Monday, October 05, 2015
Friday, October 02, 2015
Aleksandar Prokopiev, Homunculus: Fairy Tales from the Left Pocket. Istros Books, 2015. Pp. 140. ISBN 978-1-9082-3623-4. £9.99 pb/$4.99 e.Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika
Monday, September 28, 2015
Anneliese Poelsma, Fly and other stories. Self-published, 2015. Pp. 68. ASIN B00S5Z5XUE. $3.99.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
This short collection of dark stories by Australian artist and writer Poelsma, touches on several themes including domestic horror, delusion and mental illness, queer characters, and the unreliable narrator, or narrative as seen from inside the protagonist’s head, rather than objective reality. While the six stories themselves are rather mixed in quality, there is a coherence of theme, combined with fiction that cosily hugs the border between genre horror and literary. This collection sometimes edges dangerously close to exploitation and stigmatization of mental illness, but is written with a crystal-clear competence and control of prose, and an uncommon sensitivity to character, especially marginalized or self-loathing personalities. Some of these stories made me uncomfortable with the subject matter, but all made me uncomfortable with the wider world, which is an achievement of the writer, especially in a somewhat risky crossover of genres like this one.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Peter Öberg (ed.), Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep. Affront Publishing, 2015. Pp. 324. ISBN 978-91-87585-31-9. $17.50.Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir
This anthology, edited by Peter Öberg and published by Affront Publishing in 2015, is a collection of twenty-six stories within the speculative genres, all written by authors from Sweden. As the title of the collection indicates, you will find plenty of stories in it about robots, cyborgs and machines, but the book actually covers quite a broad range of themes, plots and subgenres, stretching from steampunk, horror, fantasy, weird, post apocalypse to space colonies and space travelling. Many of the tales circle around ethical questions connected to the relationship between humans and machines. Though there is disappointingly little about this book that screams “Swedish”, except for the nationality of the authors and the editor, I would still recommend the book for all lovers of science fiction, because the tales told are a really good read.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Allen Ashley (ed.), Sensorama. Eibonvale Press, 2015. Pp. 290. ISBN 978-1-9081-2537-8. £9.50.Reviewed by Wendy Bousfield
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Tony Rauch, What if I got down on my knees? Whistling Shade Press, 2015. Pp. 200. ISBN 978-0-9829335-5-8. $12.00.Reviewed by Kate Onyett
Rauch is a name not unknown on the speculative fiction circuit, where he publishes in anthologies and magazines. He has, to my knowledge, tackled morality and fairy tale formats with great aplomb, creating an interrogative space of uncompromisingly active engagement between story and reader. His stories will make you think, whether you realise it or not. As the master Terry Pratchett said, “fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” Rauch may move into out-and-out surrealism on occasion, but his stories remain true to Pratchett’s idea: they work mental muscles, and blessedly, it is a highly satisfying exercise to be put through.
Monday, September 07, 2015
Ira Nayman, What the Hell Were You Thinking?: Good Advice for People Who Make Bad Decisions: volume 6 (Alternate Reality News Service). Aardvarks Eyes Press, 2015. Pp 362. ISBN 978-1-9276-4506-2. $14.99.Reviewed by Ashley O'Brien
What the Hell Were You Thinking? Good Advice for People Who Make Bad Decisions! is a curious and fanciful good time. The book consists of a collection of advice columns in an alternate science fiction universe, where the greatest technological feats and most unusual discoveries have already taken place: virtual consciences, genetically modified beings, aliens, and more. The advice columns showcase a complex and rich world of scientific achievement and exploration, the stories in the letters range from bizarre to ludicrous, while always being fun or funny.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (eds.), Cranky Ladies of History. FableCroft Publishing, 2015. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-0-9925534-5-6. AUD$34.95.Reviewed by Valeria Vitale
Friday, July 10, 2015
Rachel Kendall, Stranger Days. Oneiros Books, 2015. Pp 149. ISBN 978-1-329-17123-7. $11.36.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Halfway through Rachel Kendall’s Stranger Days the characters have a debate about the nature and making of art. The unnamed protagonist (who sometimes likes to act out another version of herself called ‘Charlotte’) declares, ‘Artwork is private until it’s put up for sale, then it’s public. A diary might become art once it’s published. Just because it’s a private life, doesn’t mean it can’t be a commodity’ (97). Stranger Days is a short novel presented as though it was a diary, written over the course of a hot summer in Paris while the protagonist works on a novel, argues with her boyfriend Z, and develops an intense crush on a mysterious woman called Elodie. The conversations about art and performance are reflected both in the form the story takes and in the actions of the characters. The book is billed as being existentialist in nature; the questions it asks are not only “What is art?” but also “What is experience?”
