Sunday, February 8, 2015

Arms Race and Other Stories

by Nic Low
Text Publishing 2014

This is a fun bunch of fiction from a refined Melbourne gentleman (well he's been seen around these parts). The writing is fresh, individual and unfashionably speculative. There's a feeling of whimsy and an almost fairy-tale quality to some of the stories. They explore some fertile ideas and territories.  It's quite dense and I get the impression that each story has been reworked many times.

My favourite stories are "Rush" and "Data Furnace". In Rush Aboriginal activists start a mining company. They are granted an exploration licence for what might be considered sacred land - Melbourne's biggest war memorial (the Shrine of Remembrance). Data Furnace is set in a climate disaster future and London has frozen over following the collapse of the Gulf Stream. Most of the city is evacuated but two employees stay on working in a data centre. They become reliant on the servers for warmth, and try to attract more traffic. It seems they need an amazing youtube gimmick in order to survive.

It's worth mentioning that the stories are set all over the place. Each one takes us to a wildy different location - Laos, Rajasthan, Manhattan. Almost feels like you're on a backpacker journey (with a possible preference for New Zealand). 

I was however sometimes disappointed by the endings of these stories. Sometimes the final paragraphs introduced new themes and ideas that weren't particulary complimentary to the preceding work. Other times the story appeared to be cut short before the climax. I wondered if perhaps the stories had been compromised to fit the fairly narrow requirements of literary periodicals.

Highly recommended and hope to see more from this author!

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