2023 - Winner
The post-apocalyptic world of Grace Chan’s novel lies just around the corner. It offers the alluring disembodied space of Gaia, a more beautiful and expansive form of sensory yet digital existence, where Tao-Yi and her boyfriend Navin can escape a toxic and crumbling Melbourne. An impending full digital upload means they will be able to leave their real world lives completely.
Chan’s novel sensitively and imaginatively builds a world that is recognisable yet convincingly strange, in which tensions inexorably mount between Navin and Tao-Yi. His illness traps him in a painful and diminished life in Melbourne, while she is reluctant to leave her mother and the tactile embodied world. An elegant exploration of a collapsing world and its reliance on quick-fix technology for those who can afford it, this novel portrays evolving forms of labour, leisure, relationship and resistance, shadowed by environmental, bodily and mental illness. It is complex, moving and beautifully observed.