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.