A terrific selection of vampire short stories inspired by Australia. From urban to rural settings, using mythologies from Aboriginal legend to Chines...more
A terrific selection of vampire short stories inspired by Australia. From urban to rural settings, using mythologies from Aboriginal legend to Chinese vampires in the 1850s goldfields, the stories have breadth and depth of imagination. If you're looking for something a bit different in the vampire genre, you're bound to find it here. (less)
The Essential Lucy Sussex is 500-odd pages of some of the most textured, intelligent, witty, erudite and imaginative spec fic ever produced. That’s no...moreThe Essential Lucy Sussex is 500-odd pages of some of the most textured, intelligent, witty, erudite and imaginative spec fic ever produced. That’s not what took me so long to read it, though. The book is also bloody heavy, which created certain problems with trying to keep it open as I read over breakfast. The whole experience prompted a blog post about some things I really like about e-books.
The physical weight of the thing notwithstanding, this collection is full of heft on its own accord. Which isn’t to say it isn’t also sometimes melancholy, funny or even surprising. The 25 stories that make up this collection are textured and fabulous.
Particular favourites in a book stuffed full of goodness are:
My Lady Tongue: This SF story about the vibrant Saffy, from a wimmin’s commune, getting injured and ending up in the care of her natural enemy, a man remains as fresh and exciting as the first time I read it. It references Shakespeare, particularly Beatrice and Benedick and their sharp, sparring dialogue. Such a fresh, lively voice in Saffy, is a joy to read and re-read.
Duchess: I’m not much into fashion, but this story make me see the attraction, with this intelligent, outrageous character and the suggestions of displacement in time, though it could just be madness.
Ardent Clouds: Love, volcanoes and disaster. Beautiful.
La Sentinelle: An intriguing take on the legendof the golem. I’ve always thought lifelike dolls were kind of creepy. This story has set the seal on that opinion.
Something Better than Death: This is a modern take and entertaining analysis of the folk tale of The Musicians of Bremen. It demonstrates Lucy’s capacity to go off in surprising directions, though admittedly, most of her stories do that.
Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies: A sly and entertaining retelling of the Waltzing Matilda story by the other witness to those (and related) events.
The collection contains a lot of stories playing with history, versions of reality, research and discovery, and twists on old folk tales. Every story shines a lot on something you knew nothing about, or thought you knew but didn’t really.
LucySussex was born in New Zealand but now lives in Melbourne. She’s researched and travelled widely, and has done Australian literature the great service of rediscovering one of the nation’s (and first) nineteenth century crime writers, Mary Fortune. Her awesomeness has many facets and very possibly no limits.
If you haven’t heard of Lucy Sussex, you should have. This amazing collection of her body of work spannign almost 20 year is not the whole of Lucy Sussex, but I’d agree it’s essential.
If you feel a bit daunted by the size of the book, get Lucy’s Twelve Planets book, Thief of Lives, first. You’ll be rushing to get her back catalogue once you’ve whet your appetite.(less)
I picked up Scarlet Stiletto The Second Cut at last year’s SheKilda convention. It contains a selection of prize-winning entries from Sisters In Crime...moreI picked up Scarlet Stiletto The Second Cut at last year’s SheKilda convention. It contains a selection of prize-winning entries from Sisters In Crime‘s Scarlet Stiletto awards. It turns out to be a terrific collection of crime writing from twenty new (or newish) women writers in the genre.
Some of the stories are less polished than others. I initially thought The Key Suspect was too straightforward (and not gruesome enough) for my tastes, until I realised that the author, Jane Blechyden’s story had taken out the 2007 Young Writer’s Award when she was only 10. This wasn’t even her first writing prize. Clearly, Ms Blechyden has a great future ahead of her.
On the whole, the writing from these women is assured and full of deft observations and intriguing darkness. The narrator is sometimes the investigator, sometimes a witness, sometimes a killer. Each has a distinct voice and many stories incorporate unique elements of women’s lives into the character and even plot. Motherhood, the role of carer, and sexual and domestic abuse all inform the writing. Some stories are incredibly funny, others are poignant or chilling. Contemporary, historical and futuristic; urban and rural – it’s a smorgasbord of styles and settings.
Each of the 22 stories is enjoyable, but the following tales were the standouts for me.
Smoke by Aoife Clifford. I’m a sucker for a combination of crime stories and the Labor party. Move over, Shane Maloney. Aoife Clifford is gunning for your spot.
Persia Bloom by Amanda Wrangles. Amanda sent me this story to read a year or so ago, and I was just as impressed on re-reading it. Funny, fresh and uncomfortable, this story of a hairdresser with psychic skills and a need to solve her clients’ unhappiness is full of surprises.
Cold Comfort by Sarah Evans. Evans has just the right lightness of touch for this macabare and hilarious story of a woman helping her grandfather out of an awkard situation.
Poppies by Kylie Fox. This one is a poem which begins with embroidery and ends with someone stitched up. It’s melancholic and moving with just the right touch of acidity to be thoroughly satisfying.
Undeceive by Evelyn Tsitas. Another prose poem, this one reads like a series of moving images, very visual and again, a satisfying story of getting even. Tsitas’s science fiction crime story, Xenos, is also excellent and unexpected. I’d love to read more in this universe.
Death World by Eleanor Marney. This story and Marney’s other, Tallow, are both standouts. In Death World, a heavily pregnant profiler is persuaded to work on one more set of unsolved murders before her baby is born. In Tallow, a woman writes to her twins to explain a shocking truth about their family. Both stories are superbly crafted with strong, engaging protagonists.
