Entertaining post apocalyptic road trip written in an easily digestible pidgeon, detailing a young man s hunt for the love of his love who has been stolen by an intelligent truck The narrative is fairly straightforward, and the climax is telegraphed fairly early, but the language, setting and characterisation carry the story along at a cracking pace and makes for a satisfying read. Utterly unique, distinctly Australian science fiction Brilliant and inventive from beginning to end. In A Post Apocalyptic Australian Landscape Dominated By Free Wheeling Cyborgs, A Young Man Searches For His Lost Lover Who Has Been Kidnapped By A Rogue AI Truck, The Brumby King Along The Way, He Teams With Sinnerman, A Cyborg Truck With Its Own Reasons For Hating The Brumby King Before His Final Confrontation With The Brumbies, He Must Learn About The Broken Down World And His Own Place In It And Then Face His Worst Fears Wildly Inventive, Moving And Exquisitely Written, Trucksong Is A Coming Of Age Story About How The Only Meaning To Be Found In A World In Slow Decay Is That Which You Make For Yourself This review originally appeared on the Newtown Review of Books dystopian stories have been popular for a long time now and seem increasingly so They allow us to play out our worst fears climate collapse, alien invasion, zombie attack while clinging to the hope that humanity in some form might survive Particularly in the YA area, but in adult fiction, TV and movies too, many dystopias feature resourceful, basically good protagonists fighting to save and nurture a society where human decency still has a place This is the territory of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games books or Melanie Stryder of Stephanie Meyer s non vampire novel The Host We even see it in shows like The Walking Dead Sure the characters have their dark moments, and some go way off beam, never to recover, but most want to live in peace and rebuild what they had.There is a strand of dystopia, which is particularly strong in Australian writing, that occupies aambiguous space Part of the pattern informed possibly by the very first Mad Max movie is its brutality The people in these stories areselfish,animalistic, less trustworthy Bonds of friendship unravel when put under pressure, pacts and truces last only as far as the next meal Perhaps it s a reflection of the harsher Australian environment that many of our home grown dystopias have this sensibility, leavening the darkness also in typically Australian manner with stark humour that s black and bitter and ironic These books are alsowilling to tackle complex issues head on Books like Kim Westwood s The Daughters of Moab, which deals with sexual and gender intolerance, as well as her Aurealis Award winning short story Terning tha Weel , strongly occupy this space Or Paul Haines s highly charged and unforgiving novella Wives, about the lack of women in small town Australia and the lengths some men will go to in order to get a wife These stories are visceral and grungy You can hear the corrugated iron ticking in the heat, feel the sweat tracking down your back and smell the dust mixed with unwashed bodies Set solidly in this mould is Trucksong, the debut novel from Andrew Macrae.As a child, John Ra was found by the side of the road, clinging to the stiffening body of his mother, who had died in childbirth Taken in by Smoov, a showman, and his daughter Isa, he travels from shanty town to shanty town, where Smoov channels images from the Wotcher a deranged satellite as part of his trancemission show to tell others of the way things used to be when humanity lived in sentient gigacities instead of scraping a bleak existence from the middens of a decaying past Sun went down, lightning in the west crackling dry sheets No smell of rain I strung the white tarp from where the show would come forth And then the Wotcher spun, moving slow and the flash of it came up from the east like a shining eye in the sky There was a gasp from the folks in the camp as it passed and the wonderment from the crowd that something like that could be so high up and move so slow and regular, and the power of those who must have put it there, and the hope that there d be another way back to the time when a vessel could be launched and floated like a star In the wake of its passing it left its messages in the showman s linkmaker and out of the crackle of static and noise came the signs the showmans used to earn their meat and their smoke They could listen the Wotcher They could sing the signal and tune to the freek of it.Isa believes that if she can just get access to Smoov s trancecrypts, she can find the pattern to reseed the gigacities and reclaim the past John Ra doesn t want to save the world All he wants is to be with Isa and for Smoov to stop bashing him But everything changes when a group of sentient trucks, led by the Brumby King, raids the town and takes Isa John, using the linkmaker, teams up with Sinnerman, another sentient truck with a grudge against the Brumby King, to get Isa back.The moral landscape of Trucksong is refreshingly tangled No one, least of all John, is wholly good or bad Actions are fuelled by needs and wants not reason and regretted later The characters want to make things right for themselves, or those they love, or the world, but they just don t have it in them to make that happen It s the reality and the tragedy of