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Dyschronia

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One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewhere in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared. One among them has been plagued by troubling visions of this cataclysm for years. Is she a prophet? Does she have a disorder that alters her perception of time? Or is she a gifted and compulsive liar?

Mills' novel takes contemporary issues of resource depletion and climate change and welds them to one young woman's migraine-inducing nightmares. Her prevision anticipates a world where entire communities are left to fend for themselves: economically drained, socially fractured, trapped between a hardscrabble past and an uncertain future.

Oscillating between the future and the past, Dyschronia is a novel that tantalises and dazzles, as one woman's prescient nightmares become entangled with her town's uncertain fate. Blazing with questions of consciousness, trust, and destiny, this is a wildly imaginative and extraordinary novel from award-winning author Jennifer Mills.

354 pages, Paperback

First published January 30, 2018

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About the author

Jennifer Mills

28 books56 followers
Jennifer Mills is the author of five books: the novels The Airways (Picador, 2021), Dyschronia (Picador, 2018; shortlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Award for Literature and the 2019 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel), Gone (2011), and The Diamond Anchor (2009), and a collection of short stories, The Rest is Weight (2012). In 2012 Mills was named a Best Young Australian Novelist by the Sydney Morning Herald and in 2014 was awarded the Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship from the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. Mills lives on Kaurna Yerta.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews
Profile Image for Neale .
284 reviews124 followers
June 6, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,574 reviews124 followers
March 18, 2018
Dyschronia is a difficult novel to classify, character driven in a lot of ways with beautifully descriptive narrative it is full of strange self referential loops, some of which tie time into pretzels, others which wind the characters into strange shapes and experiences.

The setting is a small coastal town somewhere in Australia - the great Australian bight, one suspects - sometime in the not present. While in many ways consistent with 2018, there are subtle elements of dystopian future throughout the setting and events. They are not the focus of the plot in any way, but they serve as a frame in which the mining town (asphalt) of Clapstone can play out the story.

The main character is Sam, as a young girl she gets migraines and slowly grows into the realisation that the things she sees in her migraines are future events. The story oscillates between the different voices, Sam's and the townspeople, the different times, future present and past in a way that is quietly enchanting and for the most part I was thoroughly enchanted.

As we go further through the cephalopodian theme becomes stronger and stronger ; the cuttlefish on the cover is not just artistic licence, cehalopods and the ocean are very real players in the story. This part definitely enchanted me, cephalopods are a neglected branch of literature and they were integrated into the narrative flawlessly, from the start.

I think this is a lovely book which I would recommend thoroughly! My only criticism would be that because of the drifting, self referential loops it is a difficult book to pick up for short amounts of time. One really needs a good solid half hour or so, possibly more, to read it in as otherwise one loses track of where in the narrative one is. This is easy to do at the best of times, is probably even intentional but it did make me reluctant to pick it up unless I knew I had uninterrupted reading time. Also, I personally did NOT love the ending; I found it beyond ambiguous and it did not leave me with a 'completed' feeling, it felt like the ending just drifted up and it stopped because, why not.... This I suspect will not be the common reaction to the ending, in a lot of ways it fits the narrative and I suspect many readers will like it.

In general though, great book by a great author, I will be gravely disappointed in awards panels if it does not appear on any prize lists over the next year or two.
Profile Image for Jennifer (JC-S).
2,785 reviews192 followers
May 16, 2018
‘How do we see what we can’t imagine ?’

One morning, the residents of Clapstone, a small Australian coastal town awake to find that the sea has disappeared. Thousands of sea creatures are left dead, and the stench is horrific.

‘Nothing like this has ever happened to us, not here on the uneventful instep of Australia, facing away from the world .’

One of the residents, Sam (short for Samandra) has been troubled by visions of this event for years. What does this mean – both for Sam and Clapstone? Is Sam a prophet? Is Sam a liar? Hold on to those questions: it’s unlikely that the answer will be quite so binary, so neat. Sam’s visions, her migraine-inducing nightmares anticipate a difficult dystopian future. The story moves between past and present, between the different views of Sam and the townspeople.

I found this a challenging book to read. While I found Sam’s perceptions and experiences of time thought-provoking, I struggled to keep track of past, present and future. My own version of dyschromia: I need to be able to relate each part to the whole in some kind of chronology. The fact that I couldn’t always do so easily made the world even more alien, more dystopian. And, in many ways, this is the power of Ms Mills’s novel: things happen, there are not always logical explanations, the town lurches towards an even more uncertain future.

‘A town is like a child, see: you might have dreams for it but it makes its own way, out of spite sometimes, and always out of your hands .’

I read the novel slowly, concentrating in order to understand. The reactions of the townspeople had me wondering how most of us would deal with something similar. Would we believe Sam, would we expect more from Sam, or would we ignore her? And Sam herself: how does someone make sense of a world when their experience of time is different from everybody else? In the meantime, the community becomes disadvantaged, isolated and trapped. An environmental disaster, a social disaster, a world in which few of our usual reference points are useful.

I finished the novel, resolving to read it again at some stage. It’s imaginative, extraordinary and unsettling. It’s time.

‘Here’s a prediction: the future never turns out the way we think it will .’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Profile Image for Laura.
99 reviews25 followers
February 9, 2018
A haunting, circular tale that loops between timelines in a small Australian town. Some beautiful writing centered on a strong sense of place.

The novel operates within three timelines: two of which are from Sam's POV, the third from the remaining townspeople's POV, the collective 'we' who narrate the post-disaster present. There is something Kafka-esque about their dealings with bureaucracy, machinations in which private corporations move in, holdings pass hands, town investors receive mysterious letters and numbers are dialed where no answers are reached on the other end. All of it sets the tone of a persistent people trying to make sense of a cataclysm that cannot be explained. The town itself runs wild around them, nature overtaking the ruins of what came before, as they are left to their own devices.

Sam is the centre of the story, a slave to time and visions of the future which, ironically, tend to occur because she has revealed them to others: a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a frustration to Sam's obedience of following the course of events of a future she barely glimpses. She is a frustrating, stubborn character whose strength to see it all through I found surprisingly admirable. I read to the last page wanting to know that her suffering was worth it.

Her relationship with her mother, Ivy, is fraught with tension because of her visions and the townspeople rotate between disbelief, hatred and awe of her. Ed's relationship to both Sam and Ivy seems purposely vague. While there is an initial flirtation between himself and Ivy, subsequent interactions between them seem chaste, as if they are merely strangers living in the same house. Ed subsists on Sam, Ivy and the townspeople like a parasite. He is the figurehead of the shadowy bureaucracy the townspeople become familiar with, the salesperson whose ambition and greed is easy to distrust.

This book paints some of the most haunting scenes I've ever read. I recently watched the Netflix series, Dark, which similarly revolves around a town stuck in a time loop. There are scenes in the show which cut between places accompanied only by a haunting violin- this is how I pictured many of the scenes of Dyschronia. A town overcome with white frost. The sculpture of a giant white cuttlefish beneath the Ferris wheel of a long-abandoned fairground. Bloating corpses left to rot a sea-less ocean floor.

I feel like this story will stay with me for awhile.
Profile Image for Figgy.
678 reviews218 followers
Read
January 27, 2018
Review to come.

In the meantime: some sincerely beautiful and raw and dreamy and tangible writing here. It's not what you would call plot driven, but it doesn't exactly fall into character driven, either... it's somewhere in between.
The story takes places across three different times within the same small (fictional) Australian town.

The opening chapter is actually the start of one timeline, but 8+ years after the other timelines, and near the end we get to discover stuff from right back at the beginning, because time is not so straightforward for our MC.

I feel like you'd call it sci-fi-lite crossed with magical realism in an almost literary setting.

Time travel, but of the The Time Traveler's Wife variety, in that it is a biological thing and outside of our MC's control. Otherness of the Eleanor variety (the vibe of the novel is a lot closer to this than Time Traveler's Wife). Beautiful language that kind've reminded me of The Chimes (at a rough guess, though, because it's been years since I read that one).
Profile Image for Tundra.
624 reviews27 followers
August 17, 2019
While speculative fiction is not my favourite genre the writing in this novel has really pushed me as a reader and created something thought provoking.
Reimagining the future using climate change and extinction needed something new and the disappearing sea provides this disturbing twist. As the town declines and the residents become increasingly desperate to find value in the place they call home a dark purpose is alluded to and unseen bureaucrats pull strings beyond their control.

The multiple perspectives and multiple timelines are reasonably common in recent literature but I’m not sure I’ve seen the use of the first person ‘we’ before. While I did get a bit confused by some of these shifts, and perhaps there were a few too many, I think viewing the events as a townsfolk perspective was very clever and worked well.

The cephalopod as creature that can morph and camouflage with its surroundings was a brilliant metaphor for how people can also disguise their intentions and modify their behaviour. The characters in this novel were multi layered and deceptive in much the same way.

The visual and olfactory images created in this novel linger on as a dire warning. In a time where destruction of the planet is happening at such a rapid rate perhaps it does feel like we are living in the past, present and future simultaneously.
May 4, 2020
Dyschronia is one of those books that you could read a dozen times, and still see something different on each go-round. You’ll come for the beautiful, lyrical writing, but you’ll stay for the complexity and intricacy of the world that Mills has built. It’s Australian speculative fiction, with echoes of Erin Brokovich and The Time Traveller’s Wife, told in a classic Greek chorus style, about a future that feels all too imminent.

My full review of Dyschronia can be found on Keeping Up With The Penguins.
Profile Image for Jay-Dee Davis.
134 reviews4 followers
August 10, 2018
This book is terrifying and beautiful.

Terrifying because of just how close to home it feels. Set in an Australian coastal town, the sights, smells, and touches feel so familiar that the events depicted seem likely to happen 20 minutes away from my house.

Beautiful because of the writing. The author is clearly incredibly talented. The prose is consistent and well suited to the story.

It’s mostly driven by character rather than by plot, switching narrator and time period between chapters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may cause some confusion for the reader. It’s definitely not a book that you can rush.
Profile Image for Kimberley Starr.
Author 5 books27 followers
February 10, 2018
I love the way this book is imagined. For instance, time doesn't just have speed, it has weight. A young child accepts that she seen things that NOW hasn't quite caught up with. Once surprise at its narrative world wore off in the second half of the novel, perhaps it could have moved more quickly to its conclusion.
Profile Image for Tien.
1,789 reviews67 followers
March 12, 2018
Baffled.

Hence my star rating of 2 probably doesn't worth much. I loved the cover and I was intrigued by the blurb, "One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewhere in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared." I, therefore, expected some sort of post-apocalyptic sort of novel and while it was in a way 'post-apocalyptic', it wasn't... not really.

I struggled by the time shifts; I can't even tell you how many there were supposed to be... There were the future (in visions?), the present, and the past; I know these for certain but there were time strands for each time anyway and there's no particular warning, they can change within a chapter, a space or an asterix to indicate end of a section does not particularly help. Thankfully, there were only 2 perspectives: Sam's (though she's the one having visions so that didn't help in anyway) and the town people's (using the royal 'We').

I think I understood that the book's themes revolve around the environment, climate, and corporate scams that in the end, only the plebeians suffer the consequences. I'm just not sure whether getting your point across despite the baffled reader is enough. I do have now an appreciation of the cuttlefish... not enough not to eat them (not that I eat them all the time). I am just so sorry that I could not love the book!
Profile Image for Michael Livingston.
795 reviews242 followers
February 25, 2018
A bleak and intriguing climate dystopia, about greed, small towns and the inevitable destruction of our environment that's coming at us while we all pretend it's not. I sometimes struggled to keep the three different threads of the story untangled in my brain, but loved some stylistic approaches (like the collective narration of sections from the town's perspective) and found the whole book very powerful.
Profile Image for Akvilina Cicėnaitė.
Author 19 books168 followers
February 19, 2020
*3,5

This book is beautifully written but it did not touch me as much as I thought it will. The pace for me was a bit slow, the ending too ambiguous. However, it carries an important message on the inevitable destruction of the environment, climate change, corporate scams, greed, and the future that may (or may not) have already arrived and I do recommend it as a poignant and thought-provoking climate dystopia. 
Profile Image for Sarah.
215 reviews20 followers
February 8, 2018
This book was provided to Farrago, the student magazine of the University of Melbourne as a media release by Picador, the review is also available on the website. Link provided below.

Lyrically Looming, Jennifer Mills’ Dyschronia.
Jennifer Mills: Dyschronia
Picador by Pan Macmillan Australia, 2018.
ISBN 9781760552206, pp. 357, $29.99

“Here’s a prediction: the future never turns out the way we think it will. Simple enough, but that’s not the end of it. The past isn’t what we thought it was either.” (237)

You have no idea what you’re in for when you pick up a copy of Jennifer Mills’ Dyschronia. Captivated by the front cover’s ominous art work, you, the reader will never be sure what’s coming next and where the story goes.

Following the life of Sam and the thirteen or so other remaining residents of the Australian coastal village of Clapstone, readers are faced with turbulent alterations of time throughout the novel as the town changes ownership and it becomes the goal of many companies, such as Apsco Asphalt to ‘improve’ the community. From a young age, Sam suffers horrendous migraines that give her premonitions of events to come. It is said that “everyone had headaches. But only Sam claimed there was meaning to them” (32). As Sam predicts the disappearance of the sea and multiple suicides, the “pain and perception of time created a dissociative loop, a splitting migraine as a self-fulfilling prophecy” (64). Through this Mills offers us a tormenting tale of time and the Australian landscape.

The novel is heartbreakingly Australian, and as a resident of a small growing town, I felt a resonance with the writing. Everyone knows what you are doing on a given day. There is no escape from your surroundings. This is even more prevalent from Sam, who cannot escape it in any timeline.

“When is this?” she asked her mother.
“You mean what.” Ivy frowned between towels.
“Oh yeah.” Sam smiled, but her eyes betrayed a panic.
(19-20)

Mills’ writing is poetry. I admired the way that the voices changed throughout the novel - the omniscient “we” speaking for some chapters, combined with Sam’s own perspective, kept me on my toes. However, whilst I was captivated by this consistent curving of time, I constantly felt like I was missing something. Like I needed to sit down and read this book with a group to understand it further. However, this may be a strength in some ways, such as for analysis in a literature class - which I do hope becomes a thing as I would love to learn more and read varying opinions. It’s intriguing and difficult to pull yourself away from - like a migraine itself, the voices of this book echo long after the initial interaction.

I also felt there was a strong sense of environmentalism within the novel. Constant concerns for the ocean, and the lack of “end to the garbage” (179) we deposit into the world. Mills holds strong concerns for the means in which we interact with the world. The past, after all, impacts the future.
Dyschronia is not a book I would have initially picked up, however upon reading it, it has opened new ways of considering the world for myself. If you’re looking for a beautifully written read that will keep you on your toes and leave you haunted long afterwards, this is it.

“There is a thread. A ligature. Time trundles on its axis, and it unravels. A line is a line. She follows behind.” (293)

http://farragomagazine.com/2018/02/06...
Profile Image for Kim.
789 reviews84 followers
June 23, 2019
Read 100 pages and while the great descriptive writing kept me going in parts, the plot and narrative are just too disjointed and the characters are too shallow for me.
I really liked the premise too, but it's handled very unconvincingly.
I think I'm too grounded in a Science and economics based education to swallow the many leaps in logic.
A great title but not one I'll race to pick up again.
I was looking forward to the only Sci-Fi on the MF long-list but really I can only say it's the weakest of all the books for me. DNF
Profile Image for Alison.
257 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2018
Incredible. Devastating. a poetic and yearning critique of industry, capitalism, greed, and people's passive belief in life going on. Amazing split narrative between the collective and the individual, and the precarious and random movements of time in individual consciousness and the earth's life. A definite dose of climate change anxiety that I had to slow down reading in order to process. A tour de force.
Profile Image for Steph .
277 reviews9 followers
November 5, 2018
This is an intense book. It’s not what you’d call fun, and it’s not gripping in the sense of a fast-moving narrative full of cliffhangers. But it’s one I kept reading, mostly because the imagery is so unsettling that I wanted some resolution to prevent those rotting cuttlefish hanging in my mind, unable to dissipate because I didn’t know what would happen next.

The book jumps back and forth in time, focussing on the main character, Sam, and a second narrator whose name I’m not sure we find out. There are at least three “strands” of narrative set at different times (Sam in the past, Sam in the present, and the second narrator), which eventually come together, and they seem to all move forwards in time (as opposed to backwards or some other sequence), but the time in each strand moves at different speeds and the three strands aren’t labelled, so it can be difficult to know which chapter belongs to which strand, and when the chapter is set. The story of Sam’s childhood and teenage years seems to be set in approximately present-day Australia, with teenagers texting each other and riding their bikes around, with the story progressing to oil shortages and holographic bird-messengers a decade later. But the era is hard to say for sure.

All this leads to an intentionally muddled sense of time, when the reader doesn’t always know what is current versus what is past, or what is imagined versus what is real. There’s also a pattern of muddling between what a person says versus what they actually think, and what they perceive versus what is happening.

It’s all very confusing - intentionally I’m sure, as the bending of time and truth is the whole point of the book - and it forces the reader to either think and concentrate very hard, possibly causing their brain to hurt, or to just roll with the dreamy vibe and just stay on track enough to keep up with the broad narratives and themes. I chose the latter.

Others have said this book is hard to categorise but I’d call the genre “literary dystopian fiction”. It’s a genre in which I think I’ve only read one other book: Gold Fame Citrus. I prefer Dyschronia. The plot is more involved and the Australian-ness is endearing (for me as an Australian anyway). Also unlike Gold Fame Citrus, there are characters who are infuriating but also some who are both believable and lovely.

The other novel it reminded me of was Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, set (like Dyschronia) in a small Australian town, full of residents who are out of luck, desperate for hope, and get lured into a scheme that the reader can see is doomed from the start - and hence are forced to look on helplessly as the inevitable disaster unfolds. That book is set a hundred years earlier than Dyschronia, with some similar themes, making me think: what goes around comes around... but hopefully not really in the form of rotting cuttlefish...
Profile Image for Lisa.
3,245 reviews409 followers
March 13, 2018
The first thing to say about Jennifer Mills’ fantastic new novel is that you should not be put off by its title. You don’t need to know what it means, you don’t need to worry about pronouncing it properly because even if you do get it right, the librarian or the shop assistant will probably look puzzled anyway. Best to write it down on a piece of paper!
(And no, it’s not the name of that blue creature on the front cover. That’s a type of cephalopod, better known to us as a cuttlefish, the internal shell of which people who keep birds in cages use for the birds to nibble on).
It’s a most disquieting novel. The people of a coastal town wake up one day to find that the sea has gone from their coastline. The sands are covered with putrescent creatures and rubbish and everyone goes indoors to avoid the revolting smell. The scene of devastation is too big to contemplate a community clean-up, but these people don’t work together as a community anyway. The first person plural narrator who tells us this is world-weary and fatalistic: speaking on behalf of the town this voice conveys a sense of hopelessness and of people no longer in control of their destiny. The only time these people are ever proactive is when a young girl called Sam foresees a great flood and they all take out flood insurance so that they can cash in on it.
Sam’s real name is Samandra, a name with echoes of the Greek oracle Cassandra, who was doomed to have her prophecies disbelieved. Sam’s narrative is told from her point-of-view but not in her voice. Her perspective is limited because she’s only seven when the novel begins, and she doesn’t understand the visions that come to her when she has dreadful, disabling migraines. She sees the future only in fragments and when she tries to explain what she’s seen of course her mother doesn’t believe her. She takes Sam on a round of medical appointments to deal with the migraine, and she either dismisses everything Sam tries to convey or she comes up with a rational explanation for it.
Until, that is, Sam foresees six men fall to their death from a tower in the asphalt works.
To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/03/13/d...
Profile Image for Luke Musto.
17 reviews1 follower
November 17, 2019
I was really disappointed by this book as it has a great premise that the author was unable to deliver upon. Mills' prose is effective and often evocative, however, the novel suffered from the choice of structure (or lack thereof) as the book and chapters lurched forward more as very loosely connected vignettes rather than with a plot that moved forward. The characterisation was very poor and ultimately I did not feel as if I learnt anything beyond the surface of its principal characters. Similarly, the narrative set up many mysteries, none of which were resolved by the conclusion. Ultimately unsatisfying and became very tedious.
Profile Image for Jane.
382 reviews20 followers
June 30, 2018
This was the most confusing sci-fi book I've ever read (well after 'Hull Zero Three' which was so confusing it was a DNF!). Who was the 'we' half the story was written in, what was 'the dome' that kept getting mentioned, why was more not made of the sea vanishing or did it not vanish? Sorry, it just jumped around in time (or in Sam's head?) too much for me to follow. Happy to finish it, though I was hoping for some great clarity at the end, which never came.
Profile Image for Brad Dunn.
223 reviews14 followers
November 8, 2019
I really love the idea of bleak, Australian fiction. It's both a reflection of the way a lot of people feel and an interesting way of speculating on what our future is likely to become. It is the genre of the future and I support anyone who writes for it. But, I see the perfect examples of this in Michel Faber. (and yes, I know Faber is not Australian). Faber paints the most vivid, bleak stories - but he nails the storytelling component. This is where Dyschronia let me down a little.

