Book review: Into the Mist, by Lee Murray

7 09 2017

Lee Murray is a New Zealand speculative fiction writer with three novels and a substantial amount of shorter work under her belt. She has won nine Sir Julius Vogel Awards for her writing and editing, and an Australian Shadows award for the anthology Baby Teeth which she coedited with Dan Rabarts.

IntoTheMist

Into the Mist (which won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, and was also shortlisted in the Australian Shadows) describes a geological survey into the wilds of the Ureweras, to follow up the chance discovery, in one of the region’s streams, of a sizeable gold nugget. But the Ureweras have acquired a reputation for danger—there are rumours that their mist-shrouded folds conceal separatist training camps, drug operations, and perhaps something more sinister—and in view of the number of people who’ve gone missing in the area in recent months, it’s decided that the scientific team should be accompanied, for their own safety, by a sizeable infantry squad. The team members regard this additional manpower and weaponry as overkill, but as it turns out, the army’s Steyr rifles are no match for the foe the group faces deep in the North Island bush …

Into the Mist is a well-executed piece of creature fiction which fires well on all cylinders. The characters are vivid, varied, and credible; Murray manages the nontrivial task of depicting a motley but genuinely interesting team of ‘grunts’ as well as a group of plausibly-drawn scientists, and charts the friction between these groups without any of the characterisation impinging unduly on the story’s action. There are some nice lines of humour as well, in addition to the steadily-mounting tension as it becomes increasingly apparent that the soldiers and researchers are encroaching on the territory of something unknown but genuinely dangerous. I was particularly impressed with Murray’s detailing of the mechanism by which a long-vanished creature might manage to once again become part of the ecosystem of the bush; and the elements of Maori lore which have been woven into the storyline have been deployed skilfully and to good effect. If I have a quibble, it is that the ‘framing story’, which seemed to involve international mining-rights skullduggery, was not explored in any kind of depth—what there was of this background story detracted, I felt, from the excellent depiction of bushland crisis management by the beleaguered soldiers and scientists, and could quite probably have been omitted in its entirety. But Murray’s telling of a ‘mission from hell’ is masterly, brutal, and thoroughly enjoyable.

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One response

7 09 2017
The Past Due Book Review

This sounds very interesting; I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation and review!

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