being human.Trucksong s world is also extraordinarily layered Revealed steadily through John s adventures and interactions, it feels at once wholly alien and entirely real The symbiotic relationship that builds between John and Sinnerman is surely one of the strangest team ups in recent fiction I can imagine it being handled quite differently in a less ambitious treatment as a kind of Knight Rider rip off with a gruffly talking truck But in Trucksong the relationship between trucks and their riders is an elemental, hind brain thing The sound flowed smooth through the air and trucktalk chatter in the link as Sinnerman and the Left Tenant sat head to head and tried to best each other with their sound systems and their skills Putting on a flashy show, pulling samples from their memories and trying to call each other with the best take on an old tune or the freshest new vox they d found chattering in the stacks from the data mines The battle went on and on, deep bass booming through me bones and me head ringing with the echo of high freek sound wash All watched by the grim Brumby King Sinnerman shook on its shocks under the onslaught and I kept it fed with patches to mod the waves of sound, learning as I went what made a good effect and saving up the knowing for it would come in handy for tweaking Sinner s rein, I was sure The Left Tenant revved up hard and cranked the wattage I could feel it in me guts, the whole cab was shaking, the noise was frightening, louder and louder and then it stopped and both trucks clunked in gear and started their dance Sinner spun its wheels in a mighty show of blue smoke blowing over the truck parking Its eight rear wheels were burning out and its tail came flicking around to match the Left Tenant s own circling motion The next phase of the battle was coming.Plugged into the truck via an intravenous cannula, a mixture of blood and truck synth fac haze, is the visceral medium of communication, carrying wants and desires between truck and human in the interplay of adrenalin and truck borne stimulants It s just one example of a constantly surprising and cohesive world that morphs and accretes meaning smoothly, and part of what makes Trucksong such an impressive and well paced story.John Ra, too, is a fully rounded character, suffering, hoping and despairing in equal measures, telling his story through the clacking keys of an ancient typewriter, spilling out his dreams and acknowledging his demons The message of Trucksong is that things are not always as they should be and might never be that way again As bleak a message as that may sound, Macrae s control of narrative ensures it s not.Keith Stevenson is a speculative fiction writer and the publisher at Coeur de Lion Publishing He is also a judge in this year s Aurealis Awards The views expressed in this review are a personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Aurealis Awards judging panels, judging coordinator or management team Visit him at www.keithstevenson.com, www.coeurdelion.com.au and This book quite appropriately completed an impressive journey via a rather roundabout route to finally reach me due to an equally impressive run of bad luck where the universe seemed to be conspiring to prevent me from making it to any event where whoever had it at any given time was.Luckily it was worth the wait and I tore through this It never occurred to be that a book about rogue cyborg trucks in post apocalyptic Australia including truck on truck sex scenes would be my thing Turns out that it was It features well written, clever vernacular and a compelling story MacRae s world of decaying, sentient tech is dark and disturbing in a way slightly reminiscent of The Dark Tower sequence although it is probably about.01% of the length However, Trucksong feels both unique and uniquely Australian It s a clever book and I look forward to readingfrom the author 4.5 stars There was a time in my early twenties when I crossed the Nullabor plain about ten, maybe eleven, times Once I travelled in a beautiful big 1970s ford, five of us crushed in and driving madly against a schedule Other times I crammed in mini buses filled with activists, off to conferences over East There were moments of beauty out in the desert spectral fog lit up by the rising sun, the massive thunderstorm that crashed and roiled overhead and of horror, such as when the road shivered with a plague of a million mice There were also long hours of terrible boredom, with the kilometres stretched ahead.And of course, there were the trucks massive road trains that rose up like monstrous beasts, storming out of the night As they passed, the car would lurch, the outside air would suck powerfully against the windows in a sudden rush At the truck stops they would sit quietly in the night, as though sleeping Their huge tyres red with the desert dust, their once gleaming bodies dirty from the travel Everything about them seemed larger than life the giant wheels, the massive lights packed onto their grills, their dark windows like vast eyes They were terrifying and magnificent.Andrew Macrae s Trucksong is filled with love of trucks, though his are sentient, with thoughts and plans of their own Macrae s trucks often run alone, or they gather in great brumby packs like wild horses They inhabit a post apocalyptic Australia, together with the orphan protagonist, Jon Ra.Ra is adopted by the violent Smoov, a