Vulture's gate by Kirsty Murray
Allen and Unwin, 2009.
(Age 13+) Highly recommended. A fabulous science fiction story with overtones of Mad Max, Vulture's gate tells the story of Callum, a young boy kidnapped by the dangerous Outlanders and Bo, Roboraptor Girl, who has survived alone in the desert since her grandfather was murdered. The world is a lawless place, and a bird virus has wiped out most of the women. When Callum manages to escape from his captors he discovers Bo's hiding place in the opal cave where she lives with her little robots, the roboraptors. Pursued by the Outlanders, they make a frantic dash across the desert in search of safety and Callum's fathers. But when they finally reach Vulture's Gate, perilous surprises are in store for them.
This a great survival story with lots of action and adventure to keep the reader interested. I loved the fast pace of the story and had to read quickly to the end to see whether Bo and Callum would survive. Their characters are vividly drawn and I found myself cheering them on as they faced terrible predicaments. The uniqueness of the Australian setting, the barren landscape and the ruined city of Vulture's Gate added to the atmosphere.
Many thought provoking issues are raised. The theme of women and girls being wiped out is a memorable one explored by Murray in a low key way. What would it be like to be regarded as an oddity if you were a girl? As a valuable rarity, what would powerful men want? What would it be like for Callum to be brought up by two fathers? The little roboraptors are fabulous and could be used to discuss genetic engineering and technology. The effects that a plague virus could have and devastation of the environment are also key themes.
This is a dystopian novel that deserves a place on library shelves. The ending leaves enough openings for a sequel, and I would love to read one.