A Superior Spectre

Angela Meyer

A Superior Spectre
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A Superior Spectre

Angela Meyer

Jeff is dying. Haunted by memories and grappling with the shame of his desires, he runs away to remote Scotland with a piece of experimental tech that allows him to enter the mind of someone in the past. Instructed to only use it three times, Jeff - self-indulgent, isolated and deteriorating - ignores this advice.

In the late 1860s, Leonora lives a contented life in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by nature, her hands and mind kept busy. Contemplating her future and the social conventions that bind her, a secret romantic friendship with the local laird is interrupted when her father sends her to stay with her aunt in Edinburgh - an intimidating, sooty city; the place where her mother perished.

But Leonora’s ability to embrace her new life is shadowed by a dark presence that begins to lurk behind her eyes, and strange visions that bear no resemblance to anything she has ever seen or known…

A Superior Spectre is a highly accomplished debut novel about our capacity for curiosity, and our dangerous entitlement to it, and reminds us the scariest ghosts aren’t those that go bump in the night, but those that are born and create a place for themselves in the human soul.

Review

In the near future, Jeff is dying. Haunted by his dark past and current deterioration, he abandons Melbourne, and his long-suffering partner Faye, for the relative remoteness of Scotland. Once there, he abuses a technology that allows him to enter the consciousness of Leonora, a woman living in the Scottish Highlands in the 1860s. As Leonora grapples with the move from the countryside to Edinburgh, along with her own burgeoning sexual desires that are at odds with social conventions, she must also contend with the effects of sharing her mind with Jeff: strange thoughts and visions of a world she has never known.

Comparisons with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series are unavoidable: both feature Scotland, time travel, and a captivating sensuality. That being said, Meyer has crafted a much stranger and much darker beast. Alternating between the future and the present, and between Jeff and Leonora, Meyer’s blend of science fiction and historical fiction is much more disorienting than Gabaldon’s – a deliberate authorial choice that destabilises the reader but also keeps them coming back for more. Tackling hot-button issues such as feminism, forbidden desires, self-destruction, abandonment, gender, mental health, and social boundaries, this book is bound to challenge and confront the modern-day reader.

A Superior Spectre is not an easy read. However, it is endlessly captivating and rewarding for the reader looking for innovation and a literary challenge. It’s an exciting debut from a local talent and if you care about the future of Australian fiction, look no further.


Tristen Kiri Brudy works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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