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The Other Side of Dawn
John Marsden
Pan-Macmillan Australia, 333 pages

The Other Side of Dawn
John Marsden
John Marsden was born in Melbourne, Australia. Marsden was educated at Australia's oldest and strictest school,King's School, Paramatta, and in 1969 began an Arts/Law degree at the University of Sydney. Leaving school, he held odd jobs, including working in a mortuary. In 1978, he became an English teacher at All Saint's College, Bathurst, and has continued in this capacity at several institutions in Australia. More recently he has devoted himself to his literary career and to encouraging young adults in their writing efforts. Soon to be published is Marsden on Marsden where John Marsden looks behind the scenes at the inspirations for his books like So Much To Tell You, Letters from the Inside, and the Tomorrow Series. His next novel, Winter, is due in October 2000.

John Marsden Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Tomorrow Series, Part 1, Vol. 1-3
SF Site Review: The Tomorrow Series, Part 2, Vol. 4-6
SF Site Review: A Killing Frost
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Bio-bibliography
Another John Marsden Bio-bibliography
Critical Essay: The Tomorrow Series
Review: The Tomorrow Series
Review: The Tomorrow Series

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

It is a good thing that The Other Side of Dawn is the last book in the Tomorrow Series because my wife is getting a bit tired of my ignoring her and staying up until 3AM to finish one of John Marsden's books. On the other hand, I will surely miss the thrilling adventures of Ellie, Homer, Kevin, Lee and Fi, even though Marsden's books have made them so realistic that they will always remain with me.

Finding superlatives that I haven't used in my reviews of the previous books in the series is very difficult. Again the key terms gritty realism, nail-biting suspense, humanity of characters, love of the land and even humour come to mind in describing Ellie and her friends' last adventures as five teenage guerrilla fighters in their enemy-held homeland of Australia. If you've kept up with your reading in the series, this book is all the others were. However, the book is certainly not an independent sequel, and if you haven't read the first six novels you might be at a bit of a loss as to who all the characters are. While Marsden's American publisher (Houghton-Mifflin) is only up to book four, lucky you, Pan Australia has just reissued in paperback the first six novels in a brand new boxed-set . My best advice to you is simply, get it. You'll probably waffle and say to yourself, "these are books for teenagers, not for me, reader of adult fare like Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, etc." There you would be dead wrong, John Marsden's Tomorrow novels are just as good if not better and just as adult as any adult adventure novels out there.

When we last saw our heroes (in my best radio serial voice) at the end of The Night is For Hunting they had just killed off an enemy patrol nosing around the outskirts of their hideout. In The Other Side of Dawn, only 24 hrs later, Ellie, Homer, Kevin and Lee rendezvous with a helicopter bringing them a specialist in guerrilla tactics and lots of offensive materials. Returning to their hideout, where Fi waits unsuspecting with the feral children, Ellie and company meet and manage to kill or capture another enemy patrol making its way into their now useless hideout. The allied forces are about to launch a final large offensive, and Ellie and company are to do all they can to destabilize the enemy's closest hub of operations. An overly bold attack on a convoy refueling station leads Ellie to be separated from her friends and the object of an intensive manhunt. Shot and captured after inflicting more damage on the enemy's transportation network, she survives an enemy hospital and the blow of hearing that her friends have all been killed. After escaping a concentration camp, Ellie reunites with her mother as a peace treaty is signed. Home in Wirrawee, with a sick mother and a father with a farm to rebuild she has little time to consider her loss, but good news is not long in coming.

If I had to gripe about any part of the book it would be the ending, because (i) it simply was the ending, and I really didn't want the story/series to end, and (ii) it had what was, largely, a Hollywood happy ending. Admittedly, the reunion of the group was a bittersweet event and the members' later drifting apart was sad but inevitable given the situation. However, I had been hoping to see Marsden kill off one or more of the major characters to show that the carnage of war didn't just happen to anonymous enemies but also hit those close to us. Along the same lines, the epilogue suggested that the main characters had relatively few problems re-adapting to a normal life, something that, given Marsden's attention to character psychology in response to post-traumatic stress in the earlier books, seemed a bit weak. However, one really good thing about the happy ending, and the fact that at book's end the enemy still, by treaty, retained some Australian territory is that, however much Marsden says it was the last volume, and the group has been dispersed, a sequel is not logically impossible.

Since I griped about something, I also have to say that Ellie's escape and eventual capture after the gas depot bombing was one of the most gripping and exciting sequences in the entire series and in my extensive reading of adventure literature. With the possible exception of Ellie and Homer's bombing of the harbour in The Third Day, the Frost (a.k.a. A Killing Frost in the US), I was glued to the book for the time it took me to read it. The last time I was so engrossed in a chase scene not of Marsden's making was when I read the account of highwayman Dick Turpin's ride to York on Black Bess, in William Harrison Ainsworth's Rookwood (1834), a passage considered by many to be the best chase scene in English literature.

So should you bother to order the book all the way from Australia? YES! Let me put it this way, in my close to 25 years of reading imaginative fiction I've only found four books or series worth rereading: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Talbot Mundy's Tros of Samothrace, Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, and H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. I've just added the Tomorrow series to my "To Reread" list.

Copyright © 1999 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

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