May’s Review is here!

Rubik, by Elizabeth Tan

A review by editor Jessica Gately

I was lucky enough to be introduced to this book at its launch at Beaufort Street Books in Mt Lawley. I joined a throng of other local literature lovers as store reps served wine and nibbles and Tan signed copies of her debut novel for her supporters- an excellent introduction.

The cover is bright and captivating, at odds with the characters that live within its folds, most of whom seem to drift through their own stories, unsure of themselves and the events unfolding around them. Part mystery, part science fiction, Rubik is undeniably a social commentary on the rise of apathy and the corporate overtaking of youth individuality. The Seed corporation that specialises in technology (their products include the Seed.fon, Seed.nb, Seed.foto- marketing at its best with the ‘seed’ logo representing growth, and trendy names that are intentionally misspelt- ‘fon’ instead of ‘phone’) represents a clear investigation of Apple, even as the tech giant appears alongside the fictional company in the Rubik universe.

The book begins with Elena Rubik and her death and each subsequent story in in seven degrees of separation from her. Not every story seems to link at first and it’s not until you meet more characters and link them to one another that the references start to make sense and the reader piece together their connections. Living in Perth, there is unquestionable truth in this feeling of interconnectedness. I was once in a bar in London and the bartender said he knew a girl from Perth. I bet him a drink that if I looked her up on Facebook I’d have at least one mutual friend. Tan easily captures this web of social interaction and, in case your’re wondering, I won the bet.

It’s impossible to think or write about this book in linear thought. Just as the individual stories jump from place to place and person to person, so too do any thoughts or feelings about it. The seeming disjointedness at the beginning coupled with much of the prose being written in present tense means that this is a book the reader has to commit to. Not until about half way through do stories begin linking together and slipping into place. It would be easy for the unsuspecting reader to pick it up and read the first few stories and, when they can’t see where the story is going, decide it’s not for them.

It is however refreshing to read something set in Perth, although the place isn’t as important as the time in the setting. Perhaps this is the reason for the heightened intrigue surrounding Seed. Even in the world’s most isolated capital city the corporate game still has a tight hold over people.

The by-line of Rubik reads that this is a ‘novel in stories’. It is unconventional in its form and cannot be approached the way one would approach a traditional novel, but neither can it be categorised as a series of separate short stories. The beauty in this book is in the little hints, nods, and lightbulb moments when something that seemed bizarre at first clicks into place like a puzzle piece. It is all at once intriguing, bewildering, reflective, and dispirited, whilst leaving you somewhere between shock and introspection at the end of each story. I couldn’t help but be drawn into the same state as the characters. So if you’re looking for something unusual and insightful then Rubik is for you.

Underground Team

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