Monday, April 30, 2018

Swift, Paris Adrift (2018)

E.J. Swift, Paris Adrift. Solaris Books, 2018. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-1-78108-593-6. $10.99.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

The Communards. Cellist Rachel Clouatre. The Catacombs of Paris. Sacré-Coeur Basilica. The Moulin Vert. All are mentioned in E.J. Swift’s time travel story Paris Adrift in convincing detail. After reading the novel, I couldn’t resist doing a quick internet search to discern fact from fiction-which is a credit to Swift’s ability to build authentic-seeming descriptions of imaginary events. Paris Adrift starts out in 2318, focussing on a small group of individuals huddling in a fallout shelter as they witness the final stages of a catastrophic war. It’s a fate that they, like many they share the world with, would prefer to alter. Unlike the rest of the population, they have the means to do just that. The individuals we are introduced to at the book’s opening are no ordinary people, but rather, members of a select group that call themselves Janus-and they are capable of time travel.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Broughton, Cassell & Hall, Sussex Horrors (2018)

Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell & Rayne Hall, Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terror and Other Seaside Haunts. Herbs House, 2018. Pp. 128. ISBN 978-0-99306-015-1. $12.99/£7.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

Themed anothologies are a staple, not just of the horror genre, but just about every class of speculative fiction. And since moving to Britain, I've encountered an increasing number of collections based around particular areas, most notably the Terror Tales of… series, edited by Paul Finch (Terror Tales of the Cotswolds, Terror Tales of East Anglia, Terror Tales of Wales, etc.). When I picked up Sussex Horrors I was expecting a similar premise; a collection of stories from various authors about terrors somehow centered around or unique to Sussex county. In that respect, I was mistaken; Sussex Horrors, rather than being quilted together by a single editor out of many contributions by different writers, is the lovechild of a menage-a-trois made up of authors Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall. These three authors wrote each of the twelve stories comprising the book (four per author), and presumably also served as mutual editors. I will admit to a pang of disappointment when I picked the book up; the variety of authors, writing styles, and themes in an anthology is one of the things I treasure most about them. But I have to concede the novelty of the idea. However, the value in novelty only lies in how successful it is. And was this book successful?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Moore (ed.), Dracula: Rise of the Beast (2018)

David Thomas Moore (ed.), Dracula: Rise of the Beast. Abaddon Books, 2018. Pp. 308. ISBN 978-1-78108-666-7. $15.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Dracula: Rise of the Beast is an interesting and almost undefinable book. It is not a conventional fiction anthology, as all of the stories presented are held together through a joint framing device, but neither is it a mosaic novel, as the stories do not altogether cohere. That said, it’s a fascinating collection that talks back—not just speaks, but explicitly talks back—to Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel. Stoker’s Dracula was a figure as exoticized as he was threatening, playing on a number of English cultural anxieties ranging from immigration and anti-semitism to homosexuality and women’s roles in the new industrialist age. Moore and his stable of writers here—Adrian Tchaikovsky, Milena Benini, Bogi Takács, Emil Minchev, and Caren Gussoff Sumption—respond not just to the fictional figure and his historical counterpart, but to the cultural conversations around him as well.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Parrish (ed.), Equus (2017)

Rhonda Parrish (ed.), Equus. World Weaver Press, 2017. Pp. 318. ISBN 978-154-489-6809. $12.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

Equus is the fifth book in Rhonda Parrish’s “Magical Menagerie” series. One of the previous volumes in the series is Sirens, which I reviewed back in October, and I enjoyed that book enough to request Equus when it came out. This is a special theme for me as well; I have been a horsewoman for most of my life, and find these powerful animals both fascinating and beautiful. In addition, the rich variety of horse myths and monsters makes up a cornucopia of wonders. Almost every culture in the world have their equine legends or gods, from the Norse Sleipnir to the Scottish Kelpie to the Buddhist Kanthaka to the Hindu Uchchaihshravas to the Greek Pegasus to the Japanese Ama no Fuchigoma to the Chilean Caballo marino chilote to the Turkish Tulpar to the Central American Wihwin to the Philippine Tikbalang to the European unicorn… the fact that I could go on should tell you something. Myths and legends about horses and horse-like creatures are as old and as varied as human history, and provides a wealth of material for any aspiring author. Given that, I was eager to see what treasures the contributing authors of Equus had to offer.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Crowley, 100 Best Video Games (2017)

Nate Crowley, 100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed). Solaris Books, 2017. Pp. 260. ISBN 978-1-78108-614-8. $17.99/£12.99.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

Literature is full of entertaining anecdotes on how books were born: unforgettable personal experiences, reminiscences of a dream, an unusual meeting, surreal coincidences, a strike of inspiration… you name it. This book was born on the internet and, more precisely, on Twitter. Emerging SF writer and game geek Nate Crowley promised a video game concept for each “like” received. The idea was so successful that the thread rapidly got out of hand. Luckily, someone thought that there were enough good seeds there to craft an entire book out of them. The author took things further and didn’t stop at the simple description of the made-up video games, but teamed up with real game designers to sketch very convincing features and even graphics, making this amusing fakery completely believable.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Salustro, Star Hunters (2015)

