Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Kingston, Is This Planet Earth (2019)

Is This Planet Earth? Curated by Angela Kingston. Ferens Art Gallery, Hull. May 4–July 28, 2019.

Reviewed by Shellie Horst

Spoiler alert: Anyone hoping to find Iron Man on the walls is going to be hugely disappointed.

It’s hard not to have preconceptions about things. Our lives are surrounded by biases passed to us from family, friends and society. The speculative genres have more than enough internal issues to keep us busy. If someone says “Sci-Fi-inspired Art” to me, my head fills with the artwork of book covers, film posters and related paraphernalia. When I heard about a Sci-Fi-inspired exhibition. I secretly hoped I’d find some reference to the artwork I connect to science fiction.

However, the greatest strengths of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror are that they have a story to suit everyone. The genre can be enjoyed by all ages and all walks of life. It’s often the first to question truths about society. It can cross genres. It does open doors. You don’t need to have any qualifications to join in.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Meloy, Adornments of the Storm (2019)

Paul Meloy, Adornments of the Storm. Rebellion Publishing (Solaris imprint), 2019. Pp. 250. ISBN 978-1-781085-95-0. £7.99.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Four years ago, Paul Meloy’s debut novel The Night Clock provided a riveting and imaginative story featuring a battle between forces of good and evil. Now, the tiger Bronze John, the saluki Bix, the towering, enigmatic Bismuth, and many other familiar characters from Meloy’s first novel are back in a sequel titled Adornments of the Storm, billed as horror/dark fantasy, and which begins seven years after the events of The Night Clock. At the end of first novel, the Firmament Surgeons and their allies thought they had vanquished their adversary, the devil-in-dreams. But as the early chapters of Adornments of the Storm begin to unfold, it becomes clear that victory celebrations may have been premature. The devil-in-dreams has merely been constrained—and the constraint may not last. The characters realize “there’s a crack in the containment somewhere … we have to close it up” (15).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Malikyte, Echoes of Olympus Mons (2019)

Eric Malikyte, Echoes of Olympus Mons. Self-published, 2019. Pp. 270. ASIN B07MCMD2GN. $11.99/$3.02.

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

Geraldo “Hal” Leon and his roommate Akio Sato, students at Olympus One (a Martian University) have invented a kind of camera that detects dark matter. Not only do they face the opposition of their hidebound teachers, they find that they have somehow summoned a kind of consciousness that proceeds to slay their fellow-students and staff. Are the shapes that they see a kind of re-creation of something traumatic that happened to Mars?

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Price, By the Feet of Men (2019)

Grant Price, By the Feet of Men. Cosmic Egg Press, 2019. Pp. 344. ISBN 978-1-789041-45-3. £12.99.

Reviewed by Michael Hock

Post-apocalyptic stories are nothing new: it seems as if we’ve always had an obsession with wanting to see how it all ends, while hopefully not being there. We’ve dreamed up all types of scenarios involving things that may or may not happen. By The Feet of Men by Grant Price is another in a long string of fiction that explores what happens to the world after… well, everything, but manages to do so in a unique, character-driven way.

By The Feet of Men focuses on a team of “Runners”—truck drivers who deliver cargo—named Cassady and Ghazi. They are tasked with bringing medical supplies to a group of scientists who may have the key to reversing “The Change,” which is the name of this particular event that caused the whole world to be terrible. Joining them are a group of other Runners you’ll get to know through out the book, but the central focus is on Cassady and Ghazi, and their relationship is what separates this book from being just another post-apocalyptic story involving having to get something important from point A to point B. Of course, standing in their way is all of what you would come to expect from these types of stories, such as marauders, what’s left of cities, and terrible, terrible weather, all resulting from the Change.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Allan, Empty Throne (2018)

David M Allan, The Empty Throne. Elsewhen Press, 2018. Pp. 304. ISBN 978-1-9114-0925-0. £9.99 pb/£2.99 e.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

In fiction, gateways and portals into other worlds are often seen as a way to access new worlds for adventure and exploration. David M. Allan turns that trope on his ear in his book The Empty Throne, in which a Gateway is called into being by three Mesters, specialists in crafting stone, metal, and wood. But rather than being a portal into Paradise, or at the very least, into a world inhabitable by humans, this particular Gateway opens up into trouble.

