Month: August 2021

Book review – The Mind Travellers, by Phillip Boas

Title: The Mind Travellers — Book 1: Zed and Olaria

Author: Phillip Boas

Publisher: Shawline Publishing Group

Mind Travellers is a thought-provoking debut novel by Trentham’s Phillip Boas. Written as a science fiction tale, the story leverages Phillip’s experience as a psychologist, management consultant and leadership specialist.  These experiences have led him to consider how society might work if, from the boardroom to the bedroom, there were fewer ulterior motives, less deception and less duplicity in people’s lives.

Mind Travellers is set in the not-too-distant future.  An overcrowded Earth is struggling environmentally. Corporate dynastic families dominate the world; they see shifting people to other planets as a solution to overcrowding and a way of generating even more wealth for themselves.

The story’s main character, Dr Zed Eko, is a crew psychologist with Space Fleet Command. We first meet Zed as he boards the spacecraft Sunstreamer before it heads off on a special mission to investigate anomalies on a newly discovered planet. 

Arriving at the new planet, Zed and the mission crew meet the Olarians, a human- like race with powerful telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Knowing what everyone’s thinking makes it difficult to be deceitful.  Despite their abilities, the Olarians have problems of their own. 

What are we thinking? More books about telepaths!

at goodreads

Zed forms a relationship with the Olarian leader Olaria, which takes on another dimension when Olaria enables Zed’s latent telepathic abilities. From this point Zed’s life becomes complicated as Zed and Olaria become instrumental in influencing the relationship between humans and Olarians.

Phillip’s depiction of senior leadership personality traits is masterful. His portrayal of the head of Space Fleet Central Command has a disturbing degree of reality about it.  At times, Phillip is rather clinical in laying bare the games and subtle strategies of subterfuge used by senior leaders. 

Mind Travellers is an interesting read because of the values and concepts presented for conducting human relationships. There is a lot of emphasis on openness, honesty, and trust, something many might agree is lacking in our society today. While there are displays of telepathic force by Olaria and later Zed, Phillip has exercised restraint, recognising that one cannot make the ills of society better by waving a magic wand or simply wishing it so. 

This is a book written by a person who has had the opportunity to observe life at many levels, there is wisdom within its covers – it is well worth a read.

Reviewed by: Francis Thompson

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

August Members’ Night goes online

With new lockdown restrictions ruling out our usual meeting at the Bunch of Grapes, our monthly Members’ Night is going to Zoom on Wednesday 25 August. Details have been sent via newsletter, so please let us know if you have not received them or need assistance with navigating the Zoom environment! Fingers crossed we will be back at the table in September!

Book review – The Turnout, by Megan Abbott

Title: The Turnout

Author: Megan Abbott

Publisher: Hachette/Virago

Megan Abbott made her mark early with noir novels and more recently splashed onto Netflix with the adaptation of her novel Dare Me, set in the world of cheerleading. 

Here, she combines those influences with a contemporary Gothic atmosphere centred on a ballet school run by the sisters Dara and Marie and Dara’s husband, Charlie. All three have risen through the dance ranks under the tutelage of the girls’ mother, the pains, scents, jealousies and beauty of the art beautifully evoked as the school prepares for its signature annual production, The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky’s ballet is, we are told by one of Abbott’s characters, in part an exploration of desire, and Abbott makes full use of this as The Nutcracker infuses the story in theme and imagery. As with The Nutcracker, so too ballet; even the chapters are cut into small steps, each dramatically opening with a drop capital but the whole coming together in a smooth movement under Abbott’s assured direction.

Repetition in words and phrases adds to the lyrical quality in Abbott’s prose that may, very occasionally, make a small misstep but never stumbles. It’s an exquisite rendering, the book’s title itself a reference to a key ballet stance given extra meaning in Abbott’s skilled hands. 

The school, dated and drafty, and the trio’s home, even more tired and still echoing with the girls’ parents’ tumultuous relationship, form the key sites of this claustrophobic tale. We see, hear and smell these locations through Dara’s point of view as she stoically maintains the school’s tradition alongside the impetuous Marie and impaired, beautiful Charlie. 

The trio’s relationship is increasingly brought under pressure by the arrival of a stranger into the school and their lives. There are secrets and there are tragedies, and while these are unlikely to surprise, they do unfold in perfect timing across the novel’s four acts, allowing the sisters to have, like The Nutcracker’s heroine Clara, their journey from childhood to a newfound maturity and freedom. (It is no coincidence that Marie is an alternative name for the Nutcracker‘s Clara.)

This being an Abbott book, such a journey of discovery does not come without a cost, and nothing is assured. In this, the story again mirrors ballet: beauty built on pain, a journey that entrances every step of the way.

Reviewed by: Jason Nahrung

Jason is BWI communications officer / Review copy provided by the publisher

Book review – Sugar Town Queens, by Malla Nunn

Title: Sugar Town Queens

Author: Malla Nunn

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2021

Malla Nunn is a film director and multi-award-winning author of adult crime novels, plays and film scores and, more recently, two young adult novels. Sugar Town Queens is the second of these. She was born and raised in Swaziland before migrating to Western Australia with her family where she finished school and commenced her university studies. Since then, Malla has studied and worked in the USA and Zanzibar and is now settled with her husband in Sydney.

Like Malla herself, the protagonist of this story, Amandla, is a mixed-race girl. She lives with her mother, a white woman, in a one-roomed shack on a lane that has no name in a township a few miles from Durban. Their poverty is palpable. However, Amandla, despite the difficulties of her life – and there are many – points out that they are not the poorest, there are others even poorer.

As the story unfolds the reasons for their dire situation are revealed. These reasons revolve around events that occurred before Amandla’s birth fifteen years earlier. Something back then caused her mother, Annalisa, to develop gaps in her memory and to behave in some unorthodox ways. A white woman living in a township is the first of these, as is the isolation she imposes on Amandla and herself from the rest of the community. The book revolves around Amandla’s efforts to discover the reasons for her mother’s mental state and their living situation.

Amandla faces a range of issues in her quest for the truth. These include both overt and covert racism, the structural inequalities that still exist in Nelson Mandela’s South Africa of ‘rainbow people’, and her mother’s obvious mental health problems. A severe lack of physical and financial resources is more than met by the resourcefulness of Amandla herself, and the group of friends – the queens of the title – she gathers around her as she discovers facts important to her history and her future, and creates community for her and her mother. The strength and resilience of young people, particularly the young women of the story, as they cohere as a group is powerful. This is particularly so when they deal with a violent incident.

The writing is gripping, with well-rounded characters and (mostly) believable situations. Nunn’s depiction of family relationships in all their complexity is deft and nuanced. She weaves the larger issues of family, community, belonging, self-discovery and social inequality into the weft of a highly personal narrative. The exploration of characters who tend not to adhere to what is deemed acceptable adds to the complexity of the story without being heavy-handed.

Reviewed by: Elisabeth Bridson, June 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc Book Review Group

Southern Cross Short Story Competition 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc. (BWI) invites writers to enter the 2021 Southern Cross Short Story Competition.


Opening date:            1 August, 2021

Closing date:              30 September, 2021


Short stories to 3000 words on the theme, TURNING AWAY.

First prize –                $1000 AUD

Second Prize –          $400 AUD

Third Prize –              $100 AUD

Two Highly Commended certificates will also be awarded.

To be announced November 2021

Entry Fee to be paid online at: https://www.trybooking.com/BSYVW

Ballarat Writers Inc is a non-profit organisation, Incorporation No. A001874SK

2021 JUDGE – JULIE KOH

Julie is the author of two short-story collections. Her full-length collection Portable Curiosities was shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2016 and the Queensland Literary Awards – Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award 2016. Portable Curiosities was one of The Guardian’s Best Australian Books of 2016.

Julie’s short stories have appeared in many publications, including The Best Australian Stories in 2014 to 2017, Best Australian Comedy Writing, The Sleepers Almanac 7 to X, The Canary Press, Liminal, Meanjin and The Lifted Brow. 

She judged the 2017 Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative Writing, Writing NSW’s Varuna Fellowships 2017, the Sweatshop Youth Week Writing Competition 2018, the 2018 Stella Prize, the 2018 Woollahra Digital Literary Award – Flash and Short Fiction, and the 2019 Liminal Fiction Prize.

More at https://jylkoh.com/

WINNING WRITERS AND STORIES

The winning stories will be announced at an award presentation in Ballarat in November 2021. The full results and judge’s report will be published on the Ballarat Writers Inc website www.ballaratwriters.com in December 2021.

COMPETITION GUIDELINES

  1. Competition is open to anyone over the age of 18 years as of 1 August, 2021
  2. Entries must be NOT MORE THAN 3000 words including the title
  3. All entries must have a title
  4. Entries must be the original work of the applicant
  5. Entries must not have been published anywhere, broadcast, or won a prize in any competition
  6. Entry fee for non-BWI members is AUD$20 per story/entry
  7. Entry fee for BWI members is AUD$15 per story/entry
  8. Entrants may submit up to three entries, each at the specified entry fee
  9. The entry fee is payable online by credit card before midnight on the closing date 30 September 2021 – refer to submission instructions below
  10. Entries must be emailed to the email address below, before midnight on the closing date 30 September 2021 – refer to submission instructions below
  11. All entries to be in English, double-spaced and using the standard 12 point font ‘Times New Roman
  12. Entrant’s name must not appear on/in the story
  13. Fees will not be refunded
  14. No corrections will be accepted, or correspondence entered into
  15. Results will be announced on the website: www.ballaratwriters.com in December 2021
  16. Copyright remains with the author
  17. The judge’s decision is final
  18. Neither the BW Competitions Co-ordinator nor any person involved in pre-reading or judging of entries may enter.

N.B. By submitting an entry, or entries, to this competition, you give permission for your work to be published in part or in full on the Ballarat Writers Inc website, and/or in any Ballarat Writers Inc publications, and you further agree and declare that the work submitted is your own original work and has not been copied in part or in full from any other source.

SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS

The 2021 submission process has two parts:

  1. PAY the entry fee online by credit card through Trybooking. A booking fee of 50 cents applies to each entry. See below for the payment website.
  2. EMAIL your story to the email address below (ballaratwriterscompetitions@gmail.com). Save your story as a PDF file, and attach it to your email. In the subject title of your email, put ‘Southern Cross Competition 2021’. In the body of the email, include your full name and address, the title of the story and the word count. The email address by which you submit your entry will be the email address we use to contact you if necessary.

Both parts above must have been completed before midnight on the closing date 30 September, 2021.

Failure to follow/abide by any of the stated rules may make your entry, or entries, ineligible.


Submissions:
PAY fee online at: https://www.trybooking.com/BSYVW
EMAIL  story to: ballaratwriterscompetitions@gmail.com

Queries:

Email: ballaratwriterscompetitions@gmail.com
Competition website: www.ballaratwriters.com

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