Review: The Female Factory by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter

tffllhasSeries: Twelve Planets #11
Published by:
Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13:
9781922101150 (paperback)
ASIN:
B00SUS9ZDC  (kindle)
Published: 
November 2014
Pages: 
150
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

The Female Factory is the eleventh 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 several 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 four short stories that, as one can expect from our best writing duo in Australia, absolutely blow the reader away. I don’t think I’ve come across a bit of their writing yet that hasn’t been perfect – haunting, leaving an impact, horror-filled and yet still somehow beautiful… this has it all. Hannett and Slatter have it all, and I can’t wait to see and love everything they do in the future.

Vox

A couple, Kate and Nick, go to a fertility clinic – though it has a few differences in their slightly more futuristic world, than our current one today. Though most of their money and months of trying every possible thing they finally conceive, and though there’s dawning happiness, Kate feels niggles of worry that she then feels guilty for.

The advances and plot points of this story make it hard to discuss as the spoilers are what’s most interesting and gripping about this new world, and the issues it brings with it. Pregnancy can be a scary, heartbreaking thing.

Baggage

Robyn thinks of herself as old Robyn and new Robyn – old didn’t wear subtle makeup, she mispronounced things, had bleached hair… New keeps quiet and polite more often than not, charms the clients as she’s been trained, and doesn’t tell her handler to fuck off. New is also a walking talking incubator for the rich and famous – at the time of her next appointment, she currently has six chances of life inside her, and uses carefully controlled pills to keep the opportunities in stasis until the full payment has been rendered for each.

This is utterly creepy with the power and control that’s involved, and how it all seems so possible. Set mostly in rural Victoria we still see that outside Melbourne it’s still dusty and remote, which certainly makes it seem like it’s not overly far into the future. And, like the first piece in the collection, we see human nature is both ruthless and greedy for the same things, still.

All the Other Revivals

Baron is considered weird by everyone around him, except for his ‘mother’ who has now passed on. Baron is from one of the women with an ungodly womb (like how we’ve seen in the previous short stories) but was raised by a lovely woman and an incredibly wealthy man who practically runs the small-ish country town, which doesn’t buy much affection for Baron. Too weird even for boarding school, when home, Baron avoids the other kids who don’t invite him to join in anyway, and wouldn’t be able to even if they did ask.

There’s a billabong. And with it, comes ‘a swimming’. Not very often, and it’s talked of in whispers and gossip the whole town shares within 24 hours. Baron witnesses one occur, and with a little knowledge of them himself he is good at keeping secrets – until he’s not, at least. And then things take a turn for the worse…

What gets me, about Hannett and Slatter’s work, is that things don’t tend to have a happy ending or a explosive ending… they’re just all realistic, fading into black, leaving the real ending up to the imagination of the reader.

The Female Factory

Bridewell Female Factory is a place for criminals and their children, organised by rank which determines what work they’ll do while incarcerated. There’s also a band of children that secretly do the matrons work, which involves digging up the dead and bringing them back in secret to the surgeon, who dissects them – both he and matron have their own goals in mind through this grisly work.

We see multiple points of view and goals in this piece, from the children to the matron herself, and see what drives them all – knowledge, a better life, something they’re all missing…

Being Hannett and Slatter though, this one is more grisly than the rest, being the novella-length piece in the collection beside the previous three short stories. We have a fuller landscape and more attention for all characters, drawing you in for a longer burn as we get to a conclusion I’m not sure I’m ready for. Their writing is powerful and some of the best we have in Australia, so get this collection – you won’t be disappointed.

This collection has the following mentions:

Aurealis Award for Best Collection (2014)

Honourable mention in the Norma K. Hemming Awards

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