Thursday, April 13, 2017

Piper, Luminous Dreams (2016)

Alexa Piper, Luminous Dreams. World Weaver Press, 2016. Pp. 142. ISBN 978-0-9977-8885-3. $9.99.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

This short collection from World Weaver Press was first published by Red Moon Romance (a small press now absorbed by WWP) a couple years ago, and has acquired one additional story in the process of being reprinted. Luminous Dreams now contains nine short stories of speculative romance and erotica by Alexa Piper, who has a handful of paranormal romance short stories in anthologies, and additionally has a background in fanfic and other popular writing communities. The writing is fun and lively, varied in genre and setting (if not so much in style), and features a parade of women who know and are unashamed of what they want—even if what they want is mostly pretty vanilla sex with dominating, bordering on the creepy, men who are so handsome that the protagonists flush and almost lose control on first seeing them. The romance themes are often a bit limited, and the sex only occasionally sexy… to this reader—although as a bisexual girlfriend once pointed out on being disappointed at reading the legendary Anaïs Nin, erotica is so personal, that anything a little bit edgy is not going to be to everyone’s sexual tastes. A few of the stories are genuinely original and interesting in their setting and narrative (beyond providing a backdrop for a couple of fucks).

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Salustro, Chasing Shadows (2014)

K.N. Salustro, Chasing Shadows (The Star Hunters, Book 1). Self-published, 2014. Pp. 234. ISBN: 1-50042-595-8. $7.55.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

I’ll admit, when I was waiting for my review copy of Chasing Shadows to arrive in the mail, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, author K.N. Salustro opted, in this case, to self-publish—not that I have a problem with that, since I self-published a work of my own (creative non-fiction and poetry, in that case). Still, self-published offerings can run the gamut. I’m pleased to say that in the case of Chasing Shadows, the story delivered in a number of ways.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spinrad, People’s Police (2017)

Norman Spinrad, The People’s Police. Tor Books, 2017. Pp 284. ISBN 978-0-7653-8427-0. $27.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

The very best satires have enough truth at the core of their fiction to make them uncomfortable reading, and so is the case with Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police. Spinrad is perhaps best known for his self-proclaimed anarchic ideals in his fiction, which fully come into play here: the central question asked is “Suppose the people and the police, who are so often on opposing sides in the US, actually came together for the benefit of all?” In this world, the order of government authority (and business world corruption) is at odds with everyday people and with the chaotic loa spirits, with the soul of New Orleans itself at stake: does the city belong to its everyday inhabitants or to the distant politicians and visiting tourists?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Oliver (ed.), Five Stories High (2016)

Jonathan Oliver (ed.), Five Stories High. Solaris Books, 2016. Pp. 435. ISBN 978-1-781083-92-5. £7.99.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

I am not going to lie, when I saw the new Jonathan Oliver anthology on this month’s list of titles to review, I all but got on my hands and knees and begged for it to be given to me. I have read all of Oliver’s previous anthologies, and were it not for their low number I would be putting Oliver’s name up there with that of the incomparable Ellen Datlow on my personal list of favourite anthologists. Add to that the fact that this anthology featured five interconnected novellas centered around a haunted house, one of my favourite horror sub-genres, and you had one happy reviewer. So, did my happiness hold?

Let’s start with the basics. Five Stories High is a collection of five novellas, all centered around Irongrove Lodge; a centuries-old building that has been, at different times, a sanitarium, a rest home, a family home, divided into apartments… and in every one of its incarnations, dark, inexplicable events occurred within its walls. These novellas tell the stories of five such events, and are bookended by various ‘Notes on Irongrove Lodge’ written by Oliver. These five stories are all very different and connected only by their setting, so I think it’s best to look at them each individually.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Begay, Edgar Allan Poe: Adult Coloring Book (2016)

Odessa Begay, Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book. Sterling Publishing, 2016. Pp. 96. ISBN 978-1-45492-135-6. $14.95.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a fun experiment in mixing the darkest literature with the playful experience of messing around with colours. The large, coffee-table format, and the very attractive cover with metallic-red details make this book something that won’t go unnoticed. Unfortunately, sometimes the quality of the drawings is not as good as one might hope, and the occasionally careless execution leaves one with the feeling of a missed opportunity.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Clarke, Galactic Empires (2017)

Neil Clarke (ed.), Galactic Empires. Night Shade Books, 2017. Pp. 624. ISBN 978-1-59780-884-2. $17.99.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

I opened Neil Clarke’s anthology Galactic Empires and Jeffty was five again! So many of the dear old exciting space operatic epic short story types but written in a fresh vein, as if tales of, in, and around Galactic Empires had been ongoing and are indeed still evolving! Instead of proceeding methodically from the first story to the last in sequence, I skipped right to the Robert Silverberg, “The Colonel Returns to the Stars,” knowing that the author has developed planets, empires, histories, and tales of people hidden in other people, submerged personalities looking out through the eyes of some apparently other people. He did not disappoint, and brought hints of an ancient empire that had gone long before the current empire arose, resulting in two networks of instantaneous transmission through wormholes from place to place. He uses the trope of that kind of instantaneous travel much as Frank Herbert did in Dune: the threat of a world denied access to those portals describes the ultimate in isolation on the galactic scale: it becomes a world set back on its own resources, denied trade and contact with anyone else besides that world’s own inhabitants, who are stuck with each other. An interesting dilemma.

Monday, February 27, 2017

F(r)iction Magazine #6 (2016)

F(r)iction Magazine, #6 (Fall 2016). Tethered by Letters Press. Pp. 124. $20.00.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

F(r)iction Magazine is a glossy, high quality, fabulously produced journal of literary speculative fiction, and it achieves all of the above in spades. The first thing that strikes you when you unwrap the magazine is the quality of the images; the cover is glossy, textured, beautifully designed and printed on the highest quality materials. This continues inside: each story, poem or feature is accompanied with well-crafted imagery, expertly interacting with the text. At $20 for 124 pages of this, both the artifact and the words are excellent value for money. Production is high throughout, from selection, sequencing, copyediting through to illustration and typesetting of the contents. Most of the content in speculative in one way or another, mostly in the magical realist sense that would not be sneered at in a literary venue; but it is also literary, in the sometimes cold, style over substance, and unsympathetic way that more unapologetically speculative works manage to avoid. Seven short and three very-short stories, almost a dozen poems, a graphic story and an interview and novel extract are crammed into the high-definition, gloss-finished pages of this colorful issue, which feels bigger than it looks from the outside.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Helgadóttir, Asian Monsters (2016)

Margrét Helgadóttir (ed.), Asian Monsters. Fox Spirit Books, 2016. Pp. 167. ISBN 978-1-9093-4899-8. £10.00.

Reviewed by Rachel Verkade

The problem with being a horror fan since you were a small child is that you tend to get jaded pretty quickly. I first watched An American Werewolf in London when I was eight years old, but even before that I had been inundated with vampires, werewolves, zombies, and all other traditional “western” monsters. They were everywhere, from greeting cards to comics to Sesame Street. So by the time I was in my late teens, I felt as though I had seen it all in terms of monsters. It wasn’t until much later in my life, when I discovered the wonders of the internet, that I discovered there was a whole other world of monsters out there to discover. And some of the most bizarre, gruesome, and frightening come from Asia.

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.