Tag Archives: Australia

Review: And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

I loved Emma Viskic’s last book, Resurrection Bay, so much, I live-tweeted some of it while reading. I would absolutely have done the same thing while reading its follow-up, And Fire Came Down, except I was offline and on the road for some of it, and was gobbling it up too greedily to wait till Tweetbot was handy.

And Fire Came Down brings us back into the world of Caleb Zelic, who is very much suffering all the psychological and emotional effects of the events of Resurrection Bay. He’s still stubborn about letting people know he’s deaf, his relationship with his wife Kat is still strained, but not half as strained as his relationships with her relatives and indigenous community in Resurrection Bay itself, his brother, Ant, the police and his remaining friends.

In fact, Caleb has strained relations with anyone you’d care to mention. It’s not that he’s a bad person at all, but the aforementioned stubbornness and the uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, combined with nightmares and guilt, make him the King of Poor Decisions.

This terrific crime thriller opens with Caleb jogging – without his hearing aids, as usual – and becoming entangled with a frightened young woman seeking his help. Portia’s plea for assistance ends in assault and death. Caleb is driven to find out who sent her to him, what happened and why – despite everyone advising him not to.

If every relationship under the sun wasn’t strained before, they sure are now.

Just like with the first book, I spent a lot of time squirming in my chair and shouting at Caleb to for the love of god not to do some of the unwise things he does.  I love the guy and I wish he’d let people help him, or take the time to properly think through consequences.  For all his difficulties, he’s a very likeable character. He’s stubborn and sometimes thoughtless, but he’s also smart, courageous and full of sass. He cares very deeply for all these people he struggles to fully connect with.

Viskic manages to keep this fine balance going from start to end – we can empathise with Caleb, we like him, but damn, we wish he’d make some better decisions.

He’s surrounded by fascinating, complex, flawed people too.  Viskic is excellent at giving the reader fully rounded people, whose motivations may be unclear but convey the real and muddy business of being human.

Caleb’s dangerous misadventures attempting to unravel the circumstances of Portia Hirst’s death this time throw him into the path of drug dealers, bikies, Portia’s fractured family, attacks on the indigenous community of Resurrection Bay (many of whom are Kat’s relations) and sundry shady law enforcement types. Caleb’s former partner and friend, the disgraced Frankie – a splendidly real character – makes an appearance and Caleb is too close to violence more than once.

And Fire Came Down has the previous book’s heady mix of love, pride, prejudice, betrayal, tragedy, family fights and loyalties, and a town full of secrets – some of them deadly.  Viskic writes powerfully and with compassion, setting the perfect pace to create a vortex that sucks you right into her world

Resurrection Bay scooped up a bunch of awards. And Fire Came Down meets the expectations raised by this recognition and ups the ante.

Book three is going to be a cracker!

Buy And Fire Came Down

The Lady Novelist visits Mars (via Sydney)

img_5929During my train adventures in late October, I spent a few days in Sydney, taking in the MAAS Museum and its excellent Large Hadron Collider exhibition, the splendid production of My Fair Lady and a marvellous little shop called The Martian Embassy.

The Martian Embassy is the Sydney equivalent of the The Time Travel Mart literacy project I visited in Los Angeles in July this year. (The Melbourne version, The 100 Story Building, doesn’t have an entertaining shopfront, sadly, but does the same good work with young people.)

The Martian Embassy is filled with bizarre and entertaining ‘Martian’ exhibits and artefacts for sale, which makes it a fun place to visit and shop. The proceeds all go to the programs run by the organisation behind the Embassy – the Sydney Story Factory.

img_5922Those programs are aimed at assisting young people in the area to changte their lives through literacy, creative writing and storytelling. The seating and tables at the back of the store host workshops, and there’s a library for attendees to use.

When I was at the Time Travel Mart, I bought a little booklet of stories written by the kids who did the workshops. The Martian Embassy offered the same chance to support their project here. Whelp contains stories, poems and essays by young people from Sydney.

img_5928Its forward is by one of my favourite writers, Benjamin Law. The stories are hugely varied, full of flair, humour, imagination and, from time to time, startling insight. Some of the tales are downright Kafka-esque! It’s fabulous to read the result of the project’s work with young people.

Next time you’re in Sydney, drop in to The Martian Embassy at 176 Redfern Street, Redfern NSW 2016. In the meantime, you can: