"A powerfully doomy debut" (The Guardian), Shaun Prescott’s The Town is a novel of a rural Australian community besieged by modern day anxieties and threatened by a supernatural force seeking to consume the dying town.
This is Australia, an unnamed, dead-end town in the heart of the outback—a desolate place of gas stations, fast-food franchises, and labyrinthine streets: flat and nearly abandoned. When a young writer arrives to research just such depressing middles-of-nowhere as they are choked into oblivion, he finds something more sinister than economic depression: the ghost towns of Australia appear to be literally disappearing. An epidemic of mysterious holes is threatening his new home’s very existence, and this discovery plunges the researcher into an abyss of weirdness from which he may never escape.
Dark, slippery and unsettling, Shaun Prescott’s debut resurrects the existential novel for the age of sprawl and blight, excavates a nation’s buried history of colonial genocide, and tells a love story that asks if outsiders can ever truly belong anywhere. The result is a disquieting classic that vibrates with an occult power.
Prescott debuts with a promising allegory of an Australia in cultural and economic flux. An unnamed narrator moves to the Central West of New South Wales, planning to work on a book about rural towns in the region that have "simply disappeared" from the landscape along with the people who lived in them. After renting a room and getting a job in a grocery store, where he plays back dictations of his work in progress, vaguely planned as a hybrid of journalism and horror, the narrator befriends his roommate Rob's girlfriend, Ciara, a DJ with a late-night slot at a community radio station. Her feedback on the narrator's book ("she couldn't tell whether the book was fiction or fact") echoes questions that are sure to emerge from the reader. As bottomless holes start appearing throughout the town, people and buildings begin to vanish, the cost of goods increases, and civic order unravels. Ciara, who's broken up with Rob, plans an escape with the narrator. While the ephemeral details wear thin ("As the town disappeared, so did my grip on any particular town truth"), Prescott brilliantly captures the disconcerting effect of a town's changing storefronts, people, and customs on the newcomer and Ciara, offering stark reflections on the young characters' search for a sense of definition and permanence. Prescott is off to a strong start.