AWW2017: Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer


An Australian Air Force base patrolled by werewolves. A planet where wages are paid in luck. A future where copies are made of criminals to interpret their dark dreams. A medieval cavalry of mothers who are only permitted to take as many lives as they have created.

In every world, an imbalance of power. Something terribly askew between women and men, humans and wolves, citizens and constructs, light and dark.

In every world, asymmetry.

Published by Twelfth Planet Press

This review is presented as part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017 and as part of my contribution to A Journey Through the Twelve Planets.

I purchased this book.

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer is the eighth book in Twelfth Planet Press’s Twelve Planets series.

Thoraiya Dyer is an author whose short fiction I’ve loved in the past, and I very much looked forward to reading her volume of the Twelve Planets (and as an aside, I very much anticipate reading her debut novel, Crossroads of Canopy, which is in my review queue right now). This collection includes four unrelated short stories, all of which fall under the general speculative fiction umbrella, but are otherwise varied. There is, however, a thread that winds through all of the stories, in that all contain an asymmetry, an imbalance of power.

The collection opens with After Hours, which on the surface is the experience of a female veterinarian new at her job in a rural town. The speculative threads move beneath the surface of the events of the story, with much of the focus on Jess, the vet, who is working against a culture that treats her, as a woman, as very much not worth training, especially when it comes to work with the RAAF and their patrol dogs. This is a deeply powerful story, with much sympathy both for Jess and her co-workers, even as those who disparage her. I read this one, and immediately went back to the beginning and read it over again.

Zadie, Scythe of the West, takes a turn into a pure fantasy world. Dyer has inverted the gender roles in this world, with women acting as warriors, and men homekeepers (with much of their self worth being tied up in this role). There is a wonderful twist to this inversion, where the female warriors are only allowed to kill as many people as children they have birthed. I loved this concept, and adored this story and was utterly fascinated by this world. I’d love to see more of this world, and would pay good money for a novel (or ten) set in it.

Another deeply fascinating world is presented in Wish Me Luck, where luck itself works as a currency. I was quite frankly in awe of this story, and how Dyer managed to bring so many deeply interesting ideas and images into a short work, where many authors have struggled to present half as many in longer works. This was my favourite in the collection, and another world I’d love to see more works set in.

The final story in the collection is Seven Days in Paris. I feel that this is a story that it is best to come into with as little foreknowledge as possible. This is an incredibly powerful story, wrenching and deeply emotional. This one will linger long after you’ve read the final word.

Thus far, the collections published as part of the Twelve Planets have been truly outstanding, and Asymmetry rises easily to that high standard.  If you’ve not read anything by Dyer before, this is a great place to start. Dyer stands with Australia’s best writers of short fiction, and Asymmetry presents her talent wonderfully.

This entry was posted in A Journey Through Twelve Planets, Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017, Read my own damn books 2017, Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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