Metro Winds

This is Isobelle Carmody’s second short story anthology, the first being Green Monkey Dreams.
Overall it was a great collection of short stories, not as thought provoking as Green Monkey Dreams, but some very interesting and varied tales, and some beautiful stories.

The title story: Metro Winds

A lovely story about a girl who belongs in the country who is moved to the city and just can’t find her place. The contrast between the girl’s mother, and her aunty who lives in the city is quite striking. The Metro Winds – the winds from the underground network, help the girl find her place. Well, actually her wings, as she is engorged by this beast and transformed.

The Dove Game

Just like in Metro Winds you can get a feeling that Isobelle has a little contempt for cities, and how oppressive, and disconnecting they are.

“Cities smothered the land, he reckoned, stopping it communicating with the people who lived on it, though maybe it was more that cities reflected people’s desire not to hear the land.”

“…[H]is father had said sadly that cities were as confused as the people who lived in them, and that you needed maps for dealing with the people as much as for finding your way around the streets”

It certainly was an interesting story, to see how this young man’s life was changed because of a dying man’s wish. And just how he was lost, and found himself in a foreign city, where he is so disconnected compared to before when he was in the outback. Of course the story of the dying man, and the person he was supposed to meet is also very interesting and mysterious, and turns out to be very haunting and sad.

The Girl Who Could See the Wind

Instead of leaving Australia, this time we have a story where a family comes to Australia, seeking the end of the world. Well really an escape from a promise the mother made to a witch, that promise being her first born daughter in exchange for the man she loved, who died. Certainly was interesting to see Willow see things others just couldn’t, and then the contrast of Rose who saw people more clearly than anyone else. Is Isobelle trying to say there are two (or perhaps three if they are blind to both) people in the world, those who see other people clearly, and those who see the world clearly?

But the story thickens as Rose disappears and their mother is found dead in the winter park, which only Willow and her mother seem aware about – because it’s magical. Eventually Willow goes into the park with her policeman friend to try to find Rose, they end up meeting the witch, who explains the deal, and how her mother had Rose to try and trick the witch and take her instead. And we find that Rose is up in a tower awaiting her rescue by the prince, who is actually her half-brother, who has been through some trials to get there. At the end of it all, the prince is turned into a cat, and he can either leave and be a man, or stay and be with Rose. He chooses to leave, and then immediately regrets it and goes back just before the way closes. While Willow also gets a happily ever after as she and the policeman fall in love also.

I always love how Isobelle can twist old fairytales and stories and come up with something original.

The Stranger

I know from Isobelle’s blog that she has been to Santorini, and I think I can really see her personal experience shine through here. She talks of the smell of the eucalyptus trees, and the feeling of a long flight from Australia, and of Santorini so vividly. For a very long time it was a bit of guessing game to see how this story would be ‘fantasy’, which I liked. Because fantasy doesn’t need to be full on all the time, and in fact this story could nearly end without the fantasy ending, which involved vampires, who once a century find one person to join them to ensure they remain in touch with humanity.

The Wolf Prince

A very complicated story with lots of flash backs and flash backs within memories, but really engrossing. Definitely get the sense of fairytales being woven in, with curses turning men into beasts, only saved by princesses, and the hunt for these princesses which is very complicated. Then the huge mattresses, for a second I thought there was going to be a pea involved, but there wasn’t.

But again, of course given it is the title, we have the theme of cities, and how they hide something more sometimes. Like the passages to the faerie world, this time though it seemed to be Venice which Isobelle was talking about with its canals, but it doesn’t have to be a real place at all.

The Man Who Lost His Shadow

Again another journey to a foreign place, searching. This time for the man’s shadow, which he noticed disappeared not long after his retirement, but the question is how long did he simply not notice? I do like that he went to doctors and the like about not having a shadow and how they just couldn’t comprehend it. Instead he heads to Transylvania?? or somewhere where darkness is strong, after some random interaction with someone who led him there. He gets kidnapped by some criminals for a little while, before being allowed to go on his way, and he ends up having an encounter with a roadside prostitute who is able to give him his shadow back because it’s in her breasts. Yeah, a bit weird.

Green Monkey Dreams – Isobelle Carmody

Green Monkey Dreams by Isobelle Carmody

EDIT: Though you may not be able to find the book in stores anymore, you can find the book on Allen & Unwin’s website: here Currently it costs $19.99 Australia Dollars, and there is free shipping to Australia and New Zealand. For international shipping, it will cost you $10 for the first book, and $5 for every additional book thereafter (with faster shipping costing $25 for the first book and $10 thereafter). You may find it elsewhere, so check around!
This is the 1996 original cover

Now this book was first published back in 1996, and is actually a collection of 14 short stories, and I guarantee you that these are definitely some of the best, if not the best, short stories you will ever read (if I am wrong, I really want to know which short stories top them!)! It was republished this year, and I have been informed that it is now out of print, so if you are going to snap up a copy, you need to do so quickly. I am lucky enough to have just received a signed copy of the book from Isobelle Carmody herself for my contributions to the ‘Great E-Book debate‘ as part of her relaunch of another of her books ‘Greylands’ which is now available as an ebook and will be available later this year as a paperback (that site is now ‘closed’, as it was only up for just over a month but the site still exists). Some stores would have already run out of the print of ‘Green Monkey Dreams’ so you may have to do some hunting around to find a copy, but it is well worth the effort. (It is not available/no copies left on Amazon or the Book Depository at the moment, but is available at ‘Dymocks‘ in Australia). Or of course, a friend might have a copy or a local library (if you are lucky enough to have access to one with a copy)!

I am going to start spoiling a bit, so if you intend to read the book/buy your own copy, and don’t want to be spoiled at all (I won’t be doing too much though), stop reading now!!!, otherwise I’ll start by describing the book.

The 14 short stories would be amazing on their own (and in fact some of them were published in various places) but together they are fantastic. They aren’t majorly connected to one another, but there is recurring themes and little things (you’ll see if you read it) that appear over a couple of the stories. Now they are all fantasy, some are more out there than others, whereas some are definitely more real life but have a fantastical element to them. I won’t go into too much detail because I really don’t want to ruin anyone’s experience for them, because it is really a book you need to experience yourself. But I will say that some of the stories are haunting and sometimes shocking. They are all food for thought, and really do leave you thinking and wondering.

The ebook cover on the left, and the Ford Street paperback cover on the right
The ebook cover on the left, and the Ford Street paperback cover on the right

One thing I cannot stress enough is that Isobelle Carmody is an amazing, fantastic, awesome, inspirational fantasy writer. She creates such detailed worlds (14 of them in this book, that is an achievement in itself) over and over again, and they are all different. I cannot even imagine how she came up with these ideas and how she was able to put them together so well. Now I have to warn you that you may need an open mind to read this book, the first short story is quite out there (maybe a more real world one could have been put, but I don’t think that would have worked, because those were saved for some really powerful moments) and it may force some readers to walk away from the test, which would be really sad. Don’t get me wrong, it is a brilliant short story, but for those not familiar with Isobelle Carmody, and not really enjoying ‘full on’ fantasy, it might be confronting to have such an new and unfamiliar world thrust upon you (and there is only limited time to introduce a world, as these are short stories, with a combined page total just over 300). You may be slightly confused at first, but for me I was able to get into the worlds quickly and enjoy them. There are many surprises along the way (which I will not spoil) which blew me away, and I had not expected them to happen. It is not a kid’s book, I’m calling that now, and it deals with some mature themes (though there is no real swearing or sexual content or graphic scenes, some things a child or even young teen might be too confronted by to read) and I think it highlights that fantasy is not just for children, and Isobelle Carmody is the prime example of that.

I also think that it is a book that you should not be rushing through, you need to take your time, and split up the short stories, so you can have some time to ponder and digest each one. I think it is also of great benefit to re-read the stories, because there are surely going to be things you have missed. I have to say that this is my favourite collection of short stories, and I am so glad to have been able to read it, and I urge you to find a copy and enjoy.

There is another collection of short stories by Isobelle Carmody called ‘Metro Winds’ and this is much more easy to get a copy of as this year was the first publication. I have not read it yet, but if it is anything like Green Monkey Dreams, it will be amazing, I have a copy, and will report back once I have got a chance to read it all. In other literary news, I am currently reading ‘Without Warning’ by John Birmingham (another Australian author, I swear I don’t just read Australian books!) which is part of a trilogy of books, it is swet back in 2002-3 just before the start of the Iraq war/invasion and something big happens (if you want an idea, find the book/google it and read the blurb, or even just find out what the second book is called) and that event causes huge shock-waves around the world. It is a dense, detailed novel, but well worth a read!

“The Keeping Place’ starts tomorrow!!!