copies for their classrooms. In all, Rhoden has penned a feast for the speculative fiction aficionado.

 

Find your copy of The Pale on Amazon

Author Website

 

Advertisements

An interview with Martin Rodoreda, author of SALVAGE

I’m delighted to welcome to my blog, Sydney author Martin Rodoreda, whose debut novel, Salvage, is set to take the speculative fiction scene by storm. Salvage is a work of climate fiction utterly relevant to our time, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! Read on, for a fabulous interview.

head-shot

Tell me a little about yourself, Martin.

I was born and raised in Liverpool, in the south-west suburbs of Sydney. I was blessed with a very stable childhood, if a somewhat sedentary one. Being one of four children in a single income family we didn’t holiday or move around much. My parents still live in the family home I grew up in, and there is something nice about having that consistency.

I had a great childhood though; I enjoyed school, was very active, and found adventure in books. Our Christmas stocking would always have at least one new book in it, and Mum would take us on frequent visits to the library to find new material to read.

After school, I did a communications degree at UTS where I met my beautiful wife, Cara. We got married in 2007 and now live in the Macarthur region with our three boys. So with family, writing and work, life is busy!

At what age did you realise your fascination with books? 

As I mentioned, from an early age I found books to be a source of adventure. Reading was encouraged in our household and all my siblings read a lot. We used to read books together as a family, sitting around the dinner table taking turns reading out loud. Roald Dahl was my favourite author whilst in primary school and I would read and re-read his books every time the annual MS Read-a-thon came about at school.

In year six at school, our teacher got the entire class to enter into a short story writing competition. I and one other student in the grade made it through to the finals group and a two-day workshop. I didn’t go on to win the final prize, but it was a good experience.

Perhaps discouraged for not taking out the ultimate prize in the competition, or perhaps just busy with other things, it would be another twelve or thirteen years before I started writing again. But I remained both active and creative through this time, with a fairly eclectic mix of hobbies, from role-playing games to playing AFL, from miniature painting and table-top gaming, to listening to grunge and alternate music. I think my nerdy pursuits were counter-balanced enough to earn the label of cool nerd.

I never properly considered writing as a career option. Sitting through my careers class at high school, trying to pick a degree to do at university, looking for jobs post study; I could never quite pin down what I wanted to do. Even five or six years into the workforce and a career I still had that feeling. I think I had this trouble because deep down, I knew what I wanted to do, but did not see writing as a legitimate career option. I think this is probably shared by many authors.

So back to the question – when did I start writing? I started writing seriously when my work and home resulted in a lengthy commute to and from the city each day. For those of you that have experienced it, Sydney traffic is something to be avoided at all costs, so the train became my friend. I wanted to use this time productively and, as much as I love reading, I didn’t want to spend it all reading. So I started writing my first book. That was about nine or ten years ago now. I have done virtually all my writing since then on the train. While a long commute can be frustrating, it has afforded me regular time to write, and so rather than eating into my day, it has enhanced my day.

Who inspires you in your writing?

I mentioned Roald Dahl as an early favourite author of mine. I then migrated into Tolkien and the fantasy genre and read a lot of that through my teens. After discovering the Greek Historians in Ancient History at school, I found myself enjoying a lot of writing from this period; Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Plutarch. In mid to late high school I also started reading a lot of the late, great Terry Pratchett and have read a book or two of his every year since.

As I’ve gotten older, my reading has slowed a bit (on account of using what spare time I have to write!), but also diversified. I still enjoy the Speculative Fiction genre above others, and like many, I’m still waiting on George RR Martin to release the final book (books?) in the Game of Thrones series. But I enjoy books outside of the genre as well. A couple that stand out are Burial Rights by Hannah Kent and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Another book I had low expectations of but really enjoyed was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I read it for the first time just five years ago and, having been disappointed with a number of other classics, I didn’t have high hopes for it. But I loved the way the book blended intensely dark fantasy scenes with high period drama I would expect out of a Jane Austen book. It was an interesting and utterly enthralling read.

I seem to draw inspiration from most things I read or watch. I can’t help but finish a book or a movie and think of something I could draw from it in my writing, whether it be an alternate take on the themes in the book, character traits that I’d like to explore further or a mood or environment that really resonated with me. I have at least fifty book ideas that I have written a basic outline and plot for and then filed away. I have a strange feeling of excitement and apprehension every time I consider opening the file!

Tell me a little about Salvage.

cover

It is set in Sydney about one hundred years in the future. The world has been devastated by pollution, excessive mining and war, and a dome built over the city protects what is possibly the last bastion of human civilization from the caustic elements. Inside the dome, its citizens are ruled by the dictator Silmac, who holds a monopoly over the energy supply of the city. Outside, in what was once Greater Sydney, savage sub-human’s known as mutes scratch out a brutal existence in the unforgiving elements, posing a deadly threat to those what would venture beyond the protective barrier of the dome.

