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White Time

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Presents ten short stories, both dark and hopeful, that journey into the past, the future, and altered versions of the present. By the author of Black Juice.

216 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1999

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About the author

Margo Lanagan

108 books605 followers
Margo Lanagan, born in Waratah, New South Wales, is an Australian writer of short stories and young adult fiction.

Many of her books, including YA fiction, were only published in Australia. Recently, several of her books have attracted worldwide attention. Her short story collection Black Juice won two World Fantasy Awards. It was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and the United Kingdom by Gollancz in 2004, and in North America by HarperCollins in 2005. It includes the much-anthologized short story "Singing My Sister Down".

Her short story collection White Time, originally published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in 2000, was published in North America by HarperCollins in August 2006, after the success of Black Juice.

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5 stars
55 (24%)
4 stars
81 (36%)
3 stars
60 (27%)
2 stars
18 (8%)
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7 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews769 followers
December 22, 2015
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

Anthologies are fun to read because they feature a wide variety of authors and styles. With their hit-or-miss qualities, however, they can also end up being disappointing. If I run into a real dud of a story, do I set the book aside and pick up something else or skip the story and continue reading? I have several partially read anthologies just because that dud was stuck somewhere in the middle.

Short stories by one author are a little different. At least I can expect more consistency in quality. With Margo Lanagan, especially, I know I won’t get a dud. This is the third collection of stories I’ve read by her and all three times I’ve read the stories consecutively with hardly a break in between. Her writing is exquisite, rich and lovely, and the stories imaginative, moving and unsettling. I hope she plans to write forever!

White Time
One of my favorite stories in this collection is the very first one, White Time. Sheneel gets a taste of work experience, called “occupation tasting”. Her friends get to do something fun and undemanding while Sheneel gets the more fascinating job of redirecting entities that got caught in “white time” that netherworld between time periods. It’s work, so there are boring duties like number crunching and there are hazards involved. A haunting, thought-provoking story. 5/5

An engrossing little story that explores family relationships, death and grieving. 4/5

Tell and Kiss
In Evan’s world it is not food that makes you gain weight, it is all the thoughts and feelings kept inside. Now at the end of his program, he has reached his goal weight. Will he be able to keep it off? 5/5

The Queen’s Notice
A first-hand perspective of life in an ant colony. Will the queen get her mate? 3/5

Big Rage
Billie is married to a total jerk who belittles her constantly and has to have the last word. While relaxing at the beach, she meets a wounded man in armor who is badly in need of help and in turn, he helps her unleash her pent-up emotions and anger toward her husband. I love stories about powerful women! 5/5

“What comes out of me is fire. A roar of fire, a blast of fire, a curling, teeming, many-coloured chameleon-tongue of fire. It curves up the dune-side and scorches the scrub at the top. James’s spread hand, with the wedding ring on it, sticks out like a drowning man’s. He falls, he claws himself upright, he flounders flaming up over the dune-top and out of sight.”

The Night Lily
A sad and moving story which shows the effects of war on a group of children. 4/5

The Boy Who Didn’t Yearn
Tess Maxwell can read people. Their weaknesses, pain, emotions that are so apparent to her are not to others. Then she meets Keenoy Ribson, seemingly so happy with his life. How does he do it? 5/5

Midsummer Mission
Cute, funny and full of love. 3/5

Welcome Blue
A quiet story about a girl who gets a job snipping flowers to welcome the arrival of a special visitor. Little about the visitor, but more about the town’s varying reactions. 4/5

In this class-oriented world, it’s not about how much money you have, but how luxurious your hair is. Probably one of the most accessible stories in this collection, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. 5/5

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair

Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
June 25, 2010
My second Margo Lanagan's collection of short stories. While enjoyable, it is less compelling than Red Spikes.

First, unlike Red Spikes which had a feel magical realism throughout, White Time is a blend of genres - it consists of sci-fi, fantasy and distopian stories. It makes the collection a little uneven.

And second, a couple of stories are just a little too sketchy for my taste and not very successful in bringing their points across - "Welcome Blue," for instance, a story about the arrival of aliens who get attracted by a certain shade of blue (what?).

On the other hand, some stories are fantastic and have enough "meat" in them for full-length novels. For example, "The Boy Who Didn't Yearn" is a tale of a girl who has a special ability to see the hurts people carry around, be that someone's death, or parents' expectation, or guilt. She helps people to realize and deal with them. The story is the girl's journey to uncover what her own "baggage" is.

