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A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  328 ratings  ·  63 reviews
It is 1997 in San Francisco and Simon and Sarah have been sent on a quest to see America: they must stand at least once in every 25-foot square of the country. Decades later, in an Australian city that has fallen on hard times, Caddy is camped by the Maribyrnong River, living on small change from odd jobs, ersatz vodka and memories. She's sick of being hot, dirty, broke an ...more
Paperback, First Edition, 318 pages
Published 2013 by Transit Lounge
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Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a huge pile-up of genres and I loved it so much: dystopian-futurism, humour, time travel, fantasy with touches of YA.

It was like the Aussie Feminist love-child of a Douglas Adams novel: set in a pre-complete Apocalypse year 2030 Melbourne and Macedon, Caddy Jalibeel's husband, Harry, cat and home have been dead and gone for two years (incinerated in an oil storage explosion that took out most of Yarraville) and she's been living in a humpy made out of junk by the Maribyrnong River ever
J.G. Follansbee
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: climate-fiction
This review also appeared on Joe Follansbee's blog.

I remember a lecture in a college philosophy class about a medieval scholastic who wrote that if you can imagine something, it’s possible for it to become real. The artist Picasso took the idea a step further by declaring, “Everything you can imagine is real.” But what happens if you imagine something, and then destroy it, like a painting or essay that won’t come together? Does it exist somewhere, but only partly? That’s among the questions auth
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I like dystopian fiction, as long as it's funny. And this is funny. It's also smart and sobering and thought-provoking. It sits comfortably in an unusual space between sci-fi, fantasy and magic realism, allowing characters the freedom to cross literal and figurative boundaries while always retaining a strong grip on the humanness of it all.

The novel moves fluidly between points of view in a way that can be (richly) disorienting. Disorientation is an important part of the characters' experience,
Susan Wight
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was named Australia's most underrated book in 2014 and a read is well rewarded. I was drawn to it when I heard that many publishers rejected it on the grounds 'too weird even for us'.

It is a dystopian tale set in a 2030 Melbourne feeling the ravages of climate change; where most of the western suburbs and the West Gate Bridge were decimated by the explosion of oil refineries; and where the gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically. The rich live a comfortable air-conditioned
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Melbourne will never quite seem the same after a wrong turn at the office of unmade lists. The ruined shanty-town Melbourne of this dystopia still has traffic and transport problems. Which Ray friend of Caddy, the heroine of this dream-like story, thinks he may have found a mysterious solution to in the form of some well-worn maps. But the story, well it has its own paths to travel - and I recommend going along with them for the ride. Neither science fiction nor fantasy this novel is lively, ima ...more
Michael Reidie
Dec 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: mikey
An interesting debut; it started good as a dystopian novel then did a major shift 100 pages in which left me confused and struggling for a while to catch up with the events. Being a Melbournian, the scenes set in Melbourne were fun instantly recognising many places mentioned (and I had a chuckle over the reference to who the President of Australia is). The scenes set in San Francisco weren't as successful and felt the whole urban fantasy aspect of teh novel was less successful. Still a book that ...more
The premise of the book is what happens when you imagine something then it becomes real. In this David Mitchell like mix of a dystopian environmental disaster with humour and time travel, Caddy lives in 2030 Melbourne where resources are very limited, water is at a premium and there is a massive gulf between the rich and the majority of people. Some of the humour is a but juvenile but it is a creative way of warning of things to come.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely take on Dystopian Science Fiction!
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aww2014, oz-sf
I picked up this book looking for science fiction. It literally had SF written all over its cover. Admittedly, this stood for San Francisco, but the blurb gave me hope. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Over the first 50 pages or so, Rawson shows us Melbourne 2030, a city transformed by climate change. This is very well realised, a burg like some of those found in Ethiopia or Pakistan — an attractive destination for refugees, but requiring international aid and emergency support. I was particularly impr
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Australian author Jane Rawson has a gem of a book here. A fantasy about time travel, parallel universes, friendship, and the fine line between imagination and reality. All done with a good dose of humor.
Caddy is on the streets after the loss of her husband. Her friend, Ray, buys some maps from a visiting soldier, hoping to sell them on for a profit, until he realizes he can step into the worn creases on the maps into other worlds.
The environmental message which runs through this book is very cl
David Scarratt
Nov 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what I think of this one. Duty to finish was a factor until half-way, and it became interesting around 60%, which peaked at about 75%, but then dropped right off before ending well enough. Some nice ideas, but hard to parse metaphysically, and I'm not sure I care enough to try. ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Wow! I have absolutely no idea how to describe this book except that it's an insane journey through a dystopian Melbourne, an imaginary past and possible alternatives.

This book snagged me from the first sentence, made me cry at a description of true love, kept me engaged with its crazy plotting and made me despair at how real our possible future looked. I came to care about all the characters, real or imaginary (both?), and missed my morning train because I couldn't put the book down.

