Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2013 Reading Challenge. All my 2013 AWWC reviews can be found here.

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer is the latest in the excellent Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press. It is one of the shorter books in the series, and includes the following stories:

  • After Hours
  • Zadie, Scythe of the West
  • Wish Me Luck
  • Seven Days in Paris

Dyer has been winning a lot of awards over the last few years (e.g. recently won the Aurealis Award for her short piece The Wisdom of Ants) and I was keen to read this collection to get exposed to more of her writing. It is a diverse collection, from secondary world fantasy to science fiction (both far and near future) and with some urban fantasy thrown in for good measure.

After Hours starts the collection, with a tale set in rural Australia where werewolves guard an Australian army base. One of the point of view characters, Jess, is a newly minted vet, looking after the army base guard dogs (amongst other patients). Dyer captures the sense of a newly graduated professional quite well – many years of training behind you, but realising how little it actually applies to the real world. The changing point of view between the vet and a werewolf is effective, and the story conjures a sense of the Australian outback well.

Zadie, Scythe of the West is based in a matriarchal society where women are the warriors, and only able to kill as many people as they have brought into the world to create balance (although interestingly they can severely hurt as many people as they like). None of the characters is entirely sympathetic, but they are all very engaging. Issues of gender imbalance are thrown into sharp relief.

Wish Me Luck is set in a far future when an area of space has been discovered where luck can be harvested and commoditised. Another very engaging character, who starts the story in a very sympathetic light but is a very unreliable narrator. The premise of the world is interesting with a lot of background work done to underpin the story.

Seven Days in Paris explores near future use of technology to seek out terrorists. It is a slow-reveal story, so I can’t say too much about the plot without spoiling. I enjoyed the manner in which information is divulged and the ending of the story is lovely. Probably my favourite story of the collection.

I can see why Dyer is gathering such praise. The writing is tight, but very evocative and her development of characters across very short story arcs is enviable. Her thematic exploration of power imbalances in this collection is impressive; to create such an array of very different stories that each throws a contrasting light on the asymmetric theme is quite an achievement.

All in all a very interesting read and a great way to get exposed to one of Australia’s most talented writers in the short form. Highly recommended.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.


Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

5 thoughts on “Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer – review”

    1. The Twelve Planets series is a great way to get a concentrated dose of a variety of writers – looking forward to more of Thoraiya's work in the future.


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