Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Kristine Ong Muslim, The Drone Outside. Eibonvale Chapbook Line #1, 2017. Pp. 49. ISBN 978-1-908125-53-8. £6.00 pb/£12.00 hc.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad.
Eibonvale Press have started a line of Chapbooks to complement their high-quality catalogue of speculative fiction novels and story collections, kicking off with this volume of nine interrelated flash stories by Philippine author and poet Kristine Ong Muslim. The Drone Outside is a series of snippets of life during or after the apocalypse, told from unusual points of view, or with surreal narrative, or or evidencing unexpected scenarios of death, destruction and post-humanity. There are several threads that weave and recur through this small book, but ultimately it does not tell a single story with a plot arc and satisfactory dénouement, there are no real POV characters or protagonists. These are all prose stories, but at times the writing reaches the stylized and beautiful heights of Muslim’s science-fictional poetry; at others it is grimly, defiantly prosaic (or dramatic, or epistolary) as the setting requires. The Drone Outside sets a scene, builds an atmosphere, reminds us that the end of humanity is unlikely to be glamorous or exciting or full of Golden-Age heroism and action sequences. Sometimes a lot of fun, always gorgeous and enlightening, but also surprisingly heavy for such short pieces.
Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Ira Nayman, The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There (Book 5 of the Transdimensional Authority series). Elsewhen Press, 2017. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-1-91140-909-0. £9.99 pb/£2.99 e.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Zoë Sumra, The Wages of Sin. Elsewhen Press, 2017. Pp. 312. ISBN 978-1-91140-905-2. £9.99 pb/£2.99 e.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
The Wages of Sin is the second novel by British SF author Zoë Sumra, published by the small speculative Elsewhen Press, a far future political thriller involving gangland turf wars on an ultra-violent, distant planet. While there is some genuine and well-sketched alienness in both the setting and the personae, much of the violence and organized crime in this novel are very familiar both from contemporary crime literature and indeed recent history. While the hallmarks of the small press sometimes show through in production quality, this is an enjoyable and largely effective magical space opera romp, which fully succeeds on its own terms.
Monday, November 06, 2017
Rob Miller & John G. Miller (eds.), Unearthly Science Fiction. Braw Books, 2017. Pp. 82. No ISBN. £5.99.Reviewed by N.A. Jackson
John G. Miller, editor-in-chief of Braw Books describes himself as an underground maestro and comics mastermind. This ‘one shot’ foray into science fiction promises ‘startling stories and comic strips from Andrew J. Wilson, Ian Wark, Malcy Duff, John Rafferty, Simnel and Adam J. Smith with striking space illustrations throughout by Neil Beattie and Rob Miller.’ It’s got a hand-drawn feel to it, evoking the luridly coloured science fiction mags of the sixties, which I am just old enough to remember.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Samantha Bryant, Face the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, Book Three. Curiosity Quills Press, 2017. Pp. 254. ISBN 978-1-54868-605-5. $16.99 pb/$5.99 e.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
When I read that Face the Change was a “Menopausal Superhero” novel, I was intrigued enough to request a review copy. After all, menopausal superheroes aren’t something you run across every day—although the concept sounded like fertile ground for putting characters into new predicaments and leveraging age-related humor.
The first character the reader meets is Cindy Liu, who is on the run in a stolen car with her body-hopping father Anton in the back seat. Bryant piqued my curiosity with her description of Cindy as having “the driver’s license of a sixty-seven-year-old scientist and fugitive of justice and the visage of a thirteen-year-old Eurasian girl.” (6) We learn that Cindy has managed to reverse the aging process, but aside from the obvious benefits, Cindy is finding that the resultant change has its drawbacks—such as the need to behave in a manner consistent with outward appearance, in order to avoid arousing suspicion.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Joyce Chng, Water Into Wine. Annorlunda Books, 2017. Pp 138. ISBN 978-1-944354-30-5. $8.99.Reviewed by Cait Coker
I wonder how the wine will taste. Will people taste the fear—the terror and anxiety—when they drink? A tart wine with hints of berry and blood? A spicy wine with cinnamon and gunpowder, great for a summer evening? (46)
Monday, October 09, 2017
Malcolm Devlin, You Will Grow Into Them. Unsung Stories, 2017. Pp. 244. ISBN 978-1-9073-43-6. £9.99.Reviewed by Valeria Vitale
Monday, October 02, 2017
Marianne Ratcliffe, Murthen Island. Self-published, 2015. Pp. 32. ISBN 978-0-99340-010-0. £2.99.Notice by Psyche Z. Ready
[This is a brief notice of publication, not a full review.]
