Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer is the latest in Twelfth Planet Press's Twelve Planets series of collections. You can read my reviews of the other collections at this link.

Asymmetry does not contain linked stories like some of the other Twelve Planets — in fact they're all very diverse. They fall in different places on the science fiction to fantasy spectrum, but one thing they have in common is sheer innovativeness. These are the first stories I've read of Dyer's and I was very impressed. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of her work in the future.

"After Hours" is a story about a vet, some army dogs and a werewolf. I think it was my favourite in the collection. It's told from two different first person perspectives which have very distinct personalities. Although the formatting kindly lets us know which narrator is speaking, I think it would have been clear even without the typographic distinction. A mark of the strong writing. Also, I appreciated how Dyer's veterinary experience clearly came out in this story.

"Zadie, Scythe of the West" is a gender-flip story set in a fantasy world. To put it simplistically, it's a world where women are warriors and men are housekeepers but the worldbuilding is more complex than that. There are very clear ideological reasons for why the women go to war and also for the rules constraining their abilities to do so. I suspect it's the sort of story others might compare with Ursula Le Guin or Joanna Russ but I don't feel well-versed enough in those authors' works to do so.

"Wish Me Luck" is a science fiction story set in another solar system in a time when interstellar travel exists (but is rare and expensive). The science element is fairly esoteric (in the quantum mechanical sense) and, were it a longer piece, one might call it space opera. In a way, it's a story about a man who just wants to get home. There's more to it, of course.

"Seven Days in Paris" is hard to explain properly without spoilers. It's the sort of story where almost every aspect becomes apparently only gradually. I'll say it's about a disposable clone created somewhat illegally and ostensibly for the greater good. It's told from the clone's perspective, interesting because the clone does not (at first) have any idea what's going on.


Overall the stories deal with themes of identity and belonging in different ways, a trend I noticed only now as I was writing the mini-reviews above. I like how the more I think about them, the more I'm finding things to think about in them. There is nothing simple here. An excellent collection.

Asymmetry is a quick read, with all four stories of the short variety rather than longer novelettes or novellas. It's also a highly enjoyable read which I recommend to anyone interested in modern Australian speculative fiction. Reading and thinking about Dyer's stories made me want to be able to write like that. Dyer is definitely a writer I will be keeping an eye on.

5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2013, Twelfth Planet Press
Series: Twelve Planets (a series of collections)
Format read: ebook on my iThings
Source: Subscription to ebook editions of the Twelve Planets
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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