The newly-accessed world is occupied by insubstantial-seeming but lethal creatures called rajuk, paher, and kulun. Rajuk are “puffs of slightly luminous green smoke” (30), while paher are “roughly cylindrical” (31), also smoke-like although much larger than rajuk, and equipped with tentacles. Both rajuk and paher “caused horrible wounds when they touched flesh and swathes of devastation through the vegetation” (48). The one positive aspect is that both of these creatures can be killed using swords. Kulun, on the other hand, appear as a pale blue haze and are “so insubstantial that a sword didn’t affect them at all” (48). Kulun are intelligent, able to possess humans and other living creatures, and can only be killed by a crafting, such as a missile, fashioned by a Mester.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Shawl (ed.), New Suns (2019)

Nisi Shawl (ed.), New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour. Rebellion Publishing, 2019. Pp. 308. ISBN 978-1-78108-638-4. £8.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

In her Afterword to New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour, editor Nisi Shawl explains the genesis of this anthology as stemming from a thwarted suggestion, years ago, to have a class of the Clarion West Writers Workshop consist of all students of color. Other committee members opposed the idea, including one who argued that they would “use them all up” in a single year and therefore it made sense to spread out nonwhite attendees for other years. The persistent belief, reflected in this account, that SFF is a genre primarily by and for white people has only recently begun to be dismantled, making collections like this one both a celebration of POC writers and a useful remedy for readers. The book is also firmly reflective of the political moment in America, going beyond the crises in popular culture from Racefail to Puppygate, with veiled (and not so veiled) references to Trump’s demagoguery and other sociopolitical tensions. The collection also encompasses both fantasy and science fiction stories, providing stories that hint at hope and at dystopia.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bosman, Gay Noir (2018)

Olivier Bosman, Gay Noir: Three noir mysteries with a gay twist. Self-published, 2018. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-726364-30-0. $12.99.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

This collection of three novellas by Olivier Bosman lives up to its title: the stories all feature gay characters, they are very noirish and pretty mysterious, although like all detective fiction, the mysteries are fully revealed in the end. There’s something dated about, Bosman’s fiction that’s to do with more than his historical settings. His style is reminiscent of the pulp fiction writers of the 40s and 50s, authentically spare and undescriptive. The action proceeds in relentless black, white and sepia tones, few are the flashes of colour or flickers of humour that leaven the characters’ moods as they saunter, swagger or rush purposefully from one scene to the next. And this does make it very ‘noir.’ For purists, this treatment will doubtless appeal. And there’s something undeniably satisfying about the way, his protagonists circumvent plot obstacles by making a sudden fortuitous discovery or winking at the right person.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Leib & Holt (edd.), Resist Fascism (2018)

Bart R. Leib & Kay T. Holt (edd.), Resist Fascism. Crossed Genres Publications, 2018. Pp. 95. ISBN 978-0-9913921-4-8. $9.99.

Reviewed by Valeria Vitale

Resist Fascism is a micro-anthology, published by Crossed Genres last November after a successful Kickstarter. The idea was to put together a little squad of rebellious stories to be distributed just in time for the US midterm election. What I liked the most in this project is that, as editors Leib and Holt explain on the back cover, the anthology is based on the principle that you don’t need to be a hero to resist, and even actively oppose, fascism. Fighting oppressive and unjust regimes does not necessarily mean joining an armed guerrilla and blowing up bridges; it can be a small act of disobedience, or any other way in which someone chins up and refuses to follow a law or a system they believe unfair. In other words, resistance is for everyone. We don’t need to wait until we are ready, we already are.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Rooke, The Space Between (2017)

Susan Rooke, The Space Between: The Prophecy of the Faeries. Self-published, 2017. Pp. 435. ASIN B074Q4Y6PQ. $16.95.

Reviewed by Psyche Z. Ready

Rooke is a deft writer. Her prose in this, her first novel, is graceful, poetic, and readable. The plot is well-arranged, compelling, and surprising. For such a complex story, the world-building is not cumbersome, a difficult feat to pull off. Another strength of this book is its unique amalgamation of Christian narratives and faerie folklore. It’s an exciting idea, and Rooke weaves them together so that it seems natural. Her novel is imaginative, well-written, and well-plotted. I expect that Rooke has a writing future ahead of her; in fact, the sequel to The Space Between is due out in January 2019.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Barbini (ed.), Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction (2018)

Francesca T. Barbini (ed.), The Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction. Luna Press, 2018. Pp. 111. ISBN 978-1-911143-51-2. $15.99.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

This short book, published under the Academia Lunare imprint of Luna Press Publishing, contains five essays on aspects of SFF created by Africans, in Africa, or containing representations of Africa or Africans. It is not really a book about “evolution” of African speculative fiction, although the first three papers do discuss historical writing and modern developments, but it is nevertheless a fascinating and important first step in a history of scholarship of this under-appreciated section of the genre. I would like to see a dedicated academic journal publishing an issue of this scale once or twice per year (and emphatically not only in English).