Jan 29, 2012

Book Review–Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti


Bad Power is the Twelfth Planet collection featuring the work of Crawford award nominee1 Deborah Biancotti.

The jacket copy says “If you like Haven or heroes, you’ll love Bad power.”  While I think Heroes suffers from the American propensity to drag successful ideas out to the point where they lose dramatic tension, I really like Haven. 

Bad power is more akin to the later, more subdued, and understated.  It also makes me think of Misfits, in the sense that having powers is never quite the as good asit might seem.

With Bad Power Biancotti has given us 5 stories2 that connect very smoothly with one another through the theme of power, the setting and the characters.  It’s more in line with previous Twelve Planet releases like Love and Romanpunk and Nightsiders but I would argue that Bad Power touches on becoming novella such is the smooth flow of the narrative between each of the stories.


The Stories

  • Shades of Grey - A rich man finds that  he can’t kill or injure himself – What to do? Well what he does lands himself in gaol and we are introduced to the ever present Detective Palmer.
  • Palming the Lady – A homeless woman is harassing the son of a rich doctor.  Detective Palmer questions her only to find that she carries the power to see the future.
  • Web of Lies – Features the rich son from Palming the Lady who discovers that he hears the voices of the dead. His mother previously thought to be a drug addled trophy wife turns out to be …well sinister.
  • Bad Power – This story breaks the temporal connection of the previous three harking back to an earlier time, possibly set in Australia certainly around the 19 century. A woman who can bind others with her words. It deals with the emergence of the “power”.
  • Cross the Bridge – Detective Ponti ( a descendant of the narrator in Bad Power) can track missing children, usually runaways or the victims of child abusers.  This story features him tracking something new and teaming up with Detective Palmer.

Biancotti has done such a wonderful job with character and setting that I would gleefully return to the world of Bad Power.  I love speculative fiction books set in Australia, in places where I have walked the streets.  Fingers crossed Biancotti has something longer in the works based on her ideas presented here.

I think that Bad Power deserves some close reading once you get past the sheer enjoyment of reading what are very engaging stories. She raises questions subtly - about power and its use.

I also love the skilful play with words, evident most obviously in the tiles of the above pieces.  Tight layered writing.

1. Click here for award information ]

2. 1 more story than usual for the 12 planets series, the book is similar in page count to Nightsiders which comes in at 138 pages

awwc2012This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.



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