★★/★★★★★ The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina.
“There will come a day where a thousand illegals descend on your detention centre. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lighting to strike you down from above and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from bellow. And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.”
With a quote like that on the flap how could I do nothing but love it? With a writer that was going to show diversity of aboriginals which I have read very little of, how could I not love it? With the abilities described how could I not love it? How wrong was I! I am so glad that I picked this up from the library instead of buying it like I was planing.
This story follows Ashala Wolf, who has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. Ashala and her Tribe are sort of mutants, with different powers, and of course, they are persecuted. They live in the woods hiding from the rest of humanity. But the Chief is looking to find them, and with the help of a machine that will extract what she knows from her mind, there is little she can do. Justin Connor is there too, a boy she believed to be her friend, sadly he betrayed her and her people.
WHY DID EVERYTHING GO WRONG WITH THIS BOOK? I WANTED IT TO BE GOOD SO BADLY!!!!
The big problem that I found was the lack of world-building, I actually believe that the most building we get comes from that first quote on the top of this review, since it is very easy for us to figure out a bunch of these Tribe members can control elements. Three-hundred years have passed since the flood came, and the small society where the story takes place was created. All we know is that it was an environmental disaster, and therefore the message I got was that we must take care of our planet, “[advanced technology] had isolated the people of the old world from nature, shielding them from the consequences of imbalance, and yet they’d believed, right up until the very end, that it would save them. But…advances in technology could never compensate for failures in empathy.”
People have developed abilities, as well as special connections with certain animals, Ashala is a sleepwalker and has a connection to wolves, Ember is connected to crows and has an ability connected to them, and Georgie to spiders, and I cannot recall what his skill is, consequently, these are the titles of the other two books out so far. There is a strange serpent involved but we barely get any of that. It is basically Ashala in prison, and a few flashbacks. For a book that involves Australian/New Zeland aboriginal mythology, I was expecting a world filled with legend and bewitchment, I got none.
I still have to give it credit for having in this futuristic dystopian world, no sexism or racism. In quite a few books I have read, classic science-fiction or not, the new worlds reverse into an epoch of inherent structure due to religion, sex, sexuality, or racial identity, while also adding to it, the mutants/power-filled people, as second class citizens. This has been done with various degrees of success, luckily, this book managed to bring forth the issue of all these without having them as clearly defined. Mutants have always been a metaphor for marginalized groups, and they tend to be presented in places were they are discriminated for more than one thing (example X-Men), this book managed to bring mutants forth without adding any more discrimination, it felt refreshing to read.
There is also no character development. Only through flashbacks we get to see how undeveloped the protagonists actually were. How am I suppose to enjoy a novel if there are no fleshed out characters with not only complicated or interesting backstories, but also hints at futures issues to surface that actually make sense. When I read Vicious by V.E. Schwab, I learned about the background of the characters, and the motives for what they did what they did, with this novel, it felt as if Twilight’s Bella gave her side of the story, instead of us learning from the point of view of all the great side characters.
There is a love story, and luckily it did not take a major part of the novel, like most dystopian-disguised-romances that I have read recently. It is clear who is falling for who, as well as who will end up with who, but it did not feel as pushed. It was however, very rushed, and I am not a fan of instantaneous love combustion.
Another thing added, that I liked very much was the introduction of detention centers where the gifted people were intended to be placed. I have an odd fascination with reading about forced-labor or concentration camps, because they represent a part of humanity that can come out at any moment in history. For this, I am always interested to see how it is that they came to be, again, this was not well done, but at least it was there.
Although unoriginal and severely lacking, I finished it rather quickly (maybe because of the lack of substance), and I still ponder if I should read the second book or not. The one thing I did get out of it was this: “You can’t transform a society for the better with violence, Ashala. Only with ideas.” Considering what is going on in the world right now, and was happened in history, I am not sure how to feel about the quote.
Read at own caution. It was just: