Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Weird Tales #360/361 (2013)

Weird Tales Magazine, issue #360 (2013): Old Ones. Pp. 113. and issue #361 (2013): Fairy Tales. Pp. 113. Each $9.99 print/$7.99 e-book bundle.

Reviewed by Nino Cipri

I admit to being a sporadic consumer of news, particularly when it comes to publishing, even more particularly when it comes to the SF/F publishing world. Every few months, it seems, another idiot straps a load of bullshit and dynamite to their chest, determined to have their say and blow up the internet in the process. As author Genevieve Valentine recently put it on Twitter, “Oh, the SF community, where the Venn diagram of catching up on news and wanting to light things on fire is a circle.”

It’s important to confront the idiocy, the prejudice, the racism and the misogyny and bullshit. Hats off to the folks that manage to swim through those swamps without getting bogged down or eaten by crocodiles. But for the sake of my own sanity, I try not to get consumed by it. Maybe this explains why I was genuinely excited when offered a chance to review the two new issues of Weird Tales. If I’d been paying attention, I would have known that the magazine had recently gone to hell in a startlingly flashy way.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Alexander, Past Present Future (2013)

N.J. Alexander, Past Present Future: A social network thriller. Roundfire Books, 2013. Pp. 309. ISBN 978-1-846949-70-8. $20.95 / £11.99.

Reviewed by Rochelle Spencer

N.J. Alexander’s “social media thriller,” Past Present Future is both fascinating and frustrating. What fascinates: set in the UK, in 2008, against the backdrop of the beginnings of a global recession and the rise of Facebook and Twitter, Alexander’s novel reveals our worst fears about the economy and technology. What frustrates: most of the book’s most thrilling moments occur online, as the protagonist, Nicole, reads the Facebook messages of Anthony Hope, a moderately successful American singer and former co-worker who may—or may not—be stalking her. Alexander has a talent for blending classic surreal imagery with an exploration of the dangers of modern technology, and readers will enjoy how many of Anthony and Nicole’s Facebook posts reference Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Still, despite this psychological tension, I wanted to see more of these characters, particularly Nicole, in real life. In other words, while I love that this book pays so much attention to our virtual lives, the problem with having few in-person moments is that it becomes difficult to understand Nicole and Anthony’s characters. Readers will recognize, for instance, that we present a more glamorous image of our online lives, that our Facebook pages omit or downplay moments that show us as less than clever, witty, or strong. So, every time Anthony posts to his Facebook page, it’s hard to figure out if he’s sending Nicole a veiled message (this is her belief) or if it’s just an innocuous coincidence. And, without real-life action, the reader views Nicole and Anthony as online strangers, not as actual friends we care about, and it becomes hard to understand or sympathize with either of them.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Savile & Parish-Whittaker, Leviathans in the Clouds (2013)

Steven Savile & David Parish-Whittaker, Leviathans in the Clouds. Untreed Reads, 2013. Pp. 90. ISBN 978-1-6118756-7-6. $2.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

And so it is ho! for adventure in the skies and on the boggy wetlands of Venus. Space 1889: the small, but cheerfully championed, series of novellas based on the premise of a classic role-playing game have entered their second season, continuing the cross-solar system exploits of Nathanial and Annabelle. Fundamentally a sequence of steam-punk escapades in outer space, told with the enthusiasm of Boys’ Own serials, the stories are fun escapism for anyone who likes a cheerfully outlandish alternate history premise, served with dollops of action.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lewis (ed.), Horror Without Victims (2013)

D.F. Lewis (ed.), Horror Without Victims. Megazanthus Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-291-45143-6. $14.64.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

Can you truly have horror without there being a victim?

It’s an interesting question, and one that comes down to the very definition of horror as a genre. As my husband put it, does horror naturally have to consist of bad things happening to people? I couldn’t think of a single example of horror that did not consist of bad things happening to people, even if they were not physically harmed. Surely even if someone’s wounds are purely emotional/psychological, they still count as a victim? Or, for that matter, what if the horror happens to others, only vaguely affecting our characters? At what point does a character become important or developed enough for their suffering to qualify them to be victims?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Larson, In Retrospect (2013)

Ellen Larson, In Retrospect. Five Star Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4328-2733-5. $25.95.

Reviewed by Su J. Sokol

The publisher identifies Ellen Larson’s novel In Retrospect as a dystopian murder mystery, but it could also be described it as a post-apocalyptic, post-colonial time travel whodunit. Living up to the demands of each of these sub-genres is an ambitious undertaking. Its success or failure lies in how the story, with all of its themes and elements, does or does not hold together. Efficient storytelling and strong (if occasionally stock) characters make this a very promising start, but the world-building is sometimes lacking in the details. As a novel this ultimately satisfies, despite some flaws.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Whiteley, Witchcraft in the Harem (2013)

Aliya Whiteley, Witchcraft in the Harem. Dog Horn Publishing, 2013. Pp. 132. ISBN 978-1-9071334-0-4. $12.61.

Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir

Witchcraft in the Harem, by the UK-based author Aliya Whiteley, was published by Dog Horn Publishing earlier this year. This is a well-crafted collection of seventeen stories that were originally published in different magazines and anthologies between 2003 and 2012. Though one of the dominant themes is motherhood, the book has a broad range of themes and plots, and travels across all the speculative genres. The majority of the main characters in the stories are women and they deal with issues like the awful husband, the boyfriend, the unwanted child, the yearn for a child, the boss, the mother, the miserable life as housewife and so on. It might sound trivial, but these are some of the best stories I have read for quite a while. These tales are weird, terrifying, beautiful, disturbing and funny. They are exceptionally well written and very entertaining.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Witney, Zombies: They're Not All Brain-Eaters (2013)

Alex Witney, Zombies: They're Not All Brain-Eaters. DMPP, 2013. Pp. 170. ISBN 978-1-4839527-6-5. £2.99 (kindle)/£6.99 (paperback).

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

This is a novel that relies very much on the ground-breaking themes of previous popular self-referential modern fantasy and sci-fi, as well as notable cult favourites, and it knows it. With direct shout-outs to zombie films, Beetlejuice, The Hitchhiker’s Guide and even Dr Who (I think), among others, this is a ‘post modern’ take on zombies. Ho, ho, ho, let’s make a zombie-human buddy book, eh? The reader is encouraged to pick up the idea and run with it. To do him credit, Witney does do this with a cheeky wide-boy charm that makes for a fun, if uneven, read.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Damask, Wolf at the Door (2011)

J. Damask, Wolf at the Door. Lyrical Press, 2011. Pp. 125. ISBN 978-1-6165025-6-0. $7.99 pb/$4.14 e-book.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

Written by a native Singaporean, and set there, this novel is crafted with a deal of clear personal investment. Damask knows her city, and her customs, and celebrates them with a casual elegance in the details of her writing. She also invests a set of beliefs that will be alien to many of her readers with a sense of supernatural naturalism that makes the superstitions and rituals of the East seem very necessary, and furthermore, reciprocated, by the weird and wonderful beyond human scope.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hughes, Abnormalities of Stringent Strange (2013)

Rhys Hughes, The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange. Meteor House, 2013. Pp. 205. ISBN 978-0-9837461-3-3. $25.00.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

We begin pre-WWII, the heady days of America in 1930s, when it was just starting to discover its gung-ho attitude. Stringent, a test pilot of great skill and odd appearance is about to witness the kidnapping of his adoptive father and professional mentor, Professor Crinkle, by a batch of ‘proto-Nazis’ (‘proto’ signifying the full-blown WWII kind, although, historically, they are already in power in Germany at this stage). The ‘proto-Nazis’ want different aeronautic genius, but snaffle Crinkle under a case of mistaken identity. Desirous of getting his father back, Stringent flies an experimental, chronologically-powered plane a little too fast and powers into an alternative future—around 200 years into the future, to be precise. In a world of strange beings, stranger cyborgs and interplanetary high-jinks, Stringent will set course for an improbable adventure to find a super-gun to fend off an alien invasion, travel the exotic forests of deepest Africa, and satisfy a planet of nymphomaniacs, while his travelling companions do gladiatorial combat for the entertainment of extraterrestrial dinosaurs, fighting against resurrected writing legends.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zande, Parable of Weeds (2013)

Jeff Vande Zande, Parable of Weeds. Untreed Reads, 2013. Pp. 51. ISBN 978-1-6118759-3-5. $1.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

Zande’s powerful novella is of grave social warning, and for its size, it carries one hell of a wallop. In the future, in what amounts to a two-tier social system, dystopian for the greater number of have-nots, Ian is an over-worked marketing analyst in a global conglomerate, his life a blur of red-eye flights, hotels and presentations. A widower, his only son is growing up without him in a secure, high-end community. A chance meeting on a plane and an even chancier adoption of a homeless, hungry man beyond the wall that surrounds his commune forces Ian to start showing alarmingly human emotions of compassion and curiosity in a regulated, desensitised world He starts to take terrible risks that could bring his hard-won world crashing down around his ears.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vacuity (2013)

Vacuity, dir. Michael Matzur. Montana State University, 2013. Starring Michael Steppe. 14 minutes.

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

Vacuity is a beautifully-made short SF film that functions both as a thoughtful character study and as a suspenseful thriller. Shot on a very minimal set, with a single camera and a nonexistent budget, Vacuity nevertheless manages to pack more story into its 14 minutes than many films ten times its length.

