Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Edward Willett, Master of the World (Worldshapers book 2). Daw Books, 2019. Pp. 384. ISBN 978-0-75641-364-4. $16.00.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
Prolific author Edward Willett, who has authored or co-authored more than 60 books, has released the newest entry in his Worldshapers series, Master of the World. Like Worldshaper, the first book in the series, Master of the World was published by Daw Books. Billed as portal fantasies, the Worldshaper books whisk us off to a universe in which Shapers, who were trained by an alien known as Ygrair, can form and populate worlds within a massive construct known as the Labyrinth. Protagonist Shawna Keys, to whom we were introduced in Worldshaper, continues her quest to collect the hokhmah, or knowledge of how each world was Shaped, from as many of the Shapers as possible. Only in this way can the Labyrinth and all of its millions of inhabitants be spared from the Adversary, an alien antagonist who is diametrically opposed to Ygrair and all she represents.
Wednesday, October 09, 2019
Allegory, ed. Ty Drago. Vol. 35/62 (Spring/summer 2019). Online at allegoryezine.com.Reviewed by M.L. Clark
Allegory’s Spring/Summer 2019 iteration, Volume 35/62, covers quite a bit of familiar ground. Two stories in the Fiction section involve the Devil, another stars Death, two more have female sex objects (one literal, one a more enigmatic fantasy-realm character who lures a man to his doom), and five other tales use seasoned premises: an old man who sacrifices himself that a young boy might live; a man who goes mad in his bereavement; a woman gradually discovering she’s married an abuser; a child who doesn’t heed her family’s warnings and pays the price; and a rodeo rider with a rival to show up. Only one of the pieces, the story of a guilt-ridden youth who learns the value of life after running into a necromancer, offers a different take on well-travelled themes.
Thursday, October 03, 2019
JoSelle Vanderhooft, Ebenezer. Zumaya Boundless, 2013. Pp. 268. ISBN 978-1-61271-068-6. $15.99.Reviewed by Cait Coker
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Rhonda Parrish (ed.), Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline. World Weaver Press, 2019. Pp. 293. ISBN 978-1-7322546-6-4. £14.95.Reviewed by Rachel Verkade
I’m going to be completely honest: before picking up this book I had never heard of “dieselpunk” or “decopunk.” I was born in the 80s, folks. When I was a kid my spec fic hauled its broadsword and steel bikinis and dwarves twenty miles barefoot through the snow. We hardly knew what to make of steampunk when it came ’round with its clockwork and corsets and coalsmoke. So for those old greybeards like myself who have no idea what the kids are doing these days, dieselpunk and decopunk are to World War I and II what steampunk is to the Victorian era. And why not? The Victorian era doesn’t have some monopoly on story potential. Why not weave some spec fic into two of the most tumultuous and historically interesting periods of the 20th century? And why not retell and reimagine well-loved fairy tales so that they take place in those periods? It’s the kind of creativity that reminds me why I love speculative fiction.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Omenana: Speculative Fiction Magazine, ed. Mazi Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu. Issue #13: Urban Legend (May 2019). Online at omenana.com.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
This issue of Omenana: Speculative Fiction Magazine is, as the editorial tells us, both the last to be co-edited by founder Chinelo Onwualu, who is retiring to focus on her own work, and the first issue to be on a tight theme. The editorial also welcomes guest editor Iquo Dianabasi, and introduces the theme of Urban Legend—hard, and thankless, to define, but including a mix of modern mythology, almost-believable monsters and cryptids, stories told to scare one another at night… The one nonfiction essay in this issue, “Urban Legends as an Outlet for the Modern African Writer of the Speculative” by Nigerian comics author and editor Hannu Afere, serves almost as a secondary editorial commentary. Afere muses on some of the ways in which the belief in or symbolic functions of urban legend or contemporary supernatural stories are particular to the African continent and peoples, whether cautionary tales, explanations for tragedy, or consolation. The stories in this issue approach this theme in very different ways, and with varying success, but in combination do a very effective job of illustrating the concept the editors have chosen.
Friday, September 13, 2019
AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, ed. Helen Michaud et al. Vol 2.0 (Summer 2019). Online at aescifi.ca.Reviewed by N.A. Jackson
In her editorial, Helen Michaud details the tortuous process of relaunching the Review, which promises “stories and analysis about worlds that might be.” It appears that, after its inception in 2010, AE has been ‘dark’ for the last three years. Clearly, blood has been sweated to produce this collection of fiction and non-fiction. The writing is of a high quality throughout, the illustrations and graphics are beautiful and there’s a good mix of stories essays and reviews. The focus is squarely on Canadian and North American voices. The authors are distinguished sounding, amongst them a philosophy professor, a journalist and a biochemist, all with impressive publishing credits. The majority of the stories featured on the site are dominated by technology and the stories are very much plot-driven. In terms of plot, there’s nothing outstandingly original. What we get is a fresh take on old ideas: alien invasion and time-travel, so the onus is on the writers to take a distinctive approach.
Saturday, September 07, 2019
Timothy S. Johnston, The War Beneath: The Rise of Oceania. ChiZine Publications, 2018. Pp. 300. ISBN 978-1-77148-471-8. CAN$21.99; US$17.99.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
Award-winning author Timothy S. Johnston, who penned futuristic murder mystery/thrillers The Furnace, The Freezer, and The Void, is back with a new book. Johnston’s latest novel The War Beneath, released in December 2018 by Peterborough, Ontario’s ChiZine Publications, takes us below the ocean’s surface as Johnston envisions what life might be like in underwater cities. Johnston’s latest creation is the first in a planned three-book series dubbed The Rise of Oceania. The War Beneath has already garnered accolades. Winner of the 2018 Global Thriller Award in the Action/Adventure category, it was also a finalist for the 2019 Silver Falchion Award, and long-listed for the 2019 Cygnus Awards. Awards are all fine and well, but the real proof in the salt-water pudding is whether the book delivers in terms of interest level and innovation.