These are my highlights in a book filled to the brim with gory goodness. Several of the writers have gone on to become published novelists too, so you can’t fault the award’s eye for talent.(less)
This collection of essays about The Hunger Games was an excellent way to follow my five-day binge spent reading the entire series. Everything in this...moreThis collection of essays about The Hunger Games was an excellent way to follow my five-day binge spent reading the entire series. Everything in this book either brings elements I was aware of into sharp focus or reveals new themes and interpretations to me. With each essay, though, I responded with variations of "Yes! Exactly! YES!"
Favourite essays include Team Katniss, which questions the whole Team Peeta/Team Gale romance subplot and opts for Team Katniss, The Girl Who Was Compassionate, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes; Your Heart Is A Weapon the Size of Your Fist by Mary Borsellino, examining love as a political act; Carrie Ryan's Panem at Circenses, with its look at reality TV and The Hunger Games; learning about trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in Blythe Woolston's Bent, Shattered and Mended; The Politics of Mockinjay by Sarah Darer Littman, which I found particularly resonant with the lines it draws between current world politics, the packaging of war footage as entertainment and the political tactics of Panem; and Community in the Face of Tyranny, in which Bree Despain touches on a theme I felt but did not articulate in my original reading.
But this are just my favoiurites in a collection filled with intelligent, thoughtful and well written insights into this superb trilogy.(less)
Lucy Sussex's breadth of talent and knowledge are on display in the third of the 12 Planets anthology series. In four short stories you see historical...moreLucy Sussex's breadth of talent and knowledge are on display in the third of the 12 Planets anthology series. In four short stories you see historical fantasy in ancient Babylon about the world's first chemist, snappy modern crime in Melbourne, a delightfully sensual tale of female sexuality and an urban fantasy playing cheekily with ideas if authorship and created worlds.
Each story is distinct, a gem, and you have to marvel at the intelligence and imagination behind four such different stories. (less)
As a former resident of Perth and current resident of Melbourne it was a double pleasure to read Nightsiders, a collection of post-apocalyptic stories...moreAs a former resident of Perth and current resident of Melbourne it was a double pleasure to read Nightsiders, a collection of post-apocalyptic stories set after the environmental, military and social consequences of severe climate change. The connected stories examine the new, marginal society and carefully weave their way to a new, potentially more hopeful future. The characters are wonderfully drawn and the parched environment in which they live made me thirsty to read it. another gem from the Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press. (disclaimer: a collection of my own is forthcoming in this series. I'm so proud and honoured to be in such excellent company!)(less)
Feisty, funny, clever, powerful and full of awesome historical Julias. And vampires. A magnificent kickoff to Twelfth Planet Press's 12 Planets series...moreFeisty, funny, clever, powerful and full of awesome historical Julias. And vampires. A magnificent kickoff to Twelfth Planet Press's 12 Planets series, and a brilliant introduction to Roberts' work. If you love the idea of powerful women in Ancient Rome, Roman theme parks in the Aussie outback and fighting to save the world on an airship full of monsters, this is so the book for you.(less)
A personal look at Poland through the eyes of an oft-returning travel writer. This collection of previously published travel stories gives the reader...moreA personal look at Poland through the eyes of an oft-returning travel writer. This collection of previously published travel stories gives the reader an affectionate insight into Poland's history and its present. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, this book will give any traveller to Poland a view of the country not available in your average travel guide. (less)
Liz Grzyb has compiled a fabulous collection of paranormal stories about love. Vampires, zombies, ghosts, elder gods, witches, dragons and unnamed evi...moreLiz Grzyb has compiled a fabulous collection of paranormal stories about love. Vampires, zombies, ghosts, elder gods, witches, dragons and unnamed evil all get a place to shine, or lurk. Some of the stories worked better for me than others, as always happens in any anthology, but the whole ensemble is a fine dish of literate goodies!
Standouts for me were:
* Felicity Dowker’s “Bread and Circuses”, a dark, disturbing, moving story of love after the zombie apocalypse * Ian Nichols’ “Fade Away” pleased me by delivering an ending I wasn’t expecting * I find I want to read more set in the world created by Angela Slatter and L.L. Hannett in “The February Dragon” * Kyla Ward’s “Cursebreaker: The Welsh Widow and the Wandering Wooer” demonstrated a refreshing and lively prose style, and is another one with potential for a whole universe of fascinating stories * My fondness for “Date with a Vampire” by Annette Backshall bloomed the instant the heroine refused to play her part, and the Perth setting was nice. Let’s see more paranormal fiction set in Australia, folks! * D.C. White’s “Pride and Tentacles” is just the right fluffy bit of fun to round off the collection and for some reason I find I’m not the least bit surprised by Cthulu’s choice of book.
There’s a lot of great work coming out of Australian small presses at the moment, and Western Australian seems to be leading the charge with its SF and fanasy publishers, like Twelfth Planet Press and Triconeroga Publications. The latter has published Scary Kisses and it’s worth checking both publishers out for their back catalogue and upcoming books. In the meantime, buy Scary Kisses and support Australian small press, not because it’s Australian, but because it’s great.(less)
An excellent an often moving collection of essays about Australian crime, crime reporting, justice and the judiciary. I have an essay in it myself, an...moreAn excellent an often moving collection of essays about Australian crime, crime reporting, justice and the judiciary. I have an essay in it myself, and I'm proud to be in such well-written company. (less)