Thursday, February 25, 2021

Cohen, Nick Bones Underground (2019)

Philip M. Cohen, Nick Bones Underground. Koehler Books, 2019. Pp. 371. ISBN 978-1-63393-920-2. $19.95.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Nick Bones Underground is a slipstream novel, combining elements of Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the Crime/Detection genre. It is set in a vague time frame, given that at least one of the characters is a Holocaust survivor, albeit a very old one, and computer technology has advanced into the realm of Artificial Intelligence, which impacts the daily life of the narrator-protagonist, Nicholas Friedman, a professor of Comparative Religions at a university in New York City. Life in the city has been inflected by something which is referred to as the “Great Debacle,” which is never completely explained or defined except at one point as having had to do with computers’ developing a degree of free will and acting in unpredictable ways. The most evident example of this cybernetic behavior comes in the form of Maggie, the A.I. in the apartment of the narrator, who, having become a transgender computer, now yearns to become an incarnation of Marlene Dietrich.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mythaxis #24 (Dec 2020)

Mythaxis, ed. Andrew Leon Hudson. Issue 24 (Dec 2020). Online at mythaxis.co.uk.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Among the token magazines I’ve always been fond of Mythaxis. It’s one of the longest-running token magazines, running since 2008, and its current editor, Andrew Leon Hudson, impresses me with his keen editorial sense and down-to-earth attitude. But the proof is in the proverbial pudding, so let’s make like Paul Hollywood and take a slice. The genres are an enjoyable mix of adventure SFF and mild horror, and the stories themselves… well, it’s a mixed bag. Like most layered desserts, there are bits that I found delicious and bits that weren’t to my taste.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Attlee, Harper & Smith, Gross Ideas (2020)

Edwina Attlee, Phineas Harper & Maria Smith (eds), Gross Ideas: Tales of Tomorrow’s Architecture. The Architecture Foundation, 2020. Pp. 208. ISBN 978-1-9996462-3-3. £12.90.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

Gross Ideas is a book unlike many others, for a number of reasons. First of all it is the companion publication of an architecture exhibition, the Oslo Architecture Triennale. But rather than a traditional catalogue it is an anthology of seventeen stories about future cities. The other peculiarity is that only some of the authors of these stories are fiction writers, the others are architects and engineers. So, if you like the challenge of something unusual, this book might be the right one for you.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Willett (ed.), Shapers of Worlds (2020)

Edward Willett (ed.), Shapers of Worlds. Shadowpaw Press, 2020. Pp. 368. ISBN 978-1-989398-06-7. $17.95.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Shapers of Worlds is an anthology of 18 short stories ranging from military science fiction and space opera to fantasy and steampunk, edited by Edward Willett, which offers nine new stories by authors such as Tanya Huff, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Seanan McGuire, and an equal number of previously-published tales from John Scalzi, Julie E. Czerneda, Joe Haldeman, and others. Willett, a freelance writer residing in Regina, Saskatchewan, is himself the author of more than 60 books all told, ranging from nonfiction to science fiction and fantasy. He also hosts a podcast titled The Worldshapers, which features interviews with science fiction and fantasy authors. It is involvement in this podcast that provides the link between the offerings, with each of the authors whose work is included having been featured during the first year of The Worldshapers.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Whiteley, Skyward Inn (2021)

Aliya Whiteley, Skyward Inn. Solaris, 2021. Pp. 255. ISBN 978-1-78108-882-1. $24.99/£13.19.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Reading Skyward Inn now gives me a sense of how it must have felt in the 1960s to read the Nouveaux Romans of Michel Butor, Robbe-Grillet and Marguerite Duras: no intrusive narrator framing the dialogue and events of the fictional world, a radical reduction to just what was happening, or just what was going through the principal character’s mind. In science fiction terms, this means no infodump, no appendixes outlining the background, no maps, no glossary. All we have is Jem, short for Jemima; Isley, who it turns out is from the planet Qita; Jem’s son Fosse; and the people in the Skyward Inn, which is somewhere in the Western Protectorate. This last seems to be separate from… well, the rest of the world, I think, and is not far from the Kissing Gate, which I take to be a portal through which spaceships can travel to the planet Qita.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Three-Lobed Burning Eye #32 (2020)

Three-Lobed Burning Eye, ed. Andrew S. Fuller. issue #32 (November 2020). Online at 3lobedmag.com.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

I was first attracted to the newest issue of Three-Lobed Burning Eye because of the story “A Consensus Told in Chromatophores” by Andi C. Buchanan, a story about a democratic civilization of cuttlefish, and if you’re surprised I’m interested in a democratic cuttlefish story, you don’t know me very well. It’s not only a fantastically creative story, it’s also a beautifully moving meditation on the meaning of democracy. For me, that’s a perfect combination.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Hexagon #3 (Winter 2020)

Hexagon, ed. J.W. Stebner. Issue 3 (winter 2020). Online at hexagonmagazine.ca.

