‘Dyschronia’ – Jennifer Mills

Stunning novel from Australian author ponders the future

Doomed we may be, but there's big fish monuments to be built...
Doomed we may be, but there’s big fish monuments to be built…

We’re all doomed.

Have you ever wondered why there has of late been a glut of post-apocalyptic dystopias depicted on film and literature? Perhaps the creative arts community has insight that the rest of us lack, or that whatever it is that is currently taking place on the planet is a giant conspiracy cooked up by the Chinese to make the rest of us less competitive, or something. So while we’re getting married at first sight and being sent to the jungle to competitively eat rat brains, another prophecy of apparent doom has emerged via Jennifer Mills’ new novel, Dyschronia.

The title suggests some measure of confusion about time, and at the same time has a synonymous ring of the dystopian about it. Our central protagonist, a young girl named Sam, is occasionally felled by migraines, occurring in tandem with prophetic visions of the future. When one of her more gloomy prophecies becomes true, a series of events unfold which sees the town all-but turn against her.

The author, Jennifer Mills uses vivid, imaginative and evocative imagery throughout her prose, painting a bleak portrait of what is, for all intents and purposes, the ends of the earth. The book is one which paints a bleak picture in Mills’ crafting of a parable for environmental decline, corporate capitalism, and the oft-told tales of isolation amid Australia’s remote, rural and regional communities.

As noted, her imagery is evocative, bleak but beautiful and just alluring in its conceptual highs from the get-go – this notion of the ocean just vanishing from this small hamlet is striking and intriguing. Mills’ writing does not shy from the ‘Australian-ness’ of the setting, or from her own background; it’s entirely believable and relatable how she evokes the smell of rotting fish on a once-underwater landscape. Oddly enough – amid descriptions of rotting fish flesh – it’s refreshing.

While the book does occasionally stray, and it can in fact be somewhat distracting to see the (admittedly beautiful) poetic language wind through the novel’s structure beyond the opening salvos, it is invigorating to read something locally constructed whose author wants to compose it amid such ambitious scope and themes. Jennifer Mills is a writer of what seems to be infinite gifts with language; her novel is intriguing in concept and beautifully executed.

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