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Feed (2010 – ISBN: 9780316081054), Deadline (2011 – ISBN: 9780316081061), Blackout (2012 – ISBN: 9781841499000)

Mira Grant

Orbit

Conversational Review  with Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely

HERE BE SPOILERS!

This series is impossible to review in full without spoilers for preceding books. Up front, know that we WILL be discussing major spoilers for all three books. PLEASE do not continue unless you have no intention of reading this (very excellent) science fiction thriller (with zombies), or you REALLY don’t mind spoilers!

Last chance – SPOILERS AHEAD!

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edited by Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt

MirrorDanse Books (2006)

ISBN: 0975773615 

Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein (this review was first published in October 2006)

If you only buy one book this year, then this is the book you can’t live without. Congreve and Marquandt have found the cream of over 500 Australian SF and Fantasy stories from 2005 and whipped them into a solid, absorbing anthology. They have made Australian specfic look live and vibrant and paint 2005 as a rich and mature year for local publishing. Read the rest of this entry »

KA Bedford

Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing (2006)

ISBN: 9781894063203

Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein (this review was originally published in 2006)

Overall, the science fiction novels published in Australia in 2006 were disappointing. Hydrogen Steel by K A Bedford was one of the few standouts that managed to hold my attention for the whole book. Thrilling in places, suspenseful in others, an avid science fiction reader could do a lot worse than Bedford’s latest offering.

Former homicide inspector Zette McGee has found a quiet life on the Serendipity retirement habitat in the Sirius A system. Her quiet, peaceful life is interrupted by a call from Kell Fallow in desperate need of her help and claiming to be a disposable, just like her. Being an android is McGee’s big secret. No-one knows, not even her best friend Gideon Smith. It’s the reason she quit the police force and she’s still not really fully convinced that it’s true and if it is, where her life ends and her programmed memories begin.

When Kell Fallow is blown up whilst trying to smuggle himself into Serendipity, McGee and Smith become involved in not only the mystery surrounding his death and the prior murder of his wife but also the bigger mystery of the Fireminds and, in particular, Hydrogen Steel and the intergalactic war it is waging. Read the rest of this entry »

Godplayers

Damien Broderick

Thunder’s Mouth Press (2005)

ISBN: 9781560256700

Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein (this review was first published in October 2006)

I read somewhere recently that science fiction was a struggling genre because so much of previous SF had been realised – the internet, gene sequencing, IVF, cloning, organ transplants and so on. At the time I wondered about the implications of this generalised statement: if SF had nothing left to conquer, did it follow then that so too humanity had nothing left to grapple about the future?

How fortunate then for me to have Damien Broderick’s Godplayers next in my reading queue! Here I found scientific theory at its most cutting-edge and science fiction at its most current. Even with my background in science/engineering and reading several of the current scientific journals, I couldn’t begin to try and explain much of this book, so beyond my own understanding was it.

At the outset I was thrown into a world of chaos and confusion as I followed the main protagonist, August Seebeck into … well, chaos and confusion. It all starts when August goes home to visit his Great Aunt Tansy who informs him that someone has been leaving corpses in her upstairs bathtub on Saturday nights. Not to worry though, they are removed by the morning. And so everything August knows to be true about the world is thrown into disarray: he’s not an only child, his parents may not be dead after all and he is a Player, perhaps The Player, in the Contest of Worlds … whatever that is. Read the rest of this entry »

Alisa Krasnostein & Tehani Wessely (eds.)

Twelfth Planet Press (2009)

ISBN 978-0-9804841-2-0

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in April 2009)

New Ceres is a planet sometime in the future, whose founders decided for various reasons to embrace the Age of Enlightenment – basically the eighteenth century – and stick with it. Permanently. Except for the spaceport, no technology from after this time is meant to be found anywhere on the planet.

New Ceres began life as a shared online world where authors could write stories set on this bizarre planet, play with other authors’ ideas, and generally have a whacky good time. Two issues of the New Ceres webzine have been released: the first issue, which introduced a number of the characters picked up in this anthology, is still available to download for free; the second issue is available at a small cost. They, and the novella Angel Rising by Dirk Flinthart (also released by Twelfth Planet Press and set on New Ceres), are highly recommended but not entirely necessary before getting into this anthology.