Alan Brahm (Michael Steppe) works as an engineer on the XOEH space station. As the story begins, he awakens in an airlock where he had been preparing for an EVA. His computer terminal displays error messages: hydraulics, pneumatics, airlock systems. Alan soon discovers that the station has suffered catastrophic damage, his teammates are dead or unaccounted for, his suit is damaged, and he is trapped in the airlock—with the computer stuck in its decompression sequence.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vaidya, The Rise of Siri (2012)

Shlok Vaidya, The Rise of Siri. Self published, 2012. Pp. 115. $2.99.

Reviewed by Paul Wilks

The Rise of Siri is a technology-centred dystopia based in the near future. In this self-published novel, China shuts itself off from the rest of the world, essentially withdrawing from international trade and assuming ownership of all assets within its borders; people included. The story focuses wholly on Apple Inc. and how as a company it contends this international development in subsequent months. While the book is set in the speculative future, the main characters are real-life developers, executives and designers. Anyone familiar with Apple as a company might also be aware of Jony Ive, Tim Cook and Scott Forstall—all of whom feature in the novel. In many ways, it almost makes the story a piece of fan-fiction. The characters are given a huge amount of textual respect and are often spoken of in frothily glowing terms.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Brown (ed.), Daughters of Icarus (2012)

Josie Brown (ed.), Daughters of Icarus: New feminist science fiction and fantasy. Pink Narcissus Press, 2013. Pp. 372. ISBN 978-1-939056-00-9. $17.00.

Reviewed by Djibrl al-Ayad

The Daughters of Icarus anthology, published by the inclusive and experimental small press Pink Narcissus, and edited by American writer and scholar of political theory Josie Brown, labels itself, “New feminist science fiction and fantasy”. The cover (but not the title page) also carries the line, “Women’s Wings Unfurled”, an unofficial subtitle highlighting the editor’s intention that the stories explore the common tropes and adventures of science fiction if women take the initiative in them. While there are indeed some excellent examples of this kind of fiction, the anthology as a whole is a disappointingly mixed bag, including some poorer quality pieces, some that fail on various important levels (notably issues of intersectionality), and some frankly baffling inclusions. Measured as a venue for science fiction and fantasy, Daughters of Icarus contains enough magic to warrant classing it as one of the better examples of this kind of beast; as a coherent whole on the terms it seems to define for itself, it is somewhat less satisfying.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Strange Frame (2013)

Strange Frame. Directed by G.B. Hajim. Island Planet One production, 2013. starring Tim Curry, Claudia Black, Tara Strong, George Takei. 96 minutes.

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

Strange Frame is almost certainly the world's premier animated lesbian sci-fi rock musical. For many, that one sentence will tell them all they need to know to decide if they want to see it. But this complex and visually enthralling tale resists easy categorization. Featuring an array of beloved genre performers and a groundbreaking animation style, Strange Frame presents a story of obsessive love and the seductions of fame set in a gritty posthuman future.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ricci-Thode, Dragon Whisperer (2013)

Vanessa Ricci-Thode, Dragon Whisperer. Iguana Books, 2013. Pp. 250. ISBN 978-1-9274036-6-2. $12.49 (kindle)/$22.96 (hb)/$12.71 (pb).

Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir

Dragon Whisperer, a fantasy novel by Canada-based author and editor Vanessa Ricci-Thode, was published in May 2013 by indie publisher Iguana Books. This quiet but strong story, about building relationships, both among people, and also between humans and monsters, tells of a world in which dragons exist side by side with humans, but they are so different from each other and war can easily erupt because of small misunderstandings, that they must negotiate and communicate through a few people with special gifts, the so-called dragon whisperers. Dragon Whisperer is entertaining, it has a good plot, and it builds a complex and realistic world. The book has some minor flaws, but I think it’s all in all well worth reading not only for dragon book fans, but also for those who enjoy fantasy in general and appreciate strong women characters.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jones (ed.), Scheherazade's Facade (2012)

Michael M. Jones (ed.), Scheherazade's Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing and Transformation. Gressive Press, 2012. 527KB. ASIN B009YZWX3E. $7.16.

Reviewed by RJ Blain

Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing and Transformation is an anthology that targets readers of the LGBT community who enjoy reading fantasy. Released by Gressive Press, an imprint of Circlet Press, the stories within pursue the challenges and triumphs of those who live within the LBGT community, both on Earth and places more mystical.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

De Grave, Hour of Lead (2012)

Kathleen De Grave with Earl Lee, The Hour of Lead. See Sharp Press, 2012. Pp. 255. ISBN 9781937276270. $14.95.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

The Hour of Lead is an earnest novel, published by the anarchist and social activist See Sharp Press, with science fictional themes including corporate dystopia and time travel, with a nod to the Butterfly Effect, but written by an author with no evident background in science fiction literature or fandom. Set in a near future Kansas facing environmental collapse where an unfettered capitalist corporation-government runs the world to neocon wet-dream principles, with a psychiatrist as protagonist and his astrophysicist wife as deuteragonist (for although many scenes are told from her perspective, she is clearly second fiddle in this book), the novel demonizes not only free-market capitalism but also nanotechnology and other invasive environmental and medical sciences. There are several problems with this story, from characterization to plot contortions and false-dilemmas driving the action, but it is an engaging read, and it does succeed at the authors’ stated aim which is to present moral quandaries without offering any easy answers.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Splatterpunk #2 (2013)

Splatterpunk Zine #2 (2013). Pp. 40. £2.99.

Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

Splatterpunk is a sub-genre of horror. It is, as many genres are, difficult to define exactly but the tone of this, the second issue of a lively little magazine dedicated to the art form, is horror that often involves people rather than monsters (in the traditional sense). It is no-nonsense and straightforward, but his doesn’t mean that the literary tone of Splatterpunk magazine is poor, by no means. All the stories, reviews and interviews are well written; the fiction is logical and character-driven. The prose itself is direct, cut to the bone—as are many of the protagonists—and compelling. This magazine exudes energy and enthusiasm; it is a labour of love. A quote on the cover by horror writer Wrath James White states that Splatterpunk makes him “nostalgic”, and I understand what he means. This is a true small press production: short, sharp, well-illustrated and with the feel of the homemade, although far from homemade in quality.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Golden, Red Sky Blue Moon (2013)

Bruce Golden, Red Sky, Blue Moon. Shaman Press, 2013. Pp. 379. ISBN 978-1-4841332-2-4. $3.99 (e-book)/$15.99 (paperback).

Reviewed by Darlene Santori

Can a fairly long book with a multitude of characters move swiftly enough, hold the reader’s attention, and make sense of it all? Well, it can if it never gets bogged down in thickets of purple prose, if its characters are vibrant and as real as the person next to you, and if you believe the world these character inhabit could actually exist. While the plot may seem well-worn, the setting and the circumstances surrounding Bruce Golden’s new book aren’t. Red Sky, Blue Moon is about as far from the satire of Better Than Chocolate (2007) or the mysterious forests of Evergreen (2009) as you can get. If this book were a film (and there’s something very cinematic about it), it would be described as an epic adventure.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bestiary (A cappella Zoo #10, 2013)

A cappella Zoo: A Magazine of Magic Realism & Slipstream, Issue 10: Bestiary: The Best of the Inaugural Demi-Decade of A cappella Zoo, Spring 2013 (March). Pp. 330. ISSN 1945-7480. $9.00.

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

A cappella Zoo is a journal of magic realism and slipstream fiction and poetry, currently edited by Amanda Lyn DiSanto and Lisa McCool-Grime. Founded in 2008, A cappella Zoo has made a bit of a splash with imaginative and evocative stories of the fantastic. The tenth issue, titled Bestiary, is an anthology of the best work from the magazine’s first five years. The defining characteristic of magic realism is the introduction of fantastic elements into a familiar, everyday environment; the story typically draws its energy from the reaction of ordinary characters to a bizarre situation. Often, the overarching mood of the piece is one of yearning—the longing of people in our mundane world for the escape and meaning symbolized by the supernatural, and conversely, the desire of the fanciful character at the center of the story to be “normal”. The guest editor for this issue, Oregon writer Gina Ochsner, talks in her introductory interview about “the primal need for narrative in which the otherworldly, the strange, the supernatural is … allowed to visibly collide with the known ‘real’ world.” Her selections for this special issue demonstrate a variety of aspects of this collision.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Michaud, Girls & Monsters (2013)

Anne Michaud, Girls & Monsters. Dark Fuse, 2013. Pp. 158. ISBN 978-1-9377718-4-3. $3.99 (e-book)/$16.99 (paperback).

Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir

Girls & Monsters by Canada-based author Anne Michaud, is published by Dark Fuse, a small press specializing in horror, thriller, crime, and other suspenseful genres. This is a dark collection of five Young Adult novellas about five young girls who face the monster within, under the bed, in the neighbouring house or while travelling. The book has a broad range of horror plots and you’ll meet classic monsters like the ghost, the mermaid and the scientist, but there are also some surprises. I believe most women readers would identify with at least one or two of the girls, who struggle not only with monsters, but with the typical hazards of growing up as teenage girls. The book is well written and fast-paced, very entertaining and is well worth reading for all ages.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Jennings & Darrach, Menial (2013)

Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach (edd.), Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction. Crossed Genres, 2013. Pp. 146. ISBN 978-0-6157056-1-3. $11.95.

Reviewed by Kathryn Allan

The future is full of sprawling cities and colonized alien worlds. Cityscapes tower above placid lakes and human economies span the solar system. While most science fiction stories focus on the shiny technologies of the future and heroes who wield them, we don’t often stop to consider the builders, clerks, and cleaners. In Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction, edited by Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach (published by Crossed Genres), seventeen short stories explore the future of the worker. Being from the working class, I have an affinity for the people who work behind the scenes, on whose labour we entirely depend to make our lives safer and more convenient. I was certainly pleased to see a volume of SF compiled around the theme of labour.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thompson, Entanglement (2012)

Douglas Thompson, Entanglement. Elsewhen Press, 2012. Pp. 288. ISBN 9781908168054 print/9781908168153 e-book. $15.99/$3.99.

Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

Caveat: My own Exaggerated Press published Douglas Thompson’s novel Apoidea in 2011. I have endeavoured to offer a fair and unbiased review of this novel.

Entanglement is an intelligent, adult science fiction novel that blends the new with the old. Like all good SF, its futuristic technologies are founded on present day developments and theories. Its foundation, therefore, is solid. At the same time, Entanglement is imbued with a Golden Age sense of wonder. There are moments when it possesses an almost Wellsian feel, moments that are Swift-like in their satiric incisiveness, then others when it reminded me of the great Robert Silverberg.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cronin, y1 (2012)

Sherrie Cronin, y1, Cinnabar Press, 2012. Pp. 338. ISBN 978-0-9851561-1-4. $9.99.

Reviewed by Martha Hubbard

y1, the second of a projected six-part series of novels by geophysicist and seismologist Sherrie Cronin, is a complex and deceptive book to describe. On the surface, it is about the struggle of people who are physically, sexually and emotionally different to find a place and be accepted in that place. Also a murder mystery, several love stories, as well a kidnapping and an exposé of the pharmaceutical industry unfold during the course of the novel. This complex plot, which seems too much for a single volume, is nonetheless interesting and readable, spoiled only by infodumps of propagandist social and economic theory, and poor portrayal of women.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bogle, Frank Herbert (2012)

Bob R Bogle, Frank Herbert: The Works. Self-published, 2012. Pp. c.760. ISBN 978-0-9855893-0-1. $6.50.

Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

Of one thing, there can be no doubt, this biography is a labour of love. Frank Herbert: The Works is an overview of the life and written output of one of the most influential of post-war science fiction writers. Written in a clear, readable style, it is at once a fascinating account of the main points in Herbert’s life and an astonishingly in-depth analysis of his stories.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tassie, Green Blood Rising (2012)

Lea Tassie, Green Blood Rising. Smashwords, 2012. Pp. 239. ISBN 978-0-9864709-5-0 (e-book)/978-0-9864709-4-3 (print). $2.99/$16.00.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

In a tale of ecological threat, for the protagonists of Green Blood Rising, the world ends not with a bang of explosive force, but the soft, quiet sound of trees, growing fast and far beyond their natural rate.

This book merrily follows in the tradition of more ‘intimate’ emergencies, following a select group of people through a major upheaval; a trend begun with the founding fathers of ‘sci fi’ in the 1890s. The themes may relate to far wider concerns, but the action centres on just a few individuals, and there is much explication—the science in the fiction as important as the drama of the events. There is a considerable amount of explication in this book, rather than being simply an emotional roller-coaster ride. It harks back to a subtler style of slowly increasing menace and creeping unease. For the danger comes not from the ‘threat’ (vegetative overgrowth disrupting human society), but the reactive panic and violence that the fall of society triggers. The real threat is human in origin, and remains so. It also belongs to the sub-genre of ‘nature has turned.’ Whereas a lot of doom-laden apocalyptic scenarios rely on bombs, wars (again, the human threat), these present a blasted world on which humans scrabble to survive. This time it is the solid overgrowth of trees that brings society to its knees in a world rendered a great deal more green and pleasant than before. And one cannot escape Tassie’s implicit commentary on the fragility of modern life, divorced as it is from the natural world and its resources. With transport down and food lines disrupted, life on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, as well as odd reports from further afield, inserted in as the characters learn them, show that the world—human society, that is—is going to hell in a hand-basket.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren (2013)

Nisi Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars. Carl Brandon Society, 2013. Pp. 442. ISBN 978-1-61138-237-2. $8.01.

