Tag Archives: Melbourne

Review: Black Glass by Meg Mundell

Black Glass by Meg MundellMeg Mundell’s debut novel, Black Glass, is set in a dystopian near-future Melbourne. A friend recently asked me why so many books set in the future were dystopian. Thinking about it, I think that very few books (historical, present or future) are ever set in a Utopia. If everything is happy and perfect, there isn’t a lot of dramatic potential. A spanner has to be thrown in the works to get a story going.

Black Glass has multiple spanners and multiple works, but the two key ones are the lives of Tally and Grace, sisters who are separated at the beginning of the book by a violent explosion. As the book flashes towards an ending that is also violently explosive, it’s anybody’s guess whether the sisters will find each other again.

The story is told in fragments, echoing numerous images of shattered glass, from the sisters’ world suddenly blown apart to the abandoned glass factory that Tally later makes her home. Some fragments follow Tally’s story, others follow Grace, while yet others follow journalist Damon, the artist Milk or others who will eventually converge in the final pages.

The technique has a very cinematic quality, and sometimes has a very strobe-like sense of disorientation. It suits the world that Melbourne has become very well—a disjointed patchwork of zones inhabited by strict policing, manipulative power brokers, the correctly documented and the ‘undocs’, the definite ‘have nots’. And although it’s not an immediately recognisable Melbourne, I did enjoy the passing references to places I knew and places I could imagine.

Tally and Grace, and most of the people they meet, are undocs, scraping a living on the streets and avoiding both police round-ups and the nastier elements in their precarious world. Each sister falls in with a different circle of folks living on the edge, which gives Mundell ample room to explore issues of identity and control. Everyone we meet, whether undoc or legit, has competing interests, potential dangers and a need to hide part or all of themselves in order to survive.

Mundell’s style flows easily. The deceptively simple approach seems to gloss many things over, except that enough clues have been given that we know what is really going on without things having to be spelled out. These story shards seem slight at times, but they are sharp.

Dark but never hopeless, Black Glass is a fast-paced, intriguing piece of speculative fiction.

Buy Black Glass from Readings as a paperback or as an e-book from Booki.sh.

See the b0ok trailer!

GaryView: Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant

Gary and LissaSnippets of conversation overheard during the evening…

Lissa: Thanks for coming with me tonight, Gary. You may have saved my life.

Gary: I thought you said it was just a work thing.

Lissa: It is. And I love my job, but I hate work functions. I never know what to talk about besides work.

Gary: … I know what you mean. I never even had a job to talk about.

Lissa: You and I always have lots to talk about.

Gary: I know.  <smiles>

Lissa: Anyway, I thought you might enjoy checking Dracula’s out.

Gary: I came here once before. In the 80s, to see what it was like.

Lissa: And what was it like?

Gary: Okay. I couldn’t eat anything, and I didn’t understand any of the jokes, and I was by myself so people kept giving me funny looks. But the decorations were really good.

Lissa: Well, we can keep each other company a bit this time.

***

Lissa: Gary, this is my boss, Beatrice.

Beatrice: So your Lissa’s mysterious Gary!

Gary: Ah. Yes. (looks at Lissa) Am I mysterious?

Lissa: Not to me.

Beatrice: But all she ever says is “I’m seeing Gary this weekend” but she doesn’t tell us anything about you.

Lissa: There’s not much more to say, is there Gary?

Gary: No. We get together and watch TV mostly.

Lissa: And talk.

Beatrice: I’ll bet there’s more to it.

Lissa: Gary and I are just friends, Beatrice.

Beatrice: ‘Friends’ is good, but (c0nspiratorially to Gary) it sounds like more than friends when she talks about you.

Gary: (deadpan) That’s because I’m really a vampire and Lissa and I sometimes get caught up in vampire business.

Beatrice: (roars with laughter and slaps Gary on the arm) I can see why you like him, Lissa! Good on you for getting in the mood, Gary!

Lissa: (trying to get the startled look off her face) Yeah, he’s a hoot.

***

Lissa: Gary, stop telling me what’s coming up in the ghost ride. It’s supposed to be a surprise.

Gary: But I can see what’s there.

Lissa: That’s because you can see in the dark. But you’re kind of spoiling the fun.

Gary: But you don’t really think it’s scary do you? It’s just animatronics and a soundtrack and Oh!!

Lissa: (dies laughing) You got scared by the wind machine!!!

***

Gary: I don’t get it.

Lissa: Well, I’m not going to explain it.

Gary: I mean, I know it’s a joke about sex. I just don’t know why it’s supposed to be funny.

Lissa: I don’t either, Gary. Never mind. They’ll be singing again soon.

Gary: The singing’s pretty good. Even though that’s not about vampires either. I really thought there’d be more vampire stuff in the show.

Lissa: They did the song from True Blood. That was cool.

Gary: Yeah.

***

Gary: Is that a chocolate coffin?

Lissa: It is! It’s delicious!

Gary: Smells good.

Lissa: You think it all smells good.

Gary: Yep.

Lissa: Tastes good too!

***

Beatrice: God, Gary, did you buy everything?

Gary: No. Just the programme. Lissa bought me the glass. See. It’s a skull with vampire teeth.

Beatrice: I know! I got one for Jean too.

Gary: That’s Mrs Beatrice, isn’t it?’

Lissa: Gary!

Beatrice: (laughing) I know it’s what you all call her, you know. It drives Jean nuts, but I kind of like it.

Jean: (grabs Beatrice by the hand) At my work, they call you Mrs Jean.

Beatrice: Oh, excellent. I like that too.

Gary: Nice to meet you both. Mrs Beatrice. Mrs Jean.

Beatrice: (roars with laughter) Seriously, Lissa, your friend is a hoot.

Lissa: Yep. (grins at Gary) He is.

***

Lissa: Did you have a good night?

Gary: I did. Thanks for asking me along.

Lissa: Thank you so much for coming. I had a good time too. And Beatrice thinks you’re awesome.

Gary: That’s because she thinks I’m joking when I’m not.

Lissa: Maybe. Still. I’m really glad you came.

Gary: Me too. Even if most of the jokes and music weren’t about vampires.

Lissa: At least you got a vampire skull drinking cup out of it.

Gary: And it flashes! (turns on the light switch at the bottom of the cup. They watch the vampire skull glass flash multiple colours and admire its schlockiness for a while.)

***

Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant has been operating in Melbourne for over 30 years.

*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’. Visit my website for more information.