Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Premonitions: Causes for Alarm, ed. Tony Lee

Latest issue of the horror & SF magazine anthology from Pigasus Press. Possibly the longest review I have written to date, now online at The Fix.

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

DH now reviews DVDs too! This movie is about a date resulting from an ad that reads "Misanthrope seeks misanthrope..." Read the full review at VideoVista.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Interzone, issue 218: October 2008

Issue #218 of Interzone is described as a “Chris Beckett special,” and contains an interview with Beckett and three of his stories. This led me to think over how much of Beckett’s work I’d read previously. Although his name was familiar from reading Interzone over the years, I could recall only one of his stories with any clarity. But the interview piqued my interest, and I looked forward to the following three tales...

The full review is available online at The Fix.

Further links:
Hannu Rajaniemi

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Duke in His Castle by Vera Nazarian

After their failed rebellion against him, the Just King bound the Dukes and their heirs to remain within the walls of their homes - literally so, for invisible barriers prevent them from ever stepping outside. But there may be a way: rumour has it that all the Dukes have their own secret power and that, should a Duke or Duchess discover all the others' secrets, he or she would break the curse. So the Dukes (unable, of course, to travel themselves) have taken to sending out emissaries charged with unearthing these secrets...

The full review is available online at The Zone.

Further links:
Vera Nazarian
Norilana Books

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

Walter Tevis's 1980 novel Mockingbird is a quiet, meditative piece; less of a story, really, than a portrait... In this future, machines run everything, and humans keep themselves to themselves - literally, because privacy and individuality laws demand it; and they spend much of their time in a drugged stupor anyway. Those who've had enough can always immolate themselves...

The full review is available online at The Zone.

Further links:
Walter Tevis

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson

Every major city has its own Zodiac troop, a dozen people with extraordinary powers of strength, healing, and more besides; they are the Light, whose mission is to maintain peace and battle their Shadow counterparts. Joanna Archer learns that she is the First Sign of the Las Vegas Zodiac troop, and may be destined to lead them in the ultimate battle against the Shadows. There's one thing, though: the Tulpa, the supernatural entity who leads Vegas's Shadow troop, is Joanna's real father...

The full review is available online at SF Site.

Further links:
Vicki Pettersson

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lone Star Stories, issue 28: August 2008

...A marvellous trio of tales.

The full review is available online at The Fix.

Further links:
Lone Star Stories
Hal Duncan
Jo Walton

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Small Voices, Big Confessions, ed. Chris Lee Ramsden

Small Voices, Big Confessions is an anthology of fiction by members of the EditRed online writing community. The stories are diverse in subject and setting, though unfortunately with correspondingly variable quality.

The name most familiar to readers of this website will probably be Aliya Whiteley, who contributes one of the book's most enjoyable stories, Fate, Freddo and the Number Four. Sylvia is an actress who has just moved to London and is determined to get her big break. Today she's auditioning for an advert which features Freddo, a polar bear with a hatred of the number four – and the audition will change her life in more ways than she could possibly imagine. Typically of Whiteley, this story combines a humorous surface with a serious heart, and doesn't compromise on either.

Several of the pieces in the anthology are very short, but do their jobs well. For example, Eoin Beckett contributes The Truth, In Brief, Glimpsed Through the Rocks of a Half-Finished Bourbon, an intense character study of two people at a party that has greater impact than its two-and-a-bit pages might lead one to expect. In contrast, Matano Lipuka's Look Who Just Dropped In, about a mother's remains being returned to Kenya, is more amusing, with a satirical bite.

Not all the stories are entirely successful, however. Interfaces (a love story) by Bernadette Klubb is about a couple in love who, unknowingly, attract the attention of fairies when out walking. Whilst some of the prose is beautiful, I found the conclusion unsatisfying and the fairies themselves quite irritating. Tom Sykes' Super Fly Tipper deals with a firm which, as the title suggests, is involved with illegal waste-dumping. It rattles along quite nicely to begin with, but the ending introduces an element that hasn't previously been hinted at, and undermines the story as a whole by being too daft for its own good.

One thing that's quite common throughout Small Voices, Big Confessions is a strength in creating voice and viewpoint. Potting Soil by Teri Davis Rouvelas is about a woman who leaves sacks of soil outside her door for reasons that the narrator can't fathom – but we readers can guess. The tale is pleasingly humorous, and the distinctive narration feels more like the voice of a real person than a fictional character. And Aoife Mannix effectively portrays a child's-eye view of the adult world in The Costume, where the relationship between young Jimmy's parents has broken down – but the boy doesn't really understand, and is more concerned with his Hallowe'en costume.

Reading this review back, I suspect I've underplayed the proportion of less successful stories in Small Voices, Big Confessions a little. But then, it is an anthology that you'll have to cherry-pick from to find the best pieces. Rest assured, though, that they are there – and are worth seeking out.

Small Voices, Big Confessions edited by Chris Lee Ramsden. EditRed paperback, 216pp, £8.99 plus P&P.

This review first appeared in Whispers of Wickedness.

Further links:
Matano Lipuka
Aoife Mannix
Tom Sykes
Aliya Whiteley

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Banquet for the Damned by Adam L.G. Nevill

Struggling musician Dante Shaw has his hopes pinned on a planned concept album based around a book on the occult written by reclusive academic Eliot Coldwell. With his friend and bandmate Tom in tow, Dante travels up to Scotland,accepting an invitation to work as Coldwell's research assistant at the University of St. Andrews. Coldwell proves reluctant to discuss his work with Dante, but is keen for the young man to meet his wild and beautiful associate, Beth -- leading Dante to suspect he has been lured to the town under false pretences...

The full review is available online at SF Site.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cone Zero: Nemonymous Eight

Cone Zero is the eighth instalment of Des Lewis's 'megazanthus' (magazine/anthology) Nemonymous—the idea of which, if you're unfamiliar with the series, is that full writer credits are not given until the following issue, leaving the current stories presented anonymously. And what stories they are: there are so many good ones, I'm not sure where to start...

The full review is available online at Serendipity.

It is also my hundredth published review!

Further links: