Strap yourself in as three tales from award winning speculative fiction author David McDonald take you on a tour of time and space.
Visit a frozen post apocalyptic Earth, a galactic delivery service, and very Australian dystopia to discover what happens to ordinary people faced with extraordinary choices or challenges.
Published by Clan Destine Press.
NOTE: Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review.
Cold Comfort is a collection of three stories from Australian author David McDonald; two of the stories are reprints and one is original to this collection.
Cold Comfort (originally published in Fablecroft Publishing’s Epilogue)
Ice spiders, snow bears and deadly cold are only most obvious of the dangers a young trader faces as she searches for the secrets of the Elders on a post-apocalyptic Earth.
Epilogue is an anthology which focused on apocalypse, and more, strove to explore the world beyond it–is there hope beyond the end of the world? Cold Comfort explores these themes in a frozen world, where people survive only in sealed domes and heat itself is a currency. The story follows Vanya as she travels through the icy wilderness, fighting off wild creatures as she searches for a dome in which she can trade, and discovers so much more.
There is a deceptive sparsity to McDonald’s writing which well suits this story. Everything feels truly bleak and utterly real: the reader struggles with Vanya as she searches the frozen world. It really feels as though there is a whole world here, and that McDonald has only just begin to explore it (and as a reader, I hope that he does return to it, because it is fascinating).
Through Wind and Weather (originally published in eMergent Publishing’s Deck the Halls)
A rebellious pilot races against time to make a vital delivery to a planet in need. But in the face of the worst solar storm in years, his only ally is a sentient spaceship who is an outcast even to its own kind.
From the Christmas-themed anthology Deck the Halls, this one is (obviously) Christmas themed.
This is a slighter story than the others in Cold Comfort, but it has no less impact. Without spoiling anything, this is the kind of story that I’m not usually a fan of, but McDonald makes it work by adding in just enough fascinating worldbuilding. I kind of want one of these spaceships, and now please.
Our Land Abounds
In a world divided by war and wracked by food shortages, the Republic of Australasia is an oasis protected by its isolation and the Border Patrol. But, a chance encounter leaves a weary veteran asking whether the price of plenty is too high.
This story is original to this anthology, and is my favourite.
In the possibly-all-too-near future, Australia has suffered through a war, and in order to protect itself and its wealth, has closed its borders. But all is not well in the Republic: a teacher is taken away for daring suggest that Australia has enough wealth to share, and illegal immigrants are hung for their “crime”.
This closed-off republic is not a kind one, however–a teacher is taken away for daring suggest to her students that Australia has enough wealth to share, and “criminals” are hung for being discovered as illegal immigrants.
This story in particular cuts very close to the bone, with respect to the Australian government’s current policies, and it feels far too much like a plausible future. I feel like, as with Cold Comfort, McDonald has shown us only the tip of a horrifying and fascinating Australian dystopia, and I would love to see him return to or expand upon it.
This is a brilliant collection, and especially recommended if you haven’t read any of McDonald’s work before. The stories are well described by the collection title Cold Comfort: these are not easy worlds, but McDonald manages to place hope even in the middle of despair. Vanya discovers that her world isn’t as lost as she thought, Nick and his sentient ship will find a way through, and even in the depths of dystopia, people still speak out.