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At the outset you’re on the New Zealand coast with salt in your nostrils, reading about madness, laughter and the fury of an octopus god. Arms Race moves quickly out into the rest of the world from there and the farfetched feeling embedded in this level of geographical movement continued to sell me on each story.
Each one has the severe kick of immediacy to it. These stories are relevant, these are stories for 2014! Wars fought with drones and piracy without computers, burning data to keep yourself warm. However there are also soft nods to the timeless curiosities of fiction: Hints of ghost stories, the stigma of relationships between the young and the old, indigenous land rights (ripped from the ‘timeless’ category and deftly pushed into the context of a corporation’s mining laws,) and the ease of an absent-minded agreement to sign your life away in a post-social-media age.
By the end of the book I believed in Katherine DuCroix and genius-inducing diseases. I believed that by drinking rice wine in the jungle I can transcend time and space and re-live the same day over and over again.The further I read, the more I gleaned an image of the author holding a stick of dynamite in one hand and a bic lighter in the other, daring me to tackle him if I thought they were too close, and smiling.
In Arms Race there is intent, and there are warnings. The only story that felt out of place was right at the end − for me, it lacked the potency of the others. But what’s one story in the face of a collection like Arms Race?
Reviewed by Matt Bialostocki, writer, bookseller, and photographer
by Nic Low
Published by Text Publishing
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