Sunday, August 4, 2019

"Dyschronia" by Jennifer Mills

"Dyschronia" by Jennifer Mills is one of the short-listed books for the Miles Franklin 2019 awards. It is set in South Australia and has an environmental/climate change angle which of course makes it a must-read book for me.

The first thing I want to say about this book is that Jennifer Mills' writing is beautiful, unique, and skillful. I wrote down several quotes from the book as I read it because I was so captivated by the words and how she captured the tricky ways in which time can seem to move:

"Three years since she'd seen Ivy, maybe four. Twice that long since she had left saying she needed time, as if time wasn't everywhere, seeping into every crevice."

"It wasn't right the way these moments, the worst moments, could tear out of their resting places. As if nothing ever passed into history, as if everything was only another layer of now, sticking over and over itself like old wallpaper."

"And time came off it's axis and rolled away".

"Time doesn't stop until it stops for good. It only heals until it kills."

These are just some of the examples of the way time is described in "Dyschronia", and similarly other concepts, are written in a multitude of different ways that each seems to capture the essence of the thing being described so perfectly, only to have that thing described again in a completely different way at another point in the story that is perfect from another view.

The book itself can be hard to follow in some ways, deliberately so, as most of the book is told from the point of view of Sam, who suffers from migraines that appear to forewarn of the future, and each chapter jumps back and forth in time and between what is really happening and what Sam has 'seen' through her migraines over several decades of her life. As I have read mentioned elsewhere, the other chapters of the book are reminiscent of the 'chorus' from Greek Tragedies like King Lear or Antigone, and are told from the point of the collective town members.

The story itself is dystopian/speculative fiction, set in South Australia in a town called Clapstone with many similarities to real world Whyalla, including multiple references to the giant cuttlefish that spawn in that special part of the world. The book deals with climate change, it appears to be set in the very close future, and looking back at our current time in a nostalgic way, but this is mixed with a depressing acceptance of the new reality of unviable land, forced relocations of towns and cities, living in 'domes', never-ending drought, the death of all sea life, hardly any birds except drones that look like birds or caged pet budgies.. the book is quite bleak, and depressing, because it feels like this is eerily familiar to what we are on the cusp of now with the general apathy and lack of leadership in this country to address global warming and the climate crisis with the urgency and seriousness that it deserves. It's like we are sleep-walking into a dystopian migraine of a future that seems all too credible:

"For our generation, the course of life seemed tilted towards growth. The boom was infinite, like the ocean."

"But there's no safe, not after tomorrow. We exist between emergencies, emergency responses, more emergencies."

I would give this book 10/10 for the writing and the uniqueness, but I'm giving it 9/10 overall because I found the last few chapters unsatisfying in tying up the loose ends and was a bit confusing. It was probably intentional, and maybe I was unsatisfied because I wanted a positive outcome, but the ending is probably more in keeping with the themes of the book.

Started reading on my kindle: 4th August 2019
Finished: 13th September 2019
My score: 9/10

Aussie Author stats: female author, new author to me, dystopian/speculative fiction genre.