Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Brian Hastings, Song of the Deep. Sterling Children’s Books, 2016. Pp 170. ISBN 978-1-4549-2096-0. $12.95.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings is an illustrated chapter book for younger readers and a tie-in to the video game of the same name. Impressively, it absolutely stands on its own, with none of the awkward gimmickiness that can afflict tie-in material to other formats. Illustrated throughout and with accompanying maps on the endpapers, as well as sturdy hardback covers and a sewn binding, this is a book that can be read by youngsters over and over again and survive the rereading (and I do not say this lightly, having several nephews). It is also a surprisingly deep fairy tale about family, the lingering effects of war, and ecology—all written with a light hand such that children reading it now will still appreciate it in decades to come.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Margrét Helgadóttir (ed.), Winter Tales. Fox Spirit Books, 2016. Pp. 234. ISBN 978-1-909348-88-2. $11.00/£7.99.Reviewed by Wendy Bousfield
(Some spoilers below.)
A thematic collection of stories and poems by little known writers, Winter Tales includes (mostly) dark fantasies with folkloric elements. Editor Margrét Helgadóttir is a Norwegian-Icelandic writer and editor, writing in English, and author of The Stars Seem So Far Away (2015), a collection of thematically linked short stories, set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, whose survivors have fled to the poles to escape ecological devastation. Prior to Winter Tales, Helgadóttir co-edited two thematic collections of art and stories, European Monsters (2014) and the BFA-nominated African Monsters (2015), all of which are published by Fox Spirit Books, a small press that favors “weird noir” fiction. Winter Tales employs winter cold as what Stephen King called the “phobic pressure point” (Danse Macabre). Winter Tales, in this reviewer’s opinion, is weakened by several stories that fail to resolve fundamental problems raised by the plot.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
L.S. Johnson, Vacui Magia: Stories. Traversing Z Press, 2016. Pp. 220. ISBN 978-0-6926463-8-0. $8.99.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
Vacui Magia is an remarkably strong self-published collection of reprints by California-based author L.S. Johnson, who has built up quite an impressive publication record over the past four years or so, and who presents us here with a rich handful of stories that first appeared in some of the more reliable venues of our field such as Crossed Genres Magazine, Strange Horizons and Interzone. Most of the pieces herein range across horror and dark fantasy, with just a sprinkling of science fictional or historical settings, and a tendency toward dark and mythic tones, with themes that include women’s struggling in an ugly, abusive world; sometimes magic is an escape from this abuse, but sometimes magic is just another layer of ugliness to be survived. This volume impresses not only because of the richness and quality that is all drawn from just four years of publishing, but even more so because of the variety of content and yet consistency of spirit that suffuses this short collection of eight stories.