2020 Aurealis Award winners

The Aurealis awards continue to be Australia’s premier prize for speculative fiction and recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers. If you’re looking to dive into another world this week, take a look at some of the below category winners for the 2020 awards.


BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL / ILLUSTRATED WORK


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Under-Earth by Chris Gooch

Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past - gameboys, iphones, coffee cups, old cars - we follow two parallel stories.

In the first, a new arrival struggles to adapt to the everyday violence, physical labour, and poverty of the prison city. Overwhelmed and alone, he finds a connection with a fellow inmate through an old, beat-up novel. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves pull off a risky job in exchange for the prisons' schematics and the promise of escape - only to be betrayed by their employer. On the run with their hope for escape now gone, the two women set their minds to revenge. Equal parts sincerity and violence, Under-Earth explores humanity’s inextinguishable drive to find meaning, connection, and even family - and how fragile such constructions can be.


BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION


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The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon

Twig is all alone after his dad goes missing. But when he meets Flea, a cheerful pickpocket, the pair become fast friends. Together, Twig and Flea raise themselves on the crime-ridden streets, taking what they need and giving the rest to the even-poorer. Life is good, as long as they have each other. But then Twig wakes up in the Afterlife. With just a handful of vague memories, a key, a raven, and a mysterious atlas to guide him, he tries to piece together what happened, and to find his way home…


BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL


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The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson

A girl wakes up on a self-driving bus. She has no memory of how she got there or who she is. Her nametag reads CECILY. The six other people on the bus are just like her: no memories, only nametags. There’s a screen on each seatback that gives them instructions. A series of tests begin, with simulations projected onto the front window of the bus. The passengers must each choose an outcome; majority wins.

But as the testing progresses, deadly secrets are revealed, and the stakes get higher and higher. Soon Cecily is no longer just fighting for her freedom - she’s fighting for her life.


BEST HORROR NOVEL


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None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

In 1982, in the USA, the innovative FBI Behavioral Science section is breaking new ground, and two teenagers - Emma Lewis and Travis Bell - are recruited to interview convicted juvenile killers for information on cold cases.

Emma and Travis are untrained but they’ve both experienced violent crime, which has given them skills that make them valuable to the FBI. When they are drawn into an active case targeting teenagers, everything starts to unravel.


BEST FANTASY NOVEL


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The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

Eighteen-year-old art student Susan Arkshaw arrives in London in search of her father. But before she can question crime boss Frank Thringley he’s turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. Merlin is one of the youngest members of a secret society of booksellers with magical powers who police the mythic Old World wherever it impinges on the New World - in addition to running several bookshops, of course! Merlin also has a quest of his own: to find the Old World entity who arranged the murder of his mother.

Their investigations attract attention from enemies of the Old and New Worlds. Soon they become involved in an even more urgent task to recover the grail that is the source of the left-handed booksellers' power, before it is used to destroy the booksellers and rouse the hordes of the mythic past. As the search for the grail becomes strangely intertwined with both their quests, they start to wonder… Is Susan’s long-lost father a bookseller, or something altogether more mysterious?


BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL (tie)


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The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay

Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to bullshit, Jean is not your usual grandma. She’s never been good at getting on with other humans, apart from her beloved granddaughter, Kimberly. Instead, she surrounds herself with animals, working as a guide in an outback wildlife park. As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds.

Bold, exhilarating, and wholly original, The Animals in That Country asks what would happen, for better or worse, if we finally understood what animals were saying.


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Repo Virtual by Corey J White

The city of Neo Songdo is a Russian nesting doll of realities - augmented and virtual spaces anchored in the weight of the real. The smart city is designed to be read by machine vision while people see only the augmented facade of the corporate ideal. At night the stars are obscured by an intergalactic virtual war being waged by millions of players, while on the streets below people are forced to beg, steal, and hustle to survive.

Enter Julius Dax, online repo man and real-life thief. He’s been hired for a special job: stealing an unknown object from a reclusive tech billionaire. But when he finds out he’s stolen the first sentient AI, his payday gets a lot more complicated.


You can learn more about this year’s Aurealis Awards here.

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The Animals in That Country

The Animals in That Country

Laura Jean McKay

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