Soon by Lois Murphy
Transit Lounge, 2017. ISBN 9780995409804
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) This is a deceptively complex and very interesting book. While it seems, initially, to be about magic, the real magic is the writer's subtle critique of the modern world. Here we have simple days, calm, quiet, idyllic almost but surely normal and predictable, in the Western Australian country town of Nebulah. Yet the nights reveal the screams, the mist that becomes figures that haunt the townspeople and force them to flee, killing anyone who is not locked into their houses.
As the residents leave, the few remaining characters, who cannot afford to leave, come together in a way that reflects the ancient notion of human beings working together to survive, offering shared toil and kindness - qualities that we come to see as lacking in the world outside of the small country town.
So, as the story progresses, we come to see that this wonderfully constructed narrative is perhaps not just about a weird, destructive and vengeful wind and strange beings. Rather than simply being about the paranormal, this beautifully written book is about the ephemeral, ghosts in a sense, in a story that reflects the ills of the modern world, the greed, the competitive nature of human beings who have lost, in that strange 'mist' of time, the ideas of loving friendship, collaboration, support, neighbourliness or simple goodness. Deftly constructed, Murphy's world reveals its true spirit as the narrative progresses, and we are slowly made aware of the failings of the modern world, the sadness and greed that poison friendships and families.
Considering that a nebulah is defined as a massive cloud of dust in space, so the name of the town, Nebulah, aptly reflects the winds and dust that haunt one little town, in an area of Western Australia where the events of this novel take place. It seems vengeful, rather than merely circumstantial, this wind and beings of destruction, that wreaks havoc, and as time passes, its haunting seems to abate.
This is a powerfully constructed novel that is thought-provoking and challenging, yet it is not about fear so much as it is about facing up to the reality of the modern world, considering who we are as individuals cooperatively sharing our little worlds with others, ultimately thinking about what we do, what we say and how we treat others. It is most suitable for older students, especially those who would respond to the challenge, about how we live in our world today, that Lois Murphy presents.