This was wonderfully creepy and well written. Few books manage to scare me but this one caused a shudder or two to run up my spine. This book truly de...moreThis was wonderfully creepy and well written. Few books manage to scare me but this one caused a shudder or two to run up my spine. This book truly demonstrated that you don't need to be graphic to be unsettling. Furthermore, the author's love of the natural world and all its intertwined beauty and horror really shines through in the prose and minimal, yet evocative, description. Eventually the reader, at least in my case, is left unsure as to whether Area X is a horrifying landscape of duplicitous nightmares, or the place they want to be more than anywhere else.
While Annihilation stands very well on its own I am now eagerly awaiting next book in the series, anticipating both answers to some of Area X's mysteries and to fall deeper into the unknown. (less)
The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories is the debut short story collection by talented upcoming author, Joanne Anderton. It contains thirteen stories in all, eleven of which have been previously published and two of which are brand new. All considered, it is an extremely impressive collection, and it did not contain a single story that I didn’t enjoy.
While I have enjoyed Anderton’s novels, in my personal opinion, her short stories have their own unique magic. They offer tantalizing glimpses into strange yet familiar worlds occupied by deeply and undeniably human characters. Without the need for elaborate explanation, Anderton draws you in and makes you believe in places where statues move, machines rule, or a wind chime made of bones tells its own tale. At times you can almost hear the crunch of desiccated grass underfoot or the rustle of skeleton animals stirring.
Most of the stories in The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories lean towards the darker side. Nevertheless, Anderton does not always paint a bleak picture, and as often as not the stories retain a strong sense of hope.
While each and every story in the collection is unique, all are consistently imaginative and compelling. I can’t help but agree with Kaaron Warren who, in her introduction to the collection, describes these stories as ‘transformative’
Many of Anderton’s stories defy categorisation into a single discreet genre mould. She expertly weaves genres together to produce what could be described as dark science fiction laced with horror, or psychological horror with a dash of fantasy, or any number of other things.
While I almost never reread books or stories (I have a very good memory for text which often makes it pointless past a few pages) I found myself rereading the stories I had encountered elsewhere purely for the beauty of the language. Doing so merely uncovered new layers and increased my admiration for the author’s skill. I could go on to describe the stories themselves, but in doing so I risk breaking the spell and ruining the experience for new readers. Furthermore, I cannot really pick a favourite story. By the time I finish writing this review it will probably have changed again.
For transparency’s sake I will admit that I have met Jo a number of times and very much like her. I think it would be hard not to. However, that is not the reason why I love this book so very much, nor why I’ve chosen to review it now. The simple fact is that these stories are good. Much more than good, in fact. Anderton has a beautiful way with words and an almost preternatural ability to draw the reader into her strange, wonderful and often disturbing imaginings.
All in all, I urge anyone who loves dark, strange and beautifully written stories to read this collection. You won’t regret it. Furthermore, I imagine this collection and the previously unpublished stories within it will be hot contenders for the Ditmar and Aurealis awards next year. Personally, I can’t wait to read whatever Joanne writes next.
The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories is published by Fablecroft Press and can be purchased here.
Note: As an added recommendation, my partner, who doesn’t read much fantasy, picked up the book while I was in the shower and read Sanaa’s Army. Then he wouldn’t give it back or stop reading until he’d finished it. He really enjoyed it and now we both want a ‘Cat Box’ for a pet (read the story for that to make sense).
Great stuff, I now see why people rave about this book. These darkly beautiful feminist takes on fairy tales are in turns sad, disturbing, brutal and...moreGreat stuff, I now see why people rave about this book. These darkly beautiful feminist takes on fairy tales are in turns sad, disturbing, brutal and humorous. The prose is lyrical and almost hypnotic.
Lately I've become a bit addicted to short fiction and have been on the lookout for anthologies and collections containing the kind of offbeat, lyrica...moreLately I've become a bit addicted to short fiction and have been on the lookout for anthologies and collections containing the kind of offbeat, lyrically written speculative fiction that I tend to enjoy. As I really enjoyed the Lisa L. Hannett stories I read in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror and have heard great things about her other stories I thought I might give her debut collection a try.
I think I'll try something different this time and rate and comment on each story as I go.
(Apologies for any dodgy grammar. I've been a bit sick and worn out lately and am writing this in spare time after work so it probably isn't too polished. I'll probably rewrite it when I'm finished the whole thing).
