In a thirsty, drought-stricken Australia, the country is well and truly sunburnt. As the Eastern states are evacuated to more appealing climates, a stubborn few resist the forced removal. They hide out in small country towns – where no one would ever bother looking.
Bill Cook and Tobe Cousins are united in their disregard of the law. Aussie larrikins, they pass their hot, monotonous existence drinking at the barely standing pub.
When strange lights appear across the Western sky, it seems that those embittered by the drought are seeking revenge. And Bill and Tobe are in their path. In the heat of the moment secrets will be revealed, and survival can’t be guaranteed.
Without the slightest warning, a raging noise blew in – a roar that tore through the night and shook the earth. The dogs out the front of the pub started howling. Conversations faltered as everyone fell quiet. The noise kept on, steadily growing louder. Tobe and I turned, scanning the sky, seeing nothing. I looked over at him – he was already running for the road, heading for the hill behind the pub.
I followed, unexpectedly clearheaded, taking everything in as if it had been laid out on display.
Everyone ran with us. Sheldon huffed and puffed, cursing his old body. Louise jogged next to me, smiled at me, rapidly overtook me. The Veidts hurried along, somehow making the process look dignified. Max and Maxine moved fast yet made it look like they were taking it easy. Cathy Ng half-limped and half-ran, clutching at her dressing gown, trying not to catch herself in it. The Kumari Kid darted back and forth, circling the crowd, urging everyone to move faster. The First Country captain led his people on, trailing well behind, watchful and wary.
We kept running. We crested the hill. We all stood in silence, raggedly trying to catch our collective breath.
The wind started, furnace-hot. Its screaming whine and the roar that tore through the sky were the only sounds in the world. From the corner of my eye I saw someone lick their finger and hold it up in the air. I heard someone else say: “It’s coming from the west, dickhead.” And then the word rain seemed to be falling from everyone’s lips.
A flash lit up the horizon, staining the sky dull-orange and crimson-red. Someone started yelling: “Light! Light! Light to the west!”
For a moment, it burned too bright, blinding me. It soon faded away, only to then happen repeatedly. I looked around; everyone seemed to have their eyes shut and their fists clenched.
The world shook again.
We waited, all eyes fixed on the horizon, everyone saying the same word over and over: Rain! Rain! Rain!
What People are Saying
“The current weather situation makes the whole scenario to be not so far-fetched – it could become reality. The descriptions are all too familiar with the scenes being played on my TV on the nightly news… The dramatic events and horrible scenario is balanced by humour. Only Aussies can crack jokes in the most horrendous conditions. And the witty back and forths certainly lightened the emotions so this reader didn’t plunge into the depths of despair with the unrelenting grimness of their life… Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night.”
“Mateship. It’s a love stronger than romance. Which is why larrikin Bill finds himself leaving town time and again with the erratic, wild, charismatic, dangerous Tobe… It is a fresh look at the genre: A dystopia centred around the relationship between two knockabout blokes trying to survive… Filled with so many Australian idioms it felt as if Alf Stewart was dumped into the outback, the strong Australian pride and wording sets The Rain Never Came apart from the competition. An enjoyable read filled with beautiful imagery and Australian characters. Well worth having a butcher’s.”
“An interesting book. I enjoyed it as a writer, seeing how Walter has varied the pace to create atmosphere. As a resident of inland Australia, where the droughts are becoming worse and the future is likely to hold more of the same, I can only hope this book is not prophetic.”
“I was expecting a point to be made—and it turns out to be that communities endure, and that even in the midst of misery people frequently choose to be kind. That hardship doesn’t mean the end of moral development; that really only in hardship can our morals calcify into something tangible and trustworthy. This underlying sense of optimism is very welcome in post-apocalyptic fiction… Bill and Tobe, quintessential piss-taking Aussie blokes as they are, capable of tramping through bush, skinning kangaroos, and being in general the stereotypical manly men, are also both very open with their emotions. They hug a lot, they cry a lot. They don’t consider emotion to be weakness, in others or in themselves, and there’s something very refreshing about all this… Walter constantly goes back to the land in this novel, using it as the touchstone reminder of devastation, and of apocalypse. Readers are never allowed to forget the enormity of the ecological devastation that’s at the very centre of this narrative, and neither are the characters.”
“The protagonists, Bill and Tobe, have a longstanding friendship characterised by jokes, shared cultural references and love of a good time. However, not all the memories they share are good ones and there are limits to what both of them are prepared – or courageous enough – to reveal to the other… They face a daily struggle for survival, constantly short of food and water, and the bleak reality of the arid, drought-stricken environment of Australia is evocatively described… I really enjoyed The Rain Never Came for its exploration of the impact of extreme climate change and its engagement with themes such as freedom and authoritarianism, and the picture of a drought-stricken, lawless world was quite chilling… In three words: Compelling, dramatic, thought-provoking.”
“On the surface, The Rain Never Came is a fairly standard tale of societal collapse in the wake of global climate change… But it has peculiarly Australian depths and dimensions that make it exceptionally rewarding, and especially fresh for non-Australian readers. In American SF (as in larger American culture), we’re accustomed to an individualistic streak, to protagonists who defy authority and convention, to the lovable rogue and the witty badass defying society’s restrictions. Australian culture plays with the same concept, but in a starker, edgier form fraught with more tension. It’s analogous to the way those accustomed to American beer are often overcome by the more potent Australian brew… When the climate turns bad, the government has to force people to evacuate. And larrikins have to refuse to leave, to assert their independence. Yet they must also pay the price of their rebellion. The question of the exact nature of the inevitable price paid by Bill and Tobe informs The Rain Never Came with an unexpected potency.”
“This is a story full of the rich humour peculiar to Australians… It’s a tale of contrasts. Happiness and sadness, beauty and harshness, levity and seriousness… Descriptions in The Rain Never Came were first-rate. I felt the scrub desert, and the sweltering heat (thanks, mate. I loathe heat)… There is a bit of a ‘Mad Max’ feel. Walter is Australian, so I liked the homage paid to this cult classic series set in Australia. I greatly enjoyed how Walter’s culture came through, not just with colloquial language, but its essence also. Tenacity is valued, and reflected, as is fierce independence… As with many other cultural traits, a certain notion of not being full of oneself was imported from the British parent culture, and wicked sharp humour is used to deflate puffed egos… Oh, and the indigenous Aborigines are mentioned often, as First Country people. I really liked that detail.”
“Does your bloke like to read? Is he obsessed with the impending end of the world? Then definitely check out The Rain Never Came by first-time author Lachlan Walter.”
“In The Rain Never Came, the story of two best friends trying to overcome Mother Nature as well as authority will have you cracking up, and flipping the pages until the very end… Told with a flowing and captivating narration, this near-future tale will have you on the edge of your seat… I adored this book, even though it isn’t something that I would normally pick up. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It was quite funny, and I loved all the different Australian slang, which made me feel like I was part of the country.”
“The slow pace seemed natural to the time, place, and the depth of despair and pain the people endure and exude… The author brings to life a fascinating landscape which cannot be ignored, mostly because it engulfs everything and everyone in a manner that I saw as total control – no escape from its hardship, nor relaxing from the stranglehold… This is definitely dystopian. Anyone who enjoys reading this type of story will probably enjoy the challenges this book presents… I felt like I suffered right along with Bill and Tobe in this fascinating tale, and I happily award it 4 stars.”
“The story was not so far-fetched from reality. Although the world setting and description of the whole situation has not yet happened in the current world, the thought of it was alarmingly close to what could be… The literature is by far one of the best I have read… I believe anyone that enjoys reading dystopian novels would enjoy this book immensely.”
“Wow, this book is really powerful! I didn’t know what I was in for when I sat down to start reading, and it truly was a pleasant surprise. Bill and Tobe are strong characters that carry through this gripping plot well…and the ending…well, you’ll just have to try it for yourself!”
“In broad strokes, you would be forgiven for thinking this book might be some form of “Mad Max” fan fiction, but the similarities are only on the surface. This has little in common with the movies, other than an arid climate and a civilization in decline. The mood here is one more of quiet desperation rather than a frenetic race for survival… This is definitely a book that stands on its own, a solid and well-crafted story with fresh ideas. If you’re in the mood for something different, this is definitely one to consider.”
“The pacing of the story starts off quite slowly, adding to the mood of the work. While it isn’t a very long book, it seems to take longer than it actually does to read because of the setting, illustrating how the people have accepted their situation and learned to adapt and survive… It is a heck of a story by an author who can communicate ideas clearly and hold a reader’s attention.”
A Short Q&A with the Author
What inspired you to write The Rain Never Came?
Some years ago, I moved back to my hometown at the tail end of Australia’s Millennium Drought. It’s a small country town, deep in the bush, and like everywhere else it was suffering from the ravages of the dry. At that time, life was quite strange – communities were pulling together in the face of adversity, and at the same time fraying at the edges; people were growing desperate; water theft and folk walking off their farms had become all-too-common occurrences; all of our 20th-century technology meant nothing against nature’s whims. It seemed as if the past had returned, a world of dust and brute work and thirst. And yet we were surrounded by the new. More than anything else, this hybrid world resembled certain post-apocalyptic worlds of speculative fiction, and so The Rain Never Came was born.
Do you think it’s important that small towns are represented in fiction?
There is so much more to Australia than its capital cities and the outback, and yet these places situate the majority of our fiction. This is a terrible shame, as our country is a patchwork of different environments bound together by small towns. From mangrove swamps to rainforests and from snowy mountains to scrubby grassland, it is the towns in-between that give contexts to these landscapes – they tell a different kind of Australian story, one defined by remoteness, community and a close connection with the bush, where old and new Australia meet and coexist. And having grown up in a small town, I always wanted to see more of them on the printed page.
Does the Australian Outback make a particularly good setting for horror and dystopia?
Empty and isolated spaces are the perfect settings for an exploration of the darker themes of speculative fiction: Violence, fear, horror, the unknown, the dystopian and the post-apocalyptic. Being an enormous country in which the vast majority of the population cling to the coastlines, Australia is full of such empty and isolated spaces, making it the perfect setting to explore such themes, especially when we also consider the ancient and primal atmosphere of our flora and fauna. Nothing holds as much mystery and potential threat as the Australian bush at night…
Why did you decide to have brothers-in-law as your main protagonists?
Being an examination of stereotypically ‘Australian’ reactions and masculinity in the face of inexorable change, it seemed appropriate to structure The Rain Never Came around two classically Australian ‘mates.’ But mateship can bend so far that it will break, a fact that lead me to wonder: Just how enduring can some ties be? And what does it take to break them? Positing the two mates of The Rain Never Came as brothers-in-law seemed the perfect vehicle to test the strength of these ties, as nothing binds us like family.
Tell us why we should pick up The Rain Never Came?
People should get their hands on The Rain Never Came because at some time most of us have probably looked around at our sunburnt land and thought: “Maybe the end of the world is already here.” Beyond that, The Rain Never Came is also a fast-paced post-apocalyptic story with an undeniably Australian style and atmosphere, which will hopefully broaden people’s understanding of what being ‘Australian’ can mean, open our eyes to the ways that climate change may alter our lives, and strip the word mateship of its conservative connotations and return it to its egalitarian roots.