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.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bryant, Face the Change (2017)

Samantha Bryant, Face the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, Book Three. Curiosity Quills Press, 2017. Pp. 254. ISBN 978-1-54868-605-5. $16.99 pb/$5.99 e.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

When I read that Face the Change was a “Menopausal Superhero” novel, I was intrigued enough to request a review copy. After all, menopausal superheroes aren’t something you run across every day—although the concept sounded like fertile ground for putting characters into new predicaments and leveraging age-related humor.

The first character the reader meets is Cindy Liu, who is on the run in a stolen car with her body-hopping father Anton in the back seat. Bryant piqued my curiosity with her description of Cindy as having “the driver’s license of a sixty-seven-year-old scientist and fugitive of justice and the visage of a thirteen-year-old Eurasian girl.” (6) We learn that Cindy has managed to reverse the aging process, but aside from the obvious benefits, Cindy is finding that the resultant change has its drawbacks—such as the need to behave in a manner consistent with outward appearance, in order to avoid arousing suspicion.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Chng, Water Into Wine (2017)

Joyce Chng, Water Into Wine. Annorlunda Books, 2017. Pp 138. ISBN 978-1-944354-30-5. $8.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker


I wonder how the wine will taste. Will people taste the fear—the terror and anxiety—when they drink? A tart wine with hints of berry and blood? A spicy wine with cinnamon and gunpowder, great for a summer evening? (46)
Space opera is usually defined by its great battles for great causes, and the adventures of a small group of characters who become a family. Joyce Chng’s Water Into Wine is space opera writ dirtside, where the great battles are all overhead, daily, nightly, and the small group of characters are an actual family trying to survive.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Devlin, You Will Grow Into Them (2017)

Malcolm Devlin, You Will Grow Into Them. Unsung Stories, 2017. Pp. 244. ISBN 978-1-9073-43-6. £9.99.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

You Will Grow Into Them is a collection of stories by Malcolm Devlin, published together for the first time by Unsung Stories. All labeled as “weird,” the tales gathered in this book offer an interesting range of themes as well as styles, from the gruesome demon-hunting scenes to the subtle, diffuse inquietude that crawls under the skin. As the title suggests, the common thread of these stories is change, and the unsettling feeling that follows all transformations, the small like the big ones. The changes that are narrated in these pages are sometimes metaphorical, like the process of coming of age, but more often involve proper and complete reshaping of bodies and environments. The “weirdness” that populates Devlin’s stories is the kind that I enjoy the most: not necessarily the gory and horrific but more the sinister, the ambiguous, the eerie, the unexplained and the inexplicable.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Notice: Ratcliffe, Murthen Island (2015)

Marianne Ratcliffe, Murthen Island. Self-published, 2015. Pp. 32. ISBN 978-0-99340-010-0. £2.99.

Notice by Psyche Z. Ready

Murthen Island is the second in a series of female-led fantasy novels, the third forthcoming in September 2017. The protagonist is refreshingly notable in two ways: not only is she a smart and courageous young woman, she also lives in a magical world but does not possess magical powers; she’s a relatable hero for young women readers. Another striking quality of Golmeira, the world of the novel, is the unapologetic existence of healthy queer relationships. Murthen Island features depictions of slavery that may be troubling to some readers.

[This is a brief notice of publication, not a full review.]

Monday, September 25, 2017

Evans, More of Me (2017)

Kathryn Evans, More of Me. Amulet Books, 2017. Pp. 312. ISBN 978-1-4197-2372-8. $17.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

In my experience of reading YA, many authors adopt just enough SFF elements (whether climate catastrophe, vampires and werewolves, or spaceships) to provide a decorative veneer for the romance they’re actually telling. Kathryn Evans’s More of Me does the exact opposite, adopting a teenage girl protagonist and her messy high school life as cover for a story about genetic engineering and cloning. It’s not a particularly deep story: the science is hand-wavey, the plot twists are predictable, the characters are teenagers, but for all that it is compulsively readable.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ahmad (ed.), Islamicates (2016)

Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad (ed.), Islamicates. Volume 1. Anthology of Science Fiction Short Stories inspired from Muslim Cultures. Mirza Book Agency, 2016. Pp. 236. ISBN 978-1-5373-7210-5. Free online.

Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika

What motivates us? Us as people? A French writer, Bernard Werber poses this question on the pages of his novel, L’ultime secret, enumerating religion as the tenth out of twelve basic factors defining human existence. His answer may be puzzling, especially for Islamic cultures where religion constitutes the very fabric of life. For Muslims all other elements, such as freedom from pain and fear, sustaining basic needs, wrath, sexual drive, etc., seem to be regulated by culture which is a “frequency through which religion travels” [p. i]. At least, this is the idea which Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad’s anthology Islamicates strongly postulates. Being a resultant of an ongoing project, the book constitutes a collection of stories and novellas with a detectable Muslim undertones, spreading its roots into the world of the fantastic. This includes science fiction regardless of the definition assumed. The presence of religion in the fantastic has usually been encrusted with elements of Christianity and, more vaguely, religions of the East. This anthology, however, is a peculiar experiment, revolving around Islam as a major indicative of the stories’ plot. How does the world of the future appear sieved through the eyes of a Muslim?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thompson (ed.), SonofaWitch (2017)

Trysh Thompson (ed.), SonofaWitch!. World Weaver Press, 2017. Pp. 161. ISBN 978-0998702230. $11.95.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

SonofaWitch! is a delightful read. It is not serious, although the situations in which the titular witches manage to land themselves are, and although the reader comes very quickly to appreciate the witches’ qualities and even possibly identify with them somewhat, there are no instances of genuine horror to keep one awake at night, twitching at every creak on the staircase and groan of the door. However, the stories in this collection are craftily written, and there is delight for those who appreciate the writer’s craft, and possibly—although this reviewer would not know from personal experience—there may be allusions to conventions or recurring motifs from the world of covens.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Juanita, De Facto Feminism (2016)

Judy Juanita, De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland. EquiDistance Press, 2016. Pp 226. ISBN 978-0-9716352-1-0. $19.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Judy Juanita’s collection of essays De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland is a mixture of previously published material from her long career in activism, including poetry, and more recent autobiographical reminiscences that relate to her 2013 novel Virgin Soul. This work does not relate to genre per se (unless we think of being Black in America today as being a dystopian experience, which, to be honest, we might well do). The sixteen essays, half dozen poems, and a collection of digital correspondence span from 1967 to 2015, much of which is drawn from the online magazine The Weeklings, cover expansive territory on Juanita’s career as an activist and an artist: she has been a member of the Black Panther Party, has taught in the first Black Studies program in the US, and is a playwright, poet, novelist and professor. She reminds us that creative work is activism too.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Hutchinson, Europe in Winter (2016)

Dave Hutchinson, Europe in Winter. Solaris, 2016. Pp. 295. ISBN 978-1-78108-463-2. £7.99.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

There’s a scene early on in Europe in Winter in which we meet Gwen, a civil servant who is part of a group of conspiracy-theorists whose focus is the Community, the parallel-universe/constructed world to which Hutchinson’s previous two novels Europe in Autumn and Europe in Winter have introduced us. Suddenly, with the revelation of the existence of the Community to Gwen’s baseline world, her superiors are intensely interested in it. “The government was being forced to make up policy towards the vast new European neighbour on the hoof.”

Friday, July 28, 2017

Pflug, Mountain (2017)

Ursula Pflug, Mountain. Inanna Publications, 2017. Pp. 104. ISBN 978-1-77133-349-8. CAN$19.95.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Pflug, a Canadian writer who resides in Norwood, Ontario, is an experienced author. Her previous works include novels Green Music and The Alphabet Stones, as well as short story collections After the Fires and Harvesting the Moon. She also has other short stories and novels in the pipeline. Inanna Publications released Mountain in May, 2017 as part of their “Young Feminist Series”. Mountain is billed as a “YA novella”. Without giving any secrets away, let’s just say I’m past the YA age. Still, I found Mountain to be an intriguing and thought-provoking read.

When Amethyst O’Connor, Mountain’s protagonist, clambers out of her mother Laureen’s beat-up truck and looks around the healing camp in northern California, it’s clear that this is the last place she wants to be. Hanging out with “several hundred people camped in a mud puddle with bad food and no medical” (p. 4) isn’t Amethyst’s idea of a good time—she’d rather be at the mall with her rock-star dad’s credit card. But unfortunately for Amethyst, her father Lark O’Connor is busy recording an album, so travelling with her mom remains her only option.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hook, The Greens (2016)

Andrew Hook, The Greens. Snowbooks Horror Novellas, 2016. Pp. 96. ISBN 978-1-91139-019-0. £4.99.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

Reading Andrew Hook’s many faceted fantasy novella is a bit like trying to see into the centre of a cut gemstone. One can never be quite sure of what one is looking at. Each facet or viewpoint refracts reality differently until you are unsure of the veracity of any. The overall effect is one of a rather disturbing conundrum.

It begins with a superbly-evoked sequence involving two green-tinted children who turn up in late 1500s England. The narrative then switches to present-day Southwold and the life of a middle-class family, seen through the eyes of Julia and Richard. Julia, it gradually emerges, is an obsessive compulsive who dotes on her two children and semi-consciously weaves a web of protective rituals to protect them. Her husband, a rather dopy antiques dealer with a penchant for family history, begins to unearth details of his wife’s ancestral line and begins to piece together mysterious links involving other members of Julia’s clan who all, it seems, share similar obsessive compulsive rituals and a connection with the green children.