Carousel - A wonderfully written and bizarre story involving a girl, her father and a shed full of moths. The powerful imagery, equal parts beautiful and disturbing, gives the story a strange mesmeric quality, drawing you right in until you can almost smell the blood and sawdust. 5/5
Down the Hollow - Eerie and sad, Down the Hollow tells a story of love, sacrifice, loss and a desperate, all-consuming yearning for approval. Told from the perspective of a young man suffering from a taboo love, Hannett creates something both essentially morbid and beautiful. 5/5
Them Little Shinin’ Things - A strange and brutal changeling story telling a story of jealousy, desire and the lengths people will go to claim what they believe is theirs. The story is given a unique spin in being told in the first person by a human accomplice to the baby-snatching faerie folk. The protagonist's voice is both memorable and distinctive, elevating what might otherwise have been a good story, into a great one. 5/5
Fur and Feathers - I loved this one. Has all the elements of a great story-fox men, magic eggs and human-headed oracle chickens. Great fun, but not without its share of pathos. 5/5
From the Teeth of Strange Children - A truly disturbing vampire tale that actually manages to do some new and interesting things with the genre. 5/5
The Wager and the Hourglass - A short but effective story with a strong feminist message. A young woman must win a wager against a cruel and literally soulless Mayor to save both herself and the life of the man she loves. A bit more straightforward than some of the other stories but still very good. 4/5
The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds - Told in a style reminiscent of the oral tradition, this story chronicles the possible future/s of a young couple in a town with some err...interesting customs involving minotaurs, and examines the far reaching consequences of their choices. 4.5/5
I really enjoyed this. Loved the fey and the werewolves and came to really care about the characters.
It's set in a fascinating secondary...more4.25-4.5 stars
I really enjoyed this. Loved the fey and the werewolves and came to really care about the characters.
It's set in a fascinating secondary world (much of which is based off Brittany) and despite the medieval setting incorporates progressive gender roles and features strong, smart and competent characters of both sexes.
I think I'd also like a longer, slightly darker and more complex adult take on this story as well. (Sue, please write that for me :P) However, it works well as is and has a different style than most of the other YA first person fantasy books I've read, likely due to its medieval romance origins.
More detailed review to come sometime in the future. (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)
I've been waiting to read this book for ages and when I heard about the Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along (http://bit.ly/zLXUOe) I couldn't resist joini...moreI've been waiting to read this book for ages and when I heard about the Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along (http://bit.ly/zLXUOe) I couldn't resist joining in.
Stories from lots of exciting authors and, somehow, me! Excitement!
I'm a bit uncomfortable rating a book that I contributed to, so I might just leave...moreStories from lots of exciting authors and, somehow, me! Excitement!
I'm a bit uncomfortable rating a book that I contributed to, so I might just leave it unrated for now.
However, I will say that (not considering my story which I can't really pass judgement on) the quality of the collection is very high. As high, if not higher, than the previous collection by the same editors.
There is a great variety of different stories and some really interesting takes on the Dickens London theme.
After reading it I have a strong urge to book a trip to London. :P
Germline, T.C. McCarthy’s ambitious debut novel, is the first installment in his Subterrene War trilogy. While it is ostensibly labeled as work of near-future military science fiction, that description barely scratches the surface of the true scope of the novel: Germline is, in essence, a gritty and confronting coming-of-age story featuring a deeply flawed protagonist. The result is intense, uncomfortable, and more than just a little bit brilliant.
A grim, believable future, and a protagonist to match
Germline is set in a decidedly bleak near future where U.S. and Russian troops battle for the Earth’s few remaining mineral deposits. Foremost in the Americans’ arsenal are deadly squads of all-female, genetically engineered super-soldiers. These women, known as Genetics, are indoctrinated into a cult-like religion of Faith and Death and exist for the sole purpose of killing as many enemy soldiers as possible before they themselves die or are “honorably discharged” (via a bullet to the head) at the age of eighteen. However, the U.S. advantage is short-lived, as the Russians soon begin to engineer Genetics of their own. As the supply of healthy human troops dwindles, women are “encouraged” to stay at home breeding future war fodder while the U.S. military recruits old men and boys.
Enter Oscar Wendell, a sub-par, drug-addicted reporter with a few friends in high places and ambitions for a Pulitzer Prize. When Wendell manages to secure an assignment with U.S. troops on the front lines in Kazakhstan, he believes he has finally scored the story that will make him famous. However, he soon realizes that nothing could have prepared him for the realities of war. Already an addict, Wendell begins to rely increasingly upon narcotics while both his former life as a reporter and the civilian world gradually cease to exist to his tormented mind.