All in all, a decedent, but not mind-blowing collection of stories that could be read one by one between novels. (I came to realize that I enjoy short stories much more when reading them one at a time, taking breaks between them to ponder on them.)
Profile Image for John.
Author 330 books162 followers
March 2, 2010
I have a copy of Lanagan's multiple award-winning first collection Black Juice somewhere in the house; I began reading it when it first came out, but for some reason I was interrupted and I never got back to it. On the strength of this second collection I should make a bit of an effort to dig Black Juice out.

On the strength of the best of this second collection, anyway. Although there's no doubt that Lanagan has a strong control of voice a sometimes excellent imagination, on several occasions here I got to the end of a story and felt as if all I'd been reading had been just a doodle, a writing exercise, something written for workshopping, perhaps, rather than a fully fledged story. (Lanagan includes a note saying all these pieces were written around her attendance of a Clarion West, and I wonder if that explains this sense I had.) Looking at my notes, I see that I had this sense of non-fulfilment about four of the ten stories in the book -- that's an uncomfortably high percentage.

Of the others, I got the most out of the last (and longest), "The Wealth", in which the native Ord species (who I assume are Earthlings) are under the thumb of the colonizing humanoid Leet. To the Leet, head hair is wealth. The narrator is an expert at implanting "wealth" into animal bodies or human heads, and is commissioned by a wealthy Leet woman to increase her dimwit son's mane in order to help him net a good wife. But then our heroine is made an offer she can't refuse by the local Ord rebels . . . What's impressive is that, despite our knowledge that a violent outcome of some sort is inevitable, the story that's the focus of Lanagan's telling is almost a quiet, personal one. My notes say just "A knockout!", and I stand by that description.

Also a knockout is "The Boy Who Didn't Yearn", whose narrator has a psychic talent that makes her something close to a spirit medium: she can see people's griefs, and also the images they retain of the people they're grieving for; and she can in effect mimic those images to pass along messages of reassurance that seem to be from beyond the grave. The story of her interaction with the boy she meets who has none of these grief/yearning-encumbrances is a very true-seeming one, and moving.

The title story is good, too. Its premise is that, just as there are white light and white noise -- in both of which all frequencies are jumbled together -- so there is white time. Our heroine visits a plant whose purpose is to fish lost time travellers out of the timestream and send them on their way to their intended destinations. The only trouble is that the workers' exposure to white time scrambles their brains in the short term, and perhaps, with repeated visits, permanently. I loved the story even though I felt Lanagan hadn't quite been able to grapple with the implications of its fascinating premise.

The other three stories which I liked I think I'd have liked more had they not had a tang of the allegorical about them. In "Kiss and Tell" the premise is that failure to open up to others causes weight gain; our narrator is seeing a counselor who is, in effect, a weight-loss advisor. The central character of "Big Rage" is a wife who, fleeing a domineering husband, comes across an injured giant of a man clad in medieval armour, a stray from another time or a parallel world, perhaps; in joining her lot with him and his equally barbarian companions, she comprehensively rejects everything her far too civilized husband stands for. In "Welcome Blue" aliens arrive and admire a field of flowers, ignoring the ostentatious welcome party being thrown for them a few miles away; that part of the story doesn't really work, to be honest, but what does is the tale centred on the realization of the narrator, an obviously troublesome adolescent who's been through a succession of foster parents, that her latest placement, with the farmer of the field of flowers and his wife, might just be the right one.

Lanagan never writes less than well in this book but, as I say, I felt a bit bilked by the collection as a whole because too many of the entries didn't seem to have been built into stories.
Profile Image for Hallie.
249 reviews12 followers
June 7, 2009
I read Black Juice by this author and loved it, so I was excited to discover another collection of her short stories. It's good, but none of the stories stuck with me the way a few of the stories from Black Juice did. One thing I especially approve of in her writing is that she doesn't waste any time on exposition. The reader is dumped "in medias res" and left to figure out when and where he is (not always an obvious task, since she likes to play with alternate realities/magical realism/etc.). Some short story authors waste precious space setting you up; Lanagan seems to have enough confidence in her writing and her readers that she deems it unnecessary. Her character development, especially given the constraints of length, is very good; I was sad to leave them at the end of a few pages and was always left wanting more. Same with the plots; each one gives a glimpse of a world that seems fully developed and quite interesting enough for an entire book. I'm excited to get my hands on one of her novels. The consistently weak point in these short stories, in my opinion, was the ending. I found them abrupt and inconclusive, but you could always argue that that's a valid style choice. Who knows. In any case, in general, Lanagan is a very talented author and will likely be appearing on my list again in future.
Profile Image for Megan.
293 reviews11 followers
September 13, 2018
Ahhhhh! Margo Lanagan, how bleak and empty of strangeness my life must've been before I found you!

I love all her collections of shorts, but I have an ebook copy of this on my tablet as an OMG-I-forgot-to-bring-a-book emergency backup book. Even having read the stories in it over and over, they blow me away every time. Creepy, quirky... part of the creepiness is that every character is absolutely solid and real-feeling. It's impossible not to feel like these are real people reacting completely rationally to fantastical situations.
Profile Image for Michael.
410 reviews12 followers
July 15, 2018
I loved this book and the titular work.

It's so hard to write a review for a Margo Lanagan book because I'm always tempted to oversell it.
That's because it deserves it, and I only write honest reviews. And this book is awesome.

Just read the book okay, then buy one those shirts that they sell down at the market in Hobart that says "Margo Lanagan is God."
Profile Image for Jenny Lane.
Author 4 books2 followers
February 21, 2020
Three stars but possibly two and a half. This collection of stories was exactly what it promises you in terms of the exploration of new worlds and concepts. But sometimes, some of them were so complex or so abstract that you don't actually know what's going on. However, that's not to be said of all of them. The second half of the book had some really neat little stories. The characters were likeable, the ideas were interesting but i just couldn't help but judge this collection as a whole. I'm glad i read on and chose to ignore the voice in my head telling me to RTS, as if i had picked this book up on a bad day, i probably wouldn't have made it to the end!
If you're going to read this collection, try and treat each story as a singular example of this author's writing, as it is very easy to be put off.
Profile Image for Maree.
114 reviews3 followers
May 8, 2018
Enjoyed the stories White Time and Big Rage
398 reviews2 followers
November 14, 2021
some powerful stories in here, lanagan's first collection.
'tell and kiss' & 'the boy who didn't yearn' are my top picks!
Profile Image for J Joy.
184 reviews
May 8, 2022
Bizarre and endearing. Out of time and space...
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,743 reviews87 followers
January 2, 2012
This is one of the best collections of short stories that I’ve ever read (you should probably take that recommendation with a grain of salt because I rarely read short stories – it’s a vicious circle, I read some and hate them and swear off them for awhile until I hear something intriguing, and then I read some more, hate them and swear off them again).

Her stories are science-fiction/future-oriented/otherworldly. They go places and explore things. They’d be great read-alouds. The first one, “White Time” takes place in a future where teens get to “taste” different careers over a period of time to see if they might at some later date be interested in working in those fields. One of them tries “white time.” It’s an odd sort of space where time traveling entities become stuck and the man she shadows at work has the job of unsticking them and sending them on their way. One of the downsides of the job is that spending any length of time *in* white time tends to scramble your brain.

In another story, “The Lily,” I’m never certain what the Lily is or why it comes or what it does, but the description of it is so intriguing, and the glimpses of the place and time in which it exists are so violent and strange, that I could almost see it in front of me. And that’s not because Lanagan describes every detail, it’s more that she leaves so much space for your imagination to happen on its own. I like that.

The last story, is about a 2 class (Ords and Leets) society where wealth is measured in hair. One of the Ords is a sort of hair-weaving artist. She’s worked mostly on the pampered pets of the upper class, but she receives a commission she can’t refuse from a desperate Leet family. Her idiot brother has just landed himself in jail again for his “rebel” activities, and her grandmother is beside herself with worry. Rill knows she can make everything right if she does some illegal weaving for Lar, the Leet. But once she makes the deal, she gets blackmailed by the rebels into doing something for them as well. She’s trapped and the outcome isn’t pretty.

