Ruben, by Bruce Whatley

As he did every day, Ruben tied his shoes, pulled his hat firmly down on his head and grabbed his goggles and coat.
It was time to slip into the street and head for Block City.

Alone on the streets of a derelict futuristic city, Ruben livessurrounded by the things he has found, and scavenging what he needs to survive. But it is getting increasingly hard to ednure. When he meets a girl, a fewllow scavenger, the pair offer each other some comfort and exchange their knowledge. bak c in his home, Ruben realsies that he needs more.

Ruben is an eerie, thought provoking glimpse at a dystopian future where machines abound, and children struggle for survival in a world with seemingly few humans. With sparse text and rich, complex greay-scale illustrations, much of the meaning is for the reader to discover or to create, and this is a book which will evoke discussion and require much thought.

Suitable for children and adults, Ruben is a work of art.

Ruben , by Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743810354

In the Dark Spaces, by Cally Black

The stranger keeps coming, long-legged stretches of shiny black uniform kicking down the ramp. And it’s not a person. Facing McVeigh is this tall half-crow, half-scarecrow things, all dressed in black. SHiny black armoured ridges line down the centre of its chest and across its shoulders like the back of a crocodile. Its head is a massive beaked helmet. And it’s not a leathery cape, cos it’s moving by itself. They’re wings. Wings that lift higher and quiver….
My scalp prickles. Not right. This is not right. This is a real thing!

Tamara has spent most of her life hiding. Since she was orphaned, her Aunt Lazella has kept her hidden on the ships where she ekes out a living in the kitchens. Now, Tamara is responsible for keepign her little cousin, Gub, silent while Lazella works. But if she can get strong enough to work, too, their fortunes will improve.

When the ship is raided by strange crow-like figures, Tamara finds her fortunes changing in a completely different way. Separated from Gub, Tamara finds herself a prisoner of the invaders, taken back to their hive where she must figure out a way to stay alive long enough to figure out how to get back to her cousin. But, separated by space, this is not going to be asy.

In the Dark Spaces is a stunning spec-fic offering. Set in an unnamed future where fleets of starships mine space for the minerals necessary for survival on Earth, the story explores what happens when an alien race objects to the human presence, which threatens its own existence. Fourteen year old Tamara, who knows too well the downsides of human society, gets to experience first hand the highs and lows of an alternative civilisation, as well as being drawn into the quest for peace.

Tamara is an intriguing character, whose near-silent existence as a stowaway in her aunt’s quarters is swapped for one where she is initially voiceless because of the barriers of language. Her tenacity, coupled with her willingness to learn and to question, are key to her survival, and her loyalty to her absent cousin is a key factor in her survival.

Explroing themes including language, loyalty, human rights and so much more,
In the Dark Spaces is an outstanding read.

In the Dark Spaces, by Cally Black
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2017
ISBN 9781760128647

Crystal Force, by Joe Ducie

Irene and Tristan dived for cover but Drake watched the shards fall like sparks opf electric-blue snow mixed with white. They disappearedCrystal Force into the actual snow and melted the hard-packed powder beneath. The lighter sparks were swept away on the wind, marking the prsitine snow with hundreds of tiny burns.

I did that. Whatever it was, it was beautiful, and I did it.

Will Drake is on the run. No longer a prisoner in the word’s supposedly most secure facility, now he’s been branded a terrorist and, with his friends Irene and Tristan, is on the run He wants to get to his mother in England, and help to cure her cancer. First, though, he has to evade the Alliance and get out of Canada. Pretty difficult when the Alliance controls transport, communication – in fact, pretty much everything.  Then there’s the fact that he has special powers – the result of being exposed to the powerful but mysterious Crystal X during his time as a prisoner. Though these powers might help him escape, they are also the very reason the Alliance will stop at nothing to track him down.

Crystal Force is the sequel to the award-winning The Rig and would probably work best being read in order. However, there is enough back story to bring the reader up to speed, and enough action and intrigue to keep them reading. Set in a not too distant future where technology and a mysterious substance with supernatural links combine in disturbing ways, Crystal Force is a gripping read for young adult readers.