The main character, Silver, is a member of a Salvage crew; heading outside the dome in search of metals and other items of value. When she is abandoned in the Badlands one day by her crew, Silver faces a hike back to the dome on foot with very little chance of survival. On the way, she uncovers a relic from the past that holds the secret to break Silmac’s hold over the dome. The discovery ultimately leads her into direct conflict with the dictator.

In the early stages of the book, Silver’s primary motivation is personal survival; from dangers both outside and within the dome. Living in constant fear, she craves change but feels helpless to effect it. She must face these fears in order to realize that she is more powerful than she thinks, and not alone in her desire for change.

how long did it take you to write?

It took me roughly two years to write and edit Salvage, writing almost exclusively on the train on my commute to and from work. The story was constantly in my head over that time. Writing in fifty minute pockets on the train meant that I’d often have to stop part way through a scene and not be able to get back to it till that afternoon, or the next morning. While this could be frustrating, it afforded me the time to reflect on each scene as I wrote it, and helped maintain a clarity of purpose throughout the book.

Thank you Martin, for taking the time to chatting with me today!!

You can find Martin via Facebook

His website: martinrodoreda.com

And purchase a copy of Salvage via the publisher, Odyssey Books.

In conversation with Cli-fi author Sue Parritt

After reviewing Pia and the Skyman a few days ago, it’s a pleasure to speak with author, Sue Parritt and discover what motivates her to write Climate Fiction.

image1

Starting with the obvious, tell me a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southern England. At 19 I married my childhood sweetheart, Mark, and seven months later we emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. We have one son, David. After graduating (B.A. University of Queensland 1982, with majors in English Literature, Drama and French) I worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. I now live in a bayside town, Mornington, in southern Victoria, where I spend many hours writing in my beautiful garden studio built by Mark.

 When did you start writing fiction?

I have always loved books. As a sickly child often away from school for weeks at a time, I read voraciously, immersion in fascinating stories enabling me to forget about illness for a while. My favourite childhood books were: David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Good Wives, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Moonfleet, a novel set not far from my home. My grandparents loved Dickens and I read most of his works from their nineteenth-century editions. My parents stressed the importance of education, provided a houseful of books, recordings of Shakespearian plays and the opportunity to discuss what I had read or heard. My father, in particular, shared his love of literature with me, often reading aloud excerpts from Shakespeare, poems and the Bible.

Writing has been a passion since my teenage years when I wrote poetry, usually reflecting my feelings about social issues or newly discovered love. During my teens and early twenties, I also entered public speaking competitions, often including snippets of my poetry in my speeches. I spoke about the threat of nuclear war, mental illness, and pacifism.

Since taking early retirement, I have written four novels: Sannah and the Pilgrim, the first of a trilogy, which draws on contemporary conservative attitudes towards climate change and refugees to present a dystopian view of a future Australia. Published by Odyssey Books in 2014, Sannah and the Pilgrim was commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award 2014. The second, Pia and the Skyman was published in April 2016, the third, The Sky Lines Alliance is scheduled to be released in October 2016. My fourth book, Safety Zone, deals with gender equality, pacifism and emerging feminism and is yet to be published.

During my employment at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was encouraged by a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television to try my hand at scriptwriting. I have since written several drafts of a feature film screenplay: Feed Thy Enemy based on my father’s unusual experiences in Naples during and after World War II. So far I have been unable to find a producer, so plan to rewrite the project as a novel. My short TV drama script, ‘Last Fling’ (based on a short story, published in ITA 1996) received First Prize in the FAW Whitelight TV Drama Award 2009 and I have also written the pilot for a TV series based on Sannah and the Pilgrim.

That’s an impressive achievement. Every author draws inspiration from other authors. Who inspires you?

I don’t have a favourite author or genre. I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Jolley.

I am inspired to write by the issues facing our twenty-first century world, such as climate change, refugees, war, inequality. By creating speculative fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ordinary people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Having just read Pia and the Skyman I’m interested to hear what drove you to write it.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

Pia and the Skyman, is the second book in my trilogy of a future Australia scarred by the ravages of climate change and decades of totalitarian government.

In this tale of loyalty, betrayal and duplicity, I focus on a tiny population forced to flee their home and the ramifications when a significant percentage, including hundreds of children, are refused asylum due to unacceptable difference. I present choices for the reader that are intended to be disconcerting as Pia and Kaire risk not only lengthy imprisonment to help those still suffering in apartheid Australia, but become involved in a conspiracy that if discovered, will see them wandering the universe forever stateless.

Age 20, Pia’s heritage is Pacific Islander and European. She is passionate, volatile, adventurous and unwavering in her determination to help liberate her people from generations of domination by an oppressive regime. Intelligent and savvy, she knows how to survive in a harsh world.

Age 28, Kaire is of European descent. A senior pilot from space station Skyz59, he originally came to Earth on a pilgrimage to experience the world of his ancestors but appalled by the society in which he found himself, now assists those trying to undermine the Australian government as well as those fleeing imprisonment for seditious activities. Naïve, uncomfortable with conflict, especially if it involves physical violence, Kaire still struggles to cope with Earth-life.