I think one of the hallmarks of a good short story is how much left there is to wonder about. I’m much more engaged when I come away with a lot of questions and ideas about what happens next or what came before. But there also has to be some satisfaction that this part of the story has ended and is complete – even if there’s a longer tale that could emerge. Margo Lanagan strikes a perfect balance.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rhea.
215 reviews75 followers
Shelved as 'to-read-normal-speed'
August 21, 2013
My thoughts so far:

White Time - Complex, meaningful, imaginative... a wonderful opening. (4 stars)

Dedication -

Tell and Kiss - A "teen with problems" story twisted with magic realism. Sad, real, and hopeful. (4 stars)

The Queen's Notice -

Big Rage - How interesting we humans are, that a few sheets of paper can make us laugh and cry and fall in love! In this case, I fell in love with the protagonist in a mere 20 pages. She's a fantastic example of a strong female character: not the kick-ass type (who are in many cases weak characters), but a woman whose strength lies in her bravery and intelligence. (5 stars)

The Night Lily -

The Boy Who Didn't Yearn -

Midsummer Mission - I never thought I'd say this, but this is the fluffiest piece by Lanagan I've ever read. On one hand, the writing is gorgeous and evocative (especially in the description of Map magic - I could visualize everything perfectly) and the plot is a fun ride. On the negative side, the whole premise of Elves is weird. What exactly is the point of them helping random people??? They're risking their lives, it's unpleasant, and they don't gain anything from it (or do they?) The ending was a bit of a deux-ex-machina, the themes were undeveloped, and it seemed so... fluffy. It was all happy happy love love [insert comic releif] OH NO HE'S GONNA DIE... oh, wait, he's actually alive!!, HOORAY happy happy happy LOVE. It's definitely worth the read, though. (3 stars)

Welcome Blue - More than anything else, this reminded me of A Good Heart from Red Spikes, because it centers on an important, personal choice. As a side note, the very idea of this story is twisted in an unusual way: the premise of is used a lot more in exploring ideas than in crafting such a personal story. I found it lovely and surprising. (4 stars)

Wealth -
Profile Image for Tranna Foley.
162 reviews4 followers
February 12, 2010
Presents ten short stories, both dark and hopeful, that journey into the past, the future, and altered versions of the present. - From library catalog record

This book of short stories is weird...but interesting. It is definitely not for everyone. If you are very interested in fantasy or science fiction or just strange stories, you may like it. Some stories I really liked and others were just okay.

Review from Booklist:
Although this is the second story collection by Australian author Lanagan to reach American readers, it was actually published abroad several years before her 2006 Printz Honor Book, Black Juice. Fans of Lanagan's fantastical, often surreal sensibility will regard its arrival as long overdue. Further showcasing her mastery of the craft, each story underscores Lanagan's talent for inspiring curiosity, disturbing sensibilities, and provoking thought. The collection comprises 10 stories of varying lengths that together demonstrate great versatility and highlight the author's talent for inventing entirely new realities and subtly shifting our own. The futuristic title story features a girl whose career exploration project finds her floating in a reservoir of time out of time, where she is mentored by a troubled man who redirects stuck entities from other parts of the universe. The Queen's Notice, set in an antlike hive, follows a befuddled warrior-creature whose valor requires him to assume a new role. In Tell and Kiss, physical weight is accumulated by the unhealthy storage of thought and feeling, creating a problem for a boy secretly falling for his best female friend. The singular perspectives, environments, goals, and challenges of Lanagan's distinctive characters will both intrigue and stimulate teen minds.
Profile Image for Michelle Moore.
119 reviews19 followers
April 27, 2015
Margo Lanagan is an award winning Australian writer. This book was my introduction to her writing, and it certainly won’t be my last, as I intend to find out more.

White Time was originally published ten years ago, and I’ve read reviews which feel that it’s not as polished as her later stories. This may be so, and makes me even more interested in her other books, but what this collection shows is a vivid imagination and an adaptable writing style.

This is a YA collection, and whilst some do have that feel to them, some would very much appeal to all ages. However, as these are short stories, there is no time to slowly introduce worlds, characters or concepts – Margo invites you to walk straight into her worlds, and to understand. This sometimes means that the first few pages can seem a little confusing, but if you keep going, it all seems to make perfect sense.

The title story is a fascinating sci-fi snippet, which could make a great novel if expanded on. It concerns pockets under the earth where people from many places can get trapped whilst time travelling, with Sheneel being a student on work experience, finding about those who help them to move on.

Some tales are set in the future, some the past, and many is a rather altered present. The selection ranges from the rather light hearted Midsummer Mission, where tiny creatures swear their way through a mission to bring together a teen romance; through The Queen’s Notice, set in an ant colony; to The Night Lily and Wealth, tales which will leave you sad and thoughtful.

