Ana Paula Maria - Of Cattle and Men

 

Ana Paula Maria’s 99-page work, translated from Portuguese by Zoe Perry, won the 2024 Republic of Consciousness Prize. Described by judge by the judges as “both a tightly focused, utterly gripping human story and a devastating universal parable for our times” and “a gut-punch of a novel”, the action is set in a slaughterhouse in an isolated corner of Brazil where cows begin to disappear, seemingly by suicide.

 

Scratch the surface of the ordinary-looking community of Abyrne, and there’s deceit and depravity galore. Juxtaposing the banality of everyday life with the macabre in a town dominated by the twin forces of a sinister religious sect and a meat processing industry, d’Lacey conjures a wild, subversive story that probes the darkest corners of the human psyche. For lovers of horror fiction, it’s a gorily thrilling tale of predators, prey, religious gaslighting, and dirty money.

 

 

“Hands down, Natasha Pulley is one of the greatest writers of our generation.  If the human race survives beyond this crisis point, I fully expect our descendants to look back on her entire body of work as little short of genius. Her shaping of language, of character and the clarity and skill of her plots – to say nothing of the deeply scientific underlay and the rather clever experiments with time, leaves me ever in awe.

None of her books to date has been strictly Thrutopian- until now. If we stretch points a little, The Mars House is an examination of how things can go very, very badly wrong – and potentially how human nature leans towards decency in the end.” – Manda Scott

 

 

Claire North started writing when she was 14 years old.  This doesn’t guarantee that she’s a writing genius – but actually, she is. Notes from the Burning Age is set in a post-apocalyptic future where The Burning Age is a time remembered with great fear: humanity pushed too hard and the spirits of the earth, returned to exact…not quite revenge because they don’t care about people, but they did what they must to stop further damage and humanity barely survived…magically written.” – Manda Scott

Parable of the Sower

 

America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to feel the pain of others as her own, records everything she sees of this broken world in her journal. Then, one terrible night, everything alters beyond recognition, and Lauren must make her voice heard for the sake of those she loves. Soon, her vision becomes reality and her dreams of a better way to live gain the power to change humanity forever. This seminal cli-fi novel addresses climate change, social injustice, and corporate greed in a world that has, in the years since its publication, moved beyond fiction to reality.

The New Atlantis

 

You can’t go wrong with anything by Le Guin, but this novella is a remarkably prescient prediction of the climactic and geological upheaval wrought by a warming world. Set in the near-future in an America paralysed by corporate control of government, global warming is causing continents to sink, submerging much of the world under water. The people keep the dream alive that a new Atlantis will rise up out of the ocean. Written over forty years ago, this vision of hope sinking and hope rising is closer today than ever and Ursula Le Guin’s grim tale appears prophetic.

Stochasticity

 

Reg Stratton is a bouncer eking a life out in the decaying wilds just outside a dystopian post-oil Detroit – a city in collapse. But when he gets sucked into making a little money on the side by tasking out his time via an anonymous app, he finds himself tangled up with ecoterrorists who have a creative and fast-moving plan. Reg ends up in the middle of a riot that could change his life, the city, maybe even the world… as long as he keeps cool and makes the right choice. It’s a fun adventure that takes an unexpectedly hopeful turn.

This novella was originally a part of the award nominated Metatropolis series, edited by John Scalzi and Jay Lake.

Pride of Baghdad book cover

 

“Published almost 20 years ago, this graphic novel still feels frighteningly current. Pride of Baghdad focuses on the events of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and bombing of Baghdad. During the bombardment, the once-thriving city zoo was left abandoned. Reportedly many animals starved to death, while others were stolen by looters, and yet others – among them a small group of lions – managed to escape. This pride of lions reportedly roamed the ruins of the city for several days until they were discovered by US soldiers. ‘Pride of Baghdad’ imagines the dreams, fears, and misadventures of these creatures in the days before their death – spoiler, they (like so many innocent victims of that conflict) all perish in the end. 

To give you just a quick flavour of the story, our four anthropomorphised lions – Noor, Ali, Safa, and Zill – all have different take on the current circumstance. Thrust into the wide world, some embrace freedom while others long to return to the safety of captivity. We see flashbacks to traumatic events and dreams of brighter futures, but at its heart this is a simple tale of one family’s desire to find a home. This desire is shattered, however, by the realisation that the land has been ravaged by decades of conflict. There is no peace, no wilderness, no home to be found. There is only oil, and war. 

The brilliance of Vaughan’s storytelling here is in something I like to call ‘obvious-subtlety’. Like Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ and Adams’s ‘Watership Down’, these so-called creature-fables are told through the eyes of the non-human, creating a distance which softens the blow of tragedy and invites the reader to fill the gap with their own experience. There’s no hiding the truth of what’s happening, after all, one of the thrills of a graphic novel is that it’s graphic. One particular panel shows an exploding giraffe – quite possibly the definition of non-subtle. But also, the author isn’t trying to force-feed you any kind of ideology. The message may be subtle, but the medium delivers it with obvious, through sometimes blunt, precision. And while bluntness may not be the best way to change the world, generations of activists have proven that sometimes we need hammers just as much as we need poems to shatter the walls around us.

– Philip Webb Gregg 



Gigantic Beard that was evil book cover

 

Who was it that said the best way to teach a lesson is to tell a story? Whoever it was, I don’t doubt they would take their hat off to Collins. 

What exactly is the lesson? I’ve no idea, but I know that by the time you put this graphic novel down you’ll be changed. Something inside you will click and unlock, and you’ll be more open-minded afterwards. Perhaps the lesson is simply to embrace ‘the other’, or to rigidly reject authoritarianism, or perhaps it’s just that you let things that wish to grow, grow. 

The Gigantic Beard that Was Evil’ tells the story of an island where everything is ordered. A land ruled by straight lines and schedules, where everyone lives in neat little houses with neat little lawns. That is until our protagonist, Dave the everyman, finds himself utterly overcome by a huge, unstoppable and monstrous beard. Oh dear, chaos has arrived at the island. 

Told through gentle but well-crafted rhyme and illustrated in stunning black and white crosshatch perfection, this book should be on everyone’s shelves. It’s both beautifully surreal and deeply, sadly real. And best of all, it’s funny enough to make Road Dahl wet himself. 

– Philip Webb Gregg

 

 

The story is exactly what it sounds like: a modern retelling of the Coleridge poem. Told by a grizzled old codger to a young screen-eyed stranger in a park, Hayes takes the original eco-fable and updates it, weaving in plastic pollution and the dehumanisation of humanity when disconnected from the natural world. There are vengeful apparitions, oil slicks and raging tsunamis, not to mention the endlessly mounting corpses of the creatures of the ocean.

Hayes’s poetry is lyrical and energetic, alternately summoning laughter, tears, and moments of reflection. But the real magic at play here is the artwork. Reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts, there’s a simplicity to his highly-detailed lines that allows breathing space while demanding fervent attention.

Of course, you won’t be surprised to learn that nobody listens to our modern mariner. His tale is disregarded as the ravings of a mad hobo, and he is left alone on a park bench, listening to the wind and wondering at the strangeness of humanity. – Philip Webb Gregg