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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2018: V Is For... Voicing The Dead

V is a difficult letter for me, on this topic. I couldn’t think of any of our authors with names starting with V or even themes starting with V(violence? Nah!) so I will just mention two books with V in the titles. There are others, eg Jackie French’s Valley Of Gold, but these are ones I have read. 

Gary Crew’s first novel, Strange Objects, was the start of an impressive career in YA fiction. It’s still in print, after twenty five years, so it is definitely being read. His books are...strange. Strange Objects was pretty much horror fiction based on the story of the wreck of the Batavia in 1629, set in the present day, with a boy being taken over by objects from the past belonging to the mutineers. 

But this one, Voicing The Dead, published by Ford Street Publishing in 2015, tops the “strange” list. I won’t go too far into it, because I want to finally do that review I should have done ages ago, but here is what it’s about. 

It’s based on the true story of Jack Ireland, a cabin boy whose ship was wrecked at the entrance to the Torres Strait in 1834. Most of the crew and passengers were killed by headhunters, but for some reason four children were spared and adopted by local tribes. Jack spent several years with a loving family before returning to England. There was an account of it, supposed to have been written by Jack himself. Whether it was his, or ghost written I don’t know, but Gary Crew read it and got ideas. I heard him speak at the Ford Street launch back in 2015, and found it fascinating. He went right into all the Victorian era novels about being shipwrecked on exotic islands and the research he had done. 

What makes the book strange is that it’s not straight historical fiction. It’s something called “lit tripping”. Jack, the narrator, wanders through other books and mentions things that happened well after his death.
Here is how he puts it: 

You ask, 'Can the dead speak?'
I answer, 'Is this blood that runs in my veins, or ink? I ask that you read me. I ask that you hear me. See me. Touch me. Others have, and tasted my blood ...'

Not for reluctant readers, I’m afraid, only for good readers willing to try something different. It comes close to being an adult book, but I’ve seen some even more challenging books win prizes from the CBCA. And if you visit the Ford Street web site you will find teachers’ notes that assume someone is going to use the book in class. 

Catherine Jinks has written so many books, from children’s ghost stories to adult books, that she could have several posts to herself(and has, when I have reviewed her books!), but today I will just talk about one of her books, which has a V in the title. The novel is The Reformed Vampire Support Group.  

Nina is fifteen and living with her mother in Sydney. The thing is, she has been fifteen for a very long time, since she was turned into a vampire in 1973. She makes her living writing paranormal fantasy novels about the adventures of a female vampire. Every week, she goes to a support group of other vampires, run by the local priest, who also does the driving for the group members. Someone has to, because drivers’ licences are hard to get when you’re dead - and, in Nina’s case, permanently under age. 

These vampires don’t drink human blood. One of the members was a doctor during his lifetime and has concocted a brew that mostly allows them to cope without it. When they must fang something, they fang one of the guinea pigs they breed for the purpose. 

I liked the fact that in this book, you’re stuck with the age you were when you died, with whatever problems that involves. One of the group members is permanently in her eighties, with all the aches and pains and health issues she had when she was alive. There is no advantage to becoming a vampire, not even the immortality if you have to put up with all that! 

Our little group of vampires has to find who has killed the man who turned them all before the killer hunts them. In the course of the hunt, they rescue a teenage werewolf boy who has been forced to participate in - not dog fighting, but werewolf fighting! 

The book is great fun and if you like it, there’s a sequel, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group

Here's a link to Catherine Jinks's web site, where you can check out all her books and which has links to where you can buy them.

You can buy most of Gary Crew's books on Booktopia, including Voicing The Dead(also available on the publisher's web site, link above) Amazon has some, but not many. Book Depository has some more, here. If he has a web site, I have't been able to find it, and he has been published by a lot of publishers, so a Google of his name will help. There are several on iBooks, though not Voicing The Dead.

Tomorrow’s post will be about three terrific Melbourne children’s writers, Gabrielle Wang and mother and daughter writers Carole and Lili Wilkinson. (They don't write together and their types of books are very different!)


Deepa said...

i have read Strange objects. It has been one of the very intruding books. I have to read the rest.

Tongue Twister for V

Sue Bursztynski said...

I think if you liked Strange Objects you'll enjoy this one, but you may have to buy a print copy or borrow it from the library. For some reason it doesn't seem to be available in ebook, not even on the Baen web site, where most of the Ford Street books are available, including my non fiction bookm!

JEN Garrett said...

I'm kind of glad you couldn't think of any authors that fit your theme because I love the book picks instead! The second one especially, kind of "Tuck Everlasting" with vampires. Awesome premise!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Jen, glad you found this of interest! I hope you find the books. I admit I have never got around to Tuck Everlasting, though a friend of mine is a fan. Maybe time to pick up a copy.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Huh! I have never heard of "lit tripping" before, but I like the concept :)

The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

Sue Bursztynski said...

It’s certsinly unusual!

Jenny said...

I'd never heard of lit tripping, either. I'm learning so much from your posts!

Sue Bursztynski said...

It’s new to me too!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - I think I might be giving these a miss ... but interesting to read about and to know about ... and that 'lit tripping' sounds like the light fantastic - cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Each to their own! Thanks for visiting.