Edwina Harvey’s The Back of the Back of Beyond is like watching an episode of that UK TV show Escape to the Country only it’s uproariously funny and involves aliens and unicorns and dragons. So, not like Escape to the Country at all really, although there are some occasional references to toilets, packing boxes, and property inspections as hapless Ed starts her dream life somewhere at the eastern edge of Beyond. With its overriding themes of relocation and reflection, The Back of the Back of Beyond is a marvellous collection of interlinking short stories to be dipped into story by story, or read as I did, in a single afternoon by the pool. Really quite doable. The Best Character with a non-speaking role is awarded jointly to Alice and Cooper, a pair of donkeys whose ability to express themselves with just the flick of an ear far outshines the talent of any current Hollywood startlet (even those capable of flicking their ears). And I love the way Harvey has borrowed the names of her friends, some well-known and much-loved personalities from the New Zealand and Australian science fiction community, and bestowed them upon her characters. While those of us who know the true owners are tempted to add our own layers to that zany bunch, readers meeting them for the first time will no doubt feel like they’re at their first Con: slightly grossed out and yet strangely fascinated. I really enjoyed my afternoon at The Back of the Back of Beyond: it’s a terrific read for people who love fantasy, friends, and faraway places.
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