Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear is loosely themed speculative fiction anthology, edited by Edwina Harvey and Simon Petrie, two of the editors involved with Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. An eclectic collection containing stories from a variety of Australian and international authors, Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear is an engaging body of work that contains a number of excellent stories, quite a few memorable ones, and should have something to suit almost anyone.
Sparks that fly in many directions.
The title, Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear, references the instructions given for lighting fireworks. The anthology itself operates on the concept of a literal or figurative spark and the various possible results of its unleashed potential. This very open theme allows the authors a lot of leeway to let their imaginations run wild and results in a hugely varied collection.
Some of the stories engage quite directly with the theme while others are a little more oblique in their connection. Yet as a whole the collection itself succeeds in its ostensible purpose, showcasing the variety and quality of its contributors’ work.
A little something for everyone.
Much like lighting a real firework, you never know what you might get next with this anthology. A blazing inferno, a quick flash and burn, a delicate showing of stars, or a disappointing fizzle? Happily, the overall quality of the stories is high, and although personal taste dictates that some stories will appeal to certain readers more than others, none of these stories were duds prone to explode in one’s face. While there were a few stories I might not have picked if I was reading for an anthology of my own, they were all well written and I could see where their appeal might lie to other readers.
Due to the huge variance in tone, style and theme between stories it is quite hard to pick a favourite. The one that resonated with me the most however, was probably the opening story by Joanne Anderton, titled The Bone Chime Song. Extremely powerful and emotive for its length, Anderton’s story creates believable characters with which the reader can empathise and offers a fascinating glimpse into a beautifully well-realised fantasy world. A haunting love story of guilt, redemption and necromancy, The Bone Chime Song will leave you thinking long after you finish reading it. All in all, it impressed me and I look forward to reading more of the authors work in the future.
Following The Bone Chime Song is Sue Bursztynski’s humorous take on the origins of the Trojan War, Five Ways to Start a War. The story consists of five key figures’ rather differing accounts of how the conflict came about, which all interweave to paint a colourful picture of meddling deities, confused mortals, conniving kings, and a bed-hopping prince terrified of losing his royal member to divine vengeance. Helen attempts to avoid the inevitable catastrophe, yet finds that vain goddesses don’t often accept no for an answer. While I have read a number of retellings of the Trojan War’s beginnings, Bursztynski used the familiar elements in a way that felt fresh and made me laugh, marking her story as another favourite in this collection.
The Subjunctive Case by Robert Porteous is a well-crafted paranormal detective story with a distinctly Australian flavour (it’s set in Melbourne and I personally enjoyed recognizing the familiar places in which the story took place). All in all, I thought it was well-written and impressive work from a relatively new author.
The D____d by Adam Browne contains some delightfully weird imagery and tells the tale of Victorian colonialists attempting to terraform hell, Mary Had a Unicorn by Ripley Patton has a distinct moral and is strangely charming for a story about teen drug addiction, and The Godbreaker and Unggubadh the Mountain by Ian McHugh features interesting world-building and appealing, relatable non-human characters.
In most cases I prefer my story morals slightly more subtly executed than that of Sean McMullen’s Hard Cases. However, the writing was still good and the story was still creepy despite the somewhat heavy-handed treatment.
I would consider all thirteen stories in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear to be well worth reading, yet unfortunately lack the time required to give all the attention they deserve. In addition, some stories elude concise summary and may be spoiled in my attempts to explain them. Besides, I did say half the fun was trying to guess what was coming next.
Why should you read this book?
Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear is an entertaining and enjoyable anthology containing stories of a consistently high quality with a couple of standouts. It contains a refreshing variety of original fiction with no boring stories or tired clichés. In my opinion, even just my few favourite stories were worth the cover price alone. All in all, I read some great new works by authors I knew, discovered some new authors to keep an eye on and will look out for any future anthologies by these editors and from this small press.(less)
I'd read quite a few anthologies lately and hundreds of fantasy and horror stories (for work and pleasure) yet this collection felt surprisingly...more4-4.5
I'd read quite a few anthologies lately and hundreds of fantasy and horror stories (for work and pleasure) yet this collection felt surprisingly fresh and I found myself looking forward to coming home to read it each night. Many of the stories have a distinctly Australian flavour and all in all there were very few that I couldn't quite connect with. There are some absolutely excellent stories here and despite their varying tones the collection works admirably well as a whole. There were stories that made me laugh, stories that left me elated, stories that scared me and one that actually made me tear up.
I'll most likely write a more detailed review mentioning some of my favourite stories at a later date.
Highly recommended. Personally, I can't wait for the 2011 anthology.(less)
This was an interesting anthology featuring stories exploring different aspects and kinds of faith.
The stories varied in tone and theme much more tha...moreThis was an interesting anthology featuring stories exploring different aspects and kinds of faith.
The stories varied in tone and theme much more than I might have expected which kept the experience of reading it feeling 'fresh' right up to the end.
While I liked almost all the stories and poems but my personal favourites were:
'Ghosts of New York' by Jennifer Pelland, 'Go and Tell It on the Mountain' by Kyle S. Johnson, 'To the Jerusalem Crater' by Lavie Tidhar, 'You Dream' by Ekaterina Sedia, 'A Loss for Words' by J.C. Hay, 'Good Enough' by Kelli Dunlap, 'The Choir' by Lucien Soulban, 'The Days of Flaming Motorcycles' by Catherynne M. Valente, and 'For My Next Trick I'll Need a Volunteer' by Gary A. Braunbeck(less)