Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Red Queen, H.M. Brown, A review.

Hi all,

I decided to read Red Queen, by Australian author H.M. Brown, after reading a review of it in The AGE. The review was positive and said that the novel had won last year’s Aurealis award for best horror novel, but that is not what had me wanting to read it, it was the prospect of reading an apocalyptic novel set in Australia that raised my interest.
The novel is set after a virus has decimated the population. Two brothers, Shannon and Rohan, are hiding from the virus in a very well stocked cabin in the Australian bush. The story is told from the viewpoint of 23 year-old younger brother, whose life is dominated by his much older brother Rohan.

The brothers have electric power from a water wheel, sheep, chooks and three shipping containers full of plentiful supplies for two people. They are constantly on guard for the arrival of virus carriers and thieves, and always carry rifles. Shannon stays up at night to guard the cabin.
Their monotony of survival is wrecked when Denny, a smart, sexy woman appears. The conflict she creates between the brothers is not the cliché of a sibling rivalry fight over her: it’s more subtle, as she attempts to manipulate the brothers into getting what she wants.

The conflict between Denny and the brothers keeps the tension high throughout the novel. The fact that there is an outside world with a deadly virus that could intervene at any moment is forgotten as the reader tries to figure out what Denny is up to.

I did wonder at it winning the Aurealis for best horror novel. The only real horror element is the virus, which could easily have caused it to be labelled as science fiction, but if it was labelled just as a thriller, it could be mistaken for being a crime novel. It is possibly a hard book for the publisher to pigeon-hole.

Red Queen is one of the best thrillers I have read, due to its constant tension and polished writing. I found myself stopping to marvel at some of the author’s short quick descriptions. I also appreciated the novel’s shortness; it didn’t seem to contain any unnecessary scenes.

2 comments:

Anthony J Langford said...

sounds cool - ive never heard of it.. such is the bane of authors in this country.. perhaps it only one best horror as Andrew McGahan's Wonders of a Godless World won for best sci-fi... which i didnt really think was sci-fi either.. and i didnt think it was that good....

Graham Clements said...

Honey Brown has a second novel out, The Good Daughter.

http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780670074433/good-daughter

It sounds more of the conventional thriller type of novel so it doesn't have me wanting to rush out and buy it, as my reading concentrates on science fiction and critically acclaimed literature, with the odd fantasy/horror novel thrown in.

There are probably very few science fiction novels and horror novels published by Aussie authors each year for the judges of the Aurealis award to choose from.

Still Red Queen was an excellent read, so I might widen my reading range and buy her new novel.

It says something for her that Penguin is the publisher.