This week on Weirdfictionreview.com, we’re featuring the work of Australian writer Nike Sulway. Her latest novel, Rupetta, was published earlier this year by Tartarus Press in a limited hardback edition and a more widely available e‑book version, both of which are available for purchase from Tartarus’s website.
Rupetta is a singular work of fiction that should be of interest to readers of the Weird. In terms of genre, it deftly blends elements of fantasy and science fiction in such a fashion that it cannot be exclusively termed as either. There are self-conscious automatons that enact rituals of “Wynding” with their human guardians, creating a kind of psychic link that imprints one upon the other in the process. There are humans that surgically carve out their own hearts and replace them with mechanical ones, as a kind of historical society and religion rolled into one (indeed, in the world of the novel, history itself becomes a kind of religion, and the reader is reminded of the power and vulnerability of both throughout). The novel itself features a book-length quest on the titular character’s part that feels truly global, encountering distinct geographies and cultures along the way, invoking a similar feel as what one might encounter reading a work of secondary fantasy.
The truest strengths of the novel, however, lie in its more elemental characteristics, which imbue whatever concepts or tropes Sulway decides to use with uncommon grace and resonance. Rupetta and Henri, the dual narrators, are deeply felt, and their narrative voices are rendered in evocative epistolary prose that weaves around itself, supporting, clarifying, and contradicting wherever necessary. Beyond and below even that, the novel itself is driven and enhanced by a strong sense of existential questioning: What is a soul? What is a person? And what causes some to reach sentience and consciousness while others don’t? The excerpt we’ve featured from Rupetta this week, “The Miracle of Consciousness,” shows these questions sprouting in the beginning of the novel, and the beginning of Rupetta’s story proper. It also demonstrates, in a subtly weird way, just how much of a marvel and a mystery consciousness and selfhood really is.
Those who enjoy the excerpt from Rupetta should definitely check out our interview with Sulway, where she explains the impetus behind her novel and various writers and stories that motivated her in its writing, in addition to more general insights into her favorite kinds of stories, her love of fairy tales, and other things. While you’re on the site this week, make sure to also read Edward Gauvin’s latest column, this time a profile of a likewise weird, genre-bending novel by French writer Serge Brussolo.