Tag Archives: books

Review: Highway Bodies by Alison Evans

It’s always fabulous to have new zombie fiction set in Australia, and it’s ten times as grand when the zombie fiction in question has as much personality, drama and heart as Alison Evans’ new YA book, Highway Bodies.

The story is divided into three-chapter sections: the first from the point of view of a teen near the epicentre of the zombie outbreak; the second from a  group of young musicians taking a week away in the country to work on songs; the third a pair of non-identical twins whose mother is a nurse at a hospital where the outbreak is getting out of hand.

These young people are diverse and queer. As their stories are told and eventually converge, we learn that the world has always been hostile for them – the twins, for example, bear scars inflicted by a violent father. In trying to survive, each group is aware that other survivors are just as – or even more – dangerous to them than the mindless zombies.

Evans has a deft hand in giving each of the three main narrators their own distinctive voice. A lot of what happens is gruesome as each is confronted with the zombie infestation, mitigated by the humanity of the characters’ responses and fears for the lives of their loved ones.

The story leads to a conclusion that isn’t a safe geographical point so much as a fierce dedication to supporting each other in a world where everything is hostile. It’s a bit like actual life in that way.

For all the gore and violence, Highway Bodies manages to be simultaneously uplifting in the love and protectiveness its protagonists feel for each other. Love for family (both born and made) and friendships are the motivating forces for each of them, and there’s tenderness, loyalty and love at the heart of the end of the world.

As zombie fiction it’s fast-paced and full of the types of zombie encounters we love to read about. As an allegory for growing up queer in an environment that’s hostile to your very existence, it has power beyond the surface story.

Highway Bodies is thematically reminiscent of Mary Borsellino’s fantastic work in Ruby Coral Cornelian, The Devil’s Mixtape, Thrive and others – diverse kids in a hostile world, whose best weapon and best hope is love.

Evans’ second book is a corker, and I can’t wait to read whatever they write next.

Buy Highway Bodies (RRP $19.99)

2018: My writing year – and my year to come: 2019

On the brink of a new year, I’m looking back on 2018 with satisfaction and maybe a smidge of exhaustion. 2019 looks to be just as full of writing challenges and delights!

In case you missed anything, I’ve summarised my writing year below – and teased with some of my upcoming projects for 2019!

Thank you all for your support during the year – 2018 was fraught in many ways, but I hope it brought rewards as well. May 2019 bring you more of what you love, and more of what heals you.

<3 Narrelle

2018

Holmes and Watson in Love

My second Improbable Press Holmes/Watson book came out in June. A Dream to Build a Kiss On is a single story arc told over 100 stories of exactly 221 words each and the last word of each story begins with b. 221b. 🙂 It’s the first of a series of 221b stories for IP. (The second was A Study in Velvet and Leather, which I adore.)

Writing 100 stories in that format, and with a contemporary setting, was a challenge which I enjoyed immensely. I may even take it up again later next year!

Music

Although not yet published, Kitty and Cadaver made an official debut with a song! “The Rain Song” appears about half way through the book. The band Bronze has released it on their EP The Razorback Five Track.

(And yes, one of the songs on the EP is inspired by that Ausploitation horror film, Razorback!)

Here is “Rain Song” – a song about precipitation which is also a spell to make it rain!

Short Fiction

I sold a few Holmes and Watson stories during the year: in one, I recast them as contemporary Australian hipsters in “The Problem of the Three Journals“, solving crime and serving excellent coffee, for the Baker Street Irregulars: The Game Is Afoot anthology.

A Gentleman’s Disagreement“, a sequel to “The Blue Carbuncle”, is a more traditional story from Dr Watson’s point of view, in

I admit the most fun I had with short fiction this year was my contribution to Grant Me the Carving of My Name, a collection of stories about Richard III edited by Alex Marchant and designed to raise funds for the Scoliosis Association UK.

One of my very few science fiction tales was published this year too – “Earworm Armageddon“, told from the PoV of a deaf protagonist, was picked up by Jay Henge publishing for Wavelengths.

Patreon and Duo Ex Machina

My most massive achievement this year – in term of words and time – was setting up my Patreon, through which I’ve re-edited and re-published my two M/M crime novellas, Fly By Night and Sacrifice.

These novellas were first published in 2004 by Homosapien Press. Now I’ve repackaged them as the Duo Ex Machina series, and the third (and brand new) novella, Number One Fan, is being published in fornightly chapters for my Patreon supporters. (Thanks guys!)

I also prepped a few reprinted stories and wrote a whole slew of fresh ones for the Scar Tissue and Other Stories collection for my Patreon supporters. (Thank you again – you guys are the best.)

My patrons received the book in November, and the official release (a co-production with Clan Destine Press) is scheduled for around February 2019, after a few delays pushed it back.

2019

Three books!

So before the year even begins, I have writing news for 2019. There’s Scar Tissue and Other Stories for February – which, among other things, contains short stories set in the Ravenfall, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, The Vampires of Melbourne series and Kitty and Cadaver universes!

Then in March, the third Duo Ex Machina novella, Number One Fan, will finish its chapter-by-chapter run and be prepared for an ebook release.

Pipping that one at the post will be Grounded, a spec fic romance about two people who can’t fly in a world with wings. Escape Publishing has done a beautiful job of the cover and I’m excited to see this book released on 20 March!

Still to come

Of course, this only brings us to March. I’m sitting on an announcement for a short story that’s been accepted – when the anthology is officially announced I’ll send out the news first in my new newsletter, Mortal Whispers.

The first novel I’m working on for the year (now that Grounded is all edited and ready to go) is Kitty and Cadaver.  I’m hoping for that to come out mid year in time for some SF conventions in June.

I plan to tackle the third in the Vampires of Melbourne series, which will coincide with a re-release of the first two books as ebooks with new covers.

I’ll also be working on the fourth Duo Ex Machina novella, Kiss and Cry from April onwards.

Folks. It’s gonna be another big year!