Giramondo, $29.95 pb, 224 pp
Myths about space travel have always been uncomfortably tangled with incarceration and exile. Author Manu Saadia has described the private plans of the current crop of hubristic billionaires as ‘carceral fantasies’. Despite science fiction’s recent utopian turn, there is no reason to believe that space colonisation will be anything but a repeat of the earthly version’s violent history. Giants, too, have a long mythology and once held a significant place in literature, from Atlas to Swift and Wilde; both burdensome and burden-carrying, they often have an outcast sadness. Pip Adam’s fifth book, Audition, brings these myths together.
Three giants are crammed into a spaceship. When they talk, the ship moves. If they are silent, they grow. We don’t know where the ship is going, but we are told that the giants have been sent away. ‘We got too big for Earth,’ one says. It isn’t clear which of them is speaking at first, because the voices of the giants –Alba, Drew, and Stanley – are choral, their thoughts overlapping and identities hesitant. This three-way dialogue, packed with absurdist, Beckettian humour, sets up a startling puzzle; we are stuck in this conversation along with the giants, grasping at memories we can’t quite trust.
Adam has a long preoccupation with troubled embodiments. In her previous novel, Nothing to See (2021), Peggy and Greta share one life and two bodies: ‘All they ever wanted was to be smaller ... They wanted to take up less space,’ the narrator observes. In The New Animals (2017), Elodie upsets others because she ‘dared to take up the space she took up ... She needed to stop being so goddamn big.’