I’m really curious to see what everyone’s favourite book is and have been meaning to ask this question for ages. What is the one and only book you couldn’t live without? You know, the whole desert island thing. If anyone is like me, I can imagine the answers will be pretty eclectic!
My favourite book isn’t one of those popular old classics like Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mocking Bird or… The Bible. Neither is it a ‘trendy’ novel you’d chance upon on The New York Times Best Seller List. Looking at you Crazy Rich Asians and The Woman in Cabin 10.
My desert island book is Spare Parts, a new adult science fiction novel written by a little known Australian author, Sally Rogers-Davidson. First published by Penguin Books in 1999, Spare Parts was short listed for the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in the same year.
I still remember the day (sometime in 2004??) that I found the book in my school library one rainy afternoon and was struck by the unusual cover. A woman in a metal womb? What the hell does that mean??
From the first page I was immediately transported into a dystopian world set in futuristic Melbourne where the privileged few (A-graders) live in luxurious skyscrapers above the cloud line. Kelty, an intelligent C-grade citizen, lives in the streets below and is determined to get into university so she can advance to B-Grade citizenship – and a better life. But of course… nothing goes according to plan (does it ever??) Brain transplants, telepathy and interstellar space travel quickly ensue.
I think Spare Parts made such a distinct impression because there were so few other new adult dystopian novels around that time. I’m pretty certain the term ‘New Adult’ didn’t even exist back in 1999, and if it did, it was nothing but a thought bubble above the head of an industry leader.
Spare Parts was definitely ahead of its time. It wasn’t until a decade later that the hungry new adult masses were given a dystopian novel to rival Harry Potter. Yes, I’m talking about The Hunger Games – of which followed a boom in traditionally published dystopian novels. Although, I’m not sure if Spare Parts can be classified as dystopian in the traditional sense, a sentiment also echoed by Tsana Dolichva in her 2012 book review. There’s probably already a word for it, but I’ll take a stab and call Kelty’s world a mellotopia – ‘future place’ or perhaps even emporitopia – ‘commercialised place’.
For me, Spare Parts will always be the one that came first. A book filled with strong female characters well before the #metoo movement. There is also another abnormality that only enriches the story – there is not a whisper of an angsty, teenage love triangle, a ommision that teaches us a valuable lesson: a love triangle is not a compulsory ingredient in the creation of a mouth-watering New Adult novel.
No surprise, for my birthday that year I asked my parents to buy me a paperback version of Spare Parts. But they couldn’t find it. Anywhere.
Thankfully, when my birthday finally rolled around, there it was, sitting in my lap, my very own copy.
Somehow, by luck, my parents (ever the resourceful couple) found some obscure online second-hand bookstore that had a single copy in stock. And so I finally got my book – a first edition copy that I still have today and would not give up for anything.
Funnily enough, I was not the only person searching high and low for a copy of Spare Parts. Like many others before me, I emailed Sally Odgers in an attempt to get into contact with Sally Rogers-Davidson to let her know how much I loved her book – and to please tell me if there’s a sequel???
Luckily, Sally Rogers-Davidson turned out to be the nicest author in the history of the world, and she sent me a free advanced copy of Cybomorph, the next book in the series. And boy was it lush. The Star Trek Discovery like twist at the end was mind-blowing and made my heart ache (once again, Rogers-Davidson proves to be ahead of the curve!)
Much love, Milly