Tag Archives: Annabel Smith

Five star reads of 2014

I’ve probably read more this year than any other year since I finished uni. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog, I find I’m able to keep track of what I’m reading and I’m more inclined to try new genres and authors. It’s been a spectacular year for Australian literature, and, thanks to the almighty power of the internets, I’m more knowledgeable about Western Australian authors who are doing great things. Here’s my five star reads of 2014, according to my Goodreads account, posted in no particular order.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

Obviously not written in 2014 but one I finally got around to reading this year and spent some time carrying around with me even after I’d finished it, so much did I enjoy it.

The Ark, Annabel Smith

Inventive, chilling and entirely believable, this is science fiction at its very best. I’m interested in seeing if other authors follow Smith’s lead by embracing online content as an addition to their work, rather than a duplication.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North

Every time I think of this novel I’m reminded of the Time Traveller’s Wife but without the romance (which generally makes me cringe). It helps that this one hasn’t been made into a disappointing film as well. I and saw the world a little differently after I’d read North’s novel, which is exactly the point of art, right?

Frog Music, Emma Donoghue

I’m interested in this rating because I only gave Donoghue’s wildly celebrated Room, which I also read this year, three stars. I’m not sure if I’m being harsh on Room or generous with Frog Music but I definitely enjoyed the latter more. It got off to a shaky start but the sense of place, use of language and portrayal of gender in this historical novel was so satisfying, all the more so because of its factual basis.

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing, Eimear McBride

This is a hard read, both because of McBride’s original stream of consciousness style and because of her subject matter, which follows a young girl through a violent and sexual coming of age as she deals with her brother’s cancer. Disturbing, powerful and moving this is one I won’t forget for a long time.

A Wrong Turn At The Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson

Rawson’s thoroughly enjoyable, heartbreaking, story of a climate changed world and the power of invention is probably one of my favourite reads ever. Combining a bleak vision of a Melbourne of the future with talented story telling and emotional depth, the novel recently won the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award and deservedly so.

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

Part verse novel, part memoir, this slender work punches well above its weight. Offill’s gift with words made the isolation, loneliness and breakdown of her character so, so real. I wanted to give her a hug.

Letters to the End of Love, Yvette Walker

Speaking of hugs, Walker’s first novel is an absolute stunner, heart breaking, honest and beautifully written. You will probably cry in public and that’s okay. If anyone bumps into Walker in Perth tell her thank you from me. Thank you for writing this.

Only after compiling this list do I realise that it’s almost exclusively comprised of women. There’s three Australian authors and two of them are from WA. I hope this means I’m holding up my end of my commitment to read more Australian women writers. But it also means I could have missed something awesome. So it’s your turn. What are your five star reads from this year? Tell me why I should give them a go.

Welcome to the future: The Ark by Annabel Smith

Only bad news Etienne. I’ve been in touch with practically everyone I’ve ever met and from Tasmania to Broome the reports are all the same – the slightest signs of non-compliance are being met with the utmost ruthlessness by the CCC. There’s been no detainment. Anyone desperate enough to venture into the streets for food or fuel has been fired upon. Yesterday Carey announced via email that the Chaos had been “contained”. But at what cost? We found your QuietExit kits in the Safe Room. I’ve been thinking about taking my dose. There’s no coming back from the place we’ve arrived at.

date > 17-06-2041 sub > QuietExit

Tillie, you mustn’t. Don’t give up. You’re safe there. You have everything you need. There is food, water, medicine, vitz – enough for a year or more. You just have to ride it out. Please.

date > 18-06-2041 sub > Re: Quiet Exit

theark-annabelsmithIt’s hard to know what to say about this novel. Firstly, everyone is talking about it. And so they should. Independent, multimedia, multiplatform, it’s most certainly something new. It simultaneously paints a glimpse of a very convincing future for humanity while also unveiling the future of the ebook. Resource shortages and social breakdown until the day the Earth’s servers all, finally, blink off – rendered in a new, digital imagining of literature. This is the future; wake up and smell the data.

Told through emails, blog posts, and recorded conversations, it is the story of The Ark, a seed bunker that goes into lockdown containing its workers, scientists and their families as the outside world descends into what is just described as the Chaos. However, isolating a tiny community of 26 has its inevitable problems, and as the ulterior motives of The Ark’s leader are discovered the social fabric starts to wear thin. Meanwhile the situation outside gradually grows worse.

KAOS KRONIKLES the kidz dont stand a chance

ript 24 APRIL 2041

Argh bein undergroundz gettin 2 me already. I mean is it jus me or is any1 else feelin kinda ript? Like the future… wotz that? Im 15 Im not ready 2 die. But right now the chance of me even finishin high school is lookin kinda microscopic. I know Ive got it sweeter than most. But even if a few so-called lucky ones make it thru the next decade wotz the point anyway? Planetz gonna b sum toxic waste dump.

Srsly could our parents hav fukt things up any mo thorough?

Posted by r0sk0

The novel contains additional information via The Ark app – where you can find maps of the Ark and a whole heap of background on the Chaos and the technology mentioned in the novel. I bought this on Kindle, but I think it’s one book that would work better on iPad, so you could easily access the extra layer. I also found the formatting hard to follow, I don’t know if the iPad version would be better. The app is certainly beautifully designed. I’d love to hear from someone who’s read it in another format.

The drawbacks: while you can enjoy it without a device it does add something to the experience which might pose accessibility questions. I wish the story had gone deeper, it seemed to end abruptly (but perhaps this really is the way the world ends, when the internet switches off?) and having read most of it on a plane over the Pacific, and foolishly not thinking ahead, I couldn’t access the additional content until much later. If there’s an app in the forest but no-one has wifi…. But given Smith went to the trouble to create an app, there seems to be so much potential that wasn’t explored here.

Plenty of people might be irritated by all of this. Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock but this is the first time I’ve seen an author embrace digital content in this way, which in itself should earn Smith accolades. I’m inspired by both the content and the execution, after all dystopias and digital content are my bag baby. To my mind Smith deserves every reader and every gushing review she gets.

The Ark, Annabel Smith: 4 and a half stars. (Buy it direct from the website.)

Read it on: tablet, or ereader. Not on a plane.

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