Review: Langue [dot] doc 1305 by Gillian Polack

One of the things I enjoy most about Gillian Polack’s books, besides their quirky sense of humour, is how wonderfully she explores the everyday and the ordinary, giving them texture and depth so that they’re not ordinary or mundane at all.

In Langue [dot] doc 1305 Polack marries her deep knowledge as a Medievalist to a favourite SF trope – time travel to the days of knights, lords and peasants – and then does her usual magic of transforming the ordinary into the profound.

Artemesia Wormwood (a name she chose for herself) finds herself a last-minute addition to a team of Australian scientists travelling back in time to  Languedoc, France, to the year 1305. She’s taken on the task of team historian for the money – her sister needs it for cancer treatment – but when she goes back in time she finds the scientists generally don’t have interest in, let alone respect for, her expertise.

The team is meant to be studying the era without interacting with it, and especially not with the inhabitants of the local town, St-Guilhem-le-Desert. You can imagine how successful that turns out to be.

The inevitable folding together of medieval humanity and the time team is subtle and slow, and Polack interleaves the lives of both groups of people with a gentle but inexorable rhythm.

We see parallels and echoes of each group in the other. The mischief makers and the leaders; those who are arrogant and those who are quietly trying to keep their society functioning; the friendships and the growing emnities.

Artemesia keeps trying to warn the time team that the people out there are real and that these are dangerous times. As the two groups begin to interact in small ways, however, even Artemesia may be getting complacent through her role as liaison with the knight Guilhem, himself an outsider looking for his place in the community.

Langue [dot] doc 1305 has many delights, from the superb low key characterisation that develops such wonderful, fully human people, to Polack’s equally low key yet pointed storytelling which points out how many fallacies people retain about what it is to be human in the medieval era.

Some characters are more sympathetic than others, though Polack’s compassion in drawing out human frailty and strengths means that your sympathies may wax and wane until the last few chapters. Artemesia’s playful academic humour and the way she’s often relegated by her colleagues to ‘pointless, useless irritant’ ensure you’re on her side from the start.

The build up to the confrontations of the conclusion is steady but never dull. When the final events take place (within the caves that are temporary home to the team, within the village, and where those two connect) they have a strong impact on both characters and reader.

I love the texture, intelligence, compassion and craft of Gillian Polack’s writing. I love her quiet women finding their strength and her wit. I love her perspective as a Jewish Australian and her great humanity as a writer.

And I loved Langue [dot] doc 1305.

Since the sad demise of Satalyte Publishing, Langue [dot] doc 1305 is  out of print. Happily, it’s due to be rereleased later in the year. (I’ll blog again then when it’s available.)

In the meantime, if you can’t wait, you can try Abe Books or contact Gillian Polack directly on Twitter or through her website for one of the first edition copies she still has.

 

News: Support me on Patreon! (There are books in it for you)

Narrelle M Harris on Patreon

In December 2017 I began a Patreon account to help fund my fiction writing.

My first Patreon project is to re-release my first book, made up of two novellas – Fly By Night and Sacrifice – as a novella series under the banner, Duo Ex Machina.

The Duo Ex Machina series is about Frank Capriano and Milo Bertolone, loving couple and members of the two-man band, Duo Ex Machina, and their infrequent and unpleasant encounters with crime.

Fly By Night

My first Patreon target has been achieved – I’ve re-edited and re-released Fly By Night with a beautiful new cover by Willsin Rowe.

Sacrifice is being edited and posted as fortnightly chapters to my supporters, and will be released to them as a complete e-book in due course.

I’ll be writing three more e-books in the series: Number One Fan, Kiss & Cry, and Little Star, each set in years and decades following the first two novellas, set in 1999 and 2004 respectively.

Your Patreon pledges will allow me to make time to write these three new novellas, as well as paying Willsin Rowe for new cover art and formatting of the final stories for mobi and epub versions.

I’ll also be collecting a number of other short stories and writing new ones for free story collection, Scar Tissue and Other Stories, when I reach my initial income goal of $100 a month.

I aim to give my backers value for money, so there’ll be posts about Melbourne (where most of the stories will be set), my inspirations, sneak peaks of other works in progress, bits of other writing and writing tutorials (depending on which tier you support).

Stay tuned for the new cover images and new releases, or support me on Patreon for early access to the stories, other fiction, writing advice and more!

Become a Patron!

If you you’d rather buy Fly By Night outright, you can find it at:

Words are like oxygen

%d bloggers like this: