Book Review: Melissa Ferguson’s The Shining Wall explores scientific possibilities through fiction

The Shining Wall, the gripping debut novel from author Melissa Ferguson, is an exploration of scientific possibility through the lens of feminism and fiction. The novel tells the frightening story of the orphaned Alida and her younger sister Graycie, who are left along following the death of their mother in the Demi-Settlements outside the wall. 

The two sisters befriend a cloned Neanderthal, Shuqba, and together the narrative leads the group along a ragged path that ultimately highlights the belief that racism, in any form, should not be tolerated. It’s a story of technological control and a paean to power of female friendship. 

The world in which the sisters live is one of ruin; where the wildlife as we know it are dead and one where humans live a segregated existence. On the one hand there are wealthy “plastic” humans who strive for perfection and technologically enhanced long life, whilst at the same time the cloned neanderthals and other humans live in filth in shanty towns. As the story progresses, our unlikely heroine Alida discovers that the rich aren’t all that they seem and that their life is not necessarily one to aspire to. 

The Shining Wall has a real Mad Max dystopian feel to it, and despite all of the technological advancements, much of the ‘world’ we experience is firmly rooted in the past. For example, the ‘plastics’ live behind their shiny metal wall, in a clinically clean environment, and exploit those less fortunate. That is until they run into Alida, who won’t back down when it comes to those she loves. 

The novel depicts a world where the exploitation of women is considered the norm. If you need money for food and medicine, then you are left with little choice. If this is the future in store for u,s, then please let me off now!

The Shining Wall is similar in tone and subject matter to the work of Lauren Beukes, Charlotte Wood and, of course, Margaret Atwood. It’s perhaps not the most aptly titled book, but it is one which explores a world you never dreamed could exist, and when you’ve finished, will hope never comes to pass. 

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Melissa Ferguson’s The Shining Wall is available now through Transit Lounge Publishing.

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Lyn Harder

I'm mad about going to great gigs, travelling around Australia and reading a good book. I adore animals, catching up with friends and family and I think Australia is the best country on earth!