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Fauna (Donna Mazza, A&U)

Donna Mazza’s Fauna is set in a near-future Western Australia, recognisable but markedly bleaker. Stacey and her family have signed up to an experimental research procedure in which Stacey’s embryo’s genes are spliced with non-human ones. It doesn’t seem plausible for a family to choose the unknown for their child, yet LifeBLOOD’s financial incentives, as well as Stacey’s grief over a miscarriage, override the family’s doubts. Initially Stacey is more preoccupied with the possibilities of her baby than with the fine print in the contracts, even when the check-ups grow more invasive. The landscape in the story depicts a dire future of curtailed wetlands and dusty monoculture, to which baby Asta (and her retrograde genes) is a solution. What I liked most was the deeply realised family dynamic and the believably flawed way Stacey meets the challenges thrown at her. Fauna skilfully fuses the real concerns of parenting in the age of catastrophic climate change with a dystopian plot not very far removed from our present. The sinister medical corporation and their plans for Stacey’s child are not, after all, a stark evil, but a subtler and much more human one.

Anne Barnetson is a bookseller and illustrator based in Perth


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