showman who travels the broken land, through the remnants of settlements, most of which have fallen into a kind of low level barbarism Showmen perform shows that are part performance, part religious experience, praying to the wotcher in the skies that transmits old images of life before the catastrophe.Ra falls rapidly in love with Smoov s teenage daughter Isa, and she provides him with what little kindness and solidarity he has When Isa is kidnapped by the Brumby King , a particularly powerful leader of a pack of brumbies , Ra sets off to find her On his journey, he hitches a ride with the indi truck Simmerman, who has reasons of his own to face the Brumby King The two develop a symbiotic relationship as all pairs of trucks and riders do in which their minds and bodies merge.On his journey, Ra s haunted by the mysterious figure of old crow , dressed in old tyres, always turning up at points of crisis, always seeming to sneer at Jon Ra s troubles he is part tormentor, part judge.As should be clear, Macrae is here playing with a number of classic science fiction tropes, most centrally the relationship of humans to machines, both in the form of trucks and also the strange religion of Smoov s, which hopes the wotcher will return technology to humanity and save it from its apocalyptic fall Technology, Macrae tells us with true modernist irony, is both wonderful and terrible a trap and a source of liberation By the time Ra finishes his coming of age journey, he has come to see that he must stand on his own feet, separate from both humans and technology.Australia is, of course, the perfect post apocalyptic setting, partly because of its vast and exotic extremities, its fires and floods, its barren deserts and unforgiving bush, and partly because it has already experienced a kind of apocalypse in the genocide of Indigenous peoples If Trucksong recalls something, it is the world of the Mad Max films Macrae s world, however, is significantlyinteresting.The most singular thing about the book is Jon Ra s voice Written in a kind of phonetic transliteration of a lower class Australian dialect, with all its strange turns and playful eccentricities, we can practically hear Jon Ra telling the story to us In this it follows in the footsteps of Russel Hoban s wonderful Riddley Walker and perhaps novels like a Clockwork Orange, though Macrae s is considerably less demanding of the reader Indeed, this voice is also one of the delights of the book, and Ra s voice echoes in the reader s mind long after Trucksong is finished.Macrae s Trucksong is a book to savour, a startlingly original fusion of science fiction elements Jon Ra s coming of age story sits at its centre, and we not only hear his voice but we feel his longing and his pain Still, the book s most memorable characters will always be the trucks, rushing through the desert and the bush, their engines roaring, the gears shifting and cranking, the tyres squealing creatures of terrifying magnificence.First published here I m a big fan of Russell Hoban s Riddley Walker, and love that Andrew MacRae has built something that riffs off it but in such a tangily Australian way The language is brilliant,completely ocker without ever feeling like a smug latte sipping parody, and the playing with future, corrupted words works every time lie bury , trance mission The descriptions of this dry, desperate and weirdly sexy techy world are grouse the sequences where Jon has to tear his truck connected IV out of his vein are truly revolting I can t give the book four stars because my book is competing against it in the Aurealis Awards, but honestly it s pretty ace. Trucksong is a great example of truly Australian speculative fiction that doesn t resort to cliches I could really feel this vision of the future where trucks and road technology begins to take on a life of its own The voice is exceptionally well written, I m only sorry that it s taken me this long to read it. Trucksong is the debut novel from Melburnite Andrew Macrae, and it s overflowing with coolness Intelligent trucks cruise a devastated Victoria looking for parts and AI in a machine meets mind post apocalypse and humans scavenge the best they can Brilliantly imagined, linguistically adept, with enough diesel and dust to smooth over that minor plot niggle I ll never look at Melbourne s grand Lie Bury quite the same way again A trucking good debut. I ve gotta admit, this ticked all of my buttons Trucksong is a weird mongrel of a book, which quite deftly riffs against other brilliant stories written in the same genre It s got the devolved language and Punch and Judyesque culture of Riddley Walker, the weird future Australiana of Terry Dowling s Rynocceros series, and fleshy cybertech that looks like the broken arse end of Shadowrun In some parts this influence is a clear homeage, in others it lends to outright mad invention author MacRae takes this blend into a twisted new direction Trucksong is as much of a juggernaut as the intelligent trucks it depicts, blasting through a ruined Outback like the best 1970s road movie that never got made It s a short, resonant, bloody excellent book, and not like anything else you ve read lately Give it a go
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Trucksong book, this is one of the most wanted Andrew MacRae author readers around the world.
- 230 pages
- Andrew MacRae
- 06 May 2019 Andrew MacRae