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Across the Wall
Garth Nix
HarperCollins Eos, 305 pages

Across the Wall
Garth Nix
Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. He left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin. He returned to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After graduating in 1986, he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher's sales representative, and editor. He left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, until he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002, Garth went back to dedicated writer again. Garth currently lives in a beach suburb of Sydney, with his family.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Across the Wall
SF Site Review: The Abhorsen Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Ragwitch
Garth Nix at HarperCollins

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

"I saw part of the energy go out of his aura and into the smile, flickering out like a hundred snakes' tongues to touch and spark against the dull colours of the people around him."
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Subtitled "A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories" this is a collection of short fiction, from the best-selling author of The Abhorsen Trilogy, a sequence I described earlier as being "for readers who like their fantasy rammed through the gaps in the land of imagination." If I may get something out of the way to begin, the title is misleading, as the Abhorsen herself never actually appears and no one crosses the Wall into the Old Kingdom. In fact, only the first story "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" is set in the same world as Sabriel. In total, there are thirteen unconnected works here, plucked from various points in Nix's career, each one prefaced with good-humoured author's notes. All have something to offer, and most demonstrate why Nix is the recipient of such critical acclaim. If distilled to a single word it would be credibility. Nix takes the time to understand his worlds and those within, almost invariably imbuing both with a clever weave of the familiar and the strange, creating plenty of spark and enough substance to make each story seem nearly real.

"Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" concerns an ancient Free Magic beast, on the rampage in Ancelstierre. As is fitting for a tale set in the world of his most celebrated creation, the characterisation is top quality, and the story itself, while somewhat predictable, is deeply enchanting. "Under the Lake" is one of two Arthurian-themed stories, depicting the complex relationship between Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. "Charlie Rabbit" is an emotive tale, written for the War Child charity anthology, and tells the story of two kids caught up in a bombing raid. "From the Lighthouse" is set in a remote community which has echoes of the familiar, until Nix injects the bizarre as every day objects, reminding us that this is nowhere anyone has been. "The Hill" is an overtly Australian story, concerning a very old man protecting an area of land from developers. Gentle, heart-warming, and utterly charming, it punched the pathos button, hard. "Lightning Bringer" was my favourite in this collection, and told the story of a young boy's encounters with a man who -- like him -- has the supernatural ability to perceive auras, and manipulate their powerful electrical energy for his own dark ends. "Hansel's Eyes" is a truly grim take on Hansel and Gretel, where children are dumped by uncaring parents, and fall into the clutches of a techno-witch who harvests children to sell their body parts for transplant surgery. "Three Roses" is a straightforward old-fashioned fairy tale, about a grasping king and a grieving gardener, which subtlety shows us the value of true love. Other works include "Down to the Scum Quarter," a parody of the old text adventure format, and "Hope Chest" which blends elements of the wild west with the rise of a Hitler-like demagogue. It's a selection to make any magpie proud.

Not everything here could be described as fantasy, nor are all the works representative of the author at his best. But the superior pieces more than make up for the weaker inclusions. At turns fantastical, moving, spooky, and effortlessly entertaining, Across the Wall is a diverse collection, well worth the price of admission. It contains something that will please most existing Garth Nix fans, and serve as a good introduction for newcomers.

Copyright © 2009 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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