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Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth book 3

Orion (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09484-0

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Dark and Hollow Places is described on the back of the book as a “companion volume” to two others; in the author’s bio at the back it’s called volume three in a trilogy. I think the second is a more accurate description, and as a result the novel lacks a little when read by itself. Even so, it manages to be an interesting and entertaining read; it’s well suited to the intended young adult audience but will also hold the interest of many adult readers.

The Dark and Hollow Placestells the story of Annah. When she was a child, she and her twin (Abigail), and the older Elias left their village to explore in the forbidden forest. When Abigail fell and hurt herself, Elias and Annah carried on with their adventure. They became irrevocably lost, never able to return to their village. Annah has spent years racked with grief and guilt for her sister. Perhaps she died alone in the forest. Perhaps she too wandered lost and alone. Perhaps she found her way back to the village. Annah has never known and the guilt eats at her every day. Eventually Annah and Elias found their way to the City, one of the few remaining refuges. Here they eked out a living for years. Until eventually Elias joined the Recruiters, a semi-military corps that is supposed to provide some protection for the citizens.  He was supposed to return after his two year hitch, but it’s been three years and there’s still no sign of him.  Annah doesn’t know if he’s dead, or if he’s alive but has chosen not to return to her.

Michelle Paver

Orion Books (2010)

ISBN: 9781409123798

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

In the years before World War II, Jack Miller is working for subsistence wage in a job he is over qualified and too intelligent for. He yearns for something more, a way to escape the reduced circumstances he is in because of the early deaths of his mother and father. He feels he has done all he can to claw out of the working class, but cannot see a way to go any further forward. Until an opportunity to travel to the Arctic with a group of upper class young men who need a wireless operator, to study the weather of the region, arises. Despite misgivings about his station is life as opposed to that of his would-be colleagues, Jack takes up the challenge, seeing it as perhaps his only opportunity to rise out of poverty. What follows is a grim and eerie journey that takes a very different path to that he might have expected.

Dark Matter is Paver’s first foray into adult fiction, after the success of her highly acclaimed Chronicle of Darkness series for children. Interestingly, I would suggest Dark Matter could fit quite nicely in the upper end of the Young Adult spectrum, given the naivety of the central character and his journey to understanding of self, and the world around him. While he is purportedly twenty-eight in the story, there is no real evidence of his age in the book, other than mention of how long he has been working in the job he hates. He has no family, no love interest, no trappings of adulthood – Jack’s journey could equally have been that of a late teen or university leaver, and there’s no content in the story itself that would preclude it from being suitable for a younger audience. Read the rest of this entry »

VM Zito

Hodder and Stoughton    

ISBN: 978-1-444-72518-6

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Generally speaking, I avoid horror novels. It’s a genre that doesn’t particularly connect with me. And yet this novel – unmistakeably horror – absolutely mesmerised me. Kept me up reading, just one more page to find out what happens next … and one more page … and one more… You’re doing something right when someone who doesn’t like the genre can’t put your book down.

In The Return Man, Zito has deliberately used many familiar tropes – a zombie apocalypse, the US divided into two, social collapse, government conspiracies, and nasty viruses, to name just a few. However, he’s managed to infuse them with a sense of freshness and verve that’s likely to strongly engage most readers.

David Pelletier

Dragonfall Press

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

The Dreaming is the debut novel from Australia author David Pelletier. It was published by Dragonfall Press, an independent publisher of science fiction and fantasy based in Perth, Western Australia. Launched in 2010, the press aims to discover, publish and promote Australian and New Zealand authors of speculative fiction.

The book follows three young Indigenous siblings – Kevin, Alison and Jimmy, who are uprooted from their life with their father in outback Australia and moved to Perth to live with relatives. As the three children struggle to adapt to their new life, Alison finds herself drawn to the nearby national park and the darkness that dwells beneath that land. She is forced into confrontation with her own past as she fights to keep her brothers safe from the horrors both human and inhuman.

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Madeleine Roux

ISBN: 978-0-7553-7916-3

Publisher: Headline

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Sadie Walker is Stranded is Madeleine Roux’s second novel. It centres on Sadie, who has been living in Seattle since the zombie outbreak which has devastated America (and possibly other countries, but our characters are generally too insular to spare that a thought). Early in the outbreak some quick thinkers built a wall which turned Seattle into a citadel and kept the zombies out.

It’s not the most comfortable place to live. Food is in short supply, luxuries are almost non-existent, and tension is high. No-one seems to thinking about much except getting through the next day. The sole exception is the “Rabbits”, a repopulationist group which preaches that people should have as many babies as possible as quickly as possible. This isn’t a popular notion when starvation is a breath away. Who needs more dependent people this instant? Let’s wait a few years. (Although it’s never clear what anyone else expects to change, to make having children more viable.)

Kaaron Warren

Angry Robot (2009)

ISBN: 9780007322428

Reviewed by Martin Livings (this review was first published in November 2009)

Stevie is a young woman with some issues. Her beloved policeman father was killed in the line of duty when she was just a little girl, her mother died in a car accident while Stevie was driving, and her brother is a self-help guru and aspiring politician whose ambitious wife loathes her.

