Book Review: BENEATH THE SURFACE

It’s been a really busy last few weeks, with three releases being launched in three weeks; my debut novella ‘SUBMERGED CITY’, ‘A BOND OF WORDS’ by Scout Media, the ‘JOURNEYS’ anthology by Deadset Press, and the first of Aussie Speculative Fiction’s Zodiac series, ‘CAPRICORN’.

But today I want to talk about BENEATH THE SURFACE by Rebecca Langham.  BENEATH THE SURFACE is a book I first saw at Supanova earlier this year, and just had to get simply because of the beautiful cover.  And the blurb promised a sci-fi story featuring aliens, corruption and deceit, and an explosive truth buried beneath it all.  I was sold.

The story is about Lydia, the governor’s daughter who seeks seclusion from the public eye by teaching at the Outsider facility, and it’s about Alessia, a reclusive leader of the Outsiders, the alien race who sought refuge on Earth and were hidden away from humanity.

Lydia is surprised to see for herself the conditions in which Alessia’s people are kept, and the longer she spends under the surface with them, the more her heart is awakened to their plight, and to their leader.

The tension that grows, the secrets that are uncovered, and the shifting relationships between the characters make for compelling reading.  This book has genuinely exciting and unexpected twists and turns, and my main issue is that I waited so bloody long to read it!  Having said that, there were some things that did raise a few questions as I was reading it (how the aliens had lost the knowledge of their language in just a few generations & the apparent lack of scientific investigation into their similarities and differences with humans) but these were all resolved towards the end of the book.  

Of course, there are strong political elements in this piece, which can be divisive – some people don’t like to see politics so overt in fiction, others like it. Personally, I believe that every book is political, and I love to see it. BENEATH THE SURFACE reads as a critique, a condemnation, of Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers. The inhumanity of placing innocent people fleeing war – people who only want a safe home and the basic human rights afforded to everybody else – in a prison where they are neglected, abused and given no hope of a future is very powerfully portrayed.

One great touch of BENEATH THE SURFACE was the ability of the aliens to manipulate their body between feminine, androgynous and masculine depending on which gender they felt suited them. This – as the ambisexuality of the Gethenians in Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand Of Darkness’ did in the ‘70s – explores and discusses gender and sexual identity in a new way.  Additionally, Langham’s book also explores the issues of humanity’s survival in a scarily possible future earth, with humanity’s population living in domes, protecting us from a dangerous and uninhabitable environment. 

I really enjoyed this book, it’s an engrossing piece which tackles issues relevant in today’s world, and I have no hesitation in giving it a 5-star rating. I believe the sequel BREAKING THE SURFACE is coming out in January, so I’m definitely going to grab a copy!

For more information about the author, check out her website: http://www.rebeccalangham.com.au/

That about wraps it up for me, but I’ll be back in January with more book reviews and updates on my writing journey. I hope you all stay safe over the holiday period, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to spend time with your family, make some happy memories together.

  • Originally published December 2019

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