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Dyschronia (Jennifer Mills, Picador)

In a remote, single-industry Australian town, a young girl, Sam, starts to suffer from migraines. The sharp pain is accompanied by visions of the future, which her sceptical mother warns to keep to herself. Yet despite her best efforts, it isn’t long before the town hails the girl as an oracle with the power to improve their lives. Skip forward to the present day, and an adult Sam lives alone and the town is nearly abandoned. A number of recent literary fiction titles have explored the topic of climate change, and it would be easy to slap a generic ‘cli-fi’ tag on Jennifer Mills’ new novel. But Dyschronia’s subtle protagonist, isolated setting and Greek chorus of townspeople make it resonate in a way that feels skilful and specific, rather than on trend. While we’re given enough information to guess that conditions are worsening outside of the town, our focus—like that of the town’s characters—is too insular to consider it for long. Glimpses of the future might be available, but the townspeople seem incapable of changing their fates—our own climate change conundrum writ small. With clear, well-crafted prose, Dyschronia is a smart, unique take on a small town’s decline and the end of the world.

Meaghan Dew is a librarian and podcast coordinator for Kill Your Darlings

 

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