well‐boring, yet not penetrating
The conceit of this being a collection of short stories may have served the writer well in maintaining funding, an audience, and industry connection throughout its composition, but fails the book as an artwork. Its abundance of redundant chapters would betray careless curation, an unwarranted, greedy completionism, were these genuine standalones, containers each of a story. Their emptiness, as even those chapters exceeding a couple of paragraphs remain bare vignette; the dogged homogeneity of concept; the consistent chronology along which they are all chained, the flicker of more‐than‐the‐sum‐of‐its‐parts integration; though, belong to a novel. Or an attempt at a novel.
The speculative urbanism approaches a cool. Some thought, maybe even research, has gone into redesigning an ever more inundated Birrarungga, to fashioning successive layers, up, down, and out, of future Old Melbournes and proposing emergent cultures around these. The evolution of increasingly coastal towns to the east is infinitely less considered: the streetscapes develop little but for damp and desertification; the society stays in stasis, flees in same.
Here appear to be Fitzgerald’s weaknesses as a (fiction?) writer: as a (fiction?) writer. (Rather than broad arc‐sketcher). Her churning world is inexplicably peopled by glossy cardboard and expressed with all the lyricism of an instruction manual. Where she goes in for evocation, it is to lean on readers recognising themselves and clumsy stereotype in an eerily select cast of characters.
Disproportionately, they flop around suburbs like Brunswick, following a taken‐for‐mundane uni education; cry poor in equating the costs of cigarettes with those for milk; and take as half the professional occupation of uniform matrimonial pairs the sitting in dedicated writing spaces, not‐really‐writing‐much. They enjoyed salty, sunburnt childhoods in holiday hotspots, so return home out “Gippy” way to a social scene of surnames sealed steadfastly Anglo‐Celtic. Observed through the bubble of protagonists, internal migration appears to involve only those with matching histories (wherein cultural diversity may make token appearance if restricted mainly to name), for the first few degrees’ temperature rise. Some decide to procreate and some don’t; everyone is mesmerised with this decision. It’s always an equally unconstrained choice, a kind of hypothetical exercise one (couple) completes and can then simply stamp onto reality at leisure. Veggie patches wilt, neighbours hit the road for good, flames tower, water’s traded, war is referenced; middle Australia feels a tad blue, First Nations groundskeepers truck on; but we ghost only lives of remarkable comfort, even by twenty‐teens’ standards, as we plod on through the decades — centuries, eventually — until… certain grammars spontaneously lurch, and then physiques grow fantastical. The cringe is on. If we even made it out awake.
It’s a shame, because where Fitzgerald does actually start to shine is in depicting speculative consumer tech, classic sci‐fi cityscapes, and simple machine sentience, so — although even the standout chapters still wanted for much more polish — those latter eras are the only ones that might come anywhere close to worth reading.
Presumably, the lot has proven worth publishing, business‐wise. Otherwise, however, it would be hard to argue (convincingly!) for any of the manuscript. For a long‐form, deep‐time work on ecological catastrophe to concentrate in this manner on exactly the crowd who celebrate this unbelievably bland heating epic… You can see how it happened, but.