But a caveat. I really liked this book, but I had to stop halfway through, pick it up a month or so later, so I think that impacted the way I felt about it. I may have not given it the focus it deserved and I got a bit lost through the process. Broadly speaking, the idea of the book is brilliant, but I found the tension and plot of the book simply drag out. It feels like it would make a great movie, but in book form, it felt like it was twice as long as id needed to be.

On the upside the prose is incredible, the characters are rich and vibrant, and it's a lovely book to read. My criticisms are all related to the pace and it is at times, a bit long-winded. The prose gets a bit strange when it comes to Sam's visions, which if afforded a little latitude, is understandable, but mostly it feels too much.

I'd love to read more work from the author though.
Profile Image for Nat Newman.
Author 2 books7 followers
July 15, 2019
I really loved this at first but somewhere around the middle it became tedious and kind of pointless and what the hell is with that ending? I like an ambiguous ending as much as the next literature nerd, but after a tough second/third act, it wasn't the payoff the reader deserved.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
381 reviews5 followers
March 6, 2020
I’m not sure what to make of this book. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. But to say that I quite enjoyed it would also be inaccurate. I couldn’t figure out if it was compelling or nonsensical. The switching time frames didn’t bother me so much, the whole idea of time being nonlinear is a familiar one. But the consistent motifs throughout the story didn’t really offer enough meaning for me to hang my understanding on.

The book was very self-conscious in its telling. I understood all themes and they clearly stood out - the destruction of our environment by human activity, the duplicity of big business and sometimes government and our inability to understand or accept the truth science is telling us. But it didn’t give much away about the heart of the characters either.

The images of a future scalded environment was evocative of the summer we just experienced and that made those aspects of the story compelling.

