Thursday, 17 May 2012

Dystopian Australian Fiction

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard

A while ago a friend in publishing sent me an advance copy of a new teen novel to read. To my shame the book slipped down my to-be-read pile and it wasn't until I got a small twitter nudge that I dug the book back out.

I read it from cover to cover on a train journey to London a few weeks ago and it has really stayed with me since I finished it.

I've read quite a bit of Australian kid lit, not trying to be trite but "some of my favourite authors are from Australia" and books from the antipodes can sneak their way to the top of the pile just due to this quirk.

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark was different from the start as it is all about a destructive war, about what we never find out, and the whole idea of bombings, barricades and military fighting in Sydney really stuck out.

I was quickly swept up into the story and read through the book quickly - although I can't recall a lot of the fine details now. It did move me hugely and the twists were unusual and the story a strange mixture of simplistic children's book and hard hitting war novel. It is the unusual premise of a book set in an area that I've visited but in a world that I can't associate with that location that has stayed with me.

On finishing the book I was instantly reminded of the unsettled feelings I experienced as a teenager on reading Louise Lawrence's Children of the Dust or Robert Swindell's Brother in the Land.  These books were about living in the aftermath of nuclear war (a still real prospect during my childhood) and it was the fear that, although unlikely, the happenings in the books *could* come true that haunted me.
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark has that same foreboding - as we are in a time when terrorism or economic crises could cause society to disintegrate quickly and entirely - and that it what has made this book stick in my memory.

As dystopian books are all the rage at the moment this book might do well, but I found it very unsettling as it was too realistic, unlike many of the Hunger Games'esque books that are all the rage.

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