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ChicksUnravelTimeWomen journey through every season of Doctor Who

Edited by Deborah Stanish and LM Myles

Mad Norwegian Press (2012)

ISBN: 978-193523412-8

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

I’m a fairly recent Doctor Who convert. Early last year I became hooked thanks to wanting to watch the Neil Gaiman authored episode “The Doctor’s Wife”, so started with the Eleventh Doctor, and was so enamoured I went immediately back to the beginning of New Who and devoured the lot. Of course I have memories of watching Classic Who when I was a kid, with the Fourth Doctor, K9 and the Daleks being the only real things that I remember. And despite the best efforts of good friends trying to encourage me to embrace a bit of Classic Who now, I’ve struggled. Well, after reading Chicks Unravel Time, I just want to go back in time myself and be able to watch the whole of Doctor Who from the very beginning!

The essays in this book are passionate, engaging and entertaining, encompassing, as the subtitle suggests, every season of Doctor Who, written by women who clearly know their stuff. As we lead up to the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode, I can’t think of a better way to garner an understanding of the show in its entirety! Some authors focussed on characters, some on story, some on companions, some on production, but all, even those finding fault with aspects of the show, betray the writer’s love for Doctor Who, and this more than anything was a key factor in my own enjoyment. I particularly enjoyed contributions by Barbara Hambly (looking at the first new season reboot), “The Doctor’s Balls” by Diana Gabaldon (which has awakened in me a desperate desire to watch any Jamie McCrimmon episodes possible), LM Myles’ “Identity Crisis” (considering the importance of the very first regeneration), “For the love of Tom” by Sarah Lotz (because Tom Baker was “my Doctor” until I fell in love with Matt Smith last year!), “Donna Noble saves the universe” by Martha Wells (because, Donna!), and… Look, I’m just going to name every entry in the book at this rate. Trust me when I say this is a fantastic collection of essays examining a hugely popular show from perspectives you might not have considered. It’s an excellent introduction to Classic Who, with delvings into New Who, and I recommend it to both hard core and casual fans of the show.

To be completely honest though, I do have a complaint – I simply wanted more! Some of the essays I really wanted to be longer, and I would have loved to see further exploration of the tie-in media (Big Finish audio plays and the novelisations etc) in relation to the characters being discussed. But really, when the one complaint is that the reader loves the books so much she wishes it was longer? That’s a pretty good recommendation I reckon!

Brett Weeks

Lightbringer, Book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-906-2

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Kip Guile, bastard son of the Prism everyone in the Seven Satrapies thinks is Gavin Guile, has been thrown into a world of intrigue and power he is in no way prepared to handle. Despite his perceived shortcomings, however, Kip is determined to make his way in the world, even though his grandfather will do everything to stand in his path, and everyone else thinks Kip’s only chance of getting ahead is by using his father’s influence. At the same time, Gavin’s power is crumbling, at the time when his world can least afford to lose him – and the horrible secret he has kept for the past sixteen years is escaping…

Sequel to 2011’s The Black Prism, this book continues with the same frenetic action and colourful characterisation as its predecessor, rollicking from battle to battle on both small and large scales. While this series doesn’t have the polish or pace of Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy, it is still an enjoyable read, with an interesting magical premise, strongly written action scenes and thoroughly engaging characters. The worldbuilding of the series is of particular interest; far-reaching, yet well-contained and realised. The lead characters, and those in supporting roles, flesh out this world with great variety, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the plot threads are pulled together in the final book.

Weeks’ novels are intimidating in size, but so readable that within a few pages you forget how much there is to read and simply become caught up in the story. Recommended to read in series order for best effect.

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 »

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 Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan

ISBN: 9780732282943

EOS (2007)

ISBN: 9780732282943

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in January 2008)

I am not a huge fan of science fiction. Let’s get this out right at the start. The reason I don’t often like it is because I’ve found that science fiction can easily become bogged down in jargon and, well, science, at the expense of engaging characters and comprehensible plot, both of which are very important to me. Lately however, I have found myself absorbed by a number of science fiction books and stories that have flat out appealed to me, and a great percentage of stories in The New Space Opera certainly met the high bar.

In The New Space Opera, two highly regarded editors, Gardner Dozois and local boy Jonathan Strahan, have drawn together a deeply satisfying collection of stories that meet the space opera criteria. As laid out in the introduction to the book, space opera is “…romantic adventure set in space and told on a grand scale.” Impressively, the majority of the stories in the collection presented believable possible futures combined with realistic and finely drawn characters participating in action-packed and emotion-charged exploits that did not overwhelm this reader with technobabble or bog her down in science. To me, the lay reader of science fiction, the highly refined craftsmanship of the stories – drawing these worlds and characters with such elegance and style but not failing to entertain and provoke – meant that I devoured each story and raced on to the next, often pausing to digest the depth of theme and message, but always keen to taste the next piece. Equally powerful was the ability of each author to write in such a way that the depth and breadth of story contained in the word length was such that most authors could not develop or contain in even a full length novel. I will not attempt to itemize the contents individually, but will remark on a few stories that stood out to me, for various reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Edited by Paul Collins

Ford Street Publishing (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-921665-58-5

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Trust Me Too is the second of the Ford Street cross-genre short story anthologies for young people. Featuring around fifty stories (and some poems and graphica), this is a pretty hefty book, but as almost all the pieces are quite short, it’s not too much to handle.

