Book review: Moon Sugar by Angela Meyer

I was taken with Angela Meyer’s writing when I read Joan Smokes, it has a slow, hauntingly beautiful vibe about it. Her most recent novel Moon Sugar applies her literary style to a story that blends crime fiction, science fiction and fantasy.

The lichen at least helped him understand the way Sally, he, his daughter, even Rick were all connected and continuing atoms and gases, infinite universes opening out from each moment.  And yet, he still has to cope with being here, now, without her corporeal form.

The novel starts with a prologue set twenty four years ago about an ageing astronaut surrounded by a mysterious lichen as he contemplates his mortality and the secrets he will reveal to his daughter when she is old enough. The scene appears untethered to the story that follows, but we circle back to its connection later in the novel and it becomes a critical piece of information linking the crime elements to the science fiction and fantasy narratives.

He remembers something he heard about taking drugs, that sometimes it’s like a zipper opening and that if you keep trying to pull up the zipper you’ll have a terrible trip but if you just let the zipper open and accept whatever spills out you will have a good time. And thinking about it this way, he is able to let go of holding together the division of where the edges of himself meet the world.

Josh, a young sex worker disappears in Berlin. An email with a suicide note is sent to his family and his clothing is found on the banks of a Berlin river. Personal trainer Mila who is one of his clients, and his best friend Kyle both think something is amiss. They each travel independently to Berlin, where a chance meeting has the unlikely pair team up to try and find out what happened to Josh – and that is when the magic seeps in.

This is how the world is increasingly run: cashed-up idealists who are in too much of a rush to properly consider any long-term projects, wanting to be heroes of the people in the moment, be the first and best.

Moon Sugar touches on themes of drug taking, queerness, connection, disconnection, capitalism, magic, sex and death. The characters are well drawn and Meyer pens great insight into the inner worlds of Mila and Kyle, take a trip with them.

Book review: Joan Smokes by Angela Meyer

Joan Smokes is a 68 page novella by Australian author Angela Meyer. Winner of the Mslexia Novella Award (2019), this story is a case of good things come in small packages.

She used to be someone else, but decided to become Joan after she arrived in Vegas, to start again, shut her past out. It’s the 60s and she decides Joan has dark hair, red lipstick and wears floral dresses. Joan is also a smoker, so she buys a packet of cigarettes.

Joan moves forward amongst the casinos and flashing neon, finds a job and meets new people.

She’d seen the Las Vegas  strip in a movie. It is just as technicolor in real life. The radio plays ‘Be My Baby’ by the Ronettes and she flicks it off because love songs are ice. The lights make sound in her eyes. On one sign: the soprano crescendo of pink. On another, a swooshing fan of green-blue.

Her mother always said one man is as good as another. She forgets about Jack, tries to let things go.

You will want to know what Joan is running from, why she is on the edge of a breakdown and why she thinks becoming someone else will make her believe it didn’t happen. A sophisticated and emotional read that will make you wish the story was longer.