Through the dystopia of styrofoam cups, depleted forests, rotting garbage, and an overabundance of aggressive species – colonists or currawongs, there is still laughter, a sense of hope, and a deep, abiding love for the city. In Aiken’s world, the human is absorbed into nature as just another animal, a predator who will one day be supplanted by another species. Though that may not sound like the prettiest of visions, A Vicious Example presents a collection of great beauty, and intense reflection.
This is a novel that, like Slessor’s poem, explores time, and the way in which it flows between and across character. When Ellie, James, and their pivotal teacher Miss Morrison learn about the Clepsydra – the Chinese clock that consists of vessels that leak time, Ellie and James are excited. Time is a process “of emptying and filling, a fluent time-passing, not one chopped into pieces.”