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Jen Banyard

Fremantle Press (2009)

ISBN: 9781921361517

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in April 2009)

Western Australian publisher Fremantle Press – who brought us Kate McCaffrey’s eloquent young adult novels Destroying Avalon and In Ecstasy, and the excellent science fiction action comedy that is the Hal Spacejock series (by Simon Haynes) – have done it again, this time with a book for a younger audience. Spider Lies is a fantastic little read, with enough to amuse an adult while still being fully accessible and entertaining for a younger reader.

Jen Banyard takes inspiration from a true life experiment by NASA, looking at spiders in space, and twists it just left of centre. Connor is a fan of arachnids, and gets his science class involved in collecting spider colonies for the NASA space project. When the colony goes into space, Connor discovers one spider of the family left behind, so keeps him as a pet. Somehow, Connor also manages to finagle being home alone for the first time ever around the time of the space launch, and this means there’s no one to help when he starts to have strange feelings about being watched, and his elderly neighbour, Millie, begins to see things – enormous bug things… Read the rest of this entry »

Peter Docker

Fremantle Press (2011)

ISBN: 9781921696947

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

If ever Western Australian actor and writer Peter Docker gets tired of the writing lark, he has a promising future ahead of him in basket weaving. In The Waterboys, his second novel, he draws on fantasy, magical realism, science fiction and alternative history to weave four core narrative threads into a vision of not only an alternative past, but an alternative present/future as well. The novel makes a fetching end product.

The most obvious thread is the one happening in the book’s now. It deals with an Australia in which the environmentally devastated eastern states, represented by the Water Board, have extended control over the country’s resources. This is a dystopian world, in which Western Australia has gone its own way; the ozone layer is depleted to the point of deadly exposure; the world at large feels sparse and depleted. The point of contention here is water: the people of WA feel it belongs to the land and they, as the land’s custodians, therefore have the right to access it freely. The Water Board enforces its claim with dams and guns.

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K A Bedford

Published by Fremantle Press (2009)

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Time Machines Repaired While U Wait is Perth writer K.A. Bedford’s fourth published novel, but it’s the first to have been published in Australia. All four of Bedford’s science fiction novels have previously been released by Edge Publications in Canada, including Time Machines, which won Australia’s Aurealis Award for Best SF Novel in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award in the US in 2009. Presumably this lead to Fremantle Press picking this novel up for domestic publication, which makes Time Machines something of a breakthrough novel for its author.

And it shows. This is an assured performance in a mode that reminds me a little of my great love Philip K Dick (especially in that our protagonist, Al “Spider” Webb, is a repairman) but also of authors like Robert Sheckley. The plot starts out relatively simply, with Spider picking up a dodgy used time-machine that may or may not blow up, potentially consuming the universe. There’s this thing called “the Bat Cave”, which to my mind is probably the coolest gadget in the book — it’s a sort of miniature universe for performing experiments or blowing stuff up. Turns out there’s another time machine hiding inside the first (this reminds me of an old Doctor Who episode where two spaceships get merged into one — kind of) and there’s a dead body inside. And Spider, an ex-cop with a chequered past, is itching to solve the crime.

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