Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter

The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter is the eleventh volume in Twelfth Planet Press's collection of Twelve Planets. I read it as part of Aurealis Awards judging back in January (and refrained from reviewing until after the awards were announced) but I would have read it anyway, since I have a subscription to the Twelve Planets series. Also, although I was on the judging panel that awarded this book the Aurealis for Best Collection, this review represents my own opinions only and, in fact, is based on notes I made before even discussing the books with the other judges.

In The Female Factory, procreation is big business. Children are a commodity few women can afford.

Hopeful mothers-to-be try everything. Fertility clinics. Pills. Wombs for hire. Babies are no longer made in bedrooms, but engineered in boardrooms. A quirk of genetics allows lucky surrogates to carry multiple eggs, to control when they are fertilised, and by whom—but corporations market and sell the offspring. The souls of lost embryos are never wasted; captured in software, they give electronics their voice. Spirits born into the wrong bodies can brave the charged waters of a hidden billabong, and change their fate. Industrious orphans learn to manipulate scientific advances, creating mothers of their own choosing.

From Australia’s near-future all the way back in time to its convict past, these stories spin and sever the ties between parents and children.

The Female Factory mainly deals with different ideas of reproduction. There are stories about the meaning of motherhood, if you can or can't reproduce, and stories about what it means to be a woman. I really loved the first two stories, enjoyed the second two but not as much. The last story, which is a novella, was very interesting. My comments on each story are at the end, as per usual.

The Female Factory was my first Slatter + Hannett read and it certainly made me want to read more (which I haven't had the chance to do yet). If you've enjoyed one of both of these author's work in the past, then I would definitely recommend picking up this collection. (And you get that cool iUterus and Frankenstein stitching cover, what's not to like?) Overall, a thought-provoking read.

~

Vox — A couple struggling to conceive in a world where the souls of aborted foetuses are recycled as voices (and souls) inhabiting electronic devices. Haunting. Moving.

Baggage — A surrogate mother who has no difficulty getting pregnant works for an agency that arranges babies for rich people. Having to sleep with a billionaire is the last straw.

All the Other Revivals — A very different story to the first two. A magic gender-bending billabong and a teen that doesn't fit in anywhere.

The Female Factory — A novella with a Victorian feel set in an Australian prison. Featuring orphans, the prison matron and strong Frankensteinian overtones. (There really was a place called The Female Factory, by the way.)

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Twelfth Planet Press
Series: Sort of. Twelve Planets, volume 11 (but they are all 100% standalone) 
Format read: e-judging copy
Source: Aurealis judging originally, but I have a subscription and now also have the paperback.
Disclaimer: Tsana was a judge for the Aurealis Awards, on the panel which judged this book. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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