Sunday, September 01, 2019
The Dark Magazine, ed. Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Michael Kelly, & Sean Wallace. Issue #50 (July 2019). Prime Books. $1.99 or online at thedarkmagazine.com.Reviewed by Valeria Vitale
Monday, August 26, 2019
Suyi Davies Okungbowa, David Mogo, Godhunter. Abbadon Books, 2019. Pp. 365. ISBN 978-1-7810-8649-0. $9.99/£7.99.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Kaleidotrope, ed. Fred Coppersmith. Issue #44 (Summer 2019). Online at kaleidotrope.net or Kindle.Reviewed by N.A. Jackson
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Basma Ghalayini (ed.), Palestine +100: Stories from a century after the Nakba. Comma Press, 2019. ISBN 978-1-9109-7444-5. £9.99.Reviewed by Shellie Horst
PEN Translates Award. It consists of twelve stories which explore a Palestinian future set one hundred years after the Nakba, the exile of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948. Written by acclaimed Palestinian authors, who use a number of subgenres to challenge what westerners take for granted in SF. Each story takes you to another reality, and uses what’s right in front of us to do it. I had a feeling the book would be unique. I wasn’t expecting to be blind-sided.
Thursday, August 08, 2019
Benjanun Sriduangkaew, And Shall Machines Surrender. Prime Books, 2019. Pp. 108. ISBN 978-1-607015-34-5. $9.99.Reviewed by J. Moufawad-Paul
If we think of Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s novella And Shall Machines Surrender as a composition, it is similar to this Eastman piece. A limited number of characters, two points of view, and a short period in which the present action plays out. At the same time, Sriduangkaew strips down her always beautiful prose: it is less ornate and dense than her other works—a kind of velocity and immediacy are imported into her style so that it becomes stream-lined and slightly spartanized—but still sings. Just like Eastman’s minimalism. Within these constraints something dense and complex coalesces. Something entirely cinematic.
Thursday, August 01, 2019
Mike Resnick, The Master of Dreams. DAW books, 2019. Pp. 294. ISBN 978-0-7564-1384-2. $26.00.Reviewed by Lisa Timpf
Mike Resnick’s fantasy novel The Master of Dreams opens with a seemingly ordinary couple enjoying what starts out as an ordinary day. Protagonist Eddie Raven is strolling the streets of Manhattan, shopping with his girlfriend Lisa. Or rather, Lisa is shopping, with Eddie tagging along good-naturedly, though he can’t resist tossing out mild protests about the need to visit so many stores. The tone of the book shifts when, at Lisa’s insistence, they stop in at a fortune teller’s shop. A tall man who Eddie thinks looks familiar, though he can’t put a name to him, also enters the store just as Eddie and Lisa begin talking to the fortune-teller, who introduces himself as Mako. It’s odd enough that Mako knows Lisa’s name without being told, but when he tells a shocked Lisa, “‘You will die in seconds!’” the tension ratchets up. Mako then turns to Eddie and says, “‘Why did you come here? You know better!’” (7) Initially, Eddie is ready to dismiss Mako’s words as a fortune-teller’s sales pitch to get the customer to shell out money for a reading. That is, until a gunman bursts through the door and shoots both Lisa and Mako. The gun-wielder turns toward a startled Eddie, who has no idea why all this is happening. Just as a shot is fired in Eddie’s direction, the tall man leaps in front of Eddie to take the bullet.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Kate Wolford (ed.), Skull and Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga. World Weaver Press, 2019. Pp. 161. ISBN 978-1-7322546-2-6. $13.95.Reviewed by Psyche Z. Ready
Who doesn’t love Baba Yaga? In this golden age of Folktale retellings, the witch of Russian folklore has been a favorite subject, and dozens of recent novels in a variety of genres draw inspiration from this feared and beloved character. Audiences have been fascinated by her for centuries—Baba Yaga appears in numerous tales in A.N. Afanas’ev’s nineteenth-century collection Complete Folktales, the largest and most well-known collection of regional Russian folktales. Skull and Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga is a collection of new retellings of these tales and new narratives imagined around this character. The collection will be a perfect introduction to Baba Yaga for those who have not yet heard stories of the grandmother witch in the woods, and there are several gems for those who are more familiar with her tales, although many do not depart too significantly from the folktales.
Sunday, June 02, 2019
DreamForge Magazine, ed. Scot Noel. Issue #1 (spring 2019). DreamForge Press, LLC, 2019. Pp. 60. ISSN 2614-2543. $10.00.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
The first issue of this glossy and well-made magazine, DreamForge #1 bills itself as bearing “tales of hope in the universe,” and so joins a growing movement for optimistic or bright futures in SF. The editor’s preface further clarifies the zine’s agenda, beginning, “The world has been coming to an end for a long time,” and characterizing as “doomsayers” those who worry about our future. Worse, Noel dismisses climate crisis fears as an atavistic “fight or flight” response, and suggests that any harm we do now will be fixed by science in five hundred years. This is clearly not the optimistic SF of the hopepunk or solarpunk movements, where daring to dream of how we can really reverse the current moribund politics of our planet is a radical act, but rather a harking back to the glib futurism of golden age SF. The contents of this issue, ten stories, two poems and an article, are a more mixed offering—and widely varying in quality—than this initial assessment may suggest.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Is This Planet Earth? Curated by Angela Kingston. Ferens Art Gallery, Hull. May 4–July 28, 2019.Reviewed by Shellie Horst
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
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
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
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
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
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.