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Hindsight by A A Bell


a review by Nalini Haynes

Hindsight is the second book in a trilogy by A.A. Bell; the first is Diamond Eyes, reviewed here. If you haven’t read the first novel, read the first review – this review will spoil the first novel.

Mira Chambers is released from the mental health institution into Ben Chiron’s care, with millions of dollars to her name left over from the sale of her parents’ property. Mira’s vision is still complicated by seeing the past but not the present; at least she can see the recent past now, thanks to different tinted lenses. Mira is determined to clear Ben of his conviction by investigating the robbery and murder of which Ben was convicted. Adam Lockman, defence force dude with the most rapid yoyo-ing of rank in fictional history  joins Ben and Mira for Mira’s protection, creating a love triangle. Action spy thriller-y hijinks ensue.

Although I’m not usually a fan of love triangles, this one works. Mira’s emotional development is at a high school level because she was institutionalised for her teenage years. It’s inevitable that Mira would be attracted to someone kind and considerate, regardless of whether they have anything in common. Balance that with Ben and Adam’s histories: caring men with traumatic events in their pasts that inspire them to take care of others, confronted with Mira who is alternately very capable and defenceless while being very attractive.

General Garland is a dynamic force in Hindsight, impacting the plot even when off-stage. For nearly the first third of the book I had this growing feeling that General Garland was very familiar but she was in silhouette so I couldn’t see her clearly. Suddenly she stepped out of the shadows to reveal herself as General Diane Beckman from Chuck. From that point on, I interpreted much of Hindsight from a Chuck viewpoint: the spy action, the romance, the gadgets. Fans of Chuck will LOVE this novel. I believe that Hindsight was written long before it was published so Chuck probably didn’t feature as an influence at all, but I enjoyed the similarities. Hindsight had added advantages in that it isn’t in a 43 minute timeslot formula, too.

Hindsight has minor themes of disability – fragile X and polio to name but two – alongside the significant feature of Mira’s vision. While Hindsight was far more Chuck-esque in its story than Diamond Eyes, I loved the way Bell has portrayed Mira with her vision. I could totally identify with Mira feeling really comfortable and capable in some circumstances and yet very confused, vulnerable and frightened in others. Being able to see and yet being confounded by what one sees is a concept rarely grasped by writers in my experience. I found Mira to be a character with whom I could identify to a surprising extent.

There were times when Hindsight might have got a bit ‘talky’ rather than ‘show don’t tell’ but usually this was because POINT OF VIEW CHARACTER, BLIND. I did think the post-climax wrap-up could have been shortened a tad although Bell is definitely setting up the third book.  It is possible that my version of Hindsight was since edited: HarperCollins sent me an ebook version that is deeply flawed and clearly is NOT the retail copy. My review ebook doesn’t have the correct title, no cover page, no title page, and the text needs reformatting [shudder]. Having said that, I am deeply appreciative of the ebook version because the print in the mass market paperback was just too small to read, it would have taken MONTHS with a magnifier.

Hindsight won the Norma K. Hemming Award for excellence in the exploration of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in Australian speculative fiction, jointly with Sara Douglass’s The Devil’s Diadem. 

Hindsight is an SF/thriller/romance that can open your eyes to creative possibilities and some harsh realities. Highly recommended.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.



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