The Art of Navigation
UWA Publishing, $24.99 pb, 247 pp, 9781742589213
Conceptually, The Art of Navigation is as intriguing as it is ambitious. The narrative is part near-future time travel, part historical drama, part nostalgic Australian Gothic – and all slipstream fiction. The novel braids, unbraids, and rebraids three main threads of time and place: suburban Melbourne in 1987; the royal courts of Elizabeth I and Rudolph II in 1587; and the outskirts of a new, not-quite-Melbourne in 2087. Yet there is practically nothing simple about this book – not the style or structure, nor the way it resolves. This complexity is both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of slipstream stories. Slipstream fiction is difficult to process; it’s demanding, often frustrating. It functions because it is strange, because it estranges. Readers are not made welcome, not offered clear or complete pictures, but are instead asked to decipher dream-like visions glimpsed sideways through a warped scrying glass.