Friday, September 14, 2018

Kuppers, Pearl Stitch (2016)

Petra Kuppers, Pearl Stitch. Spuyten Duyvil, 2016. Pp. 102. ISBN 978-1-944682-06-4. $15.00.

Reviewed by Kathryn Allan

I first read Petra Kuppers’ poetry collection, Pearl Stitch, on a plane while en route to a conference on the fantastic arts. I don’t normally reach for poetry as my go-to travel reading but given my previous encounters with Kuppers’ writing—buying her short story “Playa Song” for Accessing the Future and thoroughly enjoying her short story collection, Ice Bar—I felt that reading something a bit out of the ordinary, as her story-telling always is, would fit the bill. I was not disappointed.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Warren, Museum of Second Chances (2018)

A.E. Warren, The Museum of Second Chances. Locutions Press, 2018. Pp. 319. ISBN 978-1-9999199-0-0. $11.99 pb/$3.99 e.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Imagine visiting a museum that houses woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers, giant sloths and Neanderthal Man—not just as displays, but as living, breathing entities. You may not be able to go there physically—at least, not yet—but A.E. Warren’s futuristic novel The Museum of Second Chances will transport you there in the world of imagination. The time setting for The Museum of Second Chances is set isn’t stated explicitly. What we do know is that it’s almost 200 years after the extinction of the chameleon. Since just over a third of our world’s chameleon species are endangered currently, that may not be so far away as we think.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Lodi-Ribeiro (ed.), Solarpunk (2018)

Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (ed.) & Fábio Fernandes (trans.), Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World. World Weaver Press, 2018. Pp. 271. ISBN 978-0-9987022-9-2. $14.95.

Reviewed by Cat Coker

Solarpunk is the latest in a series of themed anthologies—previous installments include Vaporpunk (2010) and Dieselpunk (2011)—edited by Brazilian SF author Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro. First published in Portuguese in 2012, the English edition was funded through a Kickstarter in 2017, and it provides an intriguing window not only into Brazilian genre writing but into the complicated politics of sustainability. “Solarpunk” as a genre has emerged in the 2010s as one of numerous forms of climate fiction, even as climate reality continues to change and converge a number of preoccupations. It has also promised a form of optimism at odds with popular dystopia, managing to combine hopeful science with a cynicism regarding human nature itself. As Sarena Ulibarri notes in the preface, while Americans view even the idea of a world economy of renewable energy as inherently utopian, in other countries it is a matter of necessity and survival: Brazil is one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy with 76% of its energy drawn from wind, solar, and hydropower, but it is far, far from being a liberal utopia. Consequently, the stories collected here run an emotional and genre gamut that is highlighted by the accompanying art work by José Baetas.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Bashe, Gift of Your Love (2018)

Kayla Bashe, The Gift of Your Love. Less Than Three Press, 2018. Pp. 69. ISBN 978-1-684313-00-6. $2.99.

Reviewed by Psyche Z. Ready

Kayla Bashe has written over a dozen books, most of them queer romance/speculative fiction. Bashe is also a gifted poet, and the internet is positively littered with their poetry and short fiction. They self-describe as a “disabled queer badass” who writes about “themes of hope and community.” They have a small but loyal following, decent tumblr fame, and after reading this book, I can understand why. The Gift of Your Love is a quick, fun adventure romp that left me feeling good and I can’t wait to read more. But for me, the strength of this novella is its honest and heartening portrayal of neurodiversity.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Meikle, Ghost Club (2017)

William Meikle, The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror. Crystal Lake Publishing, 2017. Pp. 189. ISBN 978-1-642049-31-2. $14.99.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

The Ghost Club by William Meikle is an unusual collection of ghost-themed short stories, that is something in between an homage and a divertissement. The idea behind the book is quite bold, but also very endearing: each of the stories here gathered are written by one single author, but in the style of a different famous writer of ghost stories of the past (mostly, but not only, from the British Victorian era). In other words, it is a collection that pretends to be an anthology. The explicit fakery is one of the things that attracted me to the book in the first place. Editorially, the stories are presented as if they were written by authors such as R.L. Stevenson or Bram Stoker. In this way, Meikle actually combines two of my passions: falsification and ghosts. How could I resist?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Johnstone, How I Learned the Truth About Krampus (2017)

Tom Johnstone, How I Learned the Truth About Krampus. Eibonvale Press, 2017. Pp. 36. ISBN 978-1-908125-58-3. £6.00.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

A young academic researching folkloric traditions becomes fascinated by the figure of Krampus, the horned monstrous companion to St Nicholas who, in Austrian tradition, punishes naughty children. We are reading his letter to his wife, written as he is awaiting arrest: their baby has disappeared; and the narrator is attempting to explain (and/or justify) what really happened following his trip to Germany to follow up the work of an expert on Central European folklore whose work was excluded from the most important work on traditional folk performance customs. He learns that Holger, the German academic had, apparently, strayed too far into the territory of "what one might call cryptozoology." Holger's former partner Claudia takes the narrator into the Tyrol, where they find Holger's tent and a weird, intricate carving which he takes back to England and gives to his fiancée. After their marriage, dreams of her "straddling" the monstrous carving, which sometimes bears the face of the narrator's friend Mike, sometimes his own face, haunt him. When their child is born his wrinkled skin and deep black eyes remind him of something he saw in Germany. The police have their own theory…

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Gable & Dombrowski, Ride the Star Wind (2017)

​Scott Gable & C. Dombrowski (edd.), Ride the Star Wind: Cthulhu, Space Opera, and the Cosmic Weird. Broken Eye Books, 2017. Pp. ix+445. ISBN 978-1-940372-25-9. $23.99.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Gable and Dombrowski have edited several science fiction and horror anthologies for Broken Eye Books, several of them on Lovecraftian or “Cthulhu Mythos” themes. Ride the Star Wind is in this tradition, bringing together twenty-nine short stories that combine elements of Weird, space opera in the truest, far-future, laser-gun, television traditions, and the claustrophobic, existential terror in the face of the true alien: the alien that is like a god that cares no more for us than we care for the wellbeing of potatoes or ethical behavior of nematodes. In fact—and this is no criticism—this blend of cosmic and weird is not so unusual (in either space opera or Cthulhu circles), but it sure is a fun genre, so it’s always good to see more stories and anthologies like this. There is a striking variety of content in Ride the Star Wind, from gutsy horror, gritty war, grueling dystopian, through goofy comedy and nightmarish surrealism, such that most readers will find something to tickle their fancy. While to my taste there were only a couple of excellent and a few very good pieces, a relatively light dusting of brilliance on what is an unusually thick anthology of stories, there are no absolute stinkers or lead balloons in this volume.

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.