For the most part, I enjoyed almost every story in this quite long collection. Having said that, this is not an adult-aimed short story collection, and interestingly, I think it doesn’t actually target a particular age group exactly. It doesn’t quite fit as middle grade, as some of the material is quite mature, but for the opposite reason, I wouldn’t put it as straight YA either. Instead, it very much straddles upper primary into secondary, which is clever marketing if the publisher is targeting school libraries!

There are a number of “tie-in” short stories here – I caught works that match the novel worlds of Isobelle Carmody, Sean Williams, Paul Collins and George Ivanoff, although there may have been others. None of these would require prior knowledge of the worlds the stories spring from, but this did add an extra fillip of fun to discovery.

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Edited by Stephen Thompson

The Specusphere / Estee Media (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-9758167-7-6

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Taking as its premise the idea of stories that encapsulate myths and legends, be they new forms of traditional myths, or stories that could take a place beside these legends. A fairly lofty goal, and one I’m not sure this selection achieves completely successfully, but Mythic Resonance holds some strong pieces that are worth discussing.

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Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

Allen and Unwin (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-74331-092-2

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Between the Lines is the sort of book you can hold up to people who say, “Print is dead!” and poke your tongue at them. It’s a lovely package (and it should be noted I’m talking about the Australian/New Zealand Allen and Unwin printing), with gorgeous full colour artwork at the chapter breaks, clever silhouette illustrations popping up on the pages, and a variety of font colours and types used to denote point of view in different chapters. It is pretty, and the pictures are worth poring over – it’s great to see publishers investing in the printed book like this, because it is an edge that regular (ie: e-ink) e-readers cannot match.

Delilah is pretty much an outcast at school, and would rather read than anything else. Her new favourite book is one she can’t even tell her best (only) friend about though – it’s a fairytale, and Delilah finds herself very intrigued by the main character, the prince Oliver. Little does she know, Oliver is intrigued by her as well, and yearns to escape the confines of the story for a bigger world outside. But is that even possible?

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Jack Dann (ed.)

Harper Voyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286255

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in August 2008)

I need to preface this review by saying while I think this collection is missing a number of Australia’s best contemporary genre short story writers, there are many highly readable works in this fatly packed book. I’ve chosen to discuss only a very few that particularly resonated with me, but with more than thirty stories, the fact I have not talked about a story does not mean it wasn’t a good yarn. You will need to test these waters for yourself, and just see if you agree with me…

In “This is My Blood”, Brisbanite Chris Lynch teams up with fellow Clarion South graduate Ben Francisco from the US. I found it interesting that editor Jack Dann chose to include a story co-written by a non-Aussie in this Australian anthology, especially given the weight of stories enclosed. However, it’s a strong piece. To me, this story was a dark journey into an otherworldly missionary life. Mother Rena attempts to bring God to the natives but at the same time finds herself coming to understand their alien culture in ways she had never imagined. A challenging consideration of sex and gender and religion, this piece drew me in and engrossed me from the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

Lynda Hilburn

Kismet Knight, Vampire Psychologist, Book 1

Jo Fletcher Books (2011)

ISBN: 9780857387196

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

The most interesting thing about this book is that it was originally self-published, apparently selling over 200,000 copies on Amazon before being picked up by the Jo Fletcher Books imprint of Quercus Publishing. I’m not too sure why they chose to do that – surely there are other, more interesting books out there that have not already reached a vampire-saturated market that Jo Fletcher could have taken on?

Kismet Knight (excuse me while I throw up a little at the name) is a moderately successful psychologist experiencing early career ennui – she has a solid practice, a nice apartment, and no social life, despite her oft-described attractiveness. Her only real relationship ended badly (and was pretty woeful anyway), and she’s almost ready to dip her toe in the dating waters again, at the same time seeking a new angle for her psychology to be revitalised by.

Enter vampires. Well, vampire wannabes at least. Kismet meets a patient who seems to wholeheartedly believe in the creatures of the night, and not only that, wants to become one. As a rational human, Kismet sees only the mental health issues associated with such a delusion, and considers this a perfect direction to focus her work on. Soon, however, Kismet finds herself meeting unusual people who do things she can’t quite justify. Oh, she tries hard (over and over and over) to explain away evidence that suggests vampires are actually real, but in the end, she has to admit that there is more to the world than she had ever imagined.

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