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Kim Westwood

Harper Voyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286330

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was originally published in 2009)

The Daughters of Moab presents initially as a science fiction novel; the blurb on the back certainly sounds that way, and the initial setting and scenes give that impression too. However, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that in many ways this is a fantasy. Personally, I think it works, but some readers may be a little disconcerted if they expect something that sits more strongly within one genre.

The Daughters of Moab is set in Australia, albeit an Australia of the near future that has been ravaged by a pandemic, religious mania, natural disaster, and a bomb. Westwood deliberately avoids using place names, but Australians – or readers familiar with Australia’s geography – won’t have much trouble attaching names to particular cities or locations. By not using names, however, Westwood adds to the slightly dreamlike sense of dislocation that much of the novel generates.

The Followers of Nathaniel (now known as Nathans) are a religious sect that had begun gaining power before the natural disasters that destroyed Australian society. Their main objective was to imprison and potentially destroy the Abominations – girls born either of the union of two mothers, or parthenogenetically from a single mother. Before the apocalypse they had managed to round up most of these children, called Transfects. Now they experiment on them; the Nathans harvest the girls’ blood, hoping to eventually be able to extract from it the secrets of the Transfects’ health and long life. Whatever is helping them flourish, the Nathans most definitely lack. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Westwood

Harper Collins (August 2011) 

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8988-1

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Courier’s New Bicycle is the second novel from Australian writer Kim Westwood. It is a novel likely to win her new fans, as it is well written and in some regards more accessible than her debut, The Daughters of Moab. Most notably, the plot is more straightforward and uses some familiar tropes, and that’s going to make it easier for more people to read and enjoy it. Also, there is a warmth to this novel that was sometimes lacking in the earlier novel; in particular, Westwood now offers an engaging central character. However, while the plot and setting is less unique than in The Daughters of Moab, Westwood maintains her sparse tone and occasionally dark humor.

To some extent, this is a crime novel in a science fictional setting. The action takes place in near future Australia. A flu vaccine rolled out Australia-wide under the pressure of a deadly pandemic has had the unplanned side effect of all but destroying human fertility. A religious party was voted into power and once in power unveiled a number of unsavoury policies, including those banning fertility treatments, surrogacy arrangements, and indeed any remedy but prayer. At the same time resources such as fuel and water are in shortening supply, and this affects things such as transport – bicycles are again viable and popular forms of transport.

In this world Salisbury Forth treads an increasingly dangerous path. A bicycle courier, she primarily transports illegal hormones for the fertility industry, operating in the Melbourne underground. She herself is androgynous, and prefers women as her sexual partners. Either her appearance or her preferences could get her tagged as a transgressor, and both together could get her killed. Always risky, Sal’s world gets still more dangerous when a mysterious competitor decides to try to put her boss out of business. If Sal can’t find who it is, her livelihood, the people she loves, and the small quiet safe life she’s built herself could all be destroyed in a heartbeat or two. Read the rest of this entry »

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