Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

When Aarti from BookLust announced the More Diverse Universe reading tour, I knew straight away that I wanted to read an indigenous Australian author. I really didn't even consider any other options as possibilities. Then I started to think about possible reads and couldn't come up with any options of books to read that were written by indigenous authors that fitted into the spec fic genre classification. I ended up putting the call out on Twitter for suggestions but in the end there were only a couple which kind of proved the point that Aarti was making in starting this project.

One was Carpentaria by Alexis Wright which I tried to read a few years ago and DNF'ed (and considered to be Literature with a capital L).  The other was this book, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina, which was only published in Australia a couple of months ago and I do not recall having heard of before. I promptly bought the book, and I am pleased to say it is a really good read. I am also pleased to announce that the author is going to be guest posting on Sunday as part of this event!

Anyway, enough intro! Let's talk about the book.


There will come a day when a thousand illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below.... And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.

Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala's Tribe - the runaway illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind.

And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.

Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
Set three hundred years in the future, Ashala Wolf's world is one that is very different from now. There had been an environmental catastrophe that caused the world's geography as we know it to be transformed. The population of the world has in effect scaled back from the reliance on technology all in the hope of maintaining the all important Balance in the world. For the powers that be Balance is quite easy to define. Anyone who is 'normal' is part of the Balance. Anyone who shows any sign of having a special ability is deemed to be an illegal and must be locked away in detention camps and have their powers neutralised. The world is highly regulated, mostly through a series of accords which dictate rules on everything from population, to the use of technology, the use of natural resources and more.

The powers that some people might have are many and varied. They may be sleepwalkers like Ashala, or Rumblers, Skychangers, Runners and so many more other types of power. Some, but not all, are dangerous but all are feared by large portions of the general population thanks to a pretty effective propaganda machine. If a family suspects that their child may have powers then they need to be assessed and the whole family unit could well be destroyed - traumatic for everyone concerned.

Ashala is the leader of a group called The Tribe who live in the forest of tuart trees known as Firstwood. She has gathered together a group of people who all are Illegals because they all have special talents and together they are trying to build a community that respects the forest and the animals around them. As well as each having their own abilities, they may also have a special affinity with an animal. For Ashala, this is a wolf, but for others in the group it might be spiders, or the fierce saurs that also roam the area. Her friends are well developed and incorporated into the story and I am really looking forward to find out more about Ember and Georgie. I especially enjoyed the storyline that features Jaz, an exuberant young man whose journey is very surprising throughout the book.

Things are a little unsettled within the group because recently a detention centre has been build near Firstwood, and that centre is being led by Neville Rose, a man with a reputation for thoroughness when it comes to the investigation of Illegals that are in his care. When Ashala is captured after being betrayed by an outsider who has infiltrated the Tribe, she is taken to be interrogated by the machine but only after her sleepwalking ability has been neutralised. Ashala can perform amazing feats of power and strength as long as she dreams them and so steps must be taken so that she cannot escape from the detention centre. The aim for Neville Rose is to be able to access all of the secrets that Ashala holds dear, about her past and especially about the Tribe. The person who managed to infiltrate the Tribe and to ultimately betray Ashala is Justin Connor and now he is her jailer, her shadow, a perfect example of the kind of people that Ashala has come to hate in her short life.

There are several really clever things in this book. One of this is the incorporation of Dreamtime motifs into the new world. Another thing was the way that the plot unravels throughout the course of the book. There were so many plot twists that completely changed the way that the reader might be understanding the book and yet those twists all seemed to make sense. Ashala believes that she knows exactly what is going on, but with each twist the truth changes. The biggest question are will Ashala find the truth or will she reveal all of her secrets to the machine and how will the Tribe cope without her to lead them.

This book is an intriguing mix of dystopian society and fantasy with a Dreamtime twist. Sounds complicated, and it is, especially with the way that the plot twists and turns it way to the conclusion. It is ultimately a fascinating and enjoyable read, both complex and nuanced.

I was also glad to see that the cover very clearly shows a young Aboriginal girl and clearly reflects the tone of the novel.

I am glad that by participating in this event, I was introduced to the writing of Ambelin Kwaymullina. I very much look forward to reading the next book in this series.

Rating 4/5



Read the book for the following challenges:










 

30 comments:

  1. This sounds terrific:) Did you watch the video on the Wheeler Centre's website about indigenous short stories in McSweeney's? It was really interesting...

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    1. I looked at the McSweeney's to see if I could read it for this, but there didn't appear to be any spec fic elements included.

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  2. Love that you picked an indigenous Australian book to read. Too cool, and sounds like it was a great choice.

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    1. I am definitely pleased to have found another author to read.

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  3. Oh, this does sound excellent! I love all the elements and characters that you've described, and think that the uniqueness of the plot would make for an excellent read. I'm glad that you got the chance to experience this, and I love that Aarti's project is bringing out such wonderful books! Great job, both picking and reviewing this one!

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    1. It is definitely a great project and I am glad that Aarti has said that it will run again.

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  5. I absolutely love that cover! So fierce.

    This sounds like one I would enjoy, as I'm always up for a bunch of plot twists, especially if they make sense.

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    1. It definitely all made sense in retrospect.

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  6. I like the plot, but the way you describe the author having written the book sounds absolutely brilliant, the twists and change of understanding.

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  7. Sounds like a great book. It's so great that you were able to discover and share a new author in the process of this event, especially an indigenous Australian one!

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    1. It definitely was a great disvoery.

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  8. I agree with everyone else. Great choice!

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  9. Added this to my reading list - it sounds fantastic and I love the cover.

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    1. It's a great cover and it is fantastic that there is no white washing as well!

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  10. Wow, this sounds fantastic! So glad you did some digging to find this book, and I'm thrilled the author wants to be involved in the event - can't wait to see the interview :-)

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    1. I was very excited when the author contacted me!

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  11. This sounds like an amazing read, Marg! I love a book that keeps you on your toes, and it mixes in indigenous Australian culture as well!

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    1. This definitely was a book that you had to keep up with, if you skipped a few pages you could have had no clue what was going on!

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  12. I hadn't heard of this book - it sounds fascinating. Thanks for letting me know about it!

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  13. I haven't come across this title either Marg, but it sounds like a fantastic read and i absolutely love the cover. I don't think i've actually read a book by an indigenous author... i must do something about that!

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    1. Jayne, this would be a good place to start!

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  14. This sounds awesome!!! and its aussie? I haven't heard of it either but I am itching to get my hands on it now. I have read some children's books by Indigenous authors but not an adult novel (that I am aware of), this sounds like the perfect place to start.

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    1. It is Aussie! This author has actually written a number of kids books as well but this was her first novel length book.

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  15. This sounds really, really amazing - I wonder when it will be available here in the US!

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  16. Complex, nuanced...in combination with what you've said about the style and the story, I'm hooked on the idea of this book. How disappointing that it's not (yet?) available in the library system, but it sounds so good that I might just have to order a copy!

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    1. You might have to order it from Australia, and pay Australian book prices! Try fishpondworld.com.

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