Dabbling in dystopia: Going Home by Emma Lindhagen

The posters from the Decency Office were everywhere, in the streets and the malls, in the schools and any other publics (sic) space, even in the airport. The slogan rang out during the commercial breaks on every radio station and TV channel and all across the world: react and report”. And who knew what might make the other passengers react?

going-homeLindhagen describes her debut novella as “a family drama in a dystopian setting”, focused on “character development and interpersonal relationships” which is spot on. The character development, the relationships, even the sense of place is beautifully evoked. Orryn returns home to see her sister Thea, for the first time after running away as a teenager, and the two women are forced to deal with dark secrets in the past and their interrupted relationship. This all takes place in a world where standing out from the crowd can be dangerous, and where scars aren’t the only thing the sisters are hiding. Such a promising premise.

Sadly, premise is all there really is here. The novel dabbles in dystopia, magic and LGBT themes without really settling in, and expanding on, any of them. So we’re left with some engaging characters, and some intriguing plot lines, that all just kind of go nowhere. I wanted to know more about the magic powers the two women have, whether that’s common in this world, whether that “divergence” is what sets up such a dangerous society to live in. I wanted to know more about Orryn’s back story, which seemed only half told. I was also wildly curious about the dystopian world the novel was set in, but alas was left unsatisfied. Is it because, as a novella, this is so short? Perhaps. I feel it’s more that Lindhagen’s plotting needs work. A short piece can still contain action, climax and resolution. At least I think so, it’s something I’m trying to coax my own efforts to conform to.

Lindhagen has skill as a story teller and some great ideas, that much is clear. This first outing commits many of the self-publishing sins. There’s a typo in the first chapter. There were some info-dump passages. But ultimately the problem I had with this work was that it didn’t seem to go anywhere in particular. The author’s notes at the end say she is working on a follow-up. Perhaps she would do well to add it to this novella for a larger piece. This story can definitely be more than it is.

Going Home, Emma Lindhagen: two and a half stars.

Read it for: some brilliant character studies and new ideas.

About Rachel Watts

I am a writer from Perth, Western Australia. My speculative fiction novella Survival will be released in early 2018. View all posts by Rachel Watts

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