“Straya” by Anthony O’Connor

Australians have a rather tenuous connection to the English language. They even have a name for their particular dialect, “Strine.” The nice thing about Strine for the rest of us is that it’s almost intelligible. When you see it written down, it’s quite possible, and even fun, to try to figure out where those words come from and what they might mean.

This element is very important in “Straya,” because, as the title suggests, this author takes a mild penchant for linguistic creativity in his country and pushes it into the realm of Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy.

The whole story revolves around the hero, Franga, one of the nicest mutants you’re ever likely to meet. He’s in love with Gia, the local prozzie with the heart of gold, who helps him with the houseful of mutie orphans he looks after. His mentor is Ken Ages (another example of the language transformation. “How long have you been alive?” “_ _ ckin’ ages.”) Ken is an aging scientist with parts of his brain literally missing, but tantalizing flashes of sanity and intelligence hint at a solution to humanity’s problems.

Leaving the ruggies in Gia’s care, our two heroes go on a mission from the Inasiddy where they live through the Downlow — ruins of post-apocalyptic Sydney — to return a “not-a-gem” to its owners and find out what the device was for. Unfortunately, they participate in the forging of a creatively ghastly monster that, the moment we start getting tired of it, morphs into something new and more entertaining (read: horrible, bloodthirsty and generally nasty).

The journey takes them skulking through the territories of traditional “Mad Max” style feral tribes that have grown up after the disaster. This gives the author a never-ending opportunity for creative costumes, physiognomies, and general mayhem. Regular animals have “all gawn ex-stinked,” but the creatures replacing them are much more fun.

And that is the key to the enjoyment of this story. Fun. No matter how frightening, bloody and depressing the plot gets, Franga takes it all in stride with his good-natured “cobber” personality and optimism. There is no fear that this author will create a winsome eight-year-old mutie and then kill her off to create bathos. No, her plight exists solely to drive Franga to further heights of heroism. So we can relax and enjoy it all. I know it cuts into the suspense a bit, but it’s that kind of book.

Highly recommended as a fun read for adults who like their stories filled with blood, guts, action and optimism.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This review was originally posted on Reedsy Discovery

About the Author: Gordon Long

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