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    Brilliant speculative fiction

    The Mother Fault is the second novel by Australian author, Kate Mildenhall. Engineer Benjamin Elliott is missing. His wife Miriam is concerned. Neither his employer GeoTech nor The Department know where Ben is, or are not saying if they do. Which is bizarre as they are all chipped: how can they not know? Representatives of The Department warn Mim not to tell anyone, confiscate her passport, and those of her children, and tell her to stay put. They offer to care for Essie and Sam in BestLife until the situation is resolved, but Mim isn’t that naïve: after her brother’s experience with BestLife, she knows that it’s no better than detention, and probably much worse. A hydrogeologist herself, Mim doesn’t reveal that she has already mentioned it to an international journalist, but uses the pretext of sounding out a return to work with a former colleague to take her children to the family farm, and her mother. Mim determines she will have to remove her small family from the compulsory scrutiny of The Department, and find a way to the Indonesian island where Ben has disappeared. She quickly learns just how seriously The Department considers the situation when she hears of their threats at the farm, and the fate of the friend who helped her go off-grid. She understands that they have to remain, quite literally, under the radar, but she has no idea what will be required of her before she has tracked Ben down and discovered what really happened. The near-future that Mildenhall describes is highly plausible and the subject matter is extremely topical: the technology aspect, the influence of multi-nationals, and the government attitude to refugees will all feel familiar. Mildenhall gives the reader a strong female protagonist who is no saint but has the welfare of her children as a firm priority, especially when the going gets tough. A gripping plot and a nail-biting climax will keep the pages turning. Brilliant speculative fiction. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Australia.

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