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Ghost Species Cover Reveal

Ghost Species Cover

I’m very excited to be able to reveal the cover of my new novel, Ghost Species. I’ve talked a little about it before, but here’s the blurb:

When scientist Kate Larkin joins a secretive project to re-engineer the climate by resurrecting extinct species she becomes enmeshed in another, even more clandestine program to recreate our long-lost relatives, the Neanderthals. But when the first of the children, a girl called Eve, is born, Kate cannot bear the thought her growing up in a laboratory, and so elects to abduct her, and raise her alone.

Set against a backdrop of hastening climate catastrophe, Ghost Species is an exquisitely beautiful and deeply affecting exploration of connection and loss in the age of planetary trauma. For as Eve grows to adulthood she and Kate must face the question of who and what she is. Is she natural or artificial? Human or non-human? And perhaps most importantly, as civilization unravels around them, is Eve the ghost species, or are we?

Out May 2020 from Hamish Hamilton Australia.

Best Books 2018

xthe-overstory.jpg.pagespeed.ic.9cGSJd7DGBAs promised the other day, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of some of the books I enjoyed most this year. Right at the top of my list are two books I loved quite immoderately, Richard Powers’ The Overstory and Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight. The former is just astonishing – a seamless synthesis of science and fiction that manages to make the ecological crisis surrounding us viscerally real – the latter is a book that ranks with Ondaatje’s best work.

I also loved a number of other novels, in particular the final volume in Rachel Cusk’s astonishing Outline Trilogy, Kudos, Miriam Toews’ Women Talking, Tommy Orange’s There There, Leila Slimani’s brutal portrait of class and isolation, Lullaby, Lisa Halliday’s brilliant Asymmetry, Julian Barnes’ marvellously controlled dissection of love and the things we cannot let ourselves know, The Only Story, Patrick DeWitt’s French Exit, Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under, Leni Zumas’ Red Clocks, Ottessa Moshfegh’s reworking of the 9/11 novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, Tana French’s consuming The Witch Elm, Ling Ma’s Severance, Anna Burns’ Man Booker-winning Milkman and Robin Robertson’s noir verse novel, The Long Take. Alongside the novels there were a number of story collections I very much enjoyed, perhaps most notably Denis Johnson and William Trevor’s posthumous volumes, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden and Last Stories, Lauren Groff’s Florida, Jon McGregor’s companion to Reservoir 13, The Reservoir Tapes, Ben Marcus’ Notes from the Fog, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black. And although it wasn’t published in 2018, I also loved Andrew Sean Greer’s delightful Less (which took me back to his sad but beautiful 2008 novel, The Story of a Marriage).

9781925355970A number of the Australian books I read this year were from last year as well; I particularly admired Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers and Jennifer Down’s wonderful story collection, Pulse Points. Of those published in 2018 I loved Jock Serong’s historical thriller, Preservation, Jennifer Mill’s marvellous Dyschronia and Mark Smith’s sequel to his standout YA debut, The Road to Winter, Wilder Country.

Of the science fiction and fantasy I read I adored Adam Roberts’ wildly brilliant sequel to last year’s The Real Town Murders, By the Pricking of her Thumb, the conclusion to Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Quartet, Europe at Dawn, Tade Thompson’s terrific Rosewater, James Smythe’s I Still Dream, Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, John Schoffstall’s extremely engaging YA fantasy, Half-Witch, Emma Newman’s Before Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon, Christopher Priest’s queasily powerful An American Story, Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, and Audrey Schulman’s Theory of Bastards. And although it was published last year, Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon is an astonishing book: dense and furious and ferociously engaged with the contemporary world.

Most of the comics I read were in series format, but I’ve been loving Al Ewing’s joyously creepy 1950s horror comics-inflected The Immortal Hulk, and I hugely admired Nick Drasno’s Man Booker-longlisted Sabrina.

9781783781355.jpgAnd finally, my non-fiction reading was a bit spotty, but a lot of what I did read was terrific, and of that, the absolute highlights were Caspar Henderson’s prismatic A New Map of Wonders, Joy McCann’s wonderfully rich and expansive history of the Southern Ocean, Wild Sea, Nancy Campbell’s The Library of Ice, Phillipa McGuinness’ 2001: The Year That Changed Everything, and two books about sea level rise, Elizabeth Rush’s beautiful Rising and Jeff Goodell’s deeply confronting The Water Will Come.

Obviously there’s still a couple of weeks of the year to go (a chunk of which I’ll be spending on Knausgaard’s mammoth The End), and I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten, but hopefully not too many. In the meantime I wish all of you the very best for the holiday season and the year ahead. Go well.

