Book Review: After Z-Hour, by Elizabeth Knox

Available in bookstores nationwide.

Icv_after_z_hour had never previously read Elizabeth Knox, despite her being one of New Zealand’s most admired writers, but this is about to change. This story drew me in and simply wouldn’t let me go.

There was nothing I didn’t like, the characters were strong, real and very well-developed, the plot line went in and out of the time frames seamlessly, and Knox had obviously put a lot of time into her research. I have read a lot of fiction and non-fiction related to the Great War, and Knox has got this period and the horror of the experience spot on.

Seventy years after a young returned serviceman dies, six young people stranded by nightmarish weather get to chatting and sharing bits of their own stories when a mysterious seventh voice joins the conversation. Here, the natural and the supernatural come together and really give this tale a bite, and the reader is taken on a most interesting journey, one that is filled with twists and turns of the mind kind, the kind that leave you thinking “God, what next?”

The writing is lush, vivid and powerful, gritty words where needed, pretty words where needed.

The characters draw you into the story and hold you, while the introduction of the seventh voice completes the process. Once both have got you, there is no backing out, you are captured by the story, and there is no putting this book down until the last page.

Love and compassion, empathy and understanding are on the pages of this book. The understanding Knox has of the power of war experiences is quite remarkable. Many of the experiences and emotional consequences of war are only now being acknowledged, as veterans return from the frontline, and occasionally, commit horrendous crimes.

I loved this book. Along with Anthony Doer’s All the Light we Cannot See, it will rank as one of my best reads this year, and the best part is, it was the last thing I expected. Thank you Elizabeth Knox.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

After Z-Hour
by Elizabeth Knox
Published by VUP
ISBN 9780864739230

Book Review: Mistory, by Philip Temple

Available in selected bookstores nationwide.

I don’t read a huge amount of dystopian novels, mostly on the basis that the really good cv_mistoryones scare me. You can see how the circumstances could come about. Easily. I’m thinking of classics like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the World Began.

MiStory, by Philip Temple, definitely passes the scare test.

Here’s the setting. New Zealand, sometime in the not-too-distant future. Multiple catastrophes have occurred – climate change and coastal flooding, invasion of Australia, threats to New Zealand’s own security, other wars on other continents, pandemics, possibly some sort of nuclear attack. The government has created a state of emergency that has lasted more than a decade, and now actively monitor the minutiae of citizens’ lives through pervasive technology. Democracy is dead. The only form of news about events within New Zealand and from around the world is heavily edited propaganda.

Told entirely via the entries in a “paperbook” – part personal journal, part documentary – written by siblings John and Sophie, MiStory covers themes of loss, awakening, resistance and justice. The entries crack along at a great pace that keep you turning the pages – I devoured the book in three short sessions, and would have liked to have finished it in one!

John is trying to rebuild his life after the sudden death of his partner Annie, and still mourning their child who had died in a pandemic five years earlier. His sister Sophie is mysterious and unavailable, appearing and disappearing unexpectedly over the years. Why was Annie quickly cremated without an autopsy? What is Sophie really up to? And why has John been offered a new job?

MiStory isn’t perfect. Prime Minister John Locke and a Minister Brownleigh would appear to be thinly veiled digs at the current government, and regardless of your politics, the joke wore a bit thin. The English language has evolved a bit in MiStory’s world, and it can be hard to keep track of some of the new lingo, and some of the new spellings (although Temple’s play with words is very clever, once you get the hang of the new vernacular). The ending is a bit too neat – but it’s the journey to the ending that will have you turning the pages.

Recommended. Go buy it.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

MiStory
by Philip Temple
Published by Font Publishing
ISBN 9780473282042