The Courier’s New Bicycle

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Author: Kim Westwood
ISBN: 978-0-7322-8988-1

Westwood writes of a familiar place that has seen better days, her post-pandemic Melbourne is dark and disturbing and looms in the not too distant future. The prose is distinctly poetic and lyrical bringing the scenes into stark reality; seeming more like a sign of what’s to come than science fiction.

Australia has suffered a flu pandemic and the vaccine, distributed Australia-wide, which was said to have no side effects has wrought havoc with the hormones and fertility of the country’s remaining population. This has led to a major market increase in fertility treatments, surrogacy and blurred lines of gender.

Religious zealots made their way to power and banned all efforts to reverse the hormonal havoc except prayer. This gives free rein for the new believers to harass and victimise anyone who doesn’t fit the current gender ‘ideal’ and has sent hormonal therapy companies underground – but not out of business.

Westwood has written a gripping page-turner that captures beauty in it’s darkness and advocates the need for acceptance of those that are different and an understanding of the risks associated with genetic tampering.

The Melbourne of Westwood’s imagining saw the genetic engineering of purple cats and glow in the dark fish and all manner of man-made characteristics in pets before the pandemic came along and wiped out a large part of the population, the fertility of much of the population, the economy and the thriving bustle of Melbourne.

couriers new bicycle

The vaccine was distributed Australia-wide, though nothing is really said about how much of the country is affected by the pandemic and the rest of the world rates a very small mention so I do wonder as I read what has happened to America, England and all of the other countries across the planet in relation to the pandemic. Has the entire world gone the way of post-pandemic Melbourne or was the outbreak contained to Australia?

The more I think about this it seems that many of the post-apocalyptic novels, movies, series all focus on the one locale and the rest of the planet is left in uncertainty.

Westwood certainly makes disbelief easy to suspend with her haunting descriptions of a Melbourne once thriving and filled with life and bustle. A Melbourne now littered with decrepit buildings never completed, rolling power outages, climate change running rampant and wreaking major change on the seasons.

The Courier’s New Bicycle is the story of Salisbury Forth, a courier of ethical hormone therapies in the inner city of Melbourne and member of APV (Animal Protection Vigilantes).  We see Melbourne through Sal’s eyes and share the pain at the suffering of the animals, the concern for friends and the search for answers.

Tainted hormones make it onto the street wearing a reputable company’s seal and Sal is set to sleuth it out before the company goes down. This plotline contains some exciting twists that will get you from left field and keep you guessing right to the end. Another intriguing element of this novel is the creative demonstration of what a small world it is as coincidental incidents all become tied together.

Westwood is certainly an author to watch out for and I can’t wait to read more of her work!

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