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Welcome to Orphancorp is a novella set in a dystopian Australia where orphanages have been commodified, the young people in their care being little more than child labourers working for the enrichment of persons unseen. The staff are mostly unthinking automata, but at worst they are sadistic jailers.

 

We meet Mirii, a sassy 17 year old who is due to be released into the open in just a week. She has to keep her nose clean to avoid missing her release and being packed off to Prisoncorp – which in any case seems to be the fate of former orphans who don’t quickly find employment and accommodation on the outside. Mirii has just been transferred to the Sydney Orphancorp having spent her entire life in a series of identical institutions dotted across Australia.

The novella works in parts. Mirii’s voice is mostly engaging, speaking in the kind of argot that typifies petty rebellion against a much more powerful force. Hence, oaths are minced, common concepts are given new names, and common words are loaded with horrific meaning. “Consequences” in particular.

What doesn’t work quite so well is that the story is just not plausible. That a whole industry could have grown up so neglectful of its assets; that despite the severe Consequences of transgression, the orphans would transgress as soon as the staff’s backs were turned; that there were no whistleblowers, snitches, saintly do-gooders; awkward relatives… There was no depth of characterisation – people who had barely met were willing to trust their lives to one another. It felt too much like some set scenes loosely stitched together with, being honest, a fair bit of passing in the middle. The pacing also didn’t quite seem right with way too much scene setting and then the crucial plot stuff being breezed through.

Overall this just felt too underdeveloped – a couple of good ideas but not set in context and not carried through effectively.

 

***00

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