I just wish the author did a little bit more work at the end, not necessarily tie up every loose end, but at least to show a way forward, or backward. I don’t think that is too much to ask of a writer.
Profile Image for Final Draft.
43 reviews2 followers
August 6, 2020
Jennifer Mills’ Dyschronia
The first thing you notice about Dyschronia is its vivid cover featuring a vibrant blue cephalopod. Next you're hit with the concept, which sights climate catastrophe and precognitive meddling in a small coastal town.
Dyschronia from Jennifer Mills is the story of Sam. Since childhood Sam has experienced debilitating migraines that give her glimpses of the future. Living between time leaves Sam confused and doubtful of her own reality; remembering the future and unsure how to live when she doesn’t yet know what might happen.
As her first vision comes true Sam finally feels her life come together as memories catch up with her reality.
When the shoreline of Sam’s hometown of Clapstone retreats and the sea disappears, the residents are panicked. Did Sam know about this? And if so why weren’t they warned?
The story follows Sam and her family, interjected with the voice of the town singing a chorus of insight and observation at future unfolding around them.
Sam’s precognition is a curse through her childhood, her mother bouncing her between doctors seeking an answer, and she feels isolated and wrong. It’s not until her mother’s new partner sees an opportunity to make money, her prescience has better predictive power than an algorithm, that Sam is told she is ‘gifted’ and ‘special’.
The town meanwhile first fear then rely on Sam’s ability to ‘see’ events that are pivotal in their development. Furiously scrambling to respond to each vision; in effect they hand over their lives to half glimpsed pre-destination.
Conceptually ‘Dyschronia’ is vast; Mills harkins back to the tragedies of Ancient Greece with the chorus, an oracle and the sense of fate unfolding in spite of the interfering hands of mortals. This plays out against the backdrop of small town Australia, a place where the necessities of life leave the population forever with one foot in a promised future that will see them rise about present circumstance.
The story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, as we jump between perspectives and times living the disjointed reality as Sam feels it. With scenes tightly juxtaposed, from vision to reality Mills shows us the futility of living too much on a promise. The whole effect wonderfully jarring; like reading the last page of a mystery then piecing together a set of clues that lead in a different direction.
Nic this is the type of speculative fiction that I absolutely hang out for. Last week we discussed ‘The Power’ from Naomi Alderman and I talked about how despite the close association with Margaret Atwood it was a qualitatively different book with its pacing and action. Dyschronia is more in the style of a Handmaids Tale, with its slow burn and immersive characterisation that draw you into its world.
There's a lot going on in this book and Mills wants you to engage with the ideas she presents;
What does it mean to try and understand the future, and how do the decisions that flow from this influence our lives?
Can we predictively manage the vast ecosystem we live in, and how do we live with and respond to unpredictable events?
Another contemporary that springs to mind in Charlotte Wood’s ‘The Natural Way of Things’ for it’s depth, darkness and ability to entertain and engage the reader with ideas that are so vital to our present...
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Profile Image for Linda in Utopia.
230 reviews7 followers
May 23, 2018
Spottet this beautiful cover in an Hobart Bookshop, turned it around and the first sentence did electrify me straight away: "One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewehre in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared."
This book is strange, wonderous, alien and written with well chosen words. You can feel that the author "gave birth" to this book, that is must have been a long writing process. This is nothing you can just write down in 3 months. The characters are too complex, the jumping between times too often, it wants all your attention.
The first chapter gave me shivers. I had images in my head. Of course a reader should have images in his/her head, but it was more like... seeing a film. I felt like I am in cinema and I see the first scenes of a fantastic film like "Three Billboards outside ebbing missouri" (just without the funny parts).
The author does not spend time on specific discriptions, neither for characters nor surroundings. You have to really read between the lines, to understand theses characters, to let these scenes build themselves up.
This strong first chapter is followed by the day when the sea disappears, a dreamy, hectic description from the people living in the village. The story than goes up and down like waves, with very strong parts and not so strong parts, where the scentences float through the pages, not really connected to each other. I found some of the dreamy thoughts of the main character a little bit too long, could have worked with less.
Meanwhile, the book has a Twin Peaks-esk feeling to it but the australian setting makes it alien and dystopian.
This is not an easy read, I had to fully concentrate on the words and the jumping between times and all the things that are not spoken between the vaguely said things. But its a magical book if you let it and I will definately read it again.
Profile Image for Clare Rhoden.
Author 21 books38 followers
June 25, 2018
I loved this book, and I'm still thinking about it. That's a sign that it has some important things to say, I think. There are also many phrases that I noted as worth re-reading, and adding to my list of cool things written by excellent authors.
The story in this novel is like a cracked mirror - there are shards of time and we don't always exactly know where or rather when we are - but every piece shines with reflections of reality that we almost recognise, but of course everything looks different now that reality has been broken apart and reassembled.
This novel charts the dystopian future of a careless Australia, where the environmental damage is so gross that there is no future to be had. The wondrous, worrying dreams of local girl Samandra (Sam) are dismissed as, Cassandra-like, she debates how much to tell the people around her, people who prefer not to believe. Her mother Ivy in particular is determine dto be head-in-the-sand, spending years trying to have Sam's migraines diagnosed correctly. The resulting pronouncement of 'dyschronia' never quite settles the question, for Ivy, of whether Sam is truly foreseeing the future or just dreaming vividly and strangely. The entrepreneur Ed (who is meant to be charming, but I have pre-raised hackles about this kind of guy) is a credible saviour-cum-villain - or is it villain-cum-saviour? - of the town. Sam's best friend Jill is probably the most likeable of all the characters. I loved the device of the 'chorus' of locals whose comments intersperse Sam's dreams and Sam's story.
Equally prescient of a dire future and nostalgic of the simple ignorance of the past, this elegant story of loss and the inevitability of bad choices deserves an enduring place among the best Australian books of recent years.
Profile Image for Jodie- Readthewriteact.
247 reviews96 followers
October 28, 2018
This book was sent to me by the publisher for my honest review.

