Sue Isle

Twelve Planets, Volume 1

Twelfth Planet Press (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-9808274-3-9

Reviewed by Mitenae

Nightsiders is the first collection of tales in a new series currently being published by Twelfth Planet Press, showcasing Australian female speculative fiction talent. Sue Isle’s four tales are set in a future Perth (known to the locals as the Nightside) where most of the people have been evacuated east.

“The Painted Girl” tells the tale of Kyra, abandoned by her companion, Nerina, who stole her as a young child, and faces the prospect of being sold by slavers. In “Nation of the Night” we follow Ash in his quest east as he changes his physical sex to match that of his self. In “Paper Dragons” we see the effect that a simple play can have to bring about change. And in “The Schoolteacher’s Tale”, Elder Miss Ellen Wakeling has to confront and come to terms with a new way of teaching if the Nightside is to blossom.

I don’t often encounter stories that set destruction to my home town and I love the fact that Sue Isle has done this and still manages to use the sites that I know so well without losing it’s essential Perth/Westcoast-ness. I love the world that she has created, contrasting the heat of Perth with the weather of Melbourne, and how she allows us to step into the world that has been left behind.

Within this, through characters like Ash, Mike and Nella (“Nation of the Night”), Isle explores issues that we are facing, like accepting that being born one sex doesn’t mean that your mind agrees with it, or that refugees are not less than us just because they come from somewhere else. It would have been easy to fall into the trap of an end-of-the-world-scenario or demonstration of an inevitable breakdown of society but Isle balances the fragmentation of civilisation against slowing building a new, and different, form of society.

I love these tales but my favourite has to be “Paper Dragons”, purely because of theatrical aspect as it plugs into my own theatrical background and love of theatre. The other three tales are just as good and together are a great read.

Nightsiders will give readers a taste the brilliant work of Sue Isle and Twelve Planets is set to give a much needed voice to the astounding female talent that will star in the series. Future collections include Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts (out now), as well as the work of Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti, Kaaron Warren, Cat Sparks and Thoraiya Dyer. This is a series all readers should be looking at, if not just for the sheer talent you will discover, but to also see what great storytelling really is.