Reviewed by Jason Kahler

In his opening letter for Hexagon issue #3, editor J.W. Stebner claims that his magazine is un-themed, but the five stories he’s collected for this installment each tell a tale of love and heartbreak. Stebner says his selections tend to coincide with the rhythm of the season. Maybe, as the difficult year 2020 winds down, we just all find some comfort in thinking that someone, somewhere, might have more emotional pain than us. The stories contained in the issue are sometimes clever, sometimes haunting, always pointing to the powerful perseverance of the human heart.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Kewin, Eye Collectors (2020)

Simon Kewin, The Eye Collectors (a story of her Majesty’s Office of the Witchfinder General, protecting the public from the unnatural since 1645). Elsewhen Press, 2020. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-1-91140-964-9. £10.00 pb/£2.99 e.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

The “Magic Police” is a firmly-established sub-genre by now, but Danesh Shazan of Her Majesty’s Office of the Witchfinder General is an interesting addition to their ranks. Most people think that the “office” is a historical anomaly, “a ridiculous piece of quasi-mediaeval pagentry, like so much of the British governmental and judicial systems,” but in fact it exists to protect the public from unutterable and eldritch powers from Beyond. Danesh, a recently-recruited Acolyte in the Welsh branch of the office, headed by the terrifying Campbell Hardknott-Lewis, works with mundane cops on cases which have a flavour of the supernatural about them. And when he’s called in by D.I. Nikola Zubrasky to investigate a murder in Cardiff, this “flavour” is worth at least three Michelin Stars.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Bestwick, Roth-Steyr (2020)

Simon Bestwick, Roth-Steyr. Black Shuck Books, 2020. Pp. 167. ISBN 978-1-913038-57-1. £7.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

In his blurb for this novella, Bestwick writes: “You never know which ideas will stick in your head, let alone where they’ll go.” I can sympathise. Sometimes you idly researching knitting techniques and end up joining a course on the care and husbandry of wool goats, sometimes you’re looking up antique pistols and end up writing a 200 page novella on immortal World War I artistocrats and their quest to save the monarchy. It happens. In Bestwick’s case, an idle writing exercise in which he decided to use the name of an antique pistol as the title of a story resulted in Roth-Steyr, and we are all the richer for it.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Rosenberg & Khmelevska, Arrival Mind (2020)

Louis B. Rosenberg, art by Anastasia Khmelevska, Arrival Mind. Outland Publishing, 2020. Pp. 35. ISBN 978-1-7356685-0. $9.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

As a child in the 1980s, I had a heavily illustrated book called How Things Work that explained the physical mechanics of everyday items as well as some architecture. One such spread included an extensive underground shelter through which a family would safely (it claimed) survive for several years following a nuclear blast. The cognitive dissonance of those playful drawings and their morbid reality which I experienced then recently returned upon reading Arrival Mind, a tract-in-verse on the dangers inherent in artificial intelligence. Designed as a storybook for adults, the volume’s format risks, however, undercutting the very message it wants to send.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Constelación #0.5 (2020)

Constelación Magazine, ed. Coral Alejandra Moore & Eliana González Ugarte. Sample issue 0.5 (2020). Online at constelacionmagazine.com.

Reviewed by Sonia Sulaiman

Constelación Magazine is a new, bilingual, magazine of speculative fiction publishing in Spanish and English. They have yet to launch their first issue, but there is a ‘sample issue’ available and what a sample! The sample issue contains two fiction pieces: “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones, and “I, Crocodile” by Jacinta Escudos (translated by Eliana González Ugarte), as well as “Giving Back” a piece of non-fiction, and art by Gutti Barrios. For the purpose of this review, we’re only be looking at the two fiction pieces. Each includes its own trigger warnings.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Apparition Lit #12 (2020)

Apparition Lit, ed. Rebecca Bennett, Tacoma Tomilson, Clarke Doty & Amy Henry Robinson. Issue 12 (October 2020). Online at apparitionlit.com.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

The quarterly Apparition Lit has been arriving like clockwork for a couple of years now and it’s always a welcome sight. The issues are short—four stories and a couple of poems—but it’s enough to make a satisfying one—or two-sitting read, and it’s a reasonable length for the $2.99 price point. The magazine’s distinguishing feature is its themed issues. Smartly, the themes are abstract concepts such as “ambition” or “euphoria” rather than concrete objects like “dragons,” which prevents the stories within an issue from feeling repetitive. October’s theme was “satisfaction.” But how satisfying was it? Let’s have a look.