 

2018: Looking back, looking forward

800px-Replica_of_Neanderthal_Skull_in_St._Michaels_Cave,_Gibraltar.jpg

Replica of Neanderthal Skull in St. Michaels Cave, Gibraltar, CC 2012, Bjorn.

I’m planning to do a round-up of my favourite books of the past year later in the week, but before I do I thought I might just pull together a list of a few things of my own over the past twelve months.

The most significant, obviously, was the publication of The Buried Ark in June. The second part of my Change Trilogy, it picks up immediately after the events at the end of the first book in the series, The Silent Invasion, which was published in 2017.

Because of the way it begins, it’s a little difficult to talk too much about it without spoiling the first book, but I’m really proud of it, not least because I think it manages to avoid the second book sag that afflicts so many trilogies. It’s also had some fantastic responses from readers and great reviews from people such as Ian Mond in Locus and Cameron Woodhead in the Fairfax papers.

The latest issue of Island, No 155, which was published just last week, also includes a story of mine, ‘High Country’. It’s available by subscription or in good bookstores.

I also published quite a bit of non-fiction, perhaps most notably my Walkley-nominated, ‘The End of the Oceans’, which was in the August issue of The Monthly, and ‘An Ocean and an Instant’, a long and very personal essay about Adelaide, extinction and the death of my father for Sydney Review of Books’ New Nature series. These were complemented by‘A Family of Disguises’, a long review of Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight.

In addition to these longer pieces I did a lot of reviewing. Some of the highlights of that include Joy McCann’s wonderful history of the Southern Ocean, Wild Sea, climate scientist Joelle Gergis’ excellent Sunburnt Country: The History and Future of Climate Change in Australia, Ryan O’Neill’s wildly entertaining and incredibly inventive Their Brilliant Careers, Christopher Priest’s deeply strange An American Story, Jock Serong’s terrific historical thriller, Preservationand Micheline Jenner’s The Secret Life of Whales Eelco Rohling’s The Oceans: A Deep History and Jeff Goodell’s The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilised World. And although it wasn’t reviewing exactly, I was lucky enough to be asked to write about Sydney’s inner west for a wonderful feature about Sydney in summer for the Herald.

Mostly though, I’ve been working on a series of projects that won’t see the light of day for some time. The first is the final book of The Change Trilogy, A Vastness of Stars, which will be published late next year. It’s the most ambitious, the most cosmic and the most challenging of the three, but I’m really excited about it.

The second is my new novel, Ghost Species, which will be published by Penguin Random House in March 2020. I’ll talk about it some more a bit closer to the time, but it’s about time and loss and extinction and de-extinction, and I think it’s strange and beautiful and very timely, so I’m very much looking forward to people reading it.

November update

I’m deep in the middle of two books, so not here all that often, but just a few quick updates.

The first is the wonderful news that my essay, ‘The End of the Oceans’, which was published in The Monthly in August, has been nominated for the Walkley Award for Feature Writing (Long). I’m thrilled for all the obvious reasons, but I’m also delighted because it’s a subject of the utmost importance that I care about very deeply. If you enjoy it please share it.

I’ve also had several other pieces of non-fiction published over the past few months. The most significant was ‘An Ocean and an Instant’, a long essay about Adelaide, extinction and the death of my father for Sydney Review of Books’ New Nature series. It’s a very personal piece and was extremely difficult to write, but I hope people find something in it.

Also in Sydney Review of Books I have ‘A Family of Disguises’, a long review of Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight, in The Australian (and staying with the oceanic theme), a review of Joy McCann’s terrific new history of the Southern Ocean, Wild Sea (possible $$$). And finally, I’ve recently uploaded a long review of the imaginary history of Australia Rodney Hall mapped out in the Yandilli Trilogy, The Island in the Mind and The Day We Had Hitler Home. It’s a few years old now, but they’re marvellous books, and it would be wonderful if they found new readers.

 

Winter Solstice

Full-circle_solar_halo_with_parhelia_and_lower_tangent_arc,_South_Pole,_12_Jan_2009

By Heiser [CC BY-SA], via Wikimedia Commons

Today is the shortest day of the year here in Sydney, and the longest in the northern hemisphere. So I thought I’d celebrate with ‘Solstice’, the first chapter of Clade:

As Adam steps outside the cold strikes him like a physical thing, the shock still startling after all these weeks. For a moment he pauses, looking out across the bay, the crowding floes of ice. Then, adjusting his goggles, he descends the short ramp to the scoured stone upon which the building stands and strikes out towards the headland.