Pia and the Skyman took me a year to write, in sharp contrast to Sannah and the Pilgrim, which, including research, took about four years. As the second book in my trilogy, I already knew the central characters and had a good idea of the plot. I spend most weekdays (10-5) writing and occasional weekends if I have a deadline. My dream of becoming a published novelist has been realised with the publication of two novels and a third to be released soon. I took a risk in giving up paid work eight years ago to concentrate on writing but have no regrets. Writing is making retirement the best time of my life.

You can find out more about sue parritt by visiting her website. www.sueparritt.com
find my review HERE
and you can purchase pia and the skyman at AMAZON and all good booksellers

Pia and the Skyman by Sue Parritt

Sue Parritt’s Pia and the Skyman is the second in her Climate Fiction trilogy, following on from Sannah and the Pilgrim, which I reviewed last year.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

From the very first sentence, Pia and the Skyman engages the reader in the action, Parritt quickly and skilfully establishing the backstory carried over from Sannah and the Pilgrim. Sannah’s daughter, Pia, and her former lover, Kaire, are thrown together to help maintain ‘the women’s line,’ a resistance movement in a climate changed future, set up to help free prisoners doomed to a lifetime in underground desert prisons in what has become an ‘Apartheid Australia.’

Then there’s the matter of Kaire the Skyman and his cohort of clones languishing on a space station that was launched many centuries before with the aim of seeking another planet for humanity. Kaire is not without criticism. “How arrogant to imagine they could wreck one planet then move on to another without a backward glance.”

Lies, deceit, betrayal and tragedy along with a healthy dose of passion carry the narrative along in what turns out to be a remarkably engaging read.

Pia and the Skyman is a thoughtful, carefully considered work.   Parritt’s writing is assured, confident and commanding, a steady pace maintained, the use of passive voice creating an emotional detachment befitting the stark conditions of a climate changed dystopia. “Desert desert go away…let us live another day,” the children in the playground chant.

Parritt is adept at creating an edge-of-survival atmosphere without recourse to over dramatisation. Her setting is vividly real, painted with a simple palette, and fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Her characters are deftly portrayed and immediately recognisable.

The scenario Parritt depicts is not far removed from our own current reality, the story a metaphor for our times, and a logical extrapolations of successive Australian governments’ commitment to off-shore detention of asylum seekers in gulags. Environmental refugees are among us now. How many more will there be if we don’t amend our ludicrous dependence on fossil fuels?

There’s a deeply pacifist moral undertone that runs right through the story, carrying forward values of peace and right human relations, values elevated partly through Kaire, who in a fashion represents the higher moral ground. “Down there [in Aotearoa] his fellow settlers were doing their utmost to live a sustainable life, yet still found time to help those at risk in Australia. He wanted to shout out his admiration, tell them never to give up the struggle.”

Pia conveys values of compassion and goodwill. She acts, decisively and sometimes impulsively, exemplifying the determination and resilience of all the women who sacrifice their own safety for the sake of others in the Women’s Line – a powerful symbol of cooperation, collaboration and resistance founded on principles of solidarity and trust found amongst women in all situations of oppression and hardship the world over.

Through Pia and the Skyman Sue Parritt makes an important statement about the myopia that seems to have befallen our political leaders, especially in Australia. Humanity will be faced with harsh choices if environmental conditions become as brutal as they are in Parritt’s reality. As well they might. And I very much doubt humanity would have the capacity to respond all that differently to that of Parritt’s Apartheid Australia. On the whole we seem incapable of transcending our own selfish, divisive and hate fuelled beliefs. We’ll need a lot of goodwill and far-sightedness to avoid the scenario contained in this trilogy. Sue Parritt might as well be a soothsayer.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN CAN BE FOUND AT ODYSSEY BOOKS

Sannah and the Pilgrim by Sue Parritt

22477282._UY200_

I’ve just finished reading Sannah and the Pilgrim, my first journey into the sub-genre of climate fiction. I’m not a reader of the fantasy genre, then again, I wouldn’t call Sue Parritt’s book fantasy. Instead Parritt paints a stark post-climate change dystopia that contains as much realism and social commentary relevant to us today, as it does details of an imaginary future world. The message is clear, challenge the status quo or this is where we are heading. And for that alone, I commend the author.

The story is simple and straightforward. Sannah discovers a strange man on her doorstep who calls himself a pilgrim. Together, and with the help of co-conspirators, they seek the escape of political prisoners while there is still a chance to do it.

In Sannah and the Pilgrim there are no tangents into the deep introspections of tortured hearts and minds. The narrative voice is matter-of-fact, an apt style that mirrors the, for the most part, taken-for-granted acceptance of Australia’s apartheid social structure hundreds of years from now.

The story is compelling and satisfying, the landscape bleak, yet in the end Parritt allows her readers to take away a little hope. I would recommend this book to younger readers looking for a good climate fiction read. 4 Stars