Friday, October 4, 2019

"The Old Lie" by Claire G. Coleman

Started reading: 4th October 2019
Finished:sometime in October 2019.

I read Claire's first novel "Terra Nullius" last year, and it was a very powerful book that had a huge impact on me. While very different in some ways, "The Old Lie" also has similar powerful themes throughout it, making you reflect on humanity, refugees, empathy, racism, colonialism, all while being gripped by a sci fi war story full of interesting characters whose paths eventually intertwine in unexpected ways. I thoroughly recommend it. The book also connects to one of the few poems I remember learning at high school that made an impression on me at the time - Wilfred Owen's "Death et Decorum est" - the beginning of the story definitely transported me into the scenes that poem evoked.

Aussie Author Challenge: Female author, Indigenous Australian Author, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction.

“The Missing Lynx” by Ross Barnett

I was very excited to start reading this book about the cool Pleistocene (“Ice Age”) mammals of the UK written by fellow ancient DNA time travel friend Ross. We shared a PhD supervisor, although Ross was based in Oxford and I was based in the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at Adelaide, and while my PhD focused on the ancient DNA of extinct and ancient bears, Ross’s PhD  focused on ancient Felids/large cats like Smilodon and Cave Lions.

I bought my copy of the book from Ross directly, and he kindly posted it to me along with a bookmark inserted at arguably the most important part - a whole chapter on ancient bears!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. After a pretty intense few months reliving some of of the not so great aspects of my PhD experience this year, this book helped to remind me why I wanted to do a PhD in ancient DNA in the first place! It's incredible to think of all the wonderful almost mythical creatures that roamed the earth not that long recently in fact that our ancestors would have seen and hunted them. It is so sad that so many have been driven to extinction and we will never see Mammoths, Mastodons, Giant Short-Faced Bears, Cave Lions, Sabre-Tooth cats again. But with ancient DNA, it is kind of the closest you can get to time travel, using genetic and isotope technology and paleontological analysis to learn about what they ate, how they responded to climate change, their interactions with early modern humans, what they were related to...etc It also makes you value the diversity of species we still have left, but scares you with how much humans have destroyed and are continuing to destroy in this 6th Mass Extinction that we are living through (and causing) currently.

Ross not only tells you interesting facts about all these cool creatures of the Ice Age, but shares fascinating stories of history and science and human culture, plus lots of random and often hilarious side stories and footnotes. It is not a dry non-fiction book, it is page-turning and full of interesting stories, personal insights/opinions and humour. There are plenty of side references to pop culture throughout, including Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Star Wars. The book obviously was pretty close to home for me, with many of the animals and ancient DNA techniques, characters and concepts being familiar from my PhD days...but I still learnt heaps of things from the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also dont think you would need to be an ancient DNA nerd like me to enjoy it immensely.    

Started reading: 14th September 2019
Finished: 4th October 2019
My score/review: 9/10

Genre/Topics: Non-Fiction, Ancient DNA, Paleontology, Ice Age, Extinctions.

"Too Much Lip" by Melissa Lucashenko

"Too Much Lip" by Melissa Lucashenko was the latest book I chose to read as part of the annual Aussie Author Challenge that I take part in most years (where I try to read 12 books by Australian Authors), and as part of my personal reading challenge to myself (to make sure at least 6 of these books are by Indigenous Australian authors this year).

This book was the Winner of the Miles Franklin literary award in 2019. I found it to be a real page turner (I read it cover to cover in less than 2 days, and it has been a long time since I have done that), yet it wasn't a light superficial book, it was packed full of hard truths about racism. I’ll be reflecting on this book for a long time, and I am really grateful for Melissa writing this book and giving me the chance to see a glimpse of life in Australia from a very different perspective to my privileged white experience. It shows many ways that colonisation has had a negative impact and still is having a negative impact on Aboriginal Peoples. The story is raw, hard-hitting, but also full of dark humour. I was gripped by it and was drawn into it. In contrast to Kim Scott's "Taboo", Melissa has injected a lot of Aboriginal language (Yugambeh language?) from northern NSW/QLD and Aboriginal-English slang throughout the story. Sometimes the words are explained, often they are just woven into the story and the reader can guess the meanings from the context. I really loved this aspect of the book, and given how many Indigenous Australian languages have been destroyed through colonisation I think it is really generous to share little parts of this language with the readers in this way. 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and I have been loving hearing various Australian Indigenous languages celebrated more openly in the last year or so. I would love more local Indigenous languages being spoken around Australia, with place names and other words reverting from the English names to the names they were previously given for 1000s of years. For those who are interested, there is an ABC Radio podcast called "Awaye" that covers a lot of interesting topics on Indigenous art and culture and often has segments showcasing Indigenous Australian words from different languages around the country.

This is the first book by Melissa Lucashenko that I have read, but I will definitely be adding one of her previous books "Mullumbimby" to my 'to read' list now.

Started reading: 13th Sept 2019
Finished: 14th Sept 2019
My score: 10/10

Aussie Author Challenge stats: Female author, Indigenous Australian author, New to me author