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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In other matters arising

7 04 2015

Life goes on, even in the midst of a Hugo nominations maelstrom, and here in the Antipodes, the synchronised Australian and NZ natcons — neither of which I was able to attend — have seen the parcelling out of Ditmar, Sir Julius Vogel, and other awards, under considerably less contentious circumstances than have attended the Hugo noms.  The Ditmar summary can be seen here, and the SJVs here. (Yes, I know the ‘Ditmar’ link isn’t to an official results page, but it’s a source I trust, in the apparent absence of the official page at this time.)

Hearty congratulations to all the winners — I’m especially pleased to see, on the NZ side, SJVs go to Paul Mannering for his marvellously daffy novel Engines of Empathy (thoroughly recommended), to Lee Murray for her short story ‘Inside Ferndale’, and to A J Fitzwater for her well-deserved Best New Talent award. (A J has a novella — the cover story, in fact, in the upcoming ASIM 61, which has been upcoming for so long that I’m sure it’s starting to seem like the Cathedral of Chalesm. But the issue is, honestly, almost complete …) And there’s a long list of good names on the Ditmar sheet as well, but I’d like to single out the hardworking and multi-talented Donna Maree Hanson who has claimed the A Bertram Chandler award this year.





A signal boost

19 07 2013

A group of my colleagues at SpecFicNZ, spearheaded by the energetic and talented Dan Rabarts (and with editorial backup from the delightful Lee Murray), have put together an anthology called Baby Teeth, a collection of horror stories inspired by the creepy things kids say.

babyteeth

They’re setting up to sell the anthology (in both print and e-formats) as a fundraiser for New Zealand’s ‘Duffy Books In Homes‘ child literacy programme, and they’re running a PledgeMe campaign to raise $1000 (NZD) to cover costs for an initial print run. You can pledge as little as $5, and a pledge of $10 suffices to get you a copy of the e-book. (Some of the incentives / rewards are available only in NZ, but the e-book offer is certainly international.)

If you’re wavering, the authors represented are:

Jake Bible, Anna Caro, Debbie Cowens, Matt Cowens, Morgan Davie, Elizabeth Gatens, Jean Gilbert, Jan Goldie, JC Hart, Alan Lindsay, Kevin G MacLean, Paul Mannering, Sally McLennan, Piper Mejia, Lewis Morgan, Celine Murray, Lee Murray, Jack Newhouse, Michael J Parry, Alicia Ponder, Dan Rabarts, Jenni Sands, Darian Smith, Matthew Sanborn Smith, Grant Stone, and M Darusha Wehm.

I’m familiar with enough of those names to convince me that this is going to be a very classy collection, and it’s in a very good cause. Please get behind it!