Nov 27, 2014

eBook Review – Forgotten War by Henry Reynolds


I read Anzac’s Long Shadow earlier in the year and found it to be a critical and refreshing look at aspects of Australia’s military history and the detrimental or skewing effect that our martial myths have on both our soldiers and the collective consciousness and culture of the Australian people.

Forgotten War is similarly a book that looks at our forgotten war(s) (the only ones fought on Australian soil for control of it) and our cultural amnesia in relation to it.  If I can crudely sum up an Australian’s sense of history it might go something like this.  Captain cook landed, settler’s and convicts arrived, there was isolated problems with the indigenous population but on the whole Australia is a peaceful nation of beer drinking sportsmen and women, that’s never known war on its own soil.

Forgotten War outlines succinctly and accurately that colonisation was not a largely peaceful process and that for a good 140 odd years settlers fought a series of conflicts for control of the continent and Australia’s aboriginal inhabitants resisted, forcefully and with some early successes until numbers, technology and the bushcraft of the colonisers improved.

White Australia has a problem with its acceptance of this history. It’s a curious situation.  I can understand the racist impetus to obliterate the Aboriginal side of this history. What could be worse than defeat?  Why, enforcing the view that you never really fought to defend your land anyway.  In doing so, however, we bury the history of white settlement and of white settlers, neglect the harsh realities they had to face, the conflict they fought.

This situation is as ridiculous as suppressing the reality of the Indian Wars in American history.

Reynolds has produced very accessible text, you needn’t be a history nut to enjoy this.  Indeed it helps open up that era of colonial settlement, and give it some balance.  You’ll understand why settlers living on the frontier walked to the wash house or barn fully armed and in twos.  Not because they harboured some unrealistic notion of the danger posed by Aboriginal warriors but because they had first hand experience of an ongoing conflict and a skilled and fast moving enemy.

Reynolds opens with an overview and lays out several points for consideration.  At what point did the narrative change from frontier war into something else? Can we call it a war?  What kind of war was it?  What were the costs of conflict in property, livestock and human lives (at 6000 settlers and 30,000+ Aboriginal dead it’s our countries third largest loss of life due to conflict).  Was a genocide carried out?

This book should get you thinking about why (when military historians regard the resistance as a conflict) we don’t honour the settlers nor the early aboriginal warriors in our military myth through the War Memorial, why we don’t teach the history of early conflict when it’s there in black and white print from the pages of almost any colonial newspaper. The only answer I can come up with is that it doesn’t fit some very deep seated and erroneous concepts of self, Australians have.

This book caused me to reflect upon my country’s singular reverence for its war dead.  Our Cult of Remembrance outstrips even religion in terms of what is sacrosanct.  Australians will rarely allow Diggers to be slighted, or the rose filtered view of our ANZAC soldiers to be questioned.  Suggest that perhaps we should move on, tone down the focus and you’d be tarred and feathered.

Yet I could find any number of folks who would not bat an eyelid at suggesting that Aboriginal people should forget the past – forget a conflict of 140 years, the deaths and the associated social and cultural costs.

This is a book every Australian should read if they want to be honest with themselves about the beginnings of our recorded history.

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Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Book Review – Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

mitosisSub-headed as a novella on my copy, Mitosis, stretches the definition of the term.  This beautifully produced hardback contains the title story, some illustrated character dossiers and a chapter from the upcoming sequel to Steelheart, the January release, Firefight.

The story follows our protagonist David Charleston, a Reckoner as he walks the streets of the now freed Newcargo (Chicago of a future besieged by corrupted humans with superpowers).  He and his group of normal humans have defeated the tyrant Steelheart and life seems to be returning to something nearing normality.  Refugees are returning to the city, now free from the corrupt Epics (evil super powered humans).  There is hope.  That is until disgruntled Epics, start seeking out the human that killed Steelheart.

To be honest with you, Mitosis is really a long short story, indeed many of the short works I have been reading for the Aurealis Awards are longer.  The title story comes in at around 44 pages of large text.  The story is however smoothly written and action packed, working well as an introduction to the larger series for newcomers, like myself and drip feeding diehard fans with more of what they love.

