The Healer by Antti Tuomainen
It’s two days before Christmas and Helsinki is battling ruthless climate catastrophe: subway tunnels are flooded; the streets are full of abandoned vehicles; the social order is crumbling and private security firms have undermined the police force. Tapani Lehtinen, a struggling poet, is among the few still willing to live in the city. When Tapani’s journalist wife Johanna goes missing, he embarks on a frantic hunt for her. Johanna’s disappearance seems to be connected to a story she was researching about a serial killer known as ‘The Healer’.
First Impressions: I really liked the world of climate change Helskinki that you were thrown into as it was all enveloping and completely believable. There is chaos but the city is still functioning and recognisable. You are treated to this consistent world all the way through the novel and again, like in Tuomainen’s Dark as My Heart, I wish I knew Helsinki better to fully appreciate his descriptions.
Highlights: There was lots associated with the climate change world I enjoyed and found thoughtful like the refugee problems; although the context was different the social problems and attitudes were the same as we have now. I loved the author’s cool and poetic writing style and the way Tapani seems detached from his surroundings. The security companies and police operations were interesting (and probably recognisable today in some corrupt countries) as were the differences between the wealthy and ordinary citizens.
If I was an editor: What an original novel! Could it be longer to draw out the intrigue?
Overall: A fantastic noir/serial killer/climate change mash up. I’m all in on Cli-Fi if this is the benchmark!
A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson
Winner of The Most Underrated Book of the Year 2014. How can I resist!
Future Melbourne is bearing the brunt of climate change with UN Peacekeepers keeping order. Caddy camps by the Maribyrnong River and ekes out a living doing odd jobs organised for her by businessman Ray. When Ray makes a trade for some old maps he falls through the cracks (literally) and meets a brother and sister who are travelling across the USA on a quest to stand in every 25 foot square of the country.
First Impressions: Climate change Melbourne is (scarily) realistic.
Highlights: Amazingly creative. That is the only way to summarise this novel. To have two disparate plot lines and seemlessly mesh them together so well is a rare thing. I have read some reviews that say it became a bit too abstract but I disagree. It was all perfectly balanced. One minute you are parched and sitting with Caddy in an unairconditioned bar with some UN soldiers and the next minute… Well, that’s just giving it away! Also, of you can’t tell, I liked reading about futuristic Melbourne. It is a very interesting society with a huge gulf between the haves and the have nots who all seem to operate off the radar in black market dealings. It made Caddy’s life very interesting!
If I was an editor: and a brash young writer boasted to me they completed a creative writing course, I wouldn’t expect anything less than the cleverness and imagination of this novel. Rawson is naturally an innovative writer and consequently has not had to enrol in such a course to unleash her imagination. However, being able to concentrate on her work at Varuna writers retreat was well worth it (although this has been for her next book I have since discovered; see comments!).
Overall: Yikes, imagine a world where vodka cruisers are a high demand black market item! Is that what climate change will bring us to??????
A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists: 5 stars