Monday, February 13, 2017

Salaam, When the World Wounds (2016)

Kiini Ibura Salaam, When the World Wounds. Third Man Books, 2016. Pp. 184. ISBN 978-0-9913361-5-9. $15.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Kiini Ibura Salaam is an American writer of speculative fiction that directly engages with women and race in ways that are both thoughtful and disturbing. This is her second collection of short fiction; the first, Ancient, Ancient (2012) won the James Tiptree Jr. Award for that year. Salaam is a writer of short pieces that have largely previously appeared in collections; When the World Wounds consists of three short stories, two novelettes and a novella, only one of which is reprinted (and has been edited from the previous version). As such this collection will be of emphatic interest to her fans, and provide much food for thought for new readers.

Monday, February 06, 2017

carrington, Speculative Blackness (2016)

andré m. carrington, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction. University of Minnesota Press, 2016. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-0-8166-7896-9. $25.00.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Professor carrington’s focus in Speculative Blackness is on the interactions among not only science fiction, but other speculative fiction categories such as “fantasy, horror, utopia and dystopia, paranormal romance, counterfactual history, magical realism, and so on” (23). The thrust of his book is that the “Whiteness of Science Fiction” or the identification of speculative fiction as a White cultural tradition marks “alienation as a signal feature of Black experiences with the genre” (17-18). To support and illustrate these generalizations, the author presents an array of studies of presence and absence of African Americans in fandom, as demonstrated in fanzines, television’s original Star Trek series, comics, Deep Space Nine and its novelizations, and in a final chapter, he moves into online fanfiction archives involving “Black British-diasporic characters in Harry Potter,” extending his reach beyond the African-American sphere. He does a great deal of investigative work that reveals little-known aspects of the history of fandoms, of fans’ influence on the Speculative Fictional products (books, television shows, films, comics, etc.) that evolve in relation to the fans’ responses to them. As such, this is a reception study, except in the sense that the reception in turn becomes an influence on the subsequent development of the fiction.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Littlewood, The Hidden People (2016)

Alison Littlewood, The Hidden People. Jo Fletcher Books, 2016. Pp. 384. ISBN 978-1-84866-990-1. £14.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

I’m going to make this clear right out of the gate; I went into this book with a certain amount of trepidation. Some time ago, I read Littlewood’s first novel, A Cold Season, and I honestly wasn’t impressed. I found it predictable, riddled with plotholes, and starring a heroine whose decisions I could not fathom. On the other hand, I’d encountered a number of Littlewood’s short stories in the pages of various Best New Horror and Best Horror of the Year volumes, and frequently found them amongst the most enjoyable in the books. Well, let it never be said that I am a woman with a closed mind; I decided to give Littlewood a second chance. And a dark, gothic, period novel featuring a murder, faeries, and mysterious pregnancies seemed like just the ticket.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Priest, The Family Plot (2016)

Cherie Priest, The Family Plot. Tor Books, 2016. Pp. 365. ISBN 978-0-7653-7824-8. $25.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

I spent this past Halloween carefully reading Cherie Priest’s new novel, The Family Plot, in the daylight hours. Confession: I love ghost stories, but I also have a hyperactive imagination and am kind of a wimp, so I do my best to choose wisely when the season demands spookiness. Priest delivers the perfect kind of spookiness, familiar to everyone who has been in an old house (or any other building, for that matter) and felt sure that its past inhabitants have left something of themselves behind that is extraphysical. The action glides along smoothly, and I only ever put it down when the sunlight faded.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Scott & Rose, Mirror Image (2016)

Michael Scott & Melanie Ruth Rose, Mirror Image. Tor Books, 2016. Pp. 352. ISBN 978-0-7653-8522-2. $25.99 hc/$12.99 e.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

There have always been legends and stories about mirrors. From the magic mirror that Snow White’s evil stepmother chanted into to the mystic pool of Galadriel to the dark glass hidden in the back of a museum in Stephen King’s The Reaper’s Image, it seems that ever since mankind had thought to polish a piece of reflective metal the consequences of gazing too deeply within occurred to them. And the latest consequences come in the form of Mirror Image, a dark horror novel coming to us from authors Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth Rose.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Jacobson (ed.), Dear Robot (2015)

Kelly Ann Jacobson (ed.), Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction. Self-published, 2015. Pp. 126. ISBN 978-1-5176-0196-6. $9.99.

Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika

A marriage of science fiction and epistolary fiction appears to be an oxymoron; to merge that which alludes to romantic spirituality with visions of state-of-the-art technology, societies and relationships in silico may generate a feeling of awkwardness. Yet, there is nothing more misleading! Examples such as Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon, Herbert’s Dune and Meyer’s Twilight series prove that the fantastic allows itself to be imbued with literary influences bequeathed after the era of Romanticism. The chimera of The Sorrows of Young Werther should not be dreaded though, as each of the novels, remembered for its more or less insightful probing of the characters, has forged a unique bond with the readers. Kelly Ann Jacobson’s book, Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction, is no exception to this pattern.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zinos-Amaro/Silverberg, Traveler of Worlds (2016)

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Traveler of Worlds: Conversations With Robert Silverberg. Fairwood Press, 2016. Pp. 280. ISBN 978-1-933846-63-7. $16.99.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

Robert Silverberg is a writer I have read far too little of. But then, Silverberg is a writer everyone has read far too little of. One of the most prolific writers in our field, he began selling to the science fiction magazines (interestingly, for the British mag Nebula) in 1955: a mere three years, as he notes in one of his conversations here, after Philip K. Dick began publishing. In his first incarnation, he dedicated himself unflinchingly to writing and selling science fiction for the market, writing stories at breakneck speed (49 in 1956 alone), sometimes in partnership with Randall Garrett, sometimes under a bewildering array of house-names. During the late 60s and into the 70s (when I first came across his work), he changed tack, taking advantage of the increasing openness of the field to new styles and ideas. His work during that period alone would put many lesser writers to shame, both in quantity and quality. Among a series of astonishing stand-alone novels that ought to be on anyone’s bookshelf, Dying Inside (1972) stands out for its dark (some might say metaphorical) exploration of a telepath’s gradual decline of his powers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cirsova #2 (Summer 2016)

Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine #2 (Summer 2016). Pp. 104. ISBN 978-1533557056. $7.50.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Cirsova is a new fantasy and science fiction magazine that pays semi-pro rates and focuses on golden-age adventure, sword and planet, heroic fantasy and old-fashioned romantic fantasy genres. One gets the feeling that editor P. Alexander is going for a classic feel, but the word I would choose would be “retro”—along with the larger-than-life heroes, exotic locales and lack of concern for “scientific accuracy,” this issue seems to come from an age before gender or representation had much of a place in escapist fiction. There is a good mix of genres in this slim volume, from very short stories to forty-page novella, by way of poetry, nonfiction and a mock RPG adventure, and from comic-fantasy to shattered far future, by way of faeries, eldrich death spirits and contemporary shark horror. Readers who hark back to this kind of vaguely juvenile fantasy will find a varied, generally well-written and edited collection of seven stories.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Rhonda Parrish, Sirens (2016)

Rhonda Parrish (ed.), Sirens. World Weaver Press, 2016. Pp. 264. ISBN 978-0-69268-720-8. $12.95.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

Ironically, just as I sat down to write this review, a 2010 movie entitled Siren came on TV. The film told the story of a newly-married couple and their male friend taking a boating trip in Greece, purportedly to see “the island featured in ‘The Odyssey’” where Odysseus encountered the Sirens. Once there, they encounter a strange young girl (age never known, but implied to be in her late teens) who is, of course, more than she seems. It wasn’t a great movie, but ironically it actually touched on a number of the themes explored in the Sirens anthology: sex as weapon and compulsion, the intermingling of sex and violence, the awakening of one’s unknown erotic urges, and, perhaps most compelling, the sexual war between genders imposed by society upon heterosexual relationships. The titular siren’s voice works on all three protagonists, male and female, but the men are plagued by visions of and compulsions towards violence, whereas the siren’s gentler, more sensual side is reserved for the heroine. This is juxtaposed by the inadvertent violence that the men, the heroine’s lover and friend, show towards both women; a rape fantasy game played at the film’s opening, leering jokes about sexual violence towards the young girl (including a particularly nasty “joke” about how perhaps a threesome would help her get over her apparent trauma), and sexual speculation about her age (“How old do you think she is?” “Old enough.”). This sort of supposed inherent aggression between the sexes is the true basis for the myth of the sirens, the predatory women who use the same physical attributes used to oppress them to lure their male oppressors to their deaths.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hemstreet, God Wave (2016)

Patrick Hemstreet, The God Wave. HarperVoyager, 2016. Pp 401. ISBN 978-0-06-241950-7. $24.99.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Patrick Hemstreet’s first novel, The God Wave, is a fast read, even though my time for reading it was limited to the bus rides to and from work mornings and evenings, and I was usually writing in my copy with a ballpoint pen during those half-hour intervals. I was writing because I was marking sample passages for this review much as I do when teaching a book in a science fiction class, one of which I was teaching as I was reading The God Wave. As a result, many of my initial impressions came from the relationships between Hemstreet’s novel and what I had been teaching in class recently. My first reaction was: a Golden Age SF story, both from the standpoint of style and from its definite status as a “hard science fiction” novel. In certain ways, I was reminded of Asimov et al., both in positive and negative ways.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Vaughn, Kiss for a Dead Film Star (2016)

Karen Vaughn, A Kiss for a Dead Film Star and Other Stories. Brain Mill Press, 2016. Pp. 111. ISBN 978-1-94208-338-2. $12.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

The seeming inextricability of the forces of love and death, of eros and thanatos, are ones that have haunted the human condition since before stylus was put to clay. They are almost cliché at this point, but Karen Vaughn takes these ideas, pulling them this way and that, until she has this book—a collection of short stories that, each in their own way, confront the possibilities of the ineffable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Andrew Hook, punkPunk! (2015)

Andrew Hook (ed.), punkPunk!. Dog Horn Publishing, 2015. Pp. 218. ISBN 978-1-90713-389-3. £12.99.

Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika

Published in January 2015 by DogHorn Publishing, punkPunk! is a collection of short stories unified by a peculiar cultural phenomenon whose name formulates the title of the book. Defined as an “eclectic mix of stories” (7), its main purpose is to present punk “not simply [as]a static component of history, but a process of evolution and revolution.” Such a statement holds the promise of entanglement and literary engagement far exceeding the chronological reiteration of forms and styles.