Sunday, 12 June 2016

How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea by Mira Grant

How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea by Mira Grant is another novella set in the Newsflesh universe. It is set well and truely after the trilogy and, since it features a major secondary character, I definitely do not recommend reading it if you haven't read the whole trilogy, unless you really like spoilers (although I suspect the spoilers won't make much sense if you haven't read the series, so there's also that). Here is my review of Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy.

Post-Rising Australia can be a dangerous place, especially if you're a member of the government-sponsored Australia Conservation Corps, a group of people dedicated to preserving their continent's natural wealth until a cure can be found. Between the zombie kangaroos at the fences and the zombie elephant seals turning the penguin rookery at Prince Phillip Island into a slaughterhouse, the work of an animal conservationist is truly never done--and is often done at the end of a sniper rifle.

Aside from generally liking Grant's work, I picked up this novella in particular because it's set in Australia (and I'm Australian, in case you missed that). The latter also accounts for my mixed response to the novella. On the one hand, zombie kangaroos held back by the (upgraded) Rabbit-Proof Fence is pretty awesome, as were the occasional zombie wombat and koala. On the other hand, there were a lot of minor elements that just didn't feel properly Australian.

A large part of this is accounted for by the fact that the story is narrated a Pom in Australia and yet is written in American English. About the only saving grace was that when the Aussies spoke, they at least spelled "arse" correctly. But no one even called Mahir a Pom, which was pretty weird give how irreverent and teasing they were otherwise. Also, at one point they were running through a forest instead of the bush, which felt incredibly wrong since the only forests we have in Australia are rainforests, and they certainly weren't in one of those. There was also a pervading sense of not being quite right, which was harder to pin down.

A key aspect of the plot was conservation and protecting various Australian animals from extinction, which kind of made sense, given how much of this is currently going on. It was a little weird thinking of kangaroos as endangered since currently most (?) species are not, to the point where they need to be culled regularly to prevent mass-starvation. But it definitely felt right when thinking about all our cute fuzzy animals which are endangered by varying degrees of severity.

The road trip they take near the start of the novella actually followed a road I myself drove along recently... which had me wondering where all the cows and sheep had gone. Presumably they were all exterminated post-Rising (and if memory serves, no one eats mammals anymore), but a mention of empty farmland or an abundance of crops in the place of stock would not have gone amiss. It was just another of those little markers of inauthenticity.

But overall, I liked the novella. I would recommend How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea to fans of Mira Grant, with the caution that if you're a stickler for authentic Australian settings, it might annoy you a little bit. On the other hand, it's not like everything was wrong, so I expect many people will be quite happy with the level of Australian-ness. And remember, there are many spoilers if you haven't read the entire Newsflesh trilogy.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2013, Orbit
Series: Newsflesh, a spin-off novella set after the main trilogy
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Google Play

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