Colly Campbell – The Capricorn Sky

book coverThe Capricorn Sky

Colly Campbell (author page)

Stringybark, 2020

There’s a lot to like in The Capricorn Sky but unfortunately there’s more than a little to dislike, too. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

It’s Campbell’s first novel (nothing wrong with that) and it’s self-published. The book’s unpolished design (fonts, text spacing, margins, etc) sends up the first warning signals and suggests immediately that it has missed out on the benefit of experienced editorial eyes and hands. Furthermore, Campbell has chosen to write in an invented future English in which hyphenated words are replaced by camelCase, “qu” by “qw” (qwite, qwiet, etc), and there are other neologisms and re-spellings. He probably intended that it would help place the action where it’s set, at the end of this century. It’s a tactic which can work well in the hands of an experienced writer (Burgess’s Clockwork Orange and Hoban’s Riddley Walker come to mind) but this reader, for one, found it merely distracting.

And that’s a pity, because Campbell has set a good story in a worryingly plausible future North Queensland.

In the last twenty years of this century, Northern Australia (now East and West Capricornia) has basically been ceded to the millions of climate change refugees from Indonesia and our other Northern neighbours, although it is still ruled by Australia in a power-share arrangement with the newcomers. Southern Australia has merged with New Zealand and tries to maintain stability in its former territory. The Townsville climate is ferocious (normal daytime temperatures are in the forties) and sea-level rise has turned Pallarenda into an island (no surprise) but Cape York is barely survivable in cyclone season.

In this challenging world, a talented, charming but overconfident young hacker attracts the malevolent attention of Chinese and Brazilian corporations, and is both pursued and protected by AuZgov agents. The chase takes them to an outlaw village on the Cape and to Hobart before ending where it began, in Townsville.

With attractive protagonists, plenty of action, some novel tech gadgets and a colourful (and thought-provoking) background there is, as I said, a lot to like.

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