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
John Howard, Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic. Alchemy Press, 2014. Pp. 294. ISBN 978-0-9573489-7-4. £11.00.Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika
This troublesome f-word. It appears out of the blue to startle or outrage. It conforms to no norms, pushing and shoving among respectable authors of equally respectable literature. It chews a gum of literary conventions to utter a loud ‘pop’ when a balloon of high literary ideas breaks to be rechewed again. This is the fantastic in all its insolent beauty. The case of John Howard’s collection of essays, one may say, is all the more insulting, concentrating on revolving around the writers whose prose fits into such gutter-born genres as horror, science fiction and fantasy in the stages some might classify as evolving or cult. Probing the darker corners of literature seems hardly surprising since Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic was released by The Alchemy Press, an award-winning independent publisher well-known for its fantastic proclivities. More so, the prevalence of horror and the weird among a caboodle of twenty-two texts is detectable, without the need of using the services of a professional medium. John Howard’s scholarly interests in the fantastic resulted in a peculiar combination that acquaints a reader with the works of the famous writers who are paragons of fantastic fiction, as well as those whose brilliant texts dissolved in the mist of other literary works. A mixture of the known, unknown and some eerie novelties is inviting, unearthing the talents long buried in the thick soil of 20th century fantastic literature.
Monday, June 15, 2015
V. E. Wilchcombe, Neob. Austin Macauley Publishers, 2015. Pp. 146. ISBN 978-1-78455-052-3. £6.99.Reviewed by John Marr
Neob is a fantasy/science-fiction novel by V. E. Wilchcombe, published by Austin Macauley, a small independent publisher based in London. This is the first of an envisaged suite of novels set in the same universe, and very much reads as an introduction to the distant planet Neob, its native inhabitants and its other-worldly interlopers. This is not to say that the novel lacks for action—a remarkable amount of activity is packed into its brief length of 146 pages. However, such brevity is the book’s main downfall, as few of the ideas bursting out of this book are given much room to breathe, sometimes making for a disappointingly shallow read.
Monday, June 08, 2015
Douglas Thompson, The Rhymer: an Heredyssey. Elsewhen Press, 2014. Pp. 192. ISBN 978-1-9081-6841-2. £9.99 pb/ £2.99 e.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
The Rhymer is the eighth novel by Scottish weird and speculative author and editor Douglas Thompson, published by British small press Elsewhen. This novel is one of the more surreal and absurdist tales Thompson has written, parts of which were previously published in serial or standalone form in other fantastic magazines. It is entirely written in a style somewhere between free-association, free-verse, and comic semi-rhyme, which sounds like it would be hard to read, but actually isn’t, although the story does veer wildly and apparently out of control between satire, grotesque, bizarre, mystical and pseudo-scientific allegory. While I felt this novel sometimes sacrifices plot continuity and character consistency in name of moving the story forwards, it is a bit hard to tell to what degree this is the result of lazy writing, and how much a symptom of the rapidly changing realities in the story itself. I confess to not particularly liking any of the characters, or indeed the narrative voice, but I did find it pleasant to read, challenging in the way that literature should be, and sometimes startlingly original.