Oh, and in her spare time, she occasionally kills people to find out where they go when they die. You see, Stevie herself has nearly died a number of times, sometimes by accident, sometimes … not. And every time she has, she’s found herself in a dark place, trapped in a room and surrounded and tormented by the people she’s slighted in her life. She wants to know why that is, both horrified and strangely attracted to it. And she also wants to know why she keeps finding bones in her backyard, along with trinkets that may have belonged to people who’ve gone missing over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Parisi

Penguin (2008)

ISBN: 9780143007647

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

Blood of Dreams was a disappointing novel. A trite and meandering plot, and characters that are never fully realised combine to create a very unsatisfying reading experience.

In eighteenth century Venice Laudomia chafes under the guardianship of her brothers. Neither they nor her sisters-in-law want to hear anything about her gift of foresight. They want her to be an extremely proper young lady who never says, thinks or hears anything they deem scandalous; and they want her to marry someone conservative who will ensure the rest of her life will be like that. They particularly don’t want Laudomia to mention the visions she’s been having of a series of ugly murders terrifying Venice. Then Laudomia meets Estavio and the entire family is immediately smitten. But when Estavio champions Laudomia’s gift to her brothers, they immediately reject him as a friend and potential suitor. Laudomia, however, is not willing to let him go so easily.

The supposed twist at the end of the novel is in fact obvious very early on, at least if you’re paying attention. I’m not sure if this is deliberate – an attempt to make the reader more knowledgeable than Laudomia – or simply a rather clumsy attempt to seed something that the reader will remember retrospectively as a justification for the ending. Either way, it didn’t work for me. The twist itself was so trite that it only made me roll my eyes to have my suspicions confirmed. Read the rest of this entry »

Edwina Grey

Lothian (2006) 

ISBN: 0734409680 

Reviewed by Nicole Murphy (this review was first published in August 2006)

Prismatic is from the shortlived Lothian Dark Suspense line (it was intended to be a long-running line but was cut with just four books under contract). If Prismatic is indicative of the calibre of the books that would have been published, then Australian readers can consider themselves robbed.

Prismatic is three stories in the one book, each an interesting tale in its own right, but each building on the information of the other to create the full story. The basis of the entire story revolves around a patch of mangrove swamp on the Lane Cove River, in Sydney. In antiquity, the Aboriginal tribes avoided it. People living nearby tell strange stories. It is a place to be avoided. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Wilkins

Arrow (1997)

ISBN: 0091834171

Reviewed by Gillian Polack (this review first published August 2007)

Kim Wilkins is a reliably entertaining writer. She knows the tropes for horror and her backgrounds feel secure and are detailed to the exact level they need to be. Nothing I’ve read by her is less than good, and at her best she is an outstanding genre writer. This makes her quite difficult to review, because I want to say all the same things I have always said when asked about her: that she’s a fine craftswoman with a natural flow of language; that she knows her stuff and uses it well; that her books are enjoyable.

The Infernal does all of these things, and occasionally just a little bit more. It’s not a book to read at night alone in mid-winter. Which is exactly what I did. Just don’t ask me about my dreams for a bit, please.

What’s The Infernal about (besides dreams)?

Lisa is a musician who is successful enough to make a (bare) living, but not so successful that she and her band aren’t looking for that major breakthrough. She starts worrying when one of her fans turns up dead in a forest and when she starts dreaming vivid memories of the past. She does all the right things: tells the police everything she knows about the murder; explores her dreams to find out what has triggered them and why they are coming to her and how she can diminish them. Then the one thing that ought to be going right (her best friend’s marriage to a surprisingly normal accountant) goes all awry. Lisa does what she can, and has to face demons on all sorts of levels. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephen M Irwin

Hachette Australia (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7336-2713-2

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

The Broken Ones is Brisbane writer Stephen M Irwin’s second novel, in which he builds on the skills shown in The Dark Path (2009) and realises much of the promise found there. Indeed, Hachette has signalled its confidence by slapping a moneyback guarantee on the cover. The publisher’s faith is well founded.

The story blends noir and horror and does it convincingly. It is set in a near future where ghosts have arisen, ushering in a dystopia of Blade Runner proportions across the globe. Everyone has a haunting spirit, an eyeless spectre in some way attached to their life. Facing the ghost of a dearly departed or even some apparent stranger, day in, day out: it gets on the nerves. Industry falls apart. Society frays. Rainy Brisbane is rendered into a broken down city of the have nots, the barely holding ons and the enclaved wealthy.

Oscar Mariani, a second-generation cop, has his own demons: an uneasy family background with its own non-supernatural skeletons in the closet, a bucket load of guilt, and the cold shoulder of the police department he works for. It doesn’t help that he’s an honest cop in a city where corruption is really just a dirty word for doing business.

Mariani’s life and career are brought to the edge when he investigates the murder of a young woman, her mangled body found inscribed with occult markings. The guilt runs not only all the way from the gutter to the city’s powerful, but into the spirit world as well.

There is much to like in this story.

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