Monday, September 25, 2017
Kathryn Evans, More of Me. Amulet Books, 2017. Pp. 312. ISBN 978-1-4197-2372-8. $17.95.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Monday, September 18, 2017
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad (ed.), Islamicates. Volume 1. Anthology of Science Fiction Short Stories inspired from Muslim Cultures. Mirza Book Agency, 2016. Pp. 236. ISBN 978-1-5373-7210-5. Free online.Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika
Monday, September 11, 2017
Trysh Thompson (ed.), SonofaWitch!. World Weaver Press, 2017. Pp. 161. ISBN 978-0998702230. $11.95.Reviewed by Don Riggs
Friday, August 11, 2017
Judy Juanita, De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland. EquiDistance Press, 2016. Pp 226. ISBN 978-0-9716352-1-0. $19.95.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Friday, August 04, 2017
Dave Hutchinson, Europe in Winter. Solaris, 2016. Pp. 295. ISBN 978-1-78108-463-2. £7.99.Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
Friday, July 28, 2017
Ursula Pflug, Mountain. Inanna Publications, 2017. Pp. 104. ISBN 978-1-77133-349-8. CAN$19.95.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
Pflug, a Canadian writer who resides in Norwood, Ontario, is an experienced author. Her previous works include novels Green Music and The Alphabet Stones, as well as short story collections After the Fires and Harvesting the Moon. She also has other short stories and novels in the pipeline. Inanna Publications released Mountain in May, 2017 as part of their “Young Feminist Series”. Mountain is billed as a “YA novella”. Without giving any secrets away, let’s just say I’m past the YA age. Still, I found Mountain to be an intriguing and thought-provoking read.
When Amethyst O’Connor, Mountain’s protagonist, clambers out of her mother Laureen’s beat-up truck and looks around the healing camp in northern California, it’s clear that this is the last place she wants to be. Hanging out with “several hundred people camped in a mud puddle with bad food and no medical” (p. 4) isn’t Amethyst’s idea of a good time—she’d rather be at the mall with her rock-star dad’s credit card. But unfortunately for Amethyst, her father Lark O’Connor is busy recording an album, so travelling with her mom remains her only option.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Andrew Hook, The Greens. Snowbooks Horror Novellas, 2016. Pp. 96. ISBN 978-1-91139-019-0. £4.99.Reviewed by N.A. Jackson
It begins with a superbly-evoked sequence involving two green-tinted children who turn up in late 1500s England. The narrative then switches to present-day Southwold and the life of a middle-class family, seen through the eyes of Julia and Richard. Julia, it gradually emerges, is an obsessive compulsive who dotes on her two children and semi-consciously weaves a web of protective rituals to protect them. Her husband, a rather dopy antiques dealer with a penchant for family history, begins to unearth details of his wife’s ancestral line and begins to piece together mysterious links involving other members of Julia’s clan who all, it seems, share similar obsessive compulsive rituals and a connection with the green children.
Friday, July 14, 2017
David A. Weintraub, Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How will we deal with it? Springer-Praxis, 2014. Pp. xiii+234. ISBN 978-3-319-05055-3. $34.99.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
Weintraub’s Religions and Extraterrestrial Life is a work of popular astronomy and theology, written by an academic astrophysicist and published by an imprint of Springer, one of the large academic publishing multinationals that dominate the market. The core thesis of this volume is that we are within a generation at most of either discovering extraterrestrial life (if not intelligence), or learning that it is extremely rare, at least in our part of the universe. He then sets out to discuss how various major world religions will deal with this scientific knowledge, based primary on the foundation texts and/or mainstream theology of each movement, and ultimately concludes that most faith groups will be largely unshaken by the news (either way)—either because their tenets allow for non-human life, or because they are already in the business of denying science and so will have no qualms about ignoring it. As an astronomer, Weintraub’s chapters popularizing the detection of exoplanets and the possibility of astrobiology are extremely well-written, successful and useful; his forays into theology are more patchy, one-sided, and in many places disappointingly shallow. On the whole this is a valuable and interesting book, both thoughtful for non-specialists interested in extraterrestrial life, and a contribution to the critical discussion about religion and science.
Friday, July 07, 2017
Edward Willett, The Cityborn. DAW Books, 2017. Pp. 416. ISBN 978-0-75641-177-0. $26.00.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
Friday, June 30, 2017
Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods. Abaddon Books, 2017. Pp. 238. ISBN 978-1-78108-519-6. $15.00.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Friday, June 23, 2017
Cheryl Low, Vanity in Dust. World Weaver Press, 2017. Pp. 305. ISBN 978-0-99870-221-6. $13.95 pb/$4.99 e.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
Friday, June 16, 2017
T.H. Moedriach, Prydori: Perfection is Us. Zaloznistvo Jerneja Jezernik, 2016. Pp. 180. ISBN 978-961-94032-4-2. $16.90.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
When I first held the book Prydori: Perfection is Us in my hands, I knew I was dealing with something different. The small (4 inches by 7 1/4 inches) hardcover volume seemed an unusual size, at least compared to what I’m familiar with, but I found it a very user-friendly setup for reading. The format provides great portability, and the nicely legible type on the small pages makes it seem, on the one hand, like you’re flying through the material. Countering that sensation of speed was the “weight” of the thoughts expressed, for I found Prydori to be a philosophical sort of book rather than a space-opera-type page-turner.
Friday, June 09, 2017
Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass. Amulet Books, 2017. Pp 487. ISBN.978-1-4197-2484-8. $19.95.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass first appeared in the UK in 2012 and has only just arrived in the US this spring. It straddles the gap between children’s literature and the young adult genre uneasily; the protagonist is a preteen girl named Neverfell, who is too young to be interested in the romance or nascent sexuality that is usually a hallmark of YA, and yet she is witness to the aftermath of numerous murders, and the threat of violence is often just off-page. And yet Hardinge loves playing with language in a way that recalls some of (what I think, anyway) is the finest children’s lit like The Phantom Tollbooth, The Neverending Story, or Alice in Wonderland—the latter of which the author has a small homage to when Neverfell follows a rabbit up rather than down, discovering a wider and scarier world in the process.
Monday, May 29, 2017
Mercedes M. Yardley, Beautiful Sorrows. Apex Publications, 2017. Pp. 156. ISBN 978-1-93700-953-3. $13.99.Reviewed by Valeria Vitale
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Julie Novakova (ed.), Dreams From Beyond: Anthology of Czech Speculative Fiction. Julie Novakova, 2016. Pp. 189. No ISBN. Free e-book.Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika
Thursday, April 13, 2017
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
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
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
Jonathan Oliver (ed.), Five Stories High. Solaris Books, 2016. Pp. 435. ISBN 978-1-781083-92-5. £7.99.Reviewed by Rachel Verkade
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
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
Neil Clarke (ed.), Galactic Empires. Night Shade Books, 2017. Pp. 624. ISBN 978-1-59780-884-2. $17.99.Reviewed by Don Riggs
Monday, February 27, 2017
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
Margrét Helgadóttir (ed.), Asian Monsters. Fox Spirit Books, 2016. Pp. 167. ISBN 978-1-9093-4899-8. £10.00.Reviewed by Rachel Verkade
Monday, February 13, 2017
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
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
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.