The plot is
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was really cool. It was interesting reading about a near future Melbourne in a climate change dystopia. There were also elements of time travel, meta-book - in - a-book stuff, and strange surrealism. I recommend to fans of spec fic.
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, especially being local to where it is set. Rawson has such an original and inventive mind, I was locked in immediately. The humour is a great foil for the dystopian bleakness, and the characters are engaging.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
this book unfortunately collided with a few things that rub me a little the wrong way but also will make any reader (me included) think and that's a good thing :

1) I read "Move Over Michelangelo" by Sarah Boxer abt the "new age" of the woman artist where the author describes relief to find paintings on exhibit by women artists who didn't remind her of male painters . hmm, ok and reflects that women work more with fragments, impermanence, she reaches back to the 70's quoting Lippard about how wo
Michael Livingston
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating novel combining a dystopic view of Melbourne's future, with an odd fantasy-imbued narrative. The most impressive facet of the book is the portrayal of Melbourne in 2030 - a burnt out, overheated mess of a city, where trains run once or twice a day at best, people camp in Flagstaff gardens and large swathes of the Western suburbs have been destroyed by massive industrial fires. The book is partly about Caddy's survival in this brutal world and, to be honest, I'd have been happy if t ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I loved this! Made me laugh and cry, and think about the past, present and future, all at once. I couldn't put it down, but didn't want to get to the end of the book because I wanted it to keep going. Can't wait to see what Jane Rawson comes up with next. ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it
The gradually unwinding tale of a dystopian Melbourne was enthralling – and then along came time travel and parallel universes, and I felt like I'd failed an IQ test. Certainly a unique read, but it fell short for me when the fantasy aspects lead the writing. ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: australian
Disappointing. I was excited about a book set in my local area, but I thought it was disjointed and it just didn't grab me ...more
Unexpectedly fun, given that it's set post-climate-change-disaster ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
When I started this book it reminded me of Gold Fame Citrus: both dystopian novels set in a city destroyed by people and climate, featuring young untethered female protagonists with their male partners-in-crime, drifting around their city, just surviving, scavenging and making infuriating decisions. There are also parallels with the literary writing style.

Then things changed. Firstly, I wasn’t expecting the sci-fi turn, and I had mixed feelings about it. The book doesn’t make sense, and I chose
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The weirdest thing happened when I put down Jane Rawson’s debut novel, A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists: I started imagining things! This is weird because I’m not a particularly imagin­ative or fanciful person, so it must have been this book that did it. Let me explain …

First though, I need to say that I’ve been keen to read this book for some time. It started with the cover. I tend not to focus a lot on covers but some do grab me. This one, with its chequerboard of maps, is both eye-c
Jo | Booklover Book Reviews
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jane Rawson's debut novel A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists is one of the most unusual novels I have read. The descriptor ‘wacky’ applies to both the Narnia-like storyline and the dystopian climate change future version of Melbourne featured within it. Unfortunately, far less suspension of belief need be applied to the latter. But the climate is not the only thing that is dry in this novel, the humour woven into Rawson’s narrative is also wonderfully so. Read full review >>

Julianne Negri
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aww-challenge

I loved this book which was a big relief because I met the author and she rocked and it would have been very awkward if I didn’t like the book. I read it in March and should have reviewed it then, straight away. Rawson’s novel is so unique it has remained fresh in my mind. (And I tend to rave about it and recommend it to everyone so I have been talking about it for months!) This book manages to be original without being pretentious, moving without being sentimental, speculative without being cli
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not a very engaging start, but the story picked up a about a third of the way in. I appreciated the creative title and the main concept was creative and thought provoking. The let-down, however, was that I found none of the characters likeable. In order to be properly invested in a novel I have to care about the characters. Unfortunately, Rawson's characters seemed much less mature than their ages, and their dialogue was unnatural, making it uncomfortable to read.
To summarise, 'A Wrong Turn at t
Brenda Clift
Aug 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I think it just shows how long I have been living outside of Australia that it took me some persistence to get back into the idiom. Sent to me by Gavan, probably a favorite of his because the Doggies survive some kind of chemical accident apocalypse. I'm no longer familiar enough with Melbourne to get all the references but that isn't what's important for this book (and I hate books with maps or where maps are necessary). A wonderful, moving take on post-apocalyptic and fantasy. Elements of Neil ...more
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This isn't the most well-written book I've ever read but I really enjoyed it. The characters were great, it had an interesting plot and there was a lot of humour mixed in amongst all the doom and gloom. It was also a really unique idea. I absolutely loved the descriptions of Melbourne in the future, particularly as I once lived in Flemington and have also spent a lot of time in the Macedon Ranges. My one quibble is that the book could do with more editing, particularly towards the end, and the e ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: australian
I tried, oh how I tried, to enjoy this book. Seemed to me that the writer wasn't quite certain about what type of book she was writing: comic, dystopian, sci-fi - all of the above? Set in a future Melbourne that was just close enough to the present to be a plausible result of current national and international policy trends, the story turns in on itself and folds time back. But after a while, it all got rather silly and, although I persevered, I gave a sigh of relief at the end. ...more
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up.

While it did have some cool ideas the execution was a little tiresome in places. Loved reading all the local place names and the inside jokes.

It felt like a Doctor Who episode in parts.

It made me think about what would I imagine if I could imagine a world into existence.

The jokes about the boring world because not a great writer were also pretty self deprecating and funny.
This reads very much like a first novel that needed a firmer editing hand. There are far too many spoken sentences where people use the full name or nickname of the person they’re talking to, and it’s unbelievably grating. I appreciate the effort and I like the idea of Australian futuristic setting, but unfortunately so did the author.
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Jane Rawson grew up in Canberra. During years as a travel editor and writer, mostly for Lonely Planet, she dawdled around the streets of San Francisco, Prague and Phnom Penh and left smitten. She has also worked as the Environment Editor for news website The Conversation. She likes cats, quiet, minimal capitalisation, and finding out that everything is going to be OK.

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