Monday, January 20, 2014

Stott, Past Un-Earthed (2012)

Jeff Stott, Past Un-Earthed. Self-published, 2012. Pp. 300. ISBN 978-1-3017-9957-2. $2.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

It takes a while for the penny to drop, but once it does, it’s a doozy. This is the story of two young people who met, fell in love and then had to face the consequences of their choices. On a relatively simple premise, Stott has built a moving and highly plausible science-fictional romance. Joshua is an Earth lad with stress-induced powers of strength and recuperation. Orphaned at fourteen and subsequently emotionally shut off from the world, he falls for beautiful Mari, and starts a wonderful romance, only to discover she has secrets, one of which is a pregnancy he had no hand in. Mari—or rather, Lara—is a naive girl from the planet Lateo, one of an advanced race, among which a devastating disease among the planet’s children is being blamed on exposure to Earth. In a high-powered political existence, Lara has her black-and-white preconceptions about politics and her father’s moral purity ripped away. Forced into marriage with the opposition leader, she flees to Earth. Once there, she strives to find the one member of the original exploration mission who stayed and fell in love with a ‘mere’ human. Instead she finds instead his reclusive son, and comes to realise that the most pervasive of ‘infections’ is this thing called love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Watasin, Sundark (2013)

Elizabeth Watasin, Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread. A-Girl Studio, 2013. Pp. 184. ISBN 978-1-9366-2205-4. $11.99.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Contributing to a proud tradition of self-published steampunk serials that are simultaneously genre-bending and hark back to the most staid media of the Victorian period, Sundark is an odd little novel that manages to be charming and unsettling in equal measure. Watasin herself evokes the "penny dread[ful]", the cheap, short, popular and disposable stories that helped bring literature down from its preserve of the moneyed and educated classes to a wider audience. An odd mix of progressive and traditional elements, both stylistically and ethically speaking, and an uneven, sometimes predictable plot, means I can't unequivocally praise this book. Engaging characters and some lovely scene-setting do make this an enjoyable read, however, and the author's prolific output promises much more of the same to follow.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Turner, How to be Dead (2013)

Dave Turner, How to be Dead. Aim For The Head Books, 2013. Pp. 75. ASIN B00H17V7OS. £0.99/ $1.63.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

Dave is not an obvious hero. He’s a bit of an apathetic worker; just marking time perma-temping at a big business. He knows how to handle the pushy behaviour of his manager, but goes to pieces over Melanie—the girl of his dreams and office hottie. Oh, and he can see ghosts. While saving Melanie’s life on a Halloween night out, he is hit by a car and has a near-Death experience. Literally. He and Death go to a pub and Death offers him a new career opportunity. Revived, and with a greater zest for life (primarily due to the life-flashing-before-his-eyes thing being just a sequence of mundane nothingness he wants to seriously improve), Dave decides to see what Death was on about. However, his heroics have made a hit at work, and progression into the ranks of upper management, with his own office and no clue as to what he should be doing beckons Dave with golden temptation. Will he make a deal with Death and agree to help lay tormented undead to rest? Will he strike lucky with Melanie? Will he ever get to grips with his computer?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hensley, Filipino Vampire (2011)

Raymund Hensley, Filipino Vampire. Self-published, 2011. Pp. 74. ISBN 978-1-4581-2012-0. $0.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

I had no idea what to expect with this one. The cover suggests a dark, moody piece; gothic with a ‘k’, all dripping candles and mood dry ice. Instead Hensley’s social gothic explodes onto the screen with amazing vivacity and verve. Commencing as a picture of an abusive childhood at the hands of a semi-psychotic, single, drunken mother, the story, told from the viewpoint of a teenage girl, never named, swerves left at the traffic lights into a full-on assault of horror, drenched in gore and astonishing imagery, sufficed with the shriek of the aswang; a Philippine mythological beast that feasts on flesh and blood, a flying torso that strikes at night on children. This is the vampire of Filipino cinema, and aswang films are a popular horror staple.