There are no zombies in the dystopian future of Dyschronia. No belligerent alien species hell bent on taking over the planet. No infectious virus that spreads with alarming speed across the globe, wiping out our race as the countries on the screens turn from blue to red. No, in the dystopian future of this novel, the instrument of our destruction is the sea, or lack of it. In the small coastal town of Clapstone, the sea has disappeared.
Sam is in class when she experiences her first intense, migraine headache. With this migraine comes what seems to be a vision, Sam can see herself walking behind her mother but is also stationary watching them, seemingly in two places at once. After this first migraine, her mother, Ivy, convinces Sam that it was just a dream, but it is more than a dream and there will be more to come.
What Sam has encountered with this migraine is her first vision of the future. With each migraine Sam endures, comes not only pain and nausea, but flashes, glimpses into the future. Sam as she gets older, realises these migraines are indeed coupled with visions of the future. Sam can see the dystopian future that this little town faces but what can she do about it? How can she possibly change such a future?
Sam is the principal narrator, but equally important is the second narrator, not one individual, but the collective residents of Clapstone, who with the receding of the sea, are facing dire consequences and must make choices that could determine if they ultimately survive. Clapstone is a coastal town without a coast and the local economy is inexorably destroyed as more and more businesses close shop and leave.
Mills addresses both issues of climate change and our dwindling fossil fuels when the residents find a giant squid washed up on the now waterless beach. At first they think it is some new species which may be a possible replacement to the fossil fuel problem, only to find that it is a mutation that has tried to digest oil and died as a result.
There are times in this novel where it is hard to know exactly where in time the narrative is, as it flows forward and backwards following Sam’s visions. Ultimately, however, Mills handles the time displacement well and turns what could be a bit of a gimmick, into the book’s major strength. While I did enjoy this book, the narrative moves slowly and felt just a little shallow, and unfortunately the same can be said for the characters. For me certainly not bad, but far from an essential read. 3 stars.
Jennifer Mills is the author of three novels: Dyschronia (Picador, 2018), Gone (2011) and The Diamond Anchor (2009), and a collection of short stories, The Rest is Weight (2012). In 2012 she was named a Best Young Australian Novelist by the Sydney Morning Herald and in 2014 she was awarded the Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship from the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. She lives on Ngadjuri land.