New Ceres Nights is a set of thirteen stories that pick up, play with, explore, and explode the foundations of New Ceres society. A society that, like our most romantic notions of the Enlightenment, has charm and mystery aplenty – especially for the well-heeled; and one that also has the lower classes, doing the drudge work. Of course, this being the future, these stories also deal with the vast possibilities raised both by its context and the fact that this delicious high-tech is illegal on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

Narrelle M Harris

Twelve Planets Book 5

Twelfth Planet Press (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-9872162-0-5

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

I’m not a big fan of horror, so I am not the ideal reader for this collection which, although not overwhelmingly scary, uses horror tropes to tell its stories. Nonetheless, it is a quite readable quartet.

The first story, ‘Stalemate’, is probably the scariest, and that’s because it is the most mundane. Which is saying something, because three out of four of these stories are defined by being set in domestic settings (by which I mean only non-exotic, like another planet or a medieval castle). It’s a suburban kitchen, with a mum and her grown-up daughter, arguing over all the tired old things that parents and grown-up kids argue over, with the added bitterness that Mum is there to help the daughter while she is sick. Of course, it turns out that things aren’t quite as mundane as they seem – and this revelation makes things all the more awful because of the very setting, and the consequences. It’s terrible.

My favourite story is ‘Thrall’ because it does the most clever things with the horror ideas it’s working with. It’s the story that is least obviously ‘domestic’, involving as it does a Hungarian castle; but even then, it opens in a dingy suburban cafe, and the castle is a tourist trap. Dragomir is a vampire, returned to Hungary to get a bit of rest. He has called a thrall to him – a woman whose ancestors pledged their allegiance to him many centuries before – to help him get ready. The narrative is fairly simple and straightforward. What really makes the story intriguing though is people’s reactions to Dragomir, and his reactions to them. Harris has gone with a much more ‘realistic’ vampire, in that he is very much a man of his times – his original times. He is shorter than the average 21st century man. He despises much of the modern world. And, in return, much of it despises him, too.

‘The Truth about Brains’ takes the reader into zombie territory, and the heady days of summer in the suburbs. Again the characters revolve around the family, this time an older sister impatient with her brother who, as the story opens, has kind-of sort-of accidentally been turned into a zombie. The narrative backtracks to explain how that happened, and then explores the consequences for the sister, the brother, and the other people involved. I think I found this the least convincing of the stories, mostly because the characters didn’t work for me. It could also be that I just don’t like zombie stories.

The last story is the longest, and relates to Harris’ novel The Opposite of Life, which I’ve not read. ‘Showtime’ involves Gary – a not-that-happy-with-it vampire – and his friend Lissa, a librarian, heading to the Melbourne Show, location of rides, craft, wood-chopping exhibitions … and a haunted house. Harris does well to bring those unfamiliar with this version of Melbourne up to speed, with crafty hints at Gary and Lissa’s shared past of dealing with less-than-friendly vampires, and how this friendship manages to exist at all. It captures some of Gary’s angst and rue at not being alive, and suggests an interesting take on the implications of being undead (sunlight isn’t deadly but more like a beta-blocker; he has no adrenaline so rollercoasters are pointless). However, in the end, the story fell a bit flat for me, and I think that was partly because I wasn’t as invested as I could have been in the lives of Gary and his vampire brethren existing (as it were) in the shadows of Melbourne.

Overall, this is generally an interesting look at how horror tropes can be used in familiar settings, and it’s certainly a neat addition to the Twelve Planets series.

Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

Twelfth Planet Press (2008)

ISBN: 9780980484106

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

2012 was the first anthology from Perth’s Twelfth Planet Press, and it was first published in 2008. Now that the dreaded year in question has rolled around, I thought it time to give this slender anthology of doomsday stories a try. The ToC contains some very familiar names, virtually a who’s who of Australian specfic writing. In fact, the only author with work collected here whom I hadn’t previously read is David Conyers, and I thought his story was one of the best in the volume. Each of the stories imagines a variation on the apocalypse (some natural disasters, some man made), set in what was then the near future and is now the immediate present: 2012.

