Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bosman, Gay Noir (2018)

Olivier Bosman, Gay Noir: Three noir mysteries with a gay twist. Self-published, 2018. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-726364-30-0. $12.99.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

This collection of three novellas by Olivier Bosman lives up to its title: the stories all feature gay characters, they are very noirish and pretty mysterious, although like all detective fiction, the mysteries are fully revealed in the end. There’s something dated about, Bosman’s fiction that’s to do with more than his historical settings. His style is reminiscent of the pulp fiction writers of the 40s and 50s, authentically spare and undescriptive. The action proceeds in relentless black, white and sepia tones, few are the flashes of colour or flickers of humour that leaven the characters’ moods as they saunter, swagger or rush purposefully from one scene to the next. And this does make it very ‘noir.’ For purists, this treatment will doubtless appeal. And there’s something undeniably satisfying about the way, his protagonists circumvent plot obstacles by making a sudden fortuitous discovery or winking at the right person.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Leib & Holt (edd.), Resist Fascism (2018)

Bart R. Leib & Kay T. Holt (edd.), Resist Fascism. Crossed Genres Publications, 2018. Pp. 95. ISBN 978-0-9913921-4-8. $9.99.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

Resist Fascism is a micro-anthology, published by Crossed Genres last November after a successful Kickstarter. The idea was to put together a little squad of rebellious stories to be distributed just in time for the US midterm election. What I liked the most in this project is that, as editors Leib and Holt explain on the back cover, the anthology is based on the principle that you don’t need to be a hero to resist, and even actively oppose, fascism. Fighting oppressive and unjust regimes does not necessarily mean joining an armed guerrilla and blowing up bridges; it can be a small act of disobedience, or any other way in which someone chins up and refuses to follow a law or a system they believe unfair. In other words, resistance is for everyone. We don’t need to wait until we are ready, we already are.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Rooke, The Space Between (2017)

Susan Rooke, The Space Between: The Prophecy of the Faeries. Self-published, 2017. Pp. 435. ASIN B074Q4Y6PQ. $16.95.

Reviewed by Psyche Z. Ready

Rooke is a deft writer. Her prose in this, her first novel, is graceful, poetic, and readable. The plot is well-arranged, compelling, and surprising. For such a complex story, the world-building is not cumbersome, a difficult feat to pull off. Another strength of this book is its unique amalgamation of Christian narratives and faerie folklore. It’s an exciting idea, and Rooke weaves them together so that it seems natural. Her novel is imaginative, well-written, and well-plotted. I expect that Rooke has a writing future ahead of her; in fact, the sequel to The Space Between is due out in January 2019.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Barbini (ed.), Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction (2018)

Francesca T. Barbini (ed.), The Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction. Luna Press, 2018. Pp. 111. ISBN 978-1-911143-51-2. $15.99.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

This short book, published under the Academia Lunare imprint of Luna Press Publishing, contains five essays on aspects of SFF created by Africans, in Africa, or containing representations of Africa or Africans. It is not really a book about “evolution” of African speculative fiction, although the first three papers do discuss historical writing and modern developments, but it is nevertheless a fascinating and important first step in a history of scholarship of this under-appreciated section of the genre. I would like to see a dedicated academic journal publishing an issue of this scale once or twice per year (and emphatically not only in English).

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Willett, Worldshaper (2018)

Edward Willett, Worldshaper. Daw Books, 2018. Pp. 368. ISBN 978-0-7564-1346-0. $16.00.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Imagine having the power to shape a world just the way you wanted it. Take a group of ten people, and you’d likely end up with ten slightly different—or perhaps greatly different—lands. Shawna Keyes, the protagonist of Edward Willett’s novel Worldshaper, has that kind of power, thanks to an alien named Ygrair, who established a school that imbued its students with the training to become Shapers of worlds. These worlds exist in a phenomenon known as the Labyrinth. Travel from one world to another within the Labyrinth can be done through “portals”, though only a few people are able to create and open them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sandison, 2084 (2017)

George Sandison (ed.), 2084. Unsung Stories, 2017. Pp. 344 . ISBN 978-1-907389-53-5. £9.99.

Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika

This is not an Orwell novel. This is not a premonition. A century on from the unforgettable 1984 becomes the title of George Sandison’s anthology auguring the future of our world. That future, foretold by writers before science fiction even existed, is a never-ending tale, changing its tools, characters and moods with regard to the epoch in which it was born. Proto-science fiction, science fiction, speculative fiction, anti-utopia and dystopia: the terms open up to the family of the fantastic telling the stories of the present time and its discontents. 2084 is no exception, but in this case it is no accident. In the introduction Sandison emphasizes how dissimilar the collection is in stark comparison with Orwell’s classic. In one sense, it is possible to recognize the truth in his words, as he elaborates on the how the world has changed since the completion of Animal Farm’s gloomy successor. Orwell’s post-war narratives were transfixed by the description of totalitarianism in the advent of the communist era. 2084 is supposed to relate to the family of Orwell’s novels arguably through what it is not, rather than what it is, becoming an adopted offspring of the timeless classic. Penned by fifteen writers, the stories in this anthology attempt to convey several different outcomes of (not so) futuristic realities that have pushed totalitarianism into a more subtle mode.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Tidhar, Unholy Land (2018)

Lavie Tidhar, Unholy Land. Tachyon Publications, 2018. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-161696-304-0. $15.95.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

The narrative of Lavie Tidhar’s novel ducks and dives like a prizefighter, leaving his reader reeling. The protagonist, Tirosh, slips between worlds: the war torn lands of the Middle East, contemporary Berlin and other imagined worlds brought to shimmering life by Tidhar’s close observation. These are the ‘could-have-been’ worlds with elements of historical fact but steeped in mythology and fraught with darker perils and hints of monstrous beings and magical apparitions.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Pflug, Down From (2018)

Ursula Pflug, Down From. Snuggly Books, 2018. Pp. 96. ISBN 978-1-943813-57-5. $10.14.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Down From is the shortish (a little over 20,000 words, I guess), dreamlike, fabulist fifth novel by Ursula Pflug, published by Snuggly Books, purveyors of bite-sized experimental and neo-decadent fiction. This is a classic unreliable narrator story, offering themes of uncertain memory, revelation, magic and reality, and featuring a viewpoint character who is uncertain about her own history, relationship with the thinly sketched secondary characters, and even which world she is in. The first half of the book unsettles with missing memories, shifting character names, stilted conversations—putting us firmly into the mindset of the discombobulated Sandrine. The second half changes both direction and pace, giving us a quite different story than we may have been expecting, albeit no less fabulist and semi-realist, and leaves as many new mysteries as we started with. After a slow start, this book rewards the faithful reader, especially if they love magic, uncertainty, fierce and unapologetic women, and stories within stories (and art within art).

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Varela, Seas of Distant Stars (2018)

Francesca G. Varela, The Seas of Distant Stars. Owl House Books, 2018. Pp. 232. ISBN 978-1-947003-92-7. $17.95.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

The Seas of Distant Stars is a variation on the alien abduction trope. The protagonist, Aria, is a “preverbal” little girl who is mobile, goes down the steps into the front yard as her parents are resting inside, and is abducted, we don’t see exactly how, and the next we know she is on another planet. One of the first things that we see happen there, on Deeyae, is an annual medical checkup, which we find out later is only for the “exchangers,” or abducted earthlings; apparently the Deeyan scientists are interested in seeing how the abductees develop physiologically—possibly to apply to their own population, as the Deeyans originally came from Earth, known there as “the Water Planet.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Moore, Not So Stories (2018)

David Thomas Moore (ed.), Not So Stories. Abbadon Books, 2018. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-1-7810-8612-4. $15.99.

Reviewed by Samira Nadkarni

Meant to address the legacy of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories (1902), Not So Stories (2018) is a set of 14 postcolonial short stories that problematise or confront colonial nostalgia, and what Nikesh Shukla (in his foreword) terms the “feeling that the British Empire was a benign part of the lives of those oppressed.” The collection offers narratives that centre the point of view of those marginalised under British colonialism, responding not only to the racist narratives of Kipling’s original text, but also the persisting bedrock of colonial ideology its popularity once drew, and somehow continues to draw, upon. Shukla notes that these stories are for “children and adults” (his emphasis)—and I’d argue that the majority of the collection’s stories are in fact aimed at adults rather than children.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Forrest, The Inconvenient God (2018)

Francesca Forrest, The Inconvenient God. Annorlunda Books, 2018. Pp. 70. ISBN 978-1-944354-41-1. $7.99 pb/$2.99 e.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

The Inconvenient God is a novelette-length story, approximately 11-12,000 words at my estimate, published as a standalone volume in print and e-book by Annorlunda Books, specialists in bite-sized, diverse novellas and novelettes “that you can finish in an afternoon.” This story is set in a secondary world with approximately contemporary technology and infrastructure (trains, telecommunications, etc. are familiar to a modern reader) in which a multitude of gods literally and visibly walk the earth. Perhaps a flavour of fabulist realism rather than fantasy, the story features a highly bureaucratic and centralized Polity (perhaps loosely Central Asian in flavor?), who send a Decommissioner from the Ministry of Divinity to retire a minor, regional—and waning—god of mischief in the northwestern province.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Blanco, Morgan Le Fay (2017)

Jo-Anne Blanco, Morgan Le Fay: Small Things and Great (Book One of the Fata Morgana Child of the Moon Trilogy). Self-published, 2017. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-1-3658-2824-9. $10.94.

Reviewed by Regina de Búrca

This retelling of the Arthurian legend, the first in a trilogy, is told from the point of view of a five-year-old Morgan le Fay—a young girl coming to terms with her powers and the confines of the world she lives in. Traditionally seen as a villain of the story, it is refreshing to read a story from her perspective: that of a powerful female in a patriarchal world. Morgan’s childhood is interrupted as she experiences visions and shortly afterwards, is tasked with saving the souls of lost children. Compelled to travel to the secret and dangerous faerie realm, Morgan encounters magical creatures for the first time. The descriptions of these encounters are very enjoyable—the faeries are at once beautiful and creepy.