Daring and confronting
I say Germline is an ambitious debut because it is in no way the kind of “safe” first novel we sometimes see from new authors. McCarthy refuses to limit his fiction by sticking to familiar or uncontroversial concepts, or those we can view from a comfortable distance. Nor does he feature characters and scenarios calculated for the broadest possible appeal and least likelihood of causing offence. Instead, McCarthy chooses a nihilistic and disturbed protagonist, places the reader inside that character’s broken mind through first person narration and then proceeds to pack his novel with biting social commentary.
So many things could go wrong with this kind of setup that one has to admire McCarthy’s daring, if nothing else. Yet he manages to pull the novel off in spectacular fashion, creating a grueling experience sure to impress the reader.
A harrowing first person perspective
Oscar Wendell’s first person narrative is undoubtedly one of the key factors that make Germline such an intense novel. Reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, Wendell is not necessarily a likeable protagonist and the reader is privy to his every flaw. He is a selfish, self-indulgent, broken wreck of a human being whose emotions jump between extremes with alarming regularity. Furthermore, he is not even particularly capable compared to the novel’s other characters and his continued survival in a war-zone is just as often due to the efforts of a progression of friends in high places, genetics, fellow soldiers, and dumb luck than the result of any actions of his own.
Despite all this, Wendell is somehow the perfect protagonist to carry the reader on an eye-opening journey through McCarthy’s desolate future. In addition, although I am no expert on psychology and addiction, McCarthy’s depiction of this aspect of Wendell’s character seems very true to life. Wendell is, in essence, a deeply flawed and believable human being who—seemingly beyond hope—must learn to take responsibility for himself the hard way. “The hard way” doesn’t get much harder than this.
The prose itself is direct and unadorned in a way that perfectly complements the setting and protagonist. After all, there is little time for poeticism when the world is falling apart around you.
No shortage of social commentary here, sir
Germline gives the reader their first glimpse of a world where basic human rights have been all but stripped away and provides countless hints at more to come. Although we are limited to Oscar Wendell’s personal experience in this world, once one looks below the surface much more may be read into the novel. The horrors that Wendell witnesses cannot be viewed in isolation: they are, after all, the product of the society that allowed them.
For instance, the gender of the Genetics serves a dual purpose. The accepted explanation to the Genetics’ gender holds that the initial male prototypes, unlike their female counterparts, are too prone to uncontrollable, testosterone-fueled violence; but the female models provide yet another benefit. Their presence on the battlefields can be used by those in power to counter any allegations of sexism in excluding women from the front lines. While this idea may make some readers uncomfortable, it is deliberately calculated to be troubling and one would be hard pressed to say that this kind of set-up is in any way endorsed.
And now for the really uncomfortable part…
All in all, although Germline is a work of science fiction it is, in many ways, not all that far-fetched or unfamiliar. The technology depicted throughout the novel is futuristic yet disturbingly plausible. McCarthy merely takes already existing and fast developing technologies such as genetic modification and cloning to the next level. As someone who has some familiarity with genetics and related science, there was nothing depicted in the novel that I found particularly implausible.
Likewise, the novel’s premise, despite being unpleasant, is also quite believable and finds its basis in real world issues. Most would agree that humanity is just beginning to realize, somewhat reticently, that natural resources are not infinite. Furthermore, it is not hard to believe that if we continue to rely upon such finite materials too much longer we could well end up with the kind of resource war scenario McCarthy depicts. Some may be so bold as to suggest that, to some extent at least, we already have.
So why should you read this book?
Germline is without doubt one of the most intense and affecting books I have read in long time. The fact that the details of the novel remain clear in my mind a month after finishing it should be a good indication of the extent to which it engaged me as a reader. Nevertheless, it won’t suit everyone: Germline is not a light read, nor is it an easy one. What it is however, is a well-executed and relevant novel that will haunt you long after you finish reading. It is gritty, unsettling, confronting, and at times quite harrowing yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. (less)
The Raksura books are set in a fascinating world full of believable yet alien cultures. I'm amazed by Martha Wells' seemingly limitless imagination. a...moreThe Raksura books are set in a fascinating world full of believable yet alien cultures. I'm amazed by Martha Wells' seemingly limitless imagination. and enjoyed this book even more than the first one. (less)