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Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

Twelfth Planet Press (2008)

ISBN: 9780980484106

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in April 2008)

Writing near-future science fiction, especially giving it a particular date, requires a certain amount of bravado, as well as all the necessary imagination and skill of sf writing in general. In giving their eleven authors a specific date to write to, Krasnostein and Payne have been – to my mind – exceptionally daring, and demanding. In order to address this topic, authors have had to put themselves out there, on the line, and make a stand as to what the world might be like in four (from when I read it) or five years’ (from their writing) time.

Before I read this anthology, I tried to think about some of the changes that have happened in the last four or five years, to get some perspective on what sort of changes I would be happy to accept. The issue of water was something that sprang to mind immediately: it has become a much more pervasive issue in Australia in that time, as has the topic of climate change on a worldwide scale. On a universal scale, the Mars Rovers were launched in 2003 and reached their destination at the start of 2004; Voyager got further away from the Sun than any other known object in the solar system. Australia got a new government. Battlestar Galactica came back to the TV screen. So some things have changed a lot; others, not so much.

Overall, the stories presented in this anthology are highly enjoyable. They all have different styles, with quite different takes on the year in question – although having some common threads, which will be mentioned below. I do think, however, that as an anthology about the year 2012 it is not entirely convincing. Some of the stories do not, to me, ring true for a future just four years away. Ten years – quite possibly. Four … seems like a stretch. Read the rest of this entry »

Lucy Sussex

Twelve Planets, Volume 3

Twelfth Planet Press (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-9808274-5-3

Review by Alexandra Pierce

This is the delightfully-packaged third book in the Twelve Planets series, from Twelfth Planet Press. I should mention that I am friends with the editor / publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and a passing acquaintance of the author, Lucy Sussex.

For me, the first story is the blazing outstanding story of the four. Called “Alchemy,” it is set in Babylon, a city as evocative, perhaps, as it is foreign. We are presented with a story told from two perspectives. The first is that of Tapputi, a perfumer from a long line of such. She is a mother, a widow, and a skilled artisan. She has also attracted the attention of Azubel, a spirit whose point of view we also read. Azubel has knowledge of the past and the possible paths of the future, with a particular passion for and understanding of what we would call chemistry. The stories of these two, over a long span of time (by human standards) has many strands, weaving in examinations of knowledge and the dangers thereof; juggling career and family; tradition and innovation and the pitfalls of each; and that essential conundrum, discerning good from evil when the world is grey, not black and white. Tapputi is finely, delicately drawn, the balance of concerns inherent being in being a widowed mother and artisan nicely indicated. She is both practical and romantic and, perhaps most wondrously, is actually based on a woman known to historians because her name and trade are recorded in cuneiform from the second millennium BC. This is a story that mixes fantasy and history in a glorious blend, and is one of my favourite stories for the year.  Read the rest of this entry »

Galactic Suburbia – A Podcast Review by Daniel Simpson

… and coming to you from the galactic suburbs is (pause) Tansy from Hobart (pause, different voice), Alex from Melbourne (pause, different voice again), and Alisa from Perth.

With those hallowed words, the ceremony begins.

Galactic Suburbia is a fortnightly podcast dealing with all things speculative fiction, particularly (but not limited to) spec fiction of the written variety. It is recorded by three Australian women – Tansy, Alex, and Alisa – from different locations around the country, who take to the airwaves fortnightly, despite the challenges (such as puppies and babies) thrown at them by “real life”.

Structure

To give the podcast structure, each episode has a designated chairperson; a ringmaster. A different one of the three each week guides the proceedings and ensures that the podcast stays on track. Having three podcasters works well; it takes the podcast beyond a conversation and into a panel-like discussion. I think this is proven in the episodes when someone is missing. The episodes with just two Galactic Suburbanites seem a little flatter. The energy, passion, and often competing opinions of three people is frantic, and fun.

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