Friday, March 27, 2020

Berry, Million Eyes (2020)

C.R. Berry, Million Eyes (Million Eyes series book 1). Elsewhen Press, 2020. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-9114-0948-9. £9.99 pb / £2.99 e.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

We begin with William II of England (William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror) with a book in his possession. A book called The History of Computer-Aided Timetabling for Railway Systems which is, says William, “an omen foretelling a future that God is compelling me to avert.” Shortly afterward, William is killed by a stranger who talks into a flat rectangular object, swallows a red object like a small pebble, and disappears. The book, however, is passed down through generations of Royalty (at one point ending up with the Princes in the Tower and Princess Di), though hunted after by mysterious and murderous agents. Eventually, the story of these events comes to the attention of former history-teacher and obsessive researcher Gregory Ferro and Jennifer Larson, a history graduate with a fondness for Dr Who, a terrible record for keeping jobs, and a reluctance to getting into mad conspiracy time-travel theories about books published in 1995 referenced in a history book of 1977 and mentioned in a 14th century letter. For part of the book, they become a kind of Mulder-and-Scully duo, but the said mysterious and murderous agents become extremely murderous if a bit less mysterious, being employees of a tech firm called Million Eyes which at one point is referred to as recently having bought up Apple. At their heart is the dangerous, sinister, and glamorous Miss Morgan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ulibarri ed., Solarpunk Winters (2020)

Sarena Ulibarri (ed.), Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters. World Weaver Press, 2020. Pp 316. ISBN 978-1-7322546-8-8. $15.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters is a follow-up to editor Sarena Ulibarri’s previous edited collection, Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers (2018). Solarpunk as a genre is meant to be an optimistic alternative to the frequent use of dystopia to describe the various possible futures of climate change; it posits viable scientific solutions to catastrophe, as well as a belief that human nature has at least as much if not more capacity for goodness and hope than for despair. These days, that’s a valuable quality all on its own. Solarpunk Winters consists of seventeen stories that revolve around cold environments, either natural or manmade. Indeed, global cooling is indeed a very real possibility in the wake of climate change, either due to the disruptions of the global jetstream (for evidence, see the recent polar vortexes that have afflicted countries in the northern hemisphere over the past several years) or as a by-product of geo-engineering. The stories all share some similarities: many refer to the events of the next few years as the turning-point, always denoted with a capital, as the Breakdown, the Reckoning, or the Change; most feature women protagonists as agents of change.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Surradia (2019-20)

Surradia: A Retrospective. Musée National d’Art Moderne, 2019–20. Admission €14.00.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Portrait of Three Women with an Owl

PARIS, France: Some artistic movements are not fully appreciated until after the artists’ time. Some enjoy immediate fame, only to fade from the spotlight as the years pass. And then there are the movements that, through no fault of the artists, never quite have their moment in the sun. Into this third category falls the subject of the Musée National d’Art Moderne (MNAM)’s excellent new exhibition, Surradia: A Retrospective.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Kaleidotrope Winter 2020

Kaleidotrope, ed. Fred Coppersmith. Winter 2020 issue. Online at kaleidotrope.net or in e-book.

Reviewed by N. A. Jackson


This issue of science fiction and fantasy zine Kaleidotrope is headed with a quote from the editors of Weight of the World: “Every little piece of your life will mean something to someone.” It’s the kind of statement that defies argument without really conveying anything. Certainly the fragments of fiction and poetry here are going to be more or less meaningful to each reader.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Abeda & Zorne, Velocity of Inertia (2019)

Adel Abeda (and Rika Zorne), The Velocity of Inertia. London: Bloomsbury, 2019. Pp. 237. ISBN 978-1-4742-9927-5. $20.99.

Reviewed by J. Moufawad-Paul

There are times when a novel’s mythology precedes its publication. Adel Abeda’s The Velocity of Inertia is precisely this kind of novel and, as such, it is difficult to review. Edited and rewritten by Abeda’s wife, the critically acclaimed photographer and poet Rika Zorne, the literary presentation of Velocity is beyond reproach; you cannot read this book without being impressed by its style. But Zorne’s participation in the publication contributes to its mythology since the awareness that every sentence of Abeda’s draft was rewritten by Zorne immediately makes the reader suspicious of the quality of the original manuscript. Moreover, it reminds the reader of Abeda’s absence and the fact that the authorial void might be more interesting than the novel.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Marrs, Passengers (2019)

John Marrs, The Passengers. Berkley, 2019. Pp. 340. ISBN 978-1-984-80697-0. $26.00.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

The Passengers, former freelance journalist John Marrs’ sixth book, provides a chillingly believeable glimpse of how the future might unfold if self-driving vehicles become commonplace. Though the story line revolves around autonomous cars, Marrs also probes issues like societal prejudice, mob mentality, and the vagaries of social media. Marrs’ previous books have received acclaim, with The One, his third book, selected as the Book of the Month for the British Broadcasting Corporation. The One is being filmed as a made-for-TV movie series for Netflix, scheduled for release early in 2020. Marrs’ fourth book, The Good Samaritan, was a top hit worldwide. With Marrs’ background and previous success, it’s not surprising that The Passengers succeeds in delivering suspense against a backdrop of authenticity, supported by the research that went into the book.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Michael Winter, Periphery (2019)

Michael Winter, Periphery. Self-published, 2019. Pp. 369. ISBN 978-1-7333664-0-3. $13.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

Upon receiving my copy of Periphery, I immediately turned it over to read the blurb on the back cover. There I learned about John Tate, and how “one summer afternoon he returned home covered in blood, ranting about bizarre creatures hiding in plain sight and declaring his intention to move out in order to protect his wife and son from the horrors now stocking him.” (sic) (my emphasis)

It was not an auspicious beginning.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Finch, Lake Wildwood (2020)

Robert Finch, Lake Wildwood. Labuda Books, 2020. Pp. 101. ISBN 2-402-68110-7. $12.00.

Reviewed by Djibril Ayad

This slim novel, published posthumously from the notes of long-retired and recently deceased author Robert Finch, is billed as “a natural mystery,” and indeed bears many of the hallmarks of a crime or noir story (although as I’ll argue, I don’t think it succeeds as either). With a cast of characters straight out of Thoreau, a narrative that can’t decide if it’s bleak realist or supernatural horror, and choppy prose that veers wildly from rich, velvet poetry, via overwritten identity crisis, to Tolkeinesque naivety, this book ultimately disappoints, and does no service to Finch’s reputation.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Blue (ed.), Dragon Bike (2020)

Elly Blue (ed.), Dragon Bike: Fantastical Stories of Bicycling, Feminism, and Dragons. Microcosm Publishing, 2020. Pp. 160. ISBN 978-1-62106-047-5. $11.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Elly Blue’s Dragon Bike: Fantastical Stories of Bicycling, Feminism, and Dragons is part of a new crop of anthologies crowdfunded through online platforms such as Kickstarter, enabling small presses to more easily print diverse new content and pay their contributors. It is also the sixth annual volume of genre stories edited by Blue focused on bicycling and feminism. This is a slight book of fifteen short stories, all sharing the same prompt of bicycles and dragons. Each author, however, takes it on in their own direction, with some stories playful, some dramatic, and some in-between.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ambiguity Sky (Summer 2019)

Ambiguity Sky, ed. Rhea Chidiebube. Special Issue: Outsiders Extirpate Dark Fantasy (Summer 2019). Pp. 198. $9.99 (formerly online at ambiguitysky.com).

Reviewed by Michael M. Jones

One of the oddest publishing stories of 2019 was the brief resurgence of Ambiguity Sky after an eleven-year hiatus—a return which came and went so quickly, it was painfully easy to overlook. Long-time fans might remember this magazine, which ran from 2000-2008 with a focus on dark fantasy and Lovecraftian aesthetics, and ceased publication abruptly after editor Rhea Chidiebube accepted a full-time job managing a local Nigerian-American cultural outreach program in Detroit. Even after that program was shuttered due to budgetary cutbacks in 2015, Chidiebube showed no inclination to return to Ambiguity Sky, or to the science fiction/fantasy community in general, turning her attention to political activism with a side of cupcake recipes on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Blue (ed.), Bikes Not Rockets (2018)

Elly Blue (ed.), Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories (Bikes in Space vol #5). Microcosm Publishing, 2018. Pp. 160. ISBN 978-1-62106-543-2. $11.95.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

A trainee starpilot in a lonely tower. A high-stakes bicycle race across four worlds. Coastal cities, submerged. These are just some of the scenarios editor Elly Blue brings us in Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories, the fifth volume in the Bikes in Space series. While this 11-story anthology contained some pieces I enjoyed more than others, all of the stories were of a decent quality. The stories were tightly written, containing just the right amount of information without bogging down the pace. “There Were One and Many,” “The Tower,” and “At the Crossroads” were among my personal favorites.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Willett, Master of the World (2019)

Edward Willett, Master of the World (Worldshapers book 2). Daw Books, 2019. Pp. 384. ISBN 978-0-75641-364-4. $16.00.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Prolific author Edward Willett, who has authored or co-authored more than 60 books, has released the newest entry in his Worldshapers series, Master of the World. Like Worldshaper, the first book in the series, Master of the World was published by Daw Books. Billed as portal fantasies, the Worldshaper books whisk us off to a universe in which Shapers, who were trained by an alien known as Ygrair, can form and populate worlds within a massive construct known as the Labyrinth. Protagonist Shawna Keys, to whom we were introduced in Worldshaper, continues her quest to collect the hokhmah, or knowledge of how each world was Shaped, from as many of the Shapers as possible. Only in this way can the Labyrinth and all of its millions of inhabitants be spared from the Adversary, an alien antagonist who is diametrically opposed to Ygrair and all she represents.