Eta Draconis is “a distinctive road story in a disturbing future Australia”, a coming-of-age tale set in an eerie dystopia. Before it was even released, Brendan Ritchie won the Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and the buzz began. The team at UWA Publishing were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
The central characters are Elora and Vivienne, sisters with a strained relationship. Elora is just about to start university, Vivienne is just about to graduate, and they’re driving together across the country to campus for the start of semester.
But the star of the novel is Eta Draconis, the meteor shower that has pummeled Earth with debris for years. There’s no way to predict where the next strike will be – it could be your living room, your workplace, or the road right in front of you. Even if the strike doesn’t get you, the shockwave might. The shower has been going on for years, and it has shaped every aspect of life on this planet. Kids are no longer taught about dinosaurs in school, for fear that they’ll be too distressed about their own futures.
Eta Draconis is a fascinating metaphor. You could read any paradigm-shifting phenomenon into it: climate change, technology, the pandemic… It’s science-fiction that reads like fantasy, smack-bang in the middle of the speculative fiction Venn diagram.
The narrative was a bit nature-heavy for my city slicker tastes, though. If you want rich and evocative nature writing about the remote wilderness of Western Australia, Eta Draconis is the perfect pick for you. I personally just would’ve been more interested in the nitty-gritty of how the shower impacted day-to-day life (like the “phantom streaks” phenomenon Ritchie mentions once or twice), rather than the lengthy descriptions of crater-marked landscapes.
Eta Draconis is like an upper-YA Australian take on The Grapes Of Wrath, complete with the misery spiral and messy teenage relationships (that Ritchie absolutely nails, by the way). You won’t be able to help glancing up at the night sky after you’re done, wondering whether the stars might actually fall someday.