Have you ever wondered how the world will end? Maybe, you stop and think about the impact we are having on the planet with our need for more, more, more? Dyschronia isn’t the answer to your questions, or is it?

Despite the stunning cover, this is not a pretty book. Well constructed story? Yes. Interesting characters? You bet. Happily ever after? Hells to the N.O. This is a tragic tale of a child (Sam) with exciting foresight, that reveals itself as something darker as an adult. It makes you question, if you could see the future should you keep it to yourself or tell the world?

Chopping from differing prose to different events in the future, it was a bit tricky to gain a sense of what is going on at times early on, but, as a reader you adapt to this quite quickly so not to miss crucial parts of the story. Sam is such a troubled soul and certainly isn’t one of those characters that everyone will relate to, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who could relate to her really. It seems like a lot of the events that she pictures are then manipulated by others for personal gain, but given the world in which they live, it hardly seems fair to judge. I mean if you had nothing wouldn’t you try that make the most of a bad situation?

This is a beautiful, dark and somewhat confronting book. It is smart and well constructed, giving the reader the feeling they are in Sams shoes by losing sense of time. The conclusion of this astounding piece of fiction will be embedded in your mind and stay with you long after you have turned the last page.
896 reviews
October 17, 2019
If I'd rated this novel on my understanding of it, I'd have given it a much lower rating. To tell the truth, I found it utterly baffling. However, the writing, especially the description of landscape, was stunning and is responsible for my perseverance in reading it until its equally bewildering conclusion.

Mills connects her character's migraines and "hallucinations" to her ability to see into the future. What Samantha (Sam) sees is virtually the disappearance of the sea and the ending of the natural world as we know it. This aspect of the narrative was fascinating. However, because there is no linear time line, I was never sure whether Sam was envisioning the future or the past - and where was the present in this distortion of time? I was intrigued by the author's choice of structure, to include a kind of Greek chorus as the narrators of the climate disasters and their impact on the small town of Clapstone and its residents. However, these inclusions were not enough to ensure that I actually understood what was happening at the heart of Mills' highly imaginative vision.
Profile Image for Silvia Cattaneo.
43 reviews6 followers
June 26, 2021
This is one of the most boring books I have ever read. No real plot, parallel time streams (past, present and future) that become increasingly confusing as the story continues. No character development, no real investigation into the relationship between characters, a lot of things not explained, people's motives for their actions underexplored. As a migraine sufferer, I could relate to Sam (that's exactly what it feels like, including the absurd thoughts, but no actual predictions for me. Phew). But at the tenth description of what she feels like when in pain even I got bored. In the second half there are so many long sections that are just a word vomiting exercise, with no logic. Reminded me of the stream of consciousness genre, albeit Mill's writing is nowhere near the masters of that. The premise was intriguing and I finished it in the hope that something would in fact come out in terms of an actual story, but no, it never did.
Profile Image for Josephine Waite.
134 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2018
OK maybe I read too much genre, but I struggled to finish this. It seemed to get more muddy and pretentious just as one might expect resolution and enlightenment. There are good things in it; character, evocation of small town life, and warnings about the future (part of the artist's job is as Disaster Preparation Officer), but I wanted more. I am not the kind of feminist reader that needs all her female characters to be strong, brave, beautiful and clever, but Sam is so sickly and feeble that I got awfully tired of reading about her. I am still not sure if she (or her mum) survives at the end of the book, I would've preferred she became a giant bloody squid! I don't know what to suggest, Jennifer, but maybe get a sci-fi writer to give you notes, rather than a literary fiction editor.
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