Review: Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti

BadPowerSeries: Twelve Planets #4
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 9780980827491 (ebook)
ISBN 13: 9780980827484 (paperback)
Published: October 2011
Pages: 130
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Bad Power is the fourth book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write 4-5 short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains five interwoven contemporary short stories, set in Sydney. It shows people blessed/cursed with powers, and the ramifications this has on their lives and those around them. It’s also the book that had Scott Westerfeld approach Deborah about Zeroes, also co-written with Margo Lanagan, so if you like that book then you totally have to come back to the start to see how it all began.

Shades of Grey

A man discovers that he’s immortal, and it drives him crazy. Rich and powerful, he’s used to having anything and everything he could ever desire within his reach, so now that something has been taken away from him – his ability to die – it’s the one thing he wants most of all.

If you like character-driven stories, Biancotti is excellent for them. Although we’re not supposed to like this character we certainly understand him, and the struggle and way he sees Sydney and life in general is described so eloquently though this short story that it makes it easy to devour without pause. Biancotti’s way of writing makes it staggeringly easy to visualise everything in crisp and raw detail, and although I’ve read some damn good books already this month, I really took note of just how good her writing is.

This has the introduction of Detective Palmer, who is the link between all following stories.

Palming the Lady

A homeless woman can see the future. She has charisma and knows exactly what to say in order to get under your skin. She follows a young man because he will be amazing some day, and Detective Palmer has to step in to investigate – stalking isn’t against the law strictly, in this State, but it’s certainly not nice. She takes the woman in for questioning and assessment, but they can’t hold her… even though she’s certainly interesting enough to want to know more.

This piece shows the layers in how people may have something you want, but overall it’s so awkward and complex to stick around. This woman has amazing powers but she’s not exactly easy to talk to or be around, and it makes you think what if someone has the ability to do amazing things, but they get looked over because they simply don’t fit into society?

Web of Lies

From the previous short story, we have the young man, Matthew, who is going to be amazing some day, now a little closer to his greatness. His all-ruling father has now passed away, leaving both son and wife floating lost… until things spiral and reveal their true selves. We also have Grey from the first short story, weaving now into this one.

This one was a little harder to read as it was more sinister, less about yay powers and more about how easily powers could be associated with mental health. It’s good, but depressing.

Bad Power

This one takes a slightly different path to the others, not set in the same time/place, and written in first person suddenly, so it takes some getting used to rather than the easy slide we have had into the previous stories. This is easily the most horrific piece in the collection as it deals with the title – Bad Power. The horrible things one could do with power in the wrong hands, or the type of power that twists even a decent person into a different path of life.

This one also had the most surprising ending, and it was the most grim that gave shock to the collection. Without this piece it would have been an easier read for sure, but this certainly makes it more memorable and depth. It’s brave and it does the job well – I just miss the delicate wonder that we saw in the first piece.

Cross the Bridge

Back we are to more familiar territory. Detective Palmer is still stuck with the weird cases, but now she has a new partner, Detective Ponti, who has a very useful power indeed. He can track lost children, which gives hope to all in general, and is especially decent to end a collection with, showing that all powers aren’t going to result in grim and dark places.

This is probably close to my favourite piece of the collection, as it’s written with a light hand, and the dialogue is excellent. We’re back to character-driven stories where they’re trying to make sense of the weird an unexplainable, but they’re also willing to believe in just about anything.

One thought on “Review: Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti

  1. Pingback: Bad Power: Review Roundup | A Journey Through the Twelve Planets

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