Chuck McKenzie

MirrorDanse Books (2005)

ISBN: 0975785214 

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in June 2009)

Confessions of a Pod Person is a collection of short stories, the majority of which have been previously published in a period spanning 2002 to 2005. Given the wide variety of publications in which they appeared, if you read much Australian speculative fiction, you’ve probably come across at least one of these stories before.

The ideas behind most of these stories aren’t particularly original, and the commentaries by McKenzie suggest he’s well aware of this. Nor are they strongly plotted stories; I’d be inclined to describe most as vignettes, or at best, skits.

And yet, this collection, and most of the stories in it, work. McKenzie writes humorous science fiction, and most of these stories are successfully amusing. None were really uproarious (but then, humour is a personal thing; some of these stories may have you rolling on the floor where I didn’t), but neither did they fall flat. There’s a wryness to the humour in many of these stories that will raise a smile from most readers. Read the rest of this entry »

Robbie Matthews

Aust Speculative Fiction (2008)

ISBN: 9780975721728

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in January 2009)

Disclaimer – I published the story “Bomb Squad” in issue #4 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM), and worked with Robbie at ASIM for seven years.

Johnny the werewolf detective has been popping up in Australian publications for a fair while now. Showcasing a highly readable blend of detective noir and unique Aussie humour, the stories can be tough, touching, or tickle your funny bone, and sometimes all three. In this collection, Matthews brings together the previously published Johnny stories with five new works: “Pub Crawl”, “Locked Room Mystery”, “Supers”, “Accident” and “Zombie”. Read the rest of this entry »

Geoffrey Maloney

Prime Books (2003)

ISBN: 9781894815239

Reviewed by Simon Petrie (this review was first published in February 2009)

I recently received an Advance Review Copy of this book, which in the circumstances is a somewhat misleading description, since the volume itself has been in publication for over five years. But no matter.

Geoffrey Maloney has been a presence on the Australian spec-fic scene for a good many years now. A couple of the stories in Tales from the Crypto-Systemwere first published in 1990; most of the other stories were published during the subsequent even-numbered years, up to 2002. (I leave it as an exercise to numerologists to discern the rationale behind Maloney’s apparent and puzzling lack of success during odd-numbered years, although 1999 was a notable exception.) It is a characteristic of the local spec-fic scene that most of the original periodicals in which these stories first saw light have long since perished; Aurealis and AntipodeanSF are happy exceptions to this trend, and may their resilience continue. Read the rest of this entry »

Rick Kennett

Jacobyte Books (2001)

ISBN: 1-74053-064-0

Reviewed by Marty Young (this review was first published in May 2006)

13 – A Collection of Ghost Stories by Rick Kennett, was published in 2001 by the POD (Print On Demand) publisher Jacobyte Books, an Australia-based independent publishing house that unfortunately is no longer in business. The collection came about after Bryce Stevens, author of The Fear Codex (Jacobyte Books, 2000), gave Kennett a flyer that said the POD publishers were looking for novels and collections. Kennett selected thirteen previously published stories, sent them off, and about two months later, their acceptance come in. And after reading the thirteen tales, it is no surprise Jacobyte acted so quickly.

This is a collection of smooth, easy-to-read stories told in a simple yet elegant voice rich with imagery, and it is those simply drawn visions that cause such shivers:

The wind keening through the empty window frames sounded sometimes like lost voices and sometimes like a woman’s crying, but hardly ever like the wind. [From “Out of the Storm”]

The problem with reviewing such a collection is finding a method that works; it is not practical to review the stories on an individual basis with the justice they each deserve, nor will it do to simply say, a bloody good read, buy it now! In all honesty, 13: A Collection of Ghost Stories is a bloody good read, and I would seriously recommend people finding a copy. There are definite frights to be had here, chills that will linger well after the last story has been finished. And isn’t that what you want in a collection of horror stories? Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Hood

MirrorDanse Books (2002)

ISBN: 0-958658-36-6

Reviewed by Devin Jeyathurai (this review was first published in November 2005)

The subtitle of this book is an example of understatement, as well as truth in advertising. While it might be true that this is a collection of ghost stories, that phrase does not adequately convey the breadth of Robert Hood’s talent, nor does it offer the prospective reader any real idea as to what to expect. None of the ghosts in this collection are of the conventional sheet-wearing, chain-shaking variety, and not one of them actually goes “boo”. Hood quite deliberately defies convention, and the result is a series of stories that run the gamut, from quiet mood pieces to stirring cinematic epics. In at least one instance, it’s doubtful whether the “ghost” is anything more than the product of a disturbed mind.