It is quiet out here today, the only sounds that disturb the silence those of the wind, the occasional squalling cry of the birds. Down by the water an elephant seal lies on the rocks, its vast bulk mottled and sluglike; around it tracks of human activity scar the snow like rust, turning it grey and red and dirty.

In the building behind him the other personnel are celebrating the solstice, an occurrence those stationed here have long observed with an extended meal and drinking and dancing. The event is a way of marking not just the date but the peculiar rhythms of life at the base, the annual cycle which means that from here on the arrivals will slow and departures increase, until only the skeleton crew who maintain the facility through the months of cold and darkness remain.

Passing the Klein-blue boxes of the power distribution units he finds himself wondering again about this tradition. Humans have observed the solstice for tens of thousands of years, but are those festivities truly celebrations, or something more ambivalent? Symbols of loss, of the running down of things? After all, the solstice also marks the beginning of summer’s end, the first intimation of the year’s long retreat back into the dark. 

Beyond the last building the land opens out, the dirty grey of rock and mud and melting snow giving way to the white glare of ice. The wind is stronger here, and even colder, but he does not slow or turn aside; instead, closing his hand around the phone in his pocket, he shrugs his neck deeper into his collar and quickens his step. Read more (or just go crazy and buy it already)

On writing and not writing: depression, creation and fiction

Resurrectionist coverAbout fifteen years ago, when I was working The Resurrectionist, Ivor Indyk from Giramondo Publishing approached me and asked me whether I’d be interested in writing a piece about my work in progress for Heat. Although the book was slowly moving toward completion it had been an incredibly difficult process, both emotionally and creatively, and at first I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to open up about how hard it had been. Eventually I decided I would, but in the process I found myself having to think about a whole series of questions about the way I worked, what I thought fiction did, and the ways in which my experiences with depression had shaped both the book and my life and work more generally.

I hadn’t thought about the piece for a long time, but recently I found myself going back to it after somebody asked me whether I’d ever written about process. Reading it again was surprisingly difficult – many of the feelings and experiences it discusses are ones I have no desire to revisit. But simultaneously I was struck by how little had changed, especially in regard to the mysteriousness of the actual process of writing:

“Novels – or at least the ones I am able to write – always seem to me to be curiously fragmentary things, at once prismatic and elusive. These pieces, these fragments, are part of a pattern, and they take their meaning from the whole, even as they reflect the whole within themselves. Finding these pieces, fitting them together, is not so much an act of creation as one of uncovering, of giving voice to something that is already there. This thing, the unwritten book, is like a potential, and to find it you need to learn to give way to the lines of force within it, the invisible tensions and attractors which give it its shape.”

I’ve now uploaded the piece. Although I don’t discuss it explicitly a lot of the piece is about depression, a subject I explored more fully in my essay ‘Never Real and Always True’. And if you’d like to read more by me about how I write, I recommend Charlotte Wood’s fantastic collection of interviews with writers, The Writer’s Room, or my interview with Catriona Menzies-Pike in Sydney Review of Books.

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Publication day for The Buried Ark!

9781743549902My latest novel, The Buried Ark, hits Australian bookstores today. It’s the second part of The Change Trilogy for young adults, and the sequel to last year’s The Silent Invasion.

The Buried Ark picks up immediately after the events at the end of The Silent Invasion. Callie has made it to the Zone, the region controlled by the alien presence of the Change, but only at the cost of everything she holds dear. Broken and alone she fights to survive in the alien landscape of the Zone, until a shocking discovery suggests a way of destroying the Change. Pursued by the Change she flees south again, only to find unexpected sanctuary in a secret installation known as the Ark. But the Ark is not quite what it seems, and before long Callie – and the entire planet – are in more danger than ever.

I’m really proud of it, and excited it’s finally in the world. When The Silent Invasion was published I said my plan was for each book in the trilogy to have a quite different focus and feel, so while The Silent Invasion is very intimate and closely focussed on the central characters and their journey north to the Zone, The Buried Ark would have global implications, and the final book would have a cosmic dimension.

I think – I hope – I’ve achieved that. The Buried Ark is bigger and more exciting than The Silent Invasion. But it’s also richer and stranger, and touches on a series of questions about the human and the inhuman, love and loss, and the weirdness and uncanniness of a world in which environmental change is dissolving the boundaries between us and the world we are destroying.

If you’re in Australia it’s available as an ebook, and at all good bookstores. Overseas readers should be able to buy it on Kindle. And if you’d like to read the first few chapters, they’re available on Wattpad (although don’t read them unless you’ve already read
The Silent Invasion, since they will ruin its ending). You can also read a little bit about how I came to write the series.

And just in case you’re wondering, the third book will be out next year.