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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 There are also two previously unpublished tales, making the volume a must-have for Dowling completists.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 »

Simon Brown

Ticonderoga Publications (2006)

ISBN: 0-9586856-6-5

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts (this review was first published July 2006)

Let’s start with the basics: Troy is a beautiful book. It has to be the prettiest Australian small press book I’ve ever seen, and what with Donna Hanson’s Australian Speculative Fiction: an Overview and the various classy CSFG and Agog! publications doing the rounds in recent years, it’s up against some pretty stiff competition.

Just from looking at the outside, this is a book that deserves a wider audience than the attendees of a SF convention. It should be in every literary bookshop in the country. And I have to say, it would make a pretty attractive Father’s Day present for all those history buff dads out there, even if they don’t think they like speculative fiction. Ticonderoga Publications are definitely up there with some of the better overseas indie press outfits as far as style, design and all that other shiny stuff goes.

Ahem. On to the contents. For those who aren’t familiar with his work, Simon Brown was one of the few male fantasy authors in the HarperCollins Voyager stable, until he moved to Pan Macmillan a couple of years ago. His latest novel is Daughter of Independence, due out later in 2006. Before Brown became a Big Name Fantasy Author, though, his science fiction short stories were a regular feature in Eidolon and Aurealis, back in the day when they were The Big Two science fiction magazines in Australia.

Throughout the nineties, Brown produced a series of short stories that connected with and utilised some of the characters, iconography and mythology of the Trojan War stories. This collection brings those works together for the first time, along with a single new story, “The Cup of Nestor”, (2006) and a very old story, his first piece of fiction inspired by the Trojan myths, “The Return of Ideomeneus” (1981), which is concealed in an appendix in deference to the author’s own unwillingess to place a 25 year old story alongside his more mature and professional work [1]. Read the rest of this entry »

Lee Battersby

Prime Books (2006)

ISBN: 0-8095-5646-4

Reviewed by Kathryn Linge (the review was first published in November 2006)

Lee Battersby has been on the Australian speculative fiction scene since 2001. Since then he’s racked up an impressive publication history, with over 40 stories in print, mostly in Australian magazines or small press anthologies. Through Soft Air is his first collected work and includes 25 stories, of which eight are either completely new or have not seen publication before. There’s no doubt that Battersby is an ambitious and prolific short story writer. However Battersby himself acknowledges that regular short story sales are not enough to sustain a writing career [1] and that financial security probably hinges in publication of longer works (i.e. novels). From that perspective, the publication of Through Soft Air can be seen as a first attempt toward garnering recognition outside the Australian scene. Through Soft Air has been published by Prime Books, a US small press publisher, and this should provide exposure in markets outside Australia that would have otherwise been unavailable. The downside of this ‘international’ publication, however, is that the book has limited sale outlets within Australia itself and so Battersby’s established fan base may find themselves having to order the book from the US in order to obtain a copy.

From my own point of view, reviewing Through Soft Air has been a good opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about. I came to the book having read less than a handful of Battersby’s stories – two of which are in this collection. I read and reviewed Through Soft Air from a .pdf copy, and so am unable to comment on the physical book itself. This is a pity, because I get much more pleasure reading from a book than a computer screen (although I don’t think this has affected my opinion of the collection). I would also liked to have seen the book ‘in the flesh’ to get a proper look at the cover by Gary Nurrish. From the images on the Prime website, the artwork looks stunning. Read the rest of this entry »

edited by Russell B Farr and Nick Evans

Ticonderoga Publications (2007)

ISBN 978-0-9586856-7-2

Reviewed by Simon Petrie (this review was first published in October 2007)

First, a caveat: this review is of the pdf version of the book’s uncorrected proof, a document lacking both the final cover and the appended authors’ biographical notes.

The Workers’ Paradise – an unashamedly politically charged title, openly left-leaning, and the brief editorial follows suit. The timeliness of the editorial (written in September 2007, mere weeks before I received the pdf) is a drawback in a sense. There’s scope for much of the editorial’s content, relating to Australia’s current labour laws, to become quickly outdated. At least, one might hope so. But the more important questions arising are, will the stories collected here date as quickly? And do they hang together, or would they be better left to hang separately?

Paradise contains eighteen stories by an assortment of established and emerging Australian specfic writers. (That is to say, I believe them all to be Australian, though in the absence of biographical notes I can’t be completely sure of some of them.) Read the rest of this entry »

edited by Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt

MirrorDanse Books (2007)

ISBN: 9780975773628

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in May 2008)

“Best” anthologies are always tricky, because there’s so much room to argue about the choices; about the authors, about the stories, about the publication dates… Here Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt have put together a high quality anthology with less room for argument than usual. The collection covers the year 2006, and includes stories by some of the best – and best known – Australian speculative fiction writers who are currently publishing.

The anthology opens with a short introduction by the editors which provides a very brief overview of Australian speculative fiction in 2006. It may remind you of some things you meant to read and didn’t get around to; it may tantalise you with mention of something you didn’t know about before. It’s a good quick overview of what was published in 2006.

This is an exceptional anthology, and although I didn’t love every story in it, that’s a reflection of the diversity of stories in it – one or two didn’t suit my personal tastes. There are no dud stories, in the sense of poorly-written or boring stories. I felt that almost all of the authors here have published better stories, but again that’s partly a matter of taste – the stories contained here are universally well-written and crafted, and are generally original, lively and entertaining. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

edited by Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt

MirrorDanse Books (2005)

ISBN: 0975773607

Reviewed by Gillian Polack (this review was first published in September 2006)

Year’s Best volumes always have significant introductions. I am an evil person who reads the stories then goes back and thinks “Should I read the introduction?” Yes. Read the introduction. Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquadt give an overview of how current Australian speculative fiction fits into an historical trail. There is a kangaroo story told in snatches throughout. Not my kind of story, but it solves the problem of a technical introduction to a book of short stories. The interlacing of story and explanation eases the transition between a formal introduction and short stories and puts the stories in perspective. As some of the stories date (as some stories always date in anthologies) the introduction will be there to remind readers of the particular environment in which they were created.

The first story is the best in the volume. ”’Singing my Sister Down” is as close to perfect as a short story can be. The narrator’s sister is punished for a crime by drowning in a tar pit. The story is about her death. Such a slim narrative for such a big story, and yet it works. Margo Lanagan’s gift of bringing the reader into the emotional moment is amazing and this story is the outstanding example of her gift. Read the rest of this entry »

edited by Elise Bunter

Elise Bunter (2007)

ISBN:9780646471273

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

Shadow Plays is a fairly eclectic mix of Australian speculative fiction. There are some great stories, and some average stories, but none that are dreadful – so the editor, Bunter, is to be congratulated on her wise selection.

Opening an anthology must be a hard task, and I have no idea how an editor makes the decision as to who gets that (often thankless) task. In this case, it goes to Brendan D Carson’s “The Omensetter and the Hu Lijing”. In essence a love story, the scene is a semi-mythical Orient, where Liao Chen is an apprentice in the art of reading and interpreting signs and omens. He is the one to discover a hu lijing, a fox spirit … and really, things just go from there. It’s nicely written, easy to read, and doesn’t overdo the poignancy. Read the rest of this entry »

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