For those who like something a little different, especially in the short story format, this is certainly a book to try. It won’t appeal to all, but for those whom it does, you will find yourself looking forward to a re-read.
Profile Image for Kritika.
811 reviews63 followers
April 20, 2012
Some of these stories were amazing, and others, I didn't understand. I was expecting more science fiction and more blending of time, but this anthology seemed more like a random bunch of stories stuck together. I didn't see the thematic link as well as I saw it in Black Juice.
My favorite story from this anthology was Dedication - dressing the battle-scarred and mutilated princess so that her father never notices that his once-beautiful daughter is any different. The dedication ceremony at the end of it and the renewed connection with the dressing man's own children was beautiful.
Profile Image for Marg.
874 reviews241 followers
September 7, 2011
My odyssey through the short story collections of Margo Lanagan continues. This time, I travel through White Time. Once again, the worlds that Margo Lanagan creates vary from similar to our worlds to completely different but the emotions that we are exposed to are always familiar and always moving!

Read the rest of my review at http://www.theintrepidreader.com/2011...
Profile Image for Kifflie.
1,432 reviews4 followers
November 7, 2012
It's been a few years since I read Lanagan's Black Juice, so I was looking forward to enjoying this collection. And I wasn't disappointed.

Lanagan is phenomenal at creating believable, eerie worlds in just a few pages. Just when you get used to living in an ant colony (The Queen's Notice), Lanagan pops you into the world of tiny wish-fulfilling sprites (Midnight Mission).

Just marvelous work, and well worth reading.
Profile Image for LaLa.
716 reviews6 followers
April 3, 2010
Margo doesn't tell you the rules. Her bad-guys don't explain their motivation. Her good guys don't walk around in shining armor. Instead reading each of these tales takes you to a distict place where even if you don't know the rules and you can't name the planet; you can smell and see and taste and feel everything deeply.
Profile Image for Willow Curtis.
36 reviews
November 14, 2011
After reading the first four stories, I set the book down and thought I wasn't going to finish it. However, after reading something else I was able to pick the book up again and get through it. I'm glad I did. Out of the 10 stories in this anthology, my favorite were The Boy Who Didn't Yearn and Wealth. The others were Okay.
Profile Image for P..
2,416 reviews79 followers
October 28, 2013
These stories have a lot of ideas packed into them. My favorite is the title story. It has a great sense of sadness, inevitability, and wasted restlessness of life, as well as a weird premise that was explained just enough.

Sure, sometimes Lanagan's language calls attention to itself but not in a way that is pleased with itself. Maybe a bit peacocky. That's what I want, though, when I read her.
Profile Image for Nic.
646 reviews15 followers
July 28, 2009
Had high expectations for this book but very disappointed. Skim read the final 2 chapters. The entire book made no sense to me at all. Perhaps because it was teenage fiction I was too old for it............ Does not even get 1 star.
Profile Image for Roby.
89 reviews
December 8, 2009
One thing Lanagan does do very well in these stories is "show don't tell". In most of the stories, the narrator speaks as if we already know the rules of their world, rather than explaining, and the reader must figure things out through context.
Profile Image for turningUred.
19 reviews51 followers
June 28, 2012
Collection of short stories, the first of which is the story White Time. Lanagan is one of the most amazing writers I've come across. Her verse is hypnotic and you can't go to sleep once you start one of her books. Sleep comes upon completion else you lie awake wondering.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
5 reviews1 follower
December 10, 2012
Maybe it gets better later on, but I'm giving up after 130 pages in because it is pretty boring and nothing exciting ever happens with the characters that you have no background on. Not a good book.
Profile Image for Amber.
9 reviews
October 5, 2007
this is what i say so far about this book...."????" not sure i get it yet. anyone else??
14 reviews
July 11, 2008
Compelling collection of short stories for young adults which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Profile Image for Kate.
57 reviews
November 13, 2008
After I finished this book, I still had no idea what it was about. But, it was nice...I guess?
Profile Image for Christine.
12 reviews
June 20, 2009
I'm generally not fond of short stories, but these were excellent. Technically young adult--stories are quirky and just plain odd. GREAT characters, real and in interesting circumstances...
Profile Image for Nightfalltwen.
310 reviews25 followers
August 25, 2011
This just goes to show that I have no interest in short stories. Especially ones that are trying too hard. This collection was trying just too damn hard to be existential or something.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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