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Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce
Edge of Infinity is not especially concerned about Earth, but it cares deeply about humanity. It’s not blindly optimistic, but neither is it depressingly morbid. It cares about the little things and the big, it’s got romance and death, and lots and lots of adventure, set within our solar system but not on Earth. Also, space ships. Read the rest of this entry »
Ticonderoga Publications (2007)
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 There’s scope for much of the editorial’s content, relating to Australia’s current labour laws, to become quickly outdated.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 »
MirrorDanse Books (2007)
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 »
MirrorDanse Books (2006)
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 »
MirrorDanse Books (2005)
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 »
Elise Bunter (2007)
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 »
Shadowed Realms (2005)
Reviewed by Mark Deniz (this review was first published in March 2006)
I haven’t been this excited by a project for quite some time now; as a writer and reader of dark fiction for twenty nine years, the prospect of seventy tales from sixty six authors is what makes a job like this so enjoyable. The ‘box’ is exquisitely packaged, with excellent graphics and sound effects (including a delightful ‘X-ray gallery’) to complement the works of fiction within, and the Box, and its hundred and twenty four pages made clearer for me what it is that I love (and loathe) regarding horror fiction.
After reading the snippets of darkness and braving the Box, I can easily say that there was more that I would categorise as quality dark fiction here than not. Of course there were some stories that were extremely disappointing but, in truth, I never expected all seventy examples of flash fiction to hit the spot. After all we are all different horror readers, who expect and crave different nuances of the genre. I like the gruesome, love the hair-raising, and the story that lingers on, long after the reading, like a ghost itself, haunting the senses. It is comedy within horror writing that I have difficulties with, for if done well it is awesome but when it fails, it seems to fall twice as hard because good humorous horror is so hard to achieve. Read the rest of this entry »
Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (2006)
Reviewed by Lee Battersby (this review was first published in May 2006)
This is the seventh anthology from the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, and conforms to their traditional format: stories by a range of members based around a single theme. Previous anthologies have focussed on fantastical beasts, machines, places that can be considered ‘other’, and even the act of cooking. In this instance, the anthology concerns itself with the notion of otherness in the individual: the outsider, the pariah, the exile.
This instalment in the CSFG’s annual output contains 20 stories, and in keeping with the Guild’s policy of rotating the editorship, is edited by Nicole R Murphy. Its production values are relatively high for a small press volume. The cover is appealing, unlike the last CSFG collection to cross my desk (the otherwise excellent Kaaron Warren collection, The Grinding House), the paper is of a good weight, and the layout and font choice makes for easy reading. Small points to raise, perhaps, but the small press scene in Australia is crowded, and effort is necessary to stand out from a crowded shelf. The Outcast will look good in your hands. For me, that’s a pleasant part of the reading experience. The fiction inside, however, is a mixed bunch, ranging from well told stories by experienced professionals, to flawed and uninspiring choices. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Angus and Robertson (1988)
Reviewed by Gillian Polack (this review was first published in December 2005)
Matilda at the Speed of Light has a rather large reputation to live up to. When new writers appear, clutching their short stories and turning up to workshops with hope in their eyes, they are told, “These are the special writers: Greg Egan and Terry Dowling, Lucy Sussex and Damien Broderick.” These names and the name of this classic anthology are engraved on our minds because today, we are told, there are so many magazines and so many anthologies that the bar to being published is much lower. Because of all this baggage, I approached a re-reading of Matilda very cautiously. It doesn’t really matter that it is one of the great collections in the minds of a number of people more expert than me. What matters is that I have it in front of me now, and that I am reviewing it. Yes, it is far better than most speculative fiction anthologies Australia has produced, and Broderick’s selection of stories has amply demonstrated his ability to identify talent, but it is still worthwhile revisiting and rethinking and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. Having done this, I would strongly recommend that anyone who enjoys speculative fiction short stories get hold of a copy of this anthology (which is, alas, out of print). It is as close to the gold standard as Australia has gone.
Broderick’s introduction was very odd to read. It has a host of handy insights about what science is as opposed to what science thinks it is. Broderick talks about the failing of the assumption that science is perfect and holds all answers. He describes the parallels between scientific processes and writing. When he points out the uncertain basis on which science may be founded Broderick is, in fact, the small boy commenting on the Emperor’s nudity. He does so with grace and erudition. His main point, however, is less to question the realities created by science than to lead into his discussion of scientists as narrators. I have my opinions on the first, but had not actually considered the procedures and articles and lectures that spatter science with language, as narrative. It was worth re-reading Matilda just for that insight. Read the rest of this entry »