Review by Dork Shelf
Andrez Bergen’s novels are unmistakeable.
From the moment you glimpse the title Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth it’s obvious that this is a story unlike any other on the shelf, and it does not disappoint.
Firmly set in 1986—as the regular pop culture and musical references remind us—it’s a glimpse at the punishing hand life has dealt Mina, an awkward, self-conscious (read: average) teenage girl in the town of Nede. She’s still reeling from the death of her mother when we’re first introduced to her, or more accurately, her lack of tears throughout the ordeal. Her father is distant and trying to replace his wife through a series of sexual conquests cum marital palate cleansers. Her brother is a temperamental, cruel beast to be avoided, as he sadistically torments her whenever the mood strikes him— and it often has, from childhood to present day. Her friends are hardly friends at all, a clique whose top girl shuns individuality and seems only content to have Mina as a placeholder to keep their membership total at five. They’re all eerily familiar to this gal who shared many a table with girls like them growing up, but that also highlights the irony of the whole situation: they’re all just as nervous and self-deprecating as Mina is, they’ve simply gotten better at hiding it through their hive-mind behaviour. It’s a credit to Bergen’s writing that he’s able to write these teenage girls believably: sometimes catty, often afraid, and always more than what appears on the surface—Mina in particular.
Because after everything that’s happened to Mina in her life, there are still more complications. Specifically, Animeid: a feathered female creature that only Mina can see/hear, which makes regular conversation with her friends amongst Animeid’s snippy comments or threats of violence towards anyone who wrongs her, difficult at best. This construct, mythical beast, or whatever she may be is interested in protecting Mina at all costs, and though it seems she doesn’t have the ability to physically interact with her surroundings, she’s an intimidating force in Mina’s life. On top of trying to survive high-school, her family, and her grief, Mina also alternates between ignoring Animeid and focusing on the implications of her very existence.
Even though Animeid’s presence could firmly set the novel in the fantasy or science-fiction genre, it crosses those boundaries with ease without ever settling on one niche. A brutally honest look at teenaged life in the 80s— with several Best-Of albums’ worth of musical attributions throughout— Bergen’s latest novel is a fascinating read that led down paths I didn’t expect to be explored, in ways that left me feeling distinctly unsettled. There’s a lot at work in this story: loss, love, and more than a smidgeon of lunacy, making Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth one of the most refreshing reads of 2014.
See review here.
Review by Lori Holuta
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth – which I must mention as I personally loved the title – by Andrez Bergen is optimistically due for release in mid 2014.
The year is 1986. The place is Nede (say it ‘needy’) Australia. Mina Rapace is sixteen. She’s dealing with familiar woes that come with her age – challenges at school, fitting in with her friends, dealing with boys, obsessing over comics and music, clashes with family. We’ve all been there.
That’s the outer layer of the onion that is Mina’s life – just the thin, papery brown top layer. Let’s peel that off and take a second look. Mina’s music is goth, her comics are vintage and she knows them frighteningly well. Her friendships are toxic, and that includes a rather startling imaginary one. Her mother is dead and her brother is a horrid beast. As for the boys… impossible and abusive relationships are all she knows.
That plump onion still has more layers to scrape through, bringing fresh tears to your eyes as each is revealed. By the time you reach the center of that pungent orb, you’ll discover it’s been rotting from the inside all along.
But, to continue my analogy, onions are a traditional source of strength and healing. Even as Mina copes with her increasingly rotting life, she exhibits a surprising strength in the face of circumstances that would defeat most.
Those of a certain age will enjoy the nostalgic details of the ‘80s, reminisce with every song reference, and smile at the fashion choices of the day. But you’ll do so while hanging on tight by your fingernails. I had faith in Mina, even when it seemed absurd to hold out hope. She didn’t fail me. In the end, somewhere in the jumble of mixed emotions I was wrestling with, I felt compelled to applaud.
Ice Planet Goth may be a difficult read for delicate sorts, but it’s well worth the journey. I knew by page three that I was in it to the end. I could never resist an onion, truth be told.
As a bonus, fans of Andrez Bergen’s previous novels may recognize some familiar references. One made me grin, and another made me cheer out loud.
See review here.
Review by Jonny Gibbings
I don't quite know where to start with Bergen's new novel.
Problem is I am a bit biased as it takes place in an era I didn't know I loved as much as I did and with mention of music I still love.
So I think I would have loved to hear Andrez just reminisce. However the narrative in Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is typically superb. In fact I think new to Andrez (or maybe I've not noticed before) but he has an almost Craig Wallwork ability to write nothing and have it interesting.
In this case the contrary discussions of teen girls and their 'bangs' yet, DCIPG has a dark river running through it, of a father fucking away his grief and his conquests remaining in the morning like a toilet stink, a torturous older brother who like his father has a drinking problem.
We follow Mina, an accidentally alternative girl who escapes through writing, the creativity manifests itself as Anim, a dark influence that is the clear window on Mina's ever fractured existence. Without spoilers, there are simply wonderful elements of tension such as one via a drunken friend of her brother that leaves you holding your breath.
What I did find wonderful was how Andrez wove escapism and an alternative fantasy with a voyeuristic narrative that just works and somehow makes the experience all the more intimate.
I love the fusion feel of this book. I love how it proudly cross pollinates comic style blunt with coming of age literature, so much is great about DCIPG. I think I might fancy Anim too!!
JONNY GIBBINGS is the author of Malice in Blunderland
Review by OzNoir
Mina is a typical 17-year-old girl from Melbourne, her life a poster for
normalcy: going to high school, hanging out with friends, listening to music, reading books, writing stories, going to the odd party, etc.
However, the façade is one of crafty deception, behind a long fringe and downcast eyes hides an inner torment and imaginary solace to a life more attune to violence and condemnation than the carefree rebellious teen life she should be leading.
Subjected to physical and mental abuse at the hateful hand of her older sibling, Mina conjures up Anim, an imaginary friend with real life influence who becomes her confidante and closest ally against the unbrotherly bombardment.
Adding to this hard knock life story is the typical teenage angst mixed with fluid friendship, experimental intoxication and a form of escapism that’s surreal and real at once. Mina is a complex character who experiences the full gambit of emotions as she shifts through a time lapse of events that at once captures the essence of 1980s Australia and something a little other-worldly.
Author Andrez Bergen makes the fantastical and real bleed into one another; the seamless trajectory of actions to and from the respective perspective create a lucid dream experience that encapsulates genre fiction in its many iterations.
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth does not subscribe to a label/category of fiction which makes this refreshing and unpredictable.
Bergen builds upon his strength in diversity to ensure Mina’s plight is one of multiple possibilities and dimensions. We, as the reader, get to enjoy this vivid imagery and enthralling tale of survival, endurance, and coming-of-age.
Due out midyear in 2014.
See review here.
Review by The Nameless Horror
Andrez is really, really good at getting books into people's hands. This is how come I'm one of those with a copy of DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH several months before publication. He's also really, really good at titles. This is how come it's called DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH.
These are things to bear in mind.
I also really, really liked WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA?. Because Andrez is a really, really good writer. And that most precious of beasts, a writer with a pretty much fearless imagination. And a nice guy.
That's also something to bear in mind.
The short, short version is that I really liked DCIPG too, not quite as much as HEROPA, but it's still a fine book and you should purchase it with your moneys when you can, for definite. You will not regret it.
Explaining why I liked it "not quite as much but still a lot" will require the use of elaborate techniques to avoid spoilers and you probably won't understand what I mean when I say half this stuff.
That's the final thing to bear in mind.
OK. So. DCIPG is a Bergen-standard blend of genres (HEROPA's probably the only easy-to-classify one, and even that has elements of others). It's part teenage coming of age drama about a 17-year-old girl in 1987 Melbourne with an abusive brother and a recently dead mother. It's also part FIGHT CLUB. And part HEATHERS (which is coming of age, of course, but with a hefty side order of psycho). And part... FEAR AND LOATHING. Ish. Or Philip K Dick. Look, shut up; I'm struggling for analogies.
The first two thirds concentrate on the (sometimes hideous) school and home life of Mina, her clique-y circle of friends, the new kid at school who disrupts all this, and her family and past. It's a slow burn, but it needs to be, and Mina comes across as totally believable and sympathetic. Nicely complex, too. (Note: believability relative to my lack of never having been a teenage girl.) Good things happen, bad things happen...
And then there's a fairly abrupt shift. The story takes a big jump into very different territory (for perfectly good reasons), and I was thrown a little. Then it jumps again, and Mina's life is very different and new to her, and... I wasn't as sold on New Mina as on old. One character central to her story before had also shifted and had a past and... again. And then she sort of shifts back to Old Mina, and it turns out some of Old Mina's former friends and relations are very different than she'd imagined. They reveal all to her and... she ends it. Sensibly, I might add, and I felt back on firmer ground. The actual close to the story itself is superbly judged, too.
That sounds a lot more critical than I'm trying to be. But it's a little like explaining why the delicious honeycomb ice cream you just ate wasn't quite as delicious as the other honeycomb ice cream you had that time in that place. You end up focussing on the small things and everyone really needs to remember the context you're placing them in.
So, the context:
So. As you can see, it's a fine book (hence 900 words of review). And definitely the most wildly inventive teenage girl grows up book you're likely to read this year. You can tell for yourselves by buying it when it's out, and then you'll also know for sure what the hell I've been talking about. Which you should.
Buy it, I mean.
See review here.