Brief Book Review: The Female Factory (Twelve Planets Book 11) – Lisa L Hannett & Angela Slatter

Skin, flesh and fat parted, a layer cake of white, red and yellow. The Matron was enlisted to sponge any seepage while Dr Dalkeith snipped and sliced and sawed, though what liquids Miss Habel once had inside her were now thickened, sludges in varying shades of expiration. The notes he took in his own scruffy journal, mid-dissection, were of little interest to Avice, but she watched avidly as he created the accompanying sketches. Unless she was mistaken, the good doctor would soon submit another article to The Lancet, since the Royal Society in London had, thus far, consistently rejected his treatises on the theory and practice of surgery. But a paper detailing the physiognomy of transported criminals? That, surely, would one day see his name printed in the Society’s Philosophical Transactions.

The Female Factory: Lisa L Hannett & Angela Slatter

Fascinating and entertaining, bizarre and grotesque, this is a great collection of four speculative fiction short stories from two Australian authors. Touching on topics that some may find challenging, this book explores aspects of body horror and dark fantasy from a very female perspective.

The Female Factory: 4 out of 5 stars

Four stories – three from different speculative futures and one from a dark reflection of the past (with a tip of the hat to the earliest of sci-fi stories). This book contains:

  • Introduction by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Vox
  • Baggage
  • All the Other Revivals
  • The Female Factory

All were strong but the last two were easily the best in my opinion, and had a far more distinctly Australian flavour to them than the first two. I particularly enjoyed the title story, The Female Factory, which was a classic horror story set in one of the ‘real’ female factories – the women’s only penal colonies that female convicts were sent to in the early 1800’s. For those interested in more detail on these women’s prisons, check out: http://www.femalefactory.org.au.

In one future, the souls of aborted embryos are commercialized as a resource in home electronics.  In another, surrogates carry multiple pregnancies and delivering on demand, pimped out and controlled by their corporate ’employers’. Elsewhere a magic Billabong offers those born into the wrong body a chance for change. And in the last is a revisiting/reinventing of the past, where a group of motherless children observe a prison doctor’s unlicensed autopsies, and learn a way to fill their maternal void…

It’s a short collection – only four stories and 118 pages – I really enjoyed this book. It’s nice to have a quick satisfying read and, being brief, it means that the story selection is tight; there are no ‘weak’ stories here to let the book down. The writing style of each author is intricate, artistic, and dark – edging on very dark (I’m reading Lisa Hannett’s novel at the moment and it’s like bleak but beautiful poetry).

These stories principally deal with very female-oriented issues, although the point-of-view characters are not exclusively women (the last story is predominantly from the perspective of the children, for example). I thought it was interesting the use of ‘Factory’ in each of these stories, as each has a nod to creation, to manufacturing,or  to commercialization which is horrifying when applied to the themes of pregnancy, prostitution, and motherhood.

I wont go into any more details as I don’t want to spoil any of the stories, but if you are looking for some quality horror/dark fantasy stories you can’t go wrong with the Female Factory (available here).


Whew. Slowly getting through my overdue book reviews!

If you read this one, let me know what you think.

Cheers

KT

 

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