In a future world, thirty years from now, virtual reality (VR) headsets have replaced smartphones as our technology of choice. A sixteen-year-old girl, Eila, posts VR clips of herself on a future version of social media. Her clips are so successful that she is shortlisted for an international competition by a global tech giant. She heads to England to meet the other short-listees and try out a cutting-edge new VR skin suit. But then things take on a dangerous turn. Law enforcement officers coerce Eila into spying for them, underground activists reveal a murderous plot, and Eila realises that her own mind is at risk.
Welcome to the terrifying future world of Mindcull
, the thrilling, heart-stopping debut novel of Australian author KH Canobi.
Meet KH Canobi
Melbourne-based KH Canobi is a writer of fiction for children and young adults. But before writing her first novel, Canobi worked as a cognitive scientist and university lecturer, completing a PhD and postdoctoral fellowship in developmental psychology at the University of Melbourne and lecturing for three years in the UK. Canobi's research looked at how people change in their thinking. She began wondering about how technological advances like the internet, smartphones and social media have affected us all, and this made her curious about what the future will be like, especially for teenagers.
"The teenage years are a key time for working out who you are and forming authentic relationships and I think those things are especially hard in our current context of immersive game worlds and social media," she tells me. "And if it's like this now, what will it be like to be a teenager in a future time when everyone dives into virtual worlds? What would it be like if people relied on VR headsets the same way we rely on smartphones? What would it be like to spend more time interacting in the virtual world than the physical world? And what might happen to a teenager whose social media posts bring her to the attention of some dangerous and powerful people?"
Canobi explores these ideas and situations in Mindcull and especially in Mindcull's strong, independent and feisty protagonist Eila. Canobi loves strong female leads. She credits the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and the Tomorrow series by John Marsden as some of her biggest inspirations because both Suzanne Collins and John Marsden have strong female protagonists in their stories. Having a gutsy female character is important to Canobi. She is a mum of four, three of whom are now teenagers like Eila. "I want my daughter to read about complex, interesting girls who wrestle with big ideas and whose thoughts don't centre on how people look," Canobi tells me. "I want her to read about girls whose goals in life are bigger than getting together with a special boy."
Lost in the fantastic
It was the books she'd read as a child that transported her to other worlds-books by writers such as CS Lewis, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl-that inspired Canobi to turn to writing herself. "I've always loved reading and been drawn into the magic of books,"
she tells me. "When I was young, my favourite books involved ordinary children who found themselves in fantastical situations. I was one of those kids who lost themselves in their imagination and it seemed to me that the magic from my books was hiding just around the corner. I kept thinking that if only I rubbed the right lamp or went into right wardrobe, I would find it. For me, there were giants hiding at the end of the hallway, fairies living inside the walls of our house and people could really fall through cracks in the concrete into another world. I remember believing that the pine trees just past the park at the end of my street were the start of an enchanted wood!"
Canobi's love of the fantastic is evident in her second, as yet to be published novel. Whereas Mindcull
is for older readers (12-18 year olds), her latest offering is aimed at a younger audience (aged 8-14). The story is narrated from the point of view of Aleena, a contemporary Australian girl. It begins with a bushfire that destroys a famous old tree, then evolves into a conflict between a group of friends in Year 6 and a shadow creature from another realm. On the night the old tree burns down, magic and danger arrive, plunging Aleena and her friends into a battle between the forces of good and evil.
Connect with Canobi
Now that she's a published author, KH Canobi has been busy with school visits, appearing at conferences, festivals, libraries, and bookshops and on radio, podcast, and blog interviews. Canobi loves connecting with her readers. You can find out more about her and her books via her website here.
You can also follow her on twitter
is published by Ford Street Publishing. You can purchase your copy via their website here
. For an excellent review of Mindcull
, read what fellow author Dimity Powell has to say here
Mindcull has been longlisted for the 2020 Davitt Awards (Young Adult) by Sisters in Crime Australia