A review by Nalini Haynes
Yamaan is a refugee in a migrant detention centre on Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania. This centre is a combination of Australia’s refugee camps on Manus and Nauru and a privatised prison providing slave labor. Historical convict prison Port Arthur is nearby, emphasising the historical reference. Rin is the Daughter Of Bad Times in this dystopian novel.
Rin is wealthy and yet enslaved. She sold her soul to the corporation that imprisons her lover Yamaan. Her adoptive mother is the CEO, who prioritises profit margins over health and safety. Rin is lost. She seeks herself. Rin searches for her birth mother. She needs to face her pre- and post-adoptive trauma and to establish her own identity.
This is a brief excerpt from page 93 to illustrate Wilson’s flavour of dystopia.
Rin: We build McDungeons. We profit out of people’s misery.
Alessandra [Rin’s mother]: They’re criminals. They deserve to be miserable.
[Rin] didn’t say anything. What was the point?
Later Rin thinks about Alessandra.
She was a wolf following wounded animals (p98).
Daughter Of Bad Times captures the dynamics that affect refugees: their plight, other people’s prejudice, corporate greed and political opportunism
Dystopia or present?
Set in 2074, Daughter Of Bad Times is a romantic dystopian almost-thriller. Wilson’s prognostication is too humble: he undersells his acute observations of social change, including treatment of refugees and inevitable homelessness caused by climate change. Daughter Of Bad Times could realistically be set in 2024. Rising sea levels exceed scientists’ predictions in 2014 when Wilson researched this novel.
Corporate greed runs unchecked now. Wilson refrains from mentioning the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) that effectively overrides countries’ constitutions by prioritising companies’ profit margins. However, this ‘feature’ of our current political landscape — a feature largely secret from the public — menaces individuals whose human rights are consumed to feed corporate profit margins.
Daughter Of Bad Times is part Max Barry and part Steven Amsterdam. Wilson’s novel is an icon of Australian literature, political commentary and dystopian foreshadowing worthy of George Orwell. I am in awe.
I have interviewed Wilson and that interview will be released as video and podcast once DMZ’s audiovisual editor has worked his magic.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: May 2019
Format: Paperback, pp327
Category: fiction, dystopia, speculative fiction, climate change