The Arrival of Missives is a genre-defying story of fate, free-will and the choices we make in life. In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.
The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?
As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?
'Summoning the spirits of D.H. Lawrence and H.E. Bates and channelling the ancient pagan practices of eerie rural England to go somewhere utterly unexpected, The Arrival Of Missives is beguiling, brilliant and odd. Not since Alan Garner have such expansive themes been so keenly tied to place and so evocatively explored.'
– Benjamin Myers, author of Beastings and Pig Iron
'Stark, poetic, forthright and live with the numinous. One of the most original and haunting stories I have read in recent years.'
– Nina Allan, author of The Race and The Rift
Aliya Whiteley discussing The Arrival of Missives on the Paperchain Podcast
Aliya Whiteley was born in Devon in 1974, and currently lives in Sussex with her husband, daughter and dog. She writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in places such as The Guardian, Interzone, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit's European Monsters and Lonely Planet's Better than Fiction I and II. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People's Choice Award in 2007.
Her recent novella for Unsung Stories, The Beauty, was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and a Sabotage Award, and appeared on the Honors List for the James Tiptree Jr Award. She blogs at: aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com and she tweets most days as @AliyaWhiteley.
Thanks to the poetic simplicity of Whiteley’s prose, it is more intimate and more thematically textured than many novels four times that length... an intriguing "what if?" of a tale, one that keeps us transfixed and wondering right up to the final pages and with an ending that won’t easily be forgotten.
An engaging, intelligent, and well-written character study that does a thoroughly excellent job of subverting any expectations we might have of either science fiction or 19th Century literature.
– Jonathan MacAlmont's Shadow Clarke 2017 Shortlist
This is a tremendous story – the kind that wins Pulitzers, like Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres – with haunting and heart-rending women's issues that are sure to draw comparisons to Margaret Atwood.
– Carol Kean, Perihelion Science Fiction
The story grips with its concept of a future in peril and people in the present being required to do absolutely anything to preserve that possibility.
– Black Static
A novella I fell in love with from the moment I encountered it ... the eerie weirdness of Missives is surpassed only by Whiteley’s sense of place.
– Nina Allan's Best of the Year 2016
A beautifully written tale.
– British Fantasy Society
I was absolutely blown away by this one. I’m still thinking about it, days later. This is a story about free will, and the choices we make, and the fact that no matter what choice we make, there will often be a cost – to ourselves, or to someone else.
– File 770
Few novels balance the extraordinary with the subtle in such a masterful way.
– Bastian's Book Reviews
An incredible talent, Aliya Whiteley continues to astound and delight, and The Arrival of Missives confirms what anyone who read The Beauty already knew: these books, and this writer, are not to be missed, under any circumstances.
– Reader Dad
Because this isn’t just about the plot, it’s about science fiction as a genre too: if old white men think they can make the future without a place in it for everyone but themselves, then . . . no. There are other, better futures.
– Strange Horizons
If you've ever any read stories by such authors as Nina Allan, Douglas Thompson, David Rix and Allen Ashley, you'll love The Arrival of Missives, because it equals everything that these authors have ever written. I think that we can expect great things from Aliya Whiteley.
– Rising Shadow
Whitely is one of our greatest melders of genre and literary fiction and The Arrival of Missives is, for want of a more academic term, another twenty-four carat stonker. Just as in The Beauty, she stacks more insights about gender and class and privilege and the human condition into a hundred and twenty pages than other writers manage in a lifetime. She is one of the few writers who combine a mastery of story and writing with an understanding of the possibilities of brevity. She may be our generation’s Muriel Spark. There, I said it. That good.
Whiteley is a writer who is continuing to grow in confidence in challenging the status quo and finding inventive and imaginative ways to do that. In Unsung Stories, she has found a publisher who seems perfectly matched in sharing her vision and nurturing her talents.
– The Contemporary Small Press
The Arrival of Missives is a serious book and a fine accomplishment: literary, often superbly and enviably evocative, and with interesting things to say about gender expectations, social conventions, and how individuals can become deformed by the pressure to conform.
– Jack Messenger
Powerful and moving, Whiteley manages to draw on the social tensions of the time, the science fiction elements introduced by Mr Tiller, and the raw paganism of an event such as May Day in order to fuel a story that throbs with a powerful intensity, and is one of the most unique pieces I have read in some time.
– The Book Bag
Exemplary of an exceptional writing style... I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who holds a place in their hearts for thought provoking science fiction-fantasy.
– Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
A fantastical journey of how one decision or action can have far-reaching effects.
– The Scary Reviews
This is just the sort of book that I enjoy reading with its complex, recognisable characters whose well intentioned prejudices still resonate. I am grateful that, through the ages, there have been women like Shirley willing to step out of line.
– Never Imitate
Whiteley has a way of making things work that shouldn’t.
Thought-provoking and skilfully written.
– Bookshelf Butterfly
Be taken out of your comfort reading zone and enjoy this beautifully written and unique story.
– Jera's Jamboree
A surrealistic spin on the traditional period-piece antebellum melodrama... transmogrifies the tale into a mystery of warring social and psychic forces.
– The Thinker's Garden
I highly recommend The Arrival of Missives. Poetic and engrossing. Quietly weird and patiently feminist.
– Magnificent Octopus
All hail Aliya Whitely, herald of the New New Weird. Her writing is strange and speculative and magical, not in the way of China Miéville or Jeff VanderMeer, but in a way totally her own.
– Book Punks
Whiteley’s writing style is perfect for this story, and she gives Shirley a strong yet vulnerable voice... The Arrival of Missives is a fascinating look into a complex woman who isn’t afraid to face the unknown.
– Books, Bones & Buffy
'In terms of story and battle cry, for sure there are a lot of readers who themselves would feel empowered by Missives. Have a try yourself.'
The Arrival of Missives is a lot of things, and among them is the origin story of a heroine whose power comes from recognising and respecting her own wants, and not cancelling them because society or propriety tells her that she should.
– Asking the Wrong Questions
The writing is beautiful. It was a joy to read. I would really recommend this to anyone who enjoys science fiction and wonderfully weird stories.
– Book Castle
There is a real treat between the covers. I love the humour, The young and innocent voice is perfect ... A fab mash up of styles and genres.
– The Book Geek Says
A beautifully written story, a joy to read that shows how effective an appropriately constructed novella can be.
– Reading 1000 Lives
Whiteley's forthright character Shirley reminded me of Jane Eyre – having the push and pull of living up to other peoples expectations while trying to find her own way in the world.
– Writer's Little Helper
The writing was infallible, pacing was great, character development was fantastic.
– Roadside Reader
The Arrival of Missives has much in its favour: it is regularly moving, it is historically and politically engaged and it is detailed in its presentation of a small community.
– Open Pen
Reading The Arrival of Missives is not a passive experience. Some narratives are built for mild engagement and entertainment, but not Whiteley’s.
– The Haunted Omnibus
A fantastic novella written by a new and unique voice in contemporary British fiction.
– Book Riot
First with The Beauty, and now with The Arrival of Missives Aliya Whiteley has established herself as one of my favourite contemporary authors.
– A Universe in Words
Beautifully written and paced.
– Espresso Coco
Everything in The Arrival of Missives feels authentic yet also wondrous, as something akin to magic unfurls in both the pages and your heart.
– Mooky Chick
The Arrival of the Missives cleverly shows how a girl on the precipice of womanhood can be manipulated, as were the young men who marched to their deaths – physical and mentally – following the orders of those who should’ve known better.
– The Writes of Woman
The perfect combination of surrealism and mystery with a determined if a young and inexperienced lead character I enjoyed going on an adventure with (a very weird adventure).
– Jean's Thoughts
I've read some good novellas lately, but this one is, in a word, fantastic.
– Red Headed Femme
It is rare to see a short form so mastered and it reveals a real maturity in Whiteley's writing. The Arrival of Missives is a remarkably written short novel / novella, with engaging and believable characters, set in a time and place that make its story universal. It was the novel I never expected I'd be reviewing and that left me reeling after having finished it. It is a novel I wish to share with everyone I know and one I'll certainly be reading again.
– The Middle Shelf
This wonderful book needs to be experienced with minimal foreknowledge for maximum enjoyment. It is a story about roles and choices, power and fate. It’s also a story of the fantastic breaking through into everyday life, and how one might react to it. Do you run, or do you embrace it? Highly recommended.
– Who's Dreaming Who?
I went in pretty unaware of what the story was and, to be frank, was bowled over. A reminder that good stories can be found in the small presses. This is going to be one of those stories I am going to insist everyone has a read of so I get to squee about it later with them.
– Run Along the Shelves
A novel which so (apparently) effortlessly subverts our ideas of what science fiction is and what a science fiction protagonist should look like [...] This has every chance of being on my end of year list.
– Pechorin's Journal
Pretty much a perfect little oddity of a novella. An intriguing, compelling story told in masterfully elegant, poetic prose that makes for a damn fine read. Proof – if further proof is still needed – that genre fiction can be just as literary and artistic as any Booker/Pulitzer/other-literary-prize winning masterpiece.
– The Strange and Ordinary
'[Aliya Whiteley] delivers as much story in the shorter form than some novels manage in four times the length ... Shirley is a wonderful narrator, at once youthful in her naïve certainty and preternaturally wise in the face of the unknowable ... Such is the density of the otherwise fluid and easy-to-read narrative that to say more would give things away that I really recommend you discover for yourself.
– Andrew Wallace
It's a novella that packs a punch, so I hugely recommend it.
– Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
Whiteley explores gender politics and the power dynamics of illicit teacher-student relationships in this novella about a rural, post-Great War community, injecting this controversial topic and favored writerly setting with a sci-fi twist that raises the stakes and heightens the metaphor.
– A Science Book A Day
Exclusive interviews, guest posts and excerpts from the promotional tour that accompanied the release of The Arrival of Missives.
- The Quietus – The Lay Of The Land: Weird Possibility In The English Countryside
- Popshot – Exclusive excerpt
- Reader Dad – 'The Arrival of Opportunity'
- Bookmunch – Interview with Aliya Whiteley
- Den of Geek – 10 Strange Novels of the British Countryside
- Book Punks – On the shelves of Aliya Whiteley
- The Thinker's Garden – Fantast in Focus
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-907389-37-5
ePub ISBN: 978-1-907-389-38-2
Publication date: 09 May 2015
Format: Paperback, ePub and mobi