Book Review: Arms Race & Other Stories, by Nic Low – plus a giveaway

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

At the outset you’re on the New Zealand coast with salt in your nostrils, reading about cv_arms_racemadness, 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

Arms Race
by Nic Low
Published by Text Publishing
ISBN 9781922147981

We have a signed copy of Arms Race up for grabs, click through here to enter. The competition closes on Monday 13 October.

Book Review: The Red Queen, by Gemma Bowker-Wright

This book is available now in bookstores nationwide. 

This collection of short stories is the first book for Gemma Bowker-Wright.cv_the_red_queen

She’s a good writer; the stories are well crafted, with a quirky humour apparent in even some of the bleaker works. I read the book almost at one sitting, and some of the stories stayed with me for quite some time. That’s unusual for me. I found myself going back to make sure I was remembering correctly.

There is a great depth to some of the stories – and a feeling of immense generosity of spirit, but then again of sadness in some of them also. This may be what I took from them, rather than an intention on the part of the writer. Two which typify these feelings are ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Katherine’.

‘Cowboy’ is in essence a story about a father and son, long separated. Father from time to time remembers he actually has a son, and arranges something which generally suits his purpose rather than that of his child. But despite this, the story ends on a positive note and I found that a huge surprise, not at all what I expected.

‘Katherine’, in the story which ends the book, has Alzheimers. The picture drawn in this story is very well-done – the apparent normality of many days, and the total irrationality of others points out the awfulness of the illness and the difficulty inherent in managing anyone who is a sufferer. Gemma Bowker-Wright manages to bring the characters of Katherine and her husband to life most effectively and with poignancy.

I found this, overall, to be a really good collection of stories, with a very New Zealand flavour. I look forward to more work from this young author.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

The Red Queen
by Gemma Bowker-Wright
VUP 2014
ISBN 9780864739209