Review: Nightsiders by Sue Isle

NightsidersSeries: Twelve Planets #1
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 9780987082893 (ebook)
ISBN 13: 9780980827439 (paperback)
Published: March 2011
Pages: 141
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Nightsiders is the first book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write 4 short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains four short stories that leave you desperately waiting for more – I’m still hoping there’ll be a novel so we can see more of the characters and Sue’s take on dystopian Australia. Set in and around Perth specifically, we see the devastating effects of climate change with a hint of the apocalypse. The people who have remained in the area generally come out only at night when the weather is more manageable –  almost as though Coober Pedy has spread somewhat, and we see the generational influences this has had with their vision (better at night, weakened by strong sunlight).

There are hints that not all of Australia is like this – as always, things are better in the East, as we (who aren’t from there) are always hearing (being from the North, I completely understand – it’s enough to get a chip on your shoulder.)

As others have commented, it’s hard to review short stories themselves as, being short, you don’t want to give too much of the plot and certainly not the ending away – which is often what also makes it clever. Mostly what ties these together and then exploring different sections in each of the shorts is what makes this engaging. We want to see more of an Australia that has been through a war and damaged by falling bombs – we’re past that horror and trying to rebuild after that, even with so many people having left. We see the stubborn, fiercely independent streak that Western Australians are famous for, through their generations of farming and being so very remote from the rest of Australia where you do just have to carry on, regardless.

This is a very, very good and strong start to the Twelfth Planets collection.

The Painted Girl

Kyra and Nerina run into the city to escape a fire (something rural people know the true terror of), and as it’s Kyra’s first time there, she’s a little excited under the fear to see the place Nerina has told her stories of – of a time when civilisation existed. Yet as though fire isn’t enough to contend with, Kyra soon has other worries. At the end of the day there is only survival and we see what lengths people are willing to go to, and it leaves us wondering what we would do if in their place.

Nation of the Night

Ash travels to Melbourne to correct his body, this shows how difficult it would be to be transgendered without resources or medical assistance – as if it isn’t hard enough here and now in our time. He has an understanding friend who used to be a teacher and now curates a library, who helps bridge him towards where he needs to go and what he needs to feel right. In this we see the stark difference between Melbourne where things are ‘better’ in the Australia we’ve become in this dystopian land, and yet also what has made Perth (aka Nightside) a decent place to be – a place so hard to survive in, people always help each other where they can.

Paper Dragons

Written in first person (as is the previous Nation of the Night story) we have Itch, Shari, who put on a play with a gang of others. The play reminds the older generation of what they’ve lost and what they want to leave sleeping, and it also provides trouble for the younger generation who don’t know what a lot of the things referenced in the play are… but really, it also show how the arts are important to mental health and having fun, something that remains important even when everything else is lost. Much like part of the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

The Schoolteacher’s Tale

Shari again, engaged to be married now and a little older than we saw her previously, appeals to the much mentioned Ellen Wakeling who has been previously called Old Wakey and as the teacher, wanting her to be present when Shari is married. As the oldest person in Nightside who we meet, she’s appropriately grouchy yet intelligent and well spoken, having seen it all.

With this story, we end with hope.

This collection has the following mentions when it comes to awards:

“Nation of the Night” – winner of the 2012 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story

Longlisted for the Tiptree Award

Shortlisted for Best Collected Work, Aurealis and Ditmar Awards, 2012

Honourable Mention, Norma Hemming Award

One thought on “Review: Nightsiders by Sue Isle

  1. Pingback: Nightsiders: Review Roundup | A Journey Through the Twelve Planets

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