Series: Twelve Planets #6
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 9780987216229 (ebook)
ISBN 13: 9780987216229 (paperback)
ASIN: B00A9EZ4IU (kindle)
Published: May 2012
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
Through Splintered Walls is the sixth 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 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 three short stories and a novella length piece (with the shorts being 10-20 pages each and the novella coming in at around 140 pages) that feel Australian without ramming it down your throat (which isn’t a bad thing anyway), and is also quite horrific without being gory. Intellectual horror, maybe? Insightful? Whatever it is, it’s good.
A woman who just wants to cook and protect her family is in a mentally-abusive relationship with a bully of a husband, and is dismayed to see her once-sweet son beginning to follow in his footsteps. They live near a mountain that is known for ghosts – was part of their childhood as the location of dares and challenges to survive a night there, to throw bottles off the side, and so forth. Many people have odd stories of where they’re so sure they once saw a ghost there – and there’s many to choose from. Some see a child, a naked woman, a hairy man. It’s on this mountain that the woman sorts out her life once more, and archives her dreams.
John’s kids like the stories their aunt Olivia tells them, of the Quaking Women. They’re women who’ve drowned who don’t make it out to the sea to turn into mermaids. The drag marks by the creek, the feeling of something grasping at your toes, the reason to never swim where you can’t see the bottom. The reason Olivia has a bald spot – where the screaming woman grabbed at her hair, screaming for her long dead child.
The kids probably think it’s just a cool aunt’s pretend stories, but they come from a real place. When Olivia was 18 she went along with her father for work, naming creeks in the area and surveying land with sketches and photos. It’s at one of the creeks that they meet a green, mottled woman, who hasn’t been okay for some time. Suddenly there’s more of them, and it’s a miracle Olivia and her father get away alive, though they’re left with changes that’ll stay with them for the rest of their lives.
An elderly couple live near a terrible part of road, where there are often accidents. Mobiles don’t work there, so they’re used to the visitors – frantic people who’ve just been in an accident and need a phone – they direct them to it, offer to call for them, make them a cup of tea, offer to accompany them back to the accident to confirm with police that they weren’t drunk at the time. The police know them well too, defend them to the hilt when someone, traumatised through what they’ve been through, takes offence to the offer of tea at such a time.
‘Far enough from Melbourne to make them tired, close enough to Sydney to make them want the trip to be over’, is such a good description of Australian driving.
Another, like the one before it, with a sweetly disturbing and sad ending.
Sky takes the normal, makes it weird and grotesque and fascinating. We have a small, weird, country town where everyone works for the cat food factory. This piece includes a rapist, for those who wish to avoid such triggering topics. The cruelty shown in everyday life is amazing (in a bad way), and it somehow seems more shocking because of how normal it feels while reading.
In this town, you have to fight (to the death) with the person who currently has the job you want. Like most pieces with hard impact, the less you know about this piece going into it, the better. It’s messed up, and it’s the one that’s stayed in my mind the clearest after first reading it in 2012 when this collection came out.
This collection has the following mentions:
The 2013 ACT Writing and Publishing Award
“Sky” Winner of the Horror Short Story, Aurealis Award
Shortlisted Collection, Aurealis Award
Through Splintered Walls of Art – Finalist, The City of Kwinana Corporate Community Award