War of the Worlds: Battleground Australia spins off H G Wells' Martian invasion in War of the Worlds with 16 stories set in the 1890s and present and future Australia.
Illustrations by Jan Scherpenhuizen and Sholto Turner complement the stories by Australian and New Zealand authors, who include Kerry Greenwood, Carmel Bird, Jack Dann, Dmetri Kakmi, Lucy Sussex, Sean Williams and Canberra's Kaaron Warren.
Renowned film director Alex Proyas (The Crow, I Robot, Gods of Egypt) notes in his introduction, the impossibility of an overall connectivity in the 16 stories, other than taking inspiration from the original novel and the Australian locales.
The authors who cover the southern hemisphere invasion in 1898 have an easier task of linkages.
Lucy Sussex in 'The Inconvenient Visitors Season' sees the Martians in Victoria unable to cope with bushfires.
Lindy Cameron and Kerry Greenwood depict a devastated Melbourne in 'The Salt Water Battle", where women may hold the key to resistance.
Janeen Webb sets 'Apostles of Mercy' in the Blue Mountains where a lone Martian is seen as a God by a naive congregation, for whom the blood of Christ takes a sinister turn.
Wells had indicated that he used the fate of the Tasmanian Aboriginals as a model for his Martian invasion.
This extinction is referenced by Lucy Sussex and more particularly by Carmel Bird in 'Speed Bonny Boat', set in present-day Tasmania, as a new Martian threat to humanity emerges.
In 'The Sixth Falling Star' Kaaron Warren takes us to a future Australia where a female captain of a barge picks up the dead from the side of canals to deliver to the Martians.
Warren reflects on the implications of appeasement and the fate of the displaced before a dark conclusion.
Sean Williams in the final story, 'The Second Coming of the Martians', follows a man who tracks down the last Martian, who has survived in Antarctica.
The story emerges from Williams's Mawson Antarctica Fellowship, which will also result in a novel spinning off, as William says, "a moment in Douglas Mawson's diaries when he vividly compares Antarctica to Mars.
"My book combines the core issues of H G Wells' masterpiece with the Heroic Age and Australian Federation - something that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has attempted before".
A probably accurate statement!
- Colin Steele is a Canberra reviewer.
- War of the Worlds: Battleground Australia, by Steve Proposch, Christopher Sequeira and Bryce Stevens. Clan Destine Press. $29.95.