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Leading by the nose, Elizabeth Crayford

Scented
Laurence Fearnley
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143773283

If technology and price allowed, Scented would have made a fantastic “scratch and sniff” novel. As it is, the pitfalls of first-person narration make this a challenging read, and I finished the book still not knowing how well the central character knew herself. But I also wasn’t convinced that this was the author’s intention. By the end of the first section, I was pretty sure I was onto it: Fearnley had created a narrator at the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum. She can hold down a well-paying academic job in a New Zealand university, but her struggles with intimacy and relationships are compensated for by a single and all-consuming passion for perfume.

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“The frequent flyer friar” John McCrystal

Nailing Down The Saint
Craig Cliff
Penguin Random House, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143773740

Those familiar with Craig Cliff’s work will know that he is fond of a kooky premise – a starting-off point that allows him to tread the blurred line between mundane realism and the surreal. Many of the stories in his debut collection, A Man Melting, caught the eye precisely because of the imaginative, offbeat conceit at their heart; his first novel, The Mannequin Makers, asked us to imagine a man so consumed by professional rivalry that he is prepared to sequester his own children away from the world and raise them for the sole purpose of masquerading as mannequins in a department store window.

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Absolutely fabulous, Thom Conroy

The Absolute Book
Elizabeth Knox
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776562305

The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox is a Ronsardian ode to worldbuilding. Who creates worlds? What connects them? Who controls them? These questions shape the novel’s plot, subject and theme over the 650 pages of Knox’s latest. In a work of this length, the opportunities for spoilers are legion. With that in mind, I’ll need to violate the usual prohibition against them in what follows, although I do pledge not to reveal major surprises from the last 300 pages. This genre-buster tells the story of Taryn Cornick of the Northovers (aka Valravn, Hero of Understanding) and her struggle to overcome demoniac possession and assist a demigod known as Shift (aka Little god of the marshlands, fate foresworn princeling) in recrafting realms of being while struggling to redeem her own imperiled soul.

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Opening the fifth dimension, Lydia Wevers

Science Fiction: A Review Of Speculative Fiction: Special Double Issue Featuring Phillip Mann
(Vol 19, Nos 1-2)
Van Ikin (ed)
$AUD30.00
ISSN 03146677

A special double issue of a well-regarded journal, plus full-page authorial cover photo, is a handsome tribute to the work of any writer. Science Fiction has been running since 1977 and has featured the work of many Australian science fiction writers, but never before (as far as I know) a New Zealander. Phillip Mann’s New Zealandness is, however, a frequent topic of discussion.

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The life and the work, Martin Edmond

In Fifteen Minutes You Can Say A Lot: Selected Fiction
Greville Texidor, (Kendrick Smithyman ed)
Victoria University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776562268

All The Juicy Pastures: Greville Texidor And New Zealand
Margot Schwass
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776562251

In April 1970 I moved, with two other 18-year-olds, into a house at 6 Margaret Street, Ponsonby. One of us, Andrew McCartney, met a woman called Rosa and subsequently we were invited around to her place, in nearby St Mary’s Bay, to meet her father, Werner. That visit initiated a series of Tuesday night meetings during which we would sit on the floor in the front room, literally at his feet, while Werner, from an armchair in the corner, instructed us in the principles of anarchism and the methods of resistance and activism we should, as students, be using to make changes in what was then still called society. This was Werner Droescher, who fought in the Spanish Civil War, the third husband of Rosamunda’s mother, the writer Greville Texidor, who also fought in that war.

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Posted in Biography, Fiction, Literature, Non-fiction, Review

Back to the future, Harvey Molloy

Where We Land
Tim Jones
The Cuba Press, $22.00,
ISBN 9781988595023

Īnangahua Gold
Kathleen Gallagher
KingFisher Publishing $30.00
ISBN 978047345945I

Small presses continue to publish some of our most exciting new fiction. Both Where We Land and Īnangahua Gold take us away from present-day New Zealand. In doing so, they ask us to consider where we have come from and where we are going.

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Marking time, Maggie Trapp

When It All Went To Custard
Danielle Hawkins
HarperCollins, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775541417

The Julian Calendar
William Henry
Marsilio Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780958235556

What a difference a year can make. The plots of Danielle Hawkins’s When It All Went To Custard and William Henry’s The Julian Calendar both take place over exactly one year – just enough time to immerse readers in a rich story and see them through to the other side. While not the 24 hours Aristotle prescribed, these novels remind us that a year as a unity of time can still prove a useful device for portraying a full narrative arc.

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Keeping it in the family, Tina Shaw

Necessary Secrets
Greg McGee
Upstart Press, $38.00,
ISBN 9781988516639

Loving Sylvie
Elizabeth Smither
Allen and Unwin, $37.00,
ISBN 9781988547114

Two recently-published novels explore inter-generational stories, yet there couldn’t be two more different treatments.

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Doors and mirrors, Alex Mitcalfe Wilson 

The Chosen One
Joy H Davidson
DHD Publishing, $27.00,
ISBN 9780473448301

Harsu and the Werestoat
Barbara Else
Gecko Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776572199

The World of Greek Mythology
Ben Spies
Spies Publishing, $20.00,
ISBN 9780473455866

Fantasy has always mattered to me. I first sensed this around the same time I realised I was completely ill-adapted to my 1990s New Zealand childhood. I was a fat kid, a nervous perfectionist who was frightened of rugby and wanted to wear dresses. Most days, it felt like the sky was going to fall on my head. Luckily, I knew a few adults who were sensitive enough to notice my constant unease, and thoughtful enough to feed me stories. Those books were a magic door at the back of my wardrobe, the escape-hatch every lonely kid needs.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, History, Literature, Non-fiction, Review

Blank spaces, Tim Grgec

The Farewell Tourist Alison Glenny Otago University Press, $27.50, ISBN 978198853129 All of Us Adrienne Jansen and Carina Gallegos Landing Press, $22.00, ISBN 9780473451684 Louder Kerrin P Sharpe Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781776561964 Alison Glenny’s Kathleen Grattan Poetry award-winning

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review
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