Crystal Force, by Joe Ducie
Hot Key Books, 2015
ISBN 9781471404559

Available from good bookstores and online.

Equinox, by Lara Morgan

Exposing Helios Corporation’s evil should have meant for a change in fortune for Rosie Black. Her Dad is back, and she and her Aunt Essie are safe. But it isn’t as simple as that.

“Helios will leave them alone now. It’s me they want. But you know what this means. If they know I’m alive it means you and Essie aren’t safe any more either.” Riley gave her a significant look.
“Wait, hang on.” She got to her feet. She knew where this was going. “I am not going into hiding,” she said. “No way.”

Exposing Helios Corporation’s evil should have meant for a change in fortune for Rosie Black. Her Dad is back, and she and her Aunt Essie are safe. But it isn’t as simple as that. Helios is still around – just pushed further underground – and Dad is stuck in hospital, where he’ll possibly never leave. Her friend Pip has disappeared, and Riley is keeping things from her. Rosie is going to have to use all her wits – and put her life on the line – to destroy Helios once and for all.

Equinox is the second title in the gripping Rosie Black Chronicles, set five hundred years in the future in Newperth. This dystopian tale picks up not long after the first left off, with familiar characters reuniting and aided by new additions. There is also an increase in the development of the characters – with Rosie showing extra layers of vulnerability against her gritty determination, and her relationships also developing.

Best read as a sequel, Equinox will appeal to teen lovers of speculative fiction.

Equinox (Rosie Black Chronicles)

Equinox (Rosie Black Chronicles), by Lara Morgan
Walker Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921529405

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

When We Have Wings, by Claire Corbett

When We Have Wings is a debut novel of originality and powerful, beautiful writing. It took me longer than usual to finish because I didn’t want it to finish, and, yes, it’s quite long.

Reviewed by Judi Jagger

When We Have Wings is a debut novel of originality and powerful, beautiful writing. It took me longer than usual to finish because I didn’t want it to finish, and, yes, it’s quite long.

Told in two voices; the first is the jaded first person of Zeke, in the great tradition of the noir ex-cop turned detective. He lives in a dystopian not-too-far-in-the future City (Sydney?) where the rich and powerful have access to Flight through expensive medical manipulation that gives them custom wings. They live in extraordinary constructions high above the rest of the overcrowded city. Who are the non-fliers? The five Rs: ‘Retarded, Retired, Religious, Rationed and Regional. In other words anyone too poor, or too old or too disabled for Flight.‘ The City is multicultural (loved that Murni’s Warung – hello Ubud – had its moment) and inaccessible to anyone from RaRA-land (Remote and Regional Areas) and without an almost impossible-to-obtain permit. Zeke’s world includes Taj, his amazing car (even more cynical than Zeke – yes, it is a true ‘smart car’ and it talks) and the underbelly of the city. It’s also the world of the Perpetual Pup (forever cute) and the modified, miniaturised pet lion. Zeke’s case concerns Peri, nanny of one of the most powerful of the privileged, Peter Chesshyre, who has vanished with Chesshyre’s child Hugo.

The other voice is third person, but is Peri’s point of view. The complex plot is impossible to summarise but Claire Corbett gives us a bold novel that explores, among other things, genetic modification, trafficking, surrogacy, child rights, ethics and social justice woven with religious allusion and imagery. The writing is breathtakingly beautiful, particularly when we too become Fliers and begin to understand the intoxication that makes Flight so desirable. Corbett has researched meteorology and the science of flight to give her descriptions great authenticity.

We finish this thought-provoking book wondering what the future holds for our children. There is no question that technology is taking us to a point when we will have wings, metaphorical wings that can substitute for any of the modifications we are already scientifically capable of. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s ‘when’ we have wings. Read it.

When We Have Wings
When We Have Wings, by Claire Corbett
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742375564


This book was reviewed by Judi Jagger, and first appeared at Goodreads. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.