On the Java Ridge (Jock Serong, Text)
Two boats on Indonesian waters: one carrying Australian surf tourists, the other filled with asylum seekers. In Canberra, the Minister for Immigration announces a new policy to outsource responsibility for boats coming from those waters, a policy based on the government’s hopes for re-election and the need for ‘plausible deniability’. A policy not too far removed from current reality. Ned Kelly Award-winner Jock Serong creates a sense of foreboding from the very start of his third novel, and then constantly ratchets up the tension with a keen sense of pacing. When a storm breaks, storylines collide with terrible consequences, threatening characters we have come to care about deeply. Serong confirms his talent for multi-layered plot-driven novels that offer a commentary on modern Australia, a talent clearly displayed in last year’s The Rules of Backyard Cricket. Just as that novel offered a damning indictment of the ills that attend commercialised sport, so too does On the Java Ridge condemn the logical conclusions of successive Australian governments’ immigration policies. A release date around Father’s Day is surely deliberate: yes, it’s perfect for male readers of crime, thrillers or literary novels, but women will also appreciate this fine work.
Lorien Kaye is a freelance writer and editor, and has been writing about books and the book industry for over 20 years