In an interview with Kyla Ward (done for the book, and reproduced after the last short story), Hood explains that this collection is called Immaterial “because the material world is haunted by an immaterial reality.” Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Dowling

mp Books (1999)

ISBN: 0-646-37533-4

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in March 2007)

Terry Dowling has often struck me as one of the most distinctively Australian speculative fiction writers around. In large part, this is because of his Captain Tom Rynosseros stories. It’s not just the setting that makes these so distinctive; Dowling has also extrapolated what’s happening between Indigenous and White Australians to create a very believable political future. The result is memorable, unique stories with a strong Australian flavour.

Although I associate Dowling strongly with those stories, he has written a great many other stories on a wide variety of themes. Antique Futures collects a selection of these. It’s a whopping great book, and as a result I dipped into it over the space of a couple of weeks, rather than attempting to read that many short stories in a sitting or two. I think this may be the best way to read this collection; it’s powerful and challenging, and some space between stories to digest them was good. Although Dowling is a writer I have long enjoyed, I had not fully realised either the length (years) or breadth (styles) of his writing. One of the very good things about this book is that both readers unfamiliar with Dowling and those who know his work are likely to find stories they haven’t read before.

As a collection, I’m not sure that Antique Futures has a theme, other than excellence. The stories are diverse, and range from quite hard science fiction to at least one story that wouldn’t look out of place in a crime anthology. The stories do share things in common, though. Although this anthology includes stories published over a twenty year span, none have dated noticeably. All include strong and interesting characters; and every one was worth reading. Although I enjoyed some stories more than others, that’s primarily a matter of taste. They’re all of remarkably consistent quality. It makes it a little challenging to write a review – I couldn’t possibly mention all the stories, and in my opinion none are weak. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Dowling

Cemetery Dance Publications (2006)

ISBN: 1-58767-123-9

Reviewed by Leigh Blackmore (this review was first published in September 2006)

Terry Dowling is a modern fabulist who, as an Australian, has always held the locus, or sense of place in his work as one its central features. As Jonathan Strahan points out in his perceptive introduction to this book, “the winds of Australis blow through each of these haunting tales, adding a scent of gum leaves here, a slant of light there…”.

Basic Black contains eighteen stories by a writer whose career has spanned science fiction, horror, award-winning computer games and wondrous tales of all kinds. There are many stories collected here that devotees of Dowling’s darker work may have encountered before; it’s thrilling to see them collected in hardcover for the first time. There are also two previously unpublished tales, making the volume a must-have for Dowling completists. First-time readers of Dowling’s creepy dark fantasy will find here a treasure trove of chilly delights. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephen Dedman

Prime (2005)

ISBN:0809511738

Reviewed by Tim Kroenert (this review was first published in March 2007)

To readers and writers of Australian horror and dark fantasy, Stephen Dedman needs no introduction. In addition to authoring four novels, countless short stories and non-fiction, he’s also served as a former associate editor of Eidolon and is currently the fiction editor of Borderlands. He’s both a veteran and an authority, and he brings both qualities to bear in Never Seen By Waking Eyes.

The collection showcases some of his best short fiction, published in such prestigious publications as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight MagazineTiconderoga OnlineAgog! Fantastic Fiction plus numerous others during the past 13-odd years. The collection demonstrates Dedman’s thorough knowledge of genre, his affectionate approach to research and his skill as a prose and storytelling craftsman. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Dartnall

Trantor Publications (2006)

ISBN: 0975279114

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in March 2007)

When I embarked upon reading this anthology, I thought that I would get away with just commenting on the more interesting (or boring) of the stories. Yes. Well, turns out that Dartnall manages to write such eclectic stuff that what follows is a (necessarily brief) comment on every story in the set. First of all, though, I have to say that one of the things that made this really enjoyable to read was the authorial comments at the end of each story. Sometimes they explained a bit about how the story came about, sometimes a reflection on … anything else. Anyway, it was amusing and it lent a certain intimacy to reading the stories, as if Dartnall was there telling you the story and then sharing some personal anecdote with you. Read the rest of this entry »

MT Anderson

Candlewick Press (2002)

ISBN: 978 0 7636 2259 6

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

American writer MT Anderson’s Feed is a remarkable story. Set in the dying years of a planet earth stripped of its natural resources, it traces a brief few months of a group of teenagers as seen through the first person viewpoint of Titus.

The story begins on a frat visit to the moon, where the teen friends try to grab underage thrills. Titus becomes enraptured with Violet, an enigmatic teenager whose home schooling has given her an altogether different view of their lifestyle.

Titus and his mates are über consumers, linked into an all pervasive feed through neural nets. They can barely take a breath without being bombarded by advertisements for goods recommended based on buying patterns. They are a vacuous bunch, ignorant thanks in part to corporatised education of history or politics, either present or past, with little to no awareness of current events outside the latest fashion trends. Even the lesions slowly eating their flesh are turned into fashion statements rather than warnings of a world on its last legs; one in which the environment is so toxic everyone lives in climate controlled bubbles. Read the rest of this entry »

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