K.N. Salustro, The Star Hunters: Unbroken Light. Self-published, 2015. Pp. 292. ISBN 978-1-51773-515-9. $10.95 pb/$3.99 e.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Unbroken Light, the second book in K.N. Salustro’s “Star Hunters” series, picks up right where the initial book, Chasing Shadows, left off. Former Star Federation Fleet Commander Lance Ashburn is now a fugitive from the organization that previously claimed his allegiance. Rated as a “beta” criminal, he needs to stay undercover. That won’t be easy, because what he’s set out to do isn’t exactly low-profile. He needs to spring bounty hunter Lissa from the clutches of the militarized extremist Neo-Andromedan group, the Seventh Sun. Then, he and Lissa must do their best to interfere with the Seventh Sun’s machinations before they embroil the galaxy in chaos.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Helgadóttir (ed.), Pacific Monsters (2017)

Margrét Helgadóttir (ed.), Pacific Monsters. Fox Spirit Books, 2017. Pp. 182. ISBN 978-1-91046-212-6. £10.00/$15.00.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Pacific Monsters is the fourth volume in Fox Spirit Books’ Books of Monsters series; previous volumes include African Monsters (2015) and Asian Monsters (2016), and projected volumes will include American Monsters and Eurasian Monsters. The goal of these books (all edited by the capable and prolific Margrét Helgadóttir, sometimes with Jo Thomas as co-editor) is to effectively decolonize the monstrous of the popular imagination and pop culture from the familiar parade of western-inspired demons, werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Instead, Helgadóttir’s anthologies showcase fiction across the spectrum of speculative fiction genres that feature creatures drawn from the localized myth and folklore of other cultures, almost all of which are written by writers and artists from, or with strong connections to, those countries. Each volume is a softcover coffee table book, oversized and illustrated in black and white; several of the entries include stories told through comics rather than prose. Ultimately this series is a needed intervention into Anglo-American-centric monster stories, and Pacific Monsters particularly stands out as it encompasses nations and populations that are too often neglected altogether.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Greenfield, The Time Machine (2017)

James W. Greenfield, The Time Machine. 89 minutes. Starring Don McCorkindale, Michael Orenstein, Nathan Nasby, Juliet Lyons. $14.99.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

Apparently inspired by Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, audio engineer/musician Greenfield’s double album takes H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and re-interprets it as a musical project, loosely adapting the text and offering musical interpretations.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Muslim, The Drone Outside (2017)

Kristine Ong Muslim, The Drone Outside. Eibonvale Chapbook Line #1, 2017. Pp. 49. ISBN 978-1-908125-53-8. £6.00 pb/£12.00 hc.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad.

Eibonvale Press have started a line of Chapbooks to complement their high-quality catalogue of speculative fiction novels and story collections, kicking off with this volume of nine interrelated flash stories by Philippine author and poet Kristine Ong Muslim. The Drone Outside is a series of snippets of life during or after the apocalypse, told from unusual points of view, or with surreal narrative, or or evidencing unexpected scenarios of death, destruction and post-humanity. There are several threads that weave and recur through this small book, but ultimately it does not tell a single story with a plot arc and satisfactory dénouement, there are no real POV characters or protagonists. These are all prose stories, but at times the writing reaches the stylized and beautiful heights of Muslim’s science-fictional poetry; at others it is grimly, defiantly prosaic (or dramatic, or epistolary) as the setting requires. The Drone Outside sets a scene, builds an atmosphere, reminds us that the end of humanity is unlikely to be glamorous or exciting or full of Golden-Age heroism and action sequences. Sometimes a lot of fun, always gorgeous and enlightening, but also surprisingly heavy for such short pieces.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Nayman, The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit (2017)

Ira Nayman, The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There (Book 5 of the Transdimensional Authority series). Elsewhen Press, 2017. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-1-91140-909-0. £9.99 pb/£2.99 e.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

A Canadian named Jim Smith finds himself in a place where linear causality has broken down. Three actors performing onstage at Stratford Theatre suddenly swap places with locals from a rustic village. The bridge crew of the Universal Space Armada ship Star Blap are locked in suspended animation, unable to respond to the menace of an approaching Klippon battle-boat. This trio of odd occurrences can mean only one thing: someone’s been facilitating unauthorized travel between the multiverses. But who? And why? Unravelling that particular mystery will require the resources of the Transdimensional Authority, whose investigators promptly set off on a goose-chase of epic proportions.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sumra, Wages of Sin (2017)

Zoë Sumra, The Wages of Sin. Elsewhen Press, 2017. Pp. 312. ISBN 978-1-91140-905-2. £9.99 pb/£2.99 e.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

The Wages of Sin is the second novel by British SF author Zoë Sumra, published by the small speculative Elsewhen Press, a far future political thriller involving gangland turf wars on an ultra-violent, distant planet. While there is some genuine and well-sketched alienness in both the setting and the personae, much of the violence and organized crime in this novel are very familiar both from contemporary crime literature and indeed recent history. While the hallmarks of the small press sometimes show through in production quality, this is an enjoyable and largely effective magical space opera romp, which fully succeeds on its own terms.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Miller & Miller, Unearthly Science Fiction (2017)

Rob Miller & John G. Miller (eds.), Unearthly Science Fiction. Braw Books, 2017. Pp. 82. No ISBN. £5.99.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

John G. Miller, editor-in-chief of Braw Books describes himself as an underground maestro and comics mastermind. This ‘one shot’ foray into science fiction promises ‘startling stories and comic strips from Andrew J. Wilson, Ian Wark, Malcy Duff, John Rafferty, Simnel and Adam J. Smith with striking space illustrations throughout by Neil Beattie and Rob Miller.’ It’s got a hand-drawn feel to it, evoking the luridly coloured science fiction mags of the sixties, which I am just old enough to remember.