Reviewed by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (the second of two reviews of this title)

Bloodchildren is a collection of stories by past recipients of the Octavia E. Butler scholarship to the prestigious Clarion and Clarion West writers’ workshops. The Hugo and Nebula-award winning Butler is one of the most well-known and best-loved African-American writers of Science Fiction. In her (comparatively) short life, she left a rich and brilliant body of work. This eclectic, electronic anthology, edited by Nisi Shawl, is a fund-raiser for the foundation that continues the work Butler did promoting under-told styles and perspectives. It is a welcome reminder of how essential it is to provide alternative voices in writing, particularly in genre writing—providing a balance to a mainstream whose focus is invariably the Anglophone male’s point-of-view.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Murrain, The Right Asteroid (2012)

Michelle Murrain, The Right Asteroid: The Cassiopeia Chronicles (Book 1). Ursa Minor Publishing, 2012. Pp. 262. ISBN 978-1-4776093-2-3. $10.00.

Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir

The Right Asteroid, the first book in The Cassiopeia Chronicles by California-based author Michelle Murrain, was published late in 2012 by Ursa Minor Publishing. This fast-paced adventure story with a strong flavour of grandiose space opera and Wild West narrative tells of a future world where humans have lived in colonies for generations on Mars and Moon and want independence from Earth and the company SolGov. When an alien probe is discovered and the aliens are heading for Mars, it sets off a chain of events that have an strong impact not only on the human colonies and their relationship to Earth, but also on the individuals who fight their own struggles: the loss of a son and not knowing how he died, editors who censor your stories before publishing them, the military leader who has ethical doubts about following orders, or the woman who realizes that her lesbian lover isn’t in love with her, but with the exploration of Space. The book is entertaining and builds complex and realistic worlds. It also has a colourful palette of characters, from lesbian protagonists to a Baptist preacher and the black politician. The book has some minor flaws, but is all in all well worth reading for open-minded science fiction fans.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Keeton/King, Nimbus (2012)

B.J. Keeton and Austin King, Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel (Part One). Amazon, 2012. Pp. 106. ASIN B007YJ5A82. $2.99.

Reviewed by Steven Pirie

I’ve a confession. For personal reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve sat on writing this review for ages. When I took the review on, Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel Part One was the first instalment of a four part work with the other three parts not yet written. Now, all four episodes are written and available for your reading pleasure, and in many ways I’m happy with my delay. I didn’t watch any of the Lord of the Rings until all three films were ‘out there’, and I’ll do the same with The Hobbit. I like to look at completed works—that’s my excuse, anyway.

Nimbus is billed as a Steam Punk novel, and given it’s a tale of steam-powered airships and wheelchairs there’s some truth in this. But the technology is not forced upon the reader. Instead, it forms a subtle background to a tale (so far) of isolation, but there’s more going on than the whir of cogs and the hiss of steam.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren (2013)

Nisi Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars. Carl Brandon Society, 2013. Pp. 442. ISBN 978-1-61138-237-2. $8.01.

Reviewed by Peter Kaptein (the first of two reviews of this title.)

Bloodchildren, an anthology being sold to raise money for the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Clarion Fund, is available only until June 22, 2013—Octavia Butler’s birthday—from Book View Café for the price of $8.01 for the EPUB or Mobi e-book. Each of the eleven new authors has been a recipient of the Octiavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship which enables writers of color to attend one of the two yearly Clarion writing workshops. A story by Octavia Butler herself brings the anthology to twelve. In Bloodchildren you will find augmented people running faster than humanly possible, performing ritual dances to the rich and the clueless. You will find female, homosexual, Indian and black protagonists. There is the occasional heterosexual male in two stories—and only one of them is white. You will find hunger. Demi-gods. Airships, monkeys and mutiny. Stories from the point of view of the dispossessed and the subjected. Stories about outsiders. Stories of magic, escape and slavery. Stories in outer space and on earth. Stories of loneliness and love. Eight out of the twelve stories in “Bloodchildren” are really close to amazing, but the anthology feels almost rushed in its release.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Koponen, World SF in Translation (2012)

Jari Koponen, World SF in Translation: Bibliography. Avain/BTJ Finland Oy, 2012. Pp. 429. ISBN 978-951-692-944-9. €48.00.

Reviewed by Kathryn Allan

Sometimes things get lost in the mail. It happens. When the journey from point A to point B crosses two continents and the Atlantic Ocean, it is understandable that a few packages will lose their way. I like to believe that my review copy of World SF in Translation was lost in the icy, wintery sea. Or, perhaps, it fell into the hands of a lonely, SF-loving mail carrier who was too taken by the happy little robo-astronaut on the bibliography’s cover to pass it on. I will never know what happened to my lost book, but the publisher of World SF in Translation, Avain, was gracious enough to provide me an e-book copy. Whether in paper or digital format, at first glance, Finnish SF scholar Jari Koponen’s bibliography is overwhelming. Written in three languages—Finnish, Swedish, and English (with translation of the Preface by Ben Roimola [Swedish] and Elina Koskelin [English])—the bibliography is not a resource for the casual reader of SF. World SF in Translation is a text for the serious student or scholar, in particular those interested in non-Anglo-American utopian literature and SF. Once I was comfortable with the sheer number of entries (around 3,500, give or take a hundred), it was a lot of fun skimming through the book to occasionally find a familiar name and be impressed by SF’s prodigious reach across the globe.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nayman, Welcome to the Multiverse (2012)

Ira Nayman, Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the inconvenience). Elsewhen Press, 2012. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-908168-19-1 (e-book)/978-1-908168-09-2 (paperback). $3.99/$15.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

Speculative fiction is all about the extension of debates on humanity and its many facets, an open field on which authors may use parable in multiple genres. For the most part, this means taking the reader on a flight of fancy into which ideas or arguments are divvied out and brought forward as points of narrative interest, underpinning and structuring the plot like a… really well-fitting bra. If this is the case, then Multiverse is more of a corset of a book; one never forgets the structuring, clearly visible so close to the surface, and the dialogue between reader and narrative is not so much a creative discussion as an exercise in self-reflexive cleverness. It’s a flashy number, but not without its moments of fun.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Flynn, Messiah Game (2012)

Tom Flynn, The Messiah Game: A Comedy of Terrors Part I. See Sharp Press, 2012. Pp. 246. ISBN 978-1-9372760-4-1. $11.95.

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

Part I of The Messiah Game: A Comedy of Terrors presents a complex and fascinating interstellar society with a rich and little-understood history, and uses it as the backdrop for a cutting satire on religious belief. The author, Tom Flynn, is a prominent figure in the atheist and secular humanist movements, as executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry magazine. In this book—previously published in 2002 as the first part of a single novel, Galactic Rapture—he uses many of the standard tropes of science fiction to ruthlessly skewer religious leaders and believers of all types.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Sivertsen, Shianshenka (2011)

Rowen Sivertsen, Shianshenka, the Rise and Fall of the Perfect Creation. Birch Tree Road Publishing, 2011. Pp. 366. ISBN 978-8-2998770-0-8. $10.00.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

This lengthy and involved narrative is the epic of the Zhongzi—their culture’s rise and fall, as the title tells us. They are little man-made life forms, no bigger than a palm of a hand. They are made to be ‘perfect’ by their human bioengineer; to never need to be violent, never to suffer excessive pain, never to fear for food or a partner to reproduce, never to question their existence, as they all carry specific Callings (drives towards specific intellectual pursuit). These critters are dropped onto a planet, wild with geothermic activity and toxic to humans, as an experiment in survival. Thus begins the Zhongzis’ existence, as we follow first one, and then another as they awaken to consciousness high above the ocean, the main land mass and the geysers of the planet, which will be the three main stages for their play.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Olsen, Swans & Klons (2013)

Nora Olsen, Swans and Klons. Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Pp. 264. ISBN 978-1-6028287-4-2. $11.95.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Swans and Klons, the second queer-themed YA novel (see The End) by New York-based author Nora Olsen, will be published this May by Bold Strokes Books, who specialise in LGBT literature in all genres, and is a light-hearted, fast-paced adventure in the utopia-turns-to-dystopia mould. The story follows two rebellious young girls, lovers, in a women-only world where all reproduction is performed via cloning, and a life of luxury, freedom, high culture and learning is supported by a large labor-pool of genetically inferior slave workers, as they fight to undermine their own privileged place in this society. The characters have teenage foibles, weaknesses and jargon, but ultimately are trying to be moral, and are strong and resourceful, against a sometimes baffling lack of resistance from their rulers. Apart from a tendency for blatant info-dump, especially early in the novel, and a sometimes naïve approach to genetics, this is a strikingly readable novel with appealing characters and an engaging premise that should keep young readers interested, whether the girls Olsen is specifically targeting who “can see themselves reflected in” a queer narrative, or a more general, open-minded readership.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

McCalla, Possibilities (2012)

Alicia McCalla, Possibilities. ffpincolor books, 2012. Pp 56. $1.22/£0.77/free.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

This short book is a collection of flash fiction, with the prompt of a ‘mystical bracelet’ as the beginning element to be included in each tale. The style, setting, and development of that idea were then entirely each writer’s own work. Such a specific project is one of a positive intent, in this instance drawn together by Alicia McCalla; a ‘librarian and writer’ and a woman with a mission, if information about her is anything to go by. The decision to make this flash fiction, it speaks volumes (the volumes of continuous narrative that 500 words or less leaves lying in the lands of possibility) about that intention. Short, sharp and with a need to get flavour and intention across ASAP, this is designed as a book of impact—a fictional wow factor. And it works.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Kate (ed.) Wolf-Girls (2012)

Hannah Kate (ed.), Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny. Hic Dragones, 2012. Pp. 176. ISBN 978-0-9570292-3-1 (paperback). $7.99/£4.99 (e-book), £8.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir

This anthology is edited by poet and fantasy author Hannah Kate, also known as Dr. Hannah Priest at the University of Manchester, researcher on medieval romance, werewolves, fairies and contemporary fiction. Wolf-Girls was published as an e-book by the small press Hic Dragones in 2012. It has also been published in a limited print version. The anthology contains seventeen short stories by well established authors and a few newcomers. The tales span thematically from the Wild West to the Siberian wilderness, from the modern businesswoman who educates the new wolf to the neglected siblings who ends up with foster parents, or the warrior woman who stands up to King Richard. Wolf-Girls is a nice collection of tales in a broad range of genres and themes, well worth reading.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Older, Salsa Nocturna (2012)

Daniel José Older, Salsa Nocturna. Crossed Genres Publications, 2012. Pp. 135. ISBN 978-0615624457. $11.95 print)/$4.99 e-book.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

This collection of loosely interconnected fantastic noir short stories by New York-based musician, paramedic and fantasy author Daniel Older is published by Crossed Genres, a fast-growing small press justly famous for producing high quality, genre-bending, innovative and inclusive magazine issues, anthologies, and the occasional novel. The stories in Salsa Nocturna, while a few of them were previously published individually, make up a whole that is a lot stronger than its parts, but are not in any strong sense a seamless novel. There are stand-alone stories in here; there are loose ends aplenty; there are parts that do not contribute to the whole. But the world Older has masterfully crafted, a good-humored New York filled with ghosts and even-more-creepy bureaucrats and seen through the eyes of mostly Hispanic protagonists, runs coherently through all the stories like a soft musical soundtrack, improvised and soulful, but solid, recognizable, and comforting.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

2 Hours (2012)

2 Hours, dir. Michael Ballif. 2Hoursthemovie.com, 2012. Starring Josh Merrill, Brooke Hemsath. 26 minutes.

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

2 Hours is an unusual and exciting little horror film, only 26 minutes long, that brings a fresh perspective to the well-traveled territory of the zombie movie. This film, made on an infinitesimal budget by Utah filmmakers Michael Ballif and Josh Merrill, tells the story of a victim, already infected, who goes searching for other survivors who may have a cure—while fighting his slow transformation into one of the living dead.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Indian SF #1 (2013)

Indian SF, issue #1 (Jan-Feb 2013). Online: http://indiansf.wordpress.com/

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

With Indian SF, a new online magazine, we have a promising new conduit for the spread of science fiction and fantasy from India. The first issue, available for free download, contains a small but pleasing selection of Western and Indian stories, as well as an interview with a prominent Indian comic-book team and a pair of reviews of Indian genre novels. Its creator, Geetanjali Dighe, is a digital marketer and science fiction fan based in Mumbai, who hopes to showcase the Indian writers she loves and expose them to the wider world. Despite a few rough edges in the editing, and half of the stories not being Indian in origin, this is a very promising start to a new publication.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Caraway, To Evil Comes a Daughter (2012)

Allen Caraway, To Evil Comes a Daughter. Amazon, 2012. Pp. 386. ASIN B009TBGOYW. $4.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

To evil might come a daughter; to the ranks of ebookery comes this offering from a writer who has under his section on Amazon the title of “World Renowned Tap-Dancing Hamster Instructor and three-time winner of the Most Amusing Pet Chipmunk award.” One might expect chirpy brightness, nay even a little of the old tomfoolery. But no, this is a tight thriller, a paranormal murder-mystery that stands foursquare to its brief and delivers with confidence.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Theodoratus. Troublesome Neighbors (2012)

M. K. Theodoratus, Troublesome Neighbors. Bookbaby, 2012. Pp. 55. ISBN 978-1-6248809-3-3. $0.99.

Reviewed by RJ Blain

Troublesome Neighbors by M.K. Theodoratus, part of the epic fantasy Far Isle Half-Elven series, is a self-published novella that manages to skirt the fringe of a YA style, giving the book a unique if simplistic feel. It tells the story of a veteran heroine now living as a modest and diffident pig-farmer, but unable to entirely leave her military days behind her. Although a pacy and engaging story, it reads more like an unfinished novel, and it begs the question of why this novella wasn’t allowed to flourish as a full-length book.