Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Lowe, The World Is at War Again (2021)

Simon Lowe, The World Is at War, Again. Elsewhen Press, 2021. Pp. 296. ISBN 978-1-911409-83-0. $20.00.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

Simon Lowe’s wearily titled The World Is at War, Again is not actually a war novel, in that there are no pitched battles on land, sea, or in the air, no ever-more-powerful bombs or other instruments of mass destruction. In fact, the only mention of the War itself is the frequently repeated statement that Things Aren’t Going Too Well With The War, the capitalized words indicating that this is a frequently repeated trope that all have heard many times before and probably will again. The identity of the two sides is unclear, except those on the side of seemingly all of the characters are called the “Unified Nations”—which I at first misread as the United Nations. The characters are all spies, specifically Agent Assassins, or AAs, that come from two families, the Misorovs and the Fandanellis. Mr. and Mrs. Fandanelli, whose son Peter is deposited at (or near) a special school for children of AAs, are in the Volunteer War Over Seas Aid Squad (VWOSAS), stationed on a Cruise Liner, to meet an unknown contact in an unknown manner to receive their instructions.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

GigaNotoSaurus (spring/summer 2021)

GigaNotoSaurus, ed. LaShawn Wanak. Spring/summer 2021 content. Online at giganotosaurus.org.

Reviewed by Shellie Horst

There’s a certain amount of irony in the comparative name sake of this zine. GigaNotoSaurus, like the theropod of the same name, is a not-quite short story zine with stories that leave a ginormous footprint in your memory. Sure, those who know the industry will recognise familiar names who have and continue to work with the site curating an excellent library of tales that go beyond the usual fare of white, cis, and western influenced stories. I’m not in favour of name dropping to impress, but you are in safe hands with LaShawn Wanak. Wanak had already had work published in plenty of SFF staples inlcuding Uncanny and Lightspeed Magazine before the previous editor Annie Leckie handed her the reins. The combined expertise of the staff is paid forward to upcoming authors.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Arsenika #8 (2021)

Arsenika, ed. S. Qiouyi Lu. Issue 8 (Spring 2021). Online at arsenika.ink.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Arsenika is a small, very personal, even idiosyncratic zine that ran for eight issues over five years, edited by S. Qiouyi Lu, who started the zine in 2016 “to find work that called out to” aer, and by all accounts did so very successfully (and found work that called out to many other readers besides). As well as a personal aesthetic, the zine came to showcase flash fiction and poems with “queer elements … steeped in non-White cultures … that experiments with form and narrative.” This final issue of Arsenika is no exception, and makes no apologies—if you have enjoyed the work that has appeared here over the years, you will love this one. The issue contains two pieces of flash fiction and three poems (one of which is very long), and a hot tonne of creativity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Addison, The Witness for the Dead (2021)

Katherine Addison, The Witness for the Dead. Rebellion Publishing, 2021. Pp. 315. ISBN 978-1-78108-951-4. £8.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead is a sequel of sorts to The Goblin Emperor (2014). The latter was one of my favorite fantasy novels from the last decade; a low fantasy with steampunk elements, it does incredibly interesting things with racing elves and goblins, while also telling a solid story of a young man’s coming-to-power and of age. The Witness for the Dead picks up shortly afterwards and stars a minor character from the previous book, Thara Celehar, as he tracks down a murderer. I’m not much of a mystery reader, but this is an effective genre mash-up that left me pleased with how smoothly all the story elements came together and wanting more books just like it. It’s also a standalone novel that will easily make sense to someone who hasn’t read Goblin.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Jones, Mirrormaze (2021)

Cliff Jones Jr. (ed.), Mirrormaze: A Dreampunk Anthology. Fractured Mirror Publishing, 2021. Pp. 384. ISBN 978-1-7352171-3-0. $16.99 pb/$8.99 e.

Reviewed by Gwen C. Katz

Fractured Mirror, a newcomer in the publishing scene, has turned out one of the most intriguing and unusual anthologies of the year with Mirrormaze: A Dreampunk Anthology. Dreampunk, coined for this anthology, is an intentionally slippery term to define, but it centers on the sense of unreality created by dreams. It has the deliberately exaggerated aesthetic associated with other punk subgenres, but instead of being defined by a particular era or type of technology, the commonality is the delirious imagery and the underlying feel of not-quite-rightness. It is surreal not just in the colloquial sense of “weird stuff,” but in the original sense of a Jungian journey into the subconscious. Bringing together 20-odd different authors around a concept this nebulous is an ambitious achievement, and I was impressed by how coherent the resultant anthology turned out to be. While I’d never heard the term “dreampunk” before picking up Mirrormaze, within the first couple of stories I immediately had a sense of what it entailed.