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Where perspectives collide, John McCrystal 

The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke
Tina Makereti
Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9780143771562

You don’t have to be a good old-fashioned structuralist to look into the patterns of history and see the tectonic grind of ideas reflected in the rippling of the surface, in the lives of individuals. It has seldom been enough for an emperor to appeal to might alone for the justification of hegemony. In practically every instance, a grand idea has been vaunted as the basis for the moral authority to rule. The wane of empires has usually been accompanied by a shift in philosophy, but not necessarily cleanly, completely, or all at once.

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The grimness of contemporary realism, John McCrystal

Five Strings
Apirana Taylor
Anahera Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473389482

Iceland
Dominic Hoey
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 978094749343I

It’s that time of the three-yearly cycle again. A billboard has gone up near my house promoting the political party that has, for the last couple of terms, been promising us a brighter future. It claims this party is “Delivering for New Zealanders” – which is true, so long as you don’t read it as a claim that it is delivering for all New Zealanders. And, as for the brighter future, well, there is a significant number of people in New Zealand for whom the future can only be brighter, given how bleak their present is.

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Mysteries past and present, John McCrystal

Days are like Grass Sue Younger Eunoia Publishing, $30.00, ISBN 9780994104762 Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley Danyl McLauchlan Victoria University Press, $30.00, ISBN 9781776560479 Claire is a paediatric surgeon, newly returned to Auckland, city of her birth, from London,

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Unearthing skeletons, John McCrystal

Daughters of Messene
Maggie Rainey-Smith
Makaro Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780994117267

Something Else
David Parkyn (Sally Griffin illus)
Piedog Press, $38.00, ISBN 9780473321505

“There are only two or three human stories,” as Willa Cather once said, “and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” It is as true in literature as it is in life, which is why, for all the apparently endless ingenuity of storytellers, most narratives end up fitting a mere handful of genres.

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“Shocking the model” John McCrystal

Five Minutes Alone
Paul Cleave
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143572312

The Legend of Winstone Blackhat
Tanya Moir
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9781775537755

MiSTORY
Philip Temple
Font Publishing, $35.00,
ISBN 978047328204

You could argue that the artistic imagination is like one of those massively complex algorithms that scientists and economists use to search for patterns and rules in quotidian chaos. By constructing a simulacrum of reality and then tweaking the parameters – computer modellers call this “shocking the model” – they develop an understanding of the elasticity and sensitivity of the status quo to change. And by running a model forwards, they sometimes seek to construct a vision of the future, a probabilistic telling of our fortune.

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Reverse engineering, John McCrystal

The Infinite Air
Fiona Kidman
Vintage
ISBN 9781869797928

Of all the technological accomplishments in a century studded with them, the advances made in heavier-than-air aviation between 1903 and 1939 must have seemed to those alive at the time to be the most symbolic of the perfectibility of humanity. When the French inventor and pioneering aviator Louis Blériot managed the first aerial crossing of the English channel, it fired the European imagination. WWI provided an acceleration of aircraft technology, and sparked a golden age of aviation. Aero clubs sprang up all over England, and a plane and the ability to fly it became de rigueur for the well-to-do.

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Changes of heart and mind, John McCrystal

Pentimento Rosemary Wildblood Wily Publications, $30.00, ISBN 9781927167090 The Fall of Light Sarah Laing Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775533030 Settling into a novel can be a lot like going away on holiday with people you don’t know, or settling into a

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The great sucking void, John McCrystal

Soon Charlotte Grimshaw Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781869799984 Ever since the 1999 publication of her first novel, Provocation, Charlotte Grimshaw’s writing has attracted a cloud of admirers and a liberal garnishing of awards. She is a novelist by instinct, if not

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Brave new world of publishing, John McCrystal

The Spanish Helmet Greg Scowen Whare Rama Books, $32.99, ISBN 9781463558482   Coast David Carnegie Young Vanguard Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781843866855   No Second Chance Mark Stephenson Steele Roberts, $29.99, ISBN 9781877577345   Zhu Mao Mark Sweet Huia, $30.00, ISBN

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Off the main drag, John McCrystal

Gravel Roads Peter Butler David Ling, $29.99, ISBN 9781877378461   The Widow’s Daughter Nicholas Edlin Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143204091   Settlers’ Creek Carl Nixon Vintage, $29.99, ISBN 9781869794033   Quinine  Kelly Ana Morey Huia, $35.00, ISBN 9781869694319   Peter Butler

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