This debut novel by Australian author Claire Corbett is a fantasy set in a future where humans can fly thanks to surgery, gene manipulation and an ongoing drug regime. But such a process is extremely expensive and therefore only available to the rich, thus dividing society into fliers and non-fliers.
From the first page of When We Have Wings I was immediately dropped into the action of story - where people can fly - without any character or story background at all. At first this was a shock and I found myself a little disoriented and struggling to piece together the constructs of this new world without any background or intro to the scenario. However; as the book continued, character background was filled in and the science behind creating human fliers was provided and I was hooked.
I was very interested in the differences between fliers and non-fliers and the multitude of societal and environmental dilemmas arising as a result. Corbett explored these extremely well in the novel, giving us plenty of food for thought without guiding us toward a particular point of view. It was a clever glimpse of an alternate future but also underscored many of the inequalities in the world today.
My favourite part of the book had nothing to do with flying funnily enough. It was a character insight and doesn't give any of the plot away, so I'll share it here. The main character realises why the parents don't love their baby:
"They never gave up anything, they never risked anything, and the less they did for him, the less they loved him. I thought it was the other way round, that they did nothing for him because they didn't love him."
This really made me want to stop reading and soak this in. So poignant and so true.
Finally, the author seemed to have such an amazing understanding and knowledge of flight that I was often left shaking my head in admiration of her writing and frowning in wonder - how did she do that? I was also impressed by her knowledge of clouds and cloud formations, weather patterns, air movements, and the science behind flight. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was a flier herself!
I really enjoyed living in Corbett's cleverly created world - plants bio-engineered to glow in the dark at night eliminating the need for lights, buildings created for fliers, and especially the lion that was genetically engineered to grow to the size of a house cat. (Corbett's creativity reminded me of reading Harry Potter for the first time, and wanting to taste all of the different lollies J. K. Rowling had created). I'd love to witness and visit some of the sites in When We Have Wings, if only they were real.
A fabulous debut novel for Australian author Claire Corbett, and I'll be keeping an eye out for what she does next.
My rating = ****