I did feel compelled to go and read the start of the series.  So I tips my hat to Mr Sanderson. I did find some of David’s mannerisms…”like” annoying, but he grows on you after awhile.  The concept of super powered mutants is hardly original but Sanderson manages to somehow infuse it with a neo-western feel (perhaps that’s just David’s mannerisms). I do like some of Sanderson’s writing and he seems to have a lighter touch here than he did in The Alloy of Law, which although I enjoyed, did almost feel at times like I was reading a role playing game sourcebook in relation to his outlining of the magic system.

I’d personally baulk at paying the full cover price for what is essentially a short story and some advertising for the next novel.  It is, however superbly written, with some wonderfully interior illustrations.  A great Christmas present for the fan, but as a first purchase I think the fantasy loving reader in your household would probably prefer that you start with Steelheart (or purchase it as well).  Once you get into the story you’ll want more of it. 

This book was provided by the publisher at no cost.

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Nov 26, 2014

eBook Review – Phantazein – Edited by Tehani Wessely

phantazeinThis collection was never intended to see the light of day, indeed as Tehani, the editor says, “it really shouldn’t exist”  Phantazein grew out of the slush pile of the submissions call for another Fablecroft anthology, Insert Title Here

As I was reading the slush, I uncovered several stories that resonated with me as working very well together but not, it seemed, in an unthemed anthology. To include them in Insert Title Here would have unbalanced the nature of that collection. These stories felt like they belonged in a different book altogether. A fantasy book. This book.

- Introduction, Phantazein.

Now my participation as a judge in the Aurealis awards precludes all but the most general commentary on a number of the stories in this collection. A fact that makes telling you how good it is rather difficult.

That being said you have Tansy Rayner Roberts with a fusion of Greek myth and fantasy in The Love Letters of Swans. If you have come to enjoy Tansy’s work, this is her doing what she does best, fusing her fiction talents with her professional knowledge of the classics.  Interesting to see her working with Greek myth/history as opposed to Roman.

Thoraiya Dyer, delivers an interesting take on Arabian myth in her story Bahamut. If you liked the historical stories presented in Gilgamesh Press’ Ishtar, Dyer’s work in fantasy, especially here, would work well in that milieu.

In Kneaded, SG Larner delivers a sickly sweet( I may never be able to drink Raspberry cordial again) tale that plays with elements of The Sugar Child and other folktales that involve baked or manufactured children.  Twelfth by Faith Mudge also gives us a dark and interesting perspective on those group of tales that fall under The Twelve Dancing Princesses line.  Working with fairytales I think can be a two edged sword, they are familiar and so it’s difficult to be original and you have centuries of expectation as to how and why these stories should be told.  Thankfully all the writers in this collection have managed to walk the blade edge.

The Nameless Seamstress is a beautiful tale by the late Gitte Christensen, presenting Chinese mythic elements.  Having read it, loved the ambience its execution conveys, I am truly saddened that we have lost this talent.

It’s good to see another work by Rabia Gale, a Pakistani American writer whose work I have followed for some time. Her Village of No Women, continues to show growth in her abilities.  I have always found her work to be distinctive and original and this story reaffirms my thoughts that she is one of those writers that can work with genre elements and reshape them to produce something original and distinctively hers. 

Thematically Phantazein seems largely split between retellings of fairytales and retellings or reworkings of ancient history/myth.  If you are a fan of the current trend of dark retellings of either of these sources then there’s enough dark here for you.  Not all stories end sadly but there is a gravity, a depth to all of them.

I love that Tehani included an illustrated work of poetry from Foz Meadows (illustrated by Moni).  You probably wouldn’t get Scales of Time outside of small press, or somewhere like Strange Horizons – a poem about friendship and love from the perspective of a dragon.

For a collection that seems to have magically coalesced, Phantazein is a solid production.  I’m not sure you could get a stronger collection by asking for direct submissions.  Kudos to Tehani’s eye for talent and story and kudos to the writers who took long raked over material in a lot of cases and breathed life and originality in to them.

Phantazein showcases the depth of talent Australia has in the fantasy field and gives us a glimpse at some other international authors who we may not be familiar with.


This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.






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