The book is named for her but Elena Rubik dies – run down by a Ford Falcon in suburban Perth after buying a service station pie – in the opening moments of Elizabeth Tan’s debut novel-as-short-story collection.
What follows is one of the more daring, experimental and frequently frustrating Australian books I’ve read.
While the links aren’t always immediately apparent, each story relates back to Rubik in some way but they’re told in vastly different styles and often have vastly different relationships with realism.
Drenched in pop culture references and social commentary, the stories range from relatively grounded tales of alienation in the internet age to completely fanciful yarns of secret agents and corporate evil.
Like a Rubik’s cube, Tan’s book is a puzzlebox – it’s confounding, demanding undivided attention while promising a reward for your patience. For me, the reward never came: by the time the book reached its final messy – borderline nonsensical – chapter I was over it. It’s a refreshingly unpredictable book, disconcerting in its originality. Easy to admire, in that sense – but difficult to enjoy.