A.M. Dixon is a writer with a strong pedigree with her visions of post-apocalyptic worlds in her writing. A mentor for other young writers, Dixon is not only a talented and accomplished creator but also a volunteer firefighter on the Banks Peninsula. Perhaps it is from this area of her life that she is able to draw so much detail about people and communities that are struggling or in some kind of trauma. Her many accolades support the quality of her prose and her natural inclination towards storytelling.
In New Dawning - the first of the Edge of Light trilogy - Dixon introduces the reader to a Planet Earth resembling what we have now, but in the grips of the ramifications of drastic climate change. Set in what was once called Christchurch, the main character Merel must find her way through some of the harshest conditions in order to survive.
Description leads the charge in this first novel of the trilogy. It creates the setting of this post-apocalyptic version of New Zealand and the small community of those still remaining once flooding reduces the cities to little more than a memory. Food is in very short supply and the heat from the sun is nearly unbearable. And with the government of the time securely in control, it is easy to see that things are not all well in the society. Young people have brainwashing techniques thrust upon them, and those who go against the expectations disappear - as do those who are infirm or elderly.
One key aspect is the ‘voice of the child’ which is a ceremony that occurs every seven years in the community. A ten year old starts their journey at the beginning of this novel - Estelle - only things aren’t all what they seem. Merel, 16 years old in the story, is one brought up by scientist parents who are often overlooked in this government controlled environment. It is this tension, where political endeavour beats out science, that the real thrust of the novel sits.
Dixon shows the impacts of poor governing leading up to the cataclysmic event as a message to those in power to take more note of the changes in weather, temperature and rainfall, and how there will be long term ramifications if nothing is done to counter the carbon emissions. But it isn’t preachy or heavy handed, just saddening.
The novel has a bringing together of some of the tropes of the genre but has a thread running through of hope. It’s a fantastically enjoyable read and one that will surely entertain adolescent and adult readers alike.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
One Tree House