A (literally) mind-bending YA Dystopian, based on Australian Aboriginal beliefs, that is even better the second time.
Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose, a man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured, vulnerable, with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
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Source: I purchased this book myself on mp3 CD
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolfe by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Candice Moll, published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio (2014) / Length: 8 hrs 46 min
This is #1 of 3 in "The Tribe" trilogy. Book #2, The Disappearance of Ember Crow, is due to be released in the US on 5/10/16. (The entire series has already been published in Australia.)
Interrogation is one of those books that means something entirely different when you finish it than it meant when you started. There is much I would love to say but can't.
This book won't be for everyone. The real action starts very late, and character is the story for the most part. That is not to say that the plot isn't well done, it is. It also might not be for you if you need a very linear type of narrative. The story is full of flashbacks, many of which are presented out of order.
That said, this is one of the books that is always on my player. I have listened to it a couple of times already, and am always finding some subtle new point to love.
In my original (pre-blog) review, I wrote, "If you like: young adult books; books with social commentary (which doesn't overwhelm); Dystopias; Paranormals; unique world building (based on Australian mythology, which I hadn't encountered before); a touch of romance; character driven books that still have a plot; actually surprising plot twists; books that aren't all action (but have still some); and powerful females - you should like this book."
Note: Audible has this categorized as "Ages 11-13," which is incorrect. This is YA, not MG, and the main characters are mostly older teens.
Ashala: a paranormally gifted teen in a post-apocalyptic society that "detains" all such individuals for the good of the "Balance." Believing that this is both unnecessary and wrong, she has chosen to runaway and live free with a "tribe" of other such teenagers and children, who consider her to be their leader. Before the book begins, she is captured by a particularly malevolent individual and is desperate to avoid betraying any secrets.
"You're not just one illegal."
"You are the Tribe, Ashala."
I frowned and he continued, "You were the leader, the glue that held them together. Now that you're gone, it won't be long before they start squabbling with one another and leave the safety of the First Wood."
Connor: the detention center guard in charge of her, with whom she has a complicated past; and for whom she feels an unwanted attraction. I get tired of abnormally beautiful YA heroes; but here it worked, since it is all tied in with Georgie's opinion that he looks like a marble angel (and the whole discussion as to the angels' fate). I admit, I kind of liked him from the start, despite her having described him as:
coldly perfect and perfectly cold
and this conversation:
"I will do what I must in order to preserve my world."
"I'm just one illegal trying to live free. You really think that capturing me, putting a collar around my neck, and interrogating me is necessary to save your world?"
There was an unmistakable ring of conviction in his voice. He truly thought I was some kind of unnatural thing. And it hurt.
The book takes place in two main settings: Detention Center #3 and The First Wood. Ashala first describes DC3 likes this:
We’d been walking through long white hallways for a while, so we had to be getting closer to our destination, except I didn’t know how close. This entire sprawling complex was made out of composite, a super-tough building material churned out by the recyclers. Every wall, floor, and ceiling was the same: smooth, pale, and embedded with tiny flecks of color that caught the light. I’d always thought composite was kind of pretty, but being surrounded by so much of it made me feel lost. It was difficult to tell exactly where in the detention center I was.
And here is an interesting addition:
I was sitting on a bench, looking out over, of all things, a park. Stretching out in front of me was a grassy oval with spindly young trees, gleaming composite benches, and a whole lot of shiny play equipment at the far end. If it wasn’t for the high wire fence around it, and the rest of the center beyond that, I could have been in any park, anywhere. It was all so strange that I felt slightly dizzy.
The park reminded me of the yard in a regular prison. It is the place where the children, "in white clothes and collars," are taken out to play before being locked in their rooms again for nap time. I found it kind of creepy to be honest.
Beyond begin a setting, the First Wood is almost a character, and I am not going to say much about it.
Note: I was somewhat confused by all the different "abilities" and their names. It appears that there are some more common & understood abilities (such as Menders - who can heal), and are also more unique ones as well (like Ashala's Sleepwalking). I am hoping that we learn more about these in the next books.
I don't know enough about Aboriginal beliefs to comment on how much they shaped the story, but I loved the grandfather serpent and the sheltering forest.
Beginning: The first time I listened to this book, I was hooked right away. The second time, I realized how skillfully the author introduced a couple dozen people, places, and things in a short span of time.
Ending; Although the greater societal issues have not all been resolved, this book has a wonderfully satisfactory conclusion.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
- Ashala's interactions with The Machine
- The scene where Ashala is taking Jaz to the Saurs
- Like many other fictional heroes, one of Ashala's strongest leadership traits is her ability to see the best in everyone; but the author is not afraid to explore the dark side of that disposition.
- No love triangle! Ashala's unwanted feelings for Connor are an issue; but it isn't endlessly dwelt upon, and we don't get loads of mooning about his attractiveness.
- This bit from the beginning:
This morning I’d smiled at a fellow prisoner, a dark-haired, brown-skinned girl dressed in white detainee shirt and pants. She’d seemed so frail, so defeated, that I’d wanted to cheer her up. Then I’d realized I was looking in a mirror. It had been a dreadful shock. How could I have changed so much? They’d only caught me yesterday! Surely I wasn’t — surely I couldn’t be — that sad-eyed girl, at least not where it counted, not on the inside. Because she’d seemed terrifyingly vulnerable. As if she were the kind of girl who might tell secrets to the government. The kind who could be broken by the machine.
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The cover - I am NOT a fan. She looks like a demented killer.
I listened on my usual 1.25, but don't mind listening on regular speed. / Authentic Australian narrator & accent / Voice sounds right for Ashala's age / Really good inflection; I felt like she really captured the complex emotions and undertones in this story. / Male voices not highly masculine (but I love how smoothly smarmy Neville sounds)
Talk to Me (pretty please)
- Any recommendations for other books based on Aboriginal or Native beliefs?
- Are there any of your Favorite books that you're afraid to talk about for fear you might give something away?
- What are the "simple" things in life that you just can't wrap your head around? (Read about the author's difficulties with doors in the interview below.)
- If you are a first time visitor, how did you discover my blog?
- I recently debuted my redesigned blog. What do you think?
Bonus Author Interview
How did your cultural background and beliefs shape the world of The Tribe?
The Tribe series is a work of Indigenous Futurisms, a form of storytelling where Indigenous people use the speculative fiction genre to challenge colonialism and imagine Indigenous futures. So I wrote of a world where Ashala and her Tribe have a deep connection to the earth, and where that connection is part of their everyday lives. This reflects my reality, and that of the generations of Palyku people who came before me. I also wrote of a world where a government systematically incarcerates children. This, too, is part of my reality – it is the world in which my ancestors lived, whereby generations of Australian Indigenous children were forcibly removed as part of what are now called the Stolen Generations. My great-grandmother and my grandmother were among those who were taken.
GMB: It is terrible to know that this was still going on when I was born. I have a friend who is full blooded Native American, and we were recently discussing the similar experiences of the Navajo half of her family. It saddened me to hear of her grandmother’s struggles to regain lost language and cultural knowledge.
What other SciFi or Fantasy books can you recommend for people who would like to read more about Australian Aboriginal characters and beliefs?
In the kids lit field in which I write, Teagan Chilcott and Tristan Michael Savage both write SFF – but I don’t think anyone wanting to learn about Australian Indigenous peoples should start with a particular genre, because Indigenous stories often don’t fit well into Western genre categories. Instead, explore the vast range of stories written by Australian Indigenous authors that will so often defy or subvert genre expectations – and there’s no better place to begin than with the terrific catalogue of the amazing Indigenous publisher Magabala Books.
What can we, as readers, do to increase diversity in fiction (besides voting with our wallets)?
Support #ownvoices – which is to say, books written by diverse writers about our own experiences. Share, like, review, and promote ownvoices books!
How did you choose/come up with your lead character(s) name(s)?
The name was a gift from my brother Blaze. In fact, he thought up the title of the first book but since he didn’t want to write the story himself, he gave the title to me.
How long did it take you to write this book?
A year. A really long year in which I stayed up writing most nights and drank vast quantities of coffee.
Tell us something about yourself that we might not already know.
I cannot dance. Sing. Play sports. And I am frequently perplexed by doors (the word ‘PULL’ can be written on a door in very large letters, and I will still try to push it open).
GMB:That’s funny; I had to teach my 4 year old niece how to read “push” and “pull” this fall, since she’s a full-tilt kind of girl and kept running into doors. The nearly impossible part was getting her to slow down long enough to do the reading.
You can find more information at: www.ambelin-kwaymullina.com.au
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