Wednesday, March 26, 2014

AWWC 2014: The Courier's New Bicycle by Kim Westwood.

In a post-apocalyptic Melbourne of fuel rationing, power outages and with curfews in place, Salisbury (Sal) Forth works as a bicycle courier delivering illegal hormone supplements for Ethical Hormones, a company which only sells cruelty free products not made from animals. The demand is high with much of the population rendered infertile due to a faulty flu vaccine. In the view of the ultra conservative religious Nation First party now in government this is a punishment for the sins of the past and they have enacted laws to enforce their beliefs but, driven by the desire for children, many defy them. As a gender transgressive person Salisbury is forced to live in the shadowy underworld. She has no time for these laws or beliefs but thrives on the physical activity and risks of her courier job, joining with animal rights activists to rescue ill treated horses in her spare time. Then fake drugs, poorly made, contaminated and bearing the logo of her employer's company start to appear and Sal finds herself trying to uncover how and why this is happening.

There's much to like in The Courier's New Bicycle. Westwood has created a dark, dystopian society with a well realised underworld populated by a mix of those who don't fit in society for many reasons and Salisbury is an engaging protagonist. She has a strong moral compass surviving in a world where she walks a difficult path due to her gender identity. She's a fully rounded character whose relationships are believable and there's not a whiff of stereotyping. I liked her employer, Gail, too. Her business may be illegal in the current circumstances but her ethical stance marks her as more than someone just trying to make a buck.

It's hard to fault The Courier's New Bicycle (although some may find the first person present point of view challenging at times) and it was a worthy winner of the 2011 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and 2012 Ditmar Award for Best Novel as was its shortlisting for the 2011 James Tiptree  Jnr Honor List.

Published originally as a paperback by Harper Collins Australia in 2011 The Courier's New Bicycle is available in an e-book from

Kim Westwood's website is at

No comments: