cover image House of the Flight-Helpers

House of the Flight-Helpers

Philomena van Rijswijk. Tartarus, $50 (320p) ISBN 978-1-912586-09-7

Parceled into six sections comprising 67 brief, loosely connected vignettes, the contents of this volume from Australian author van Rijswijk (The World as a Clockface) form a colorful mosaic about the residents of the walled city of Luckycola, in the imaginary land of Incognita. Luckycola is home to a motley cast of characters who go about their episodic adventures, including Martina Waldesmuller, who’s incarcerated in Godown Prison; Martina’s dolly-clutching baby sister, Honeysuckle Rose; and Hadji, the local storyteller and mythmaker. Van Rijswijk imparts a fantastic quality to characters and their lives by elaborating the peculiar circumstances under which they live—for example, most of the city’s orphans are undernourished because “the country’s milk supply was diverted to the casein factory where it was used to form outer shells of lightweight pocket-grenades.” Her incantatory prose style and meticulous eye for gritty detail further amplify the strangeness of her setting, as when she writes, “In the villages, there were water-buffalo calves with ribs like corrugated iron, and there were unfed cats, and there were hens squatting in the shade cast by broken stone urns.” The author adds, “It was even said that a good storyteller could drag the full moon with the seductiveness of his tongue.” This is a moon-draggingly good work of fantasy worldbuilding. (July)