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Robert Rankin

Gollancz (2009)

ISBN: 978-0-575-08497-1

Reviewed by by Ross Murray

Retromancer is my first dip into the literature of Robert Rankin but it’s definitely not his! Rankin has been a prolific author since his first publication The Antpope (1981). As the self-proclaimed leading exponent of “far-fetched fiction”, Retromancer is Rankin’s thirtieth novel.

Set in 1967, the story is narrated by the teenage Rizla (aka Jimmy Pooley) who appears in all the books of Rankin’s Brentford Trilogy (of which there are nine including Retromancer).

Not all is as it seems for Rizla since returning from his escapades as chronicled in The Brightonomicon. While he’s been away, things in Britain have taken a decidedly German turn for the worse. German bratwurst sausages are being served for breakfast and there’s only German beer on tap in all the local pubs. Rizla however is determined to pursue his life of all things English, which leads to his arrest as a spy and subsequent imminent torture. Luckily he’s saved in the nick of time by Hugo Rune.

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K A Bedford

Published by Fremantle Press (2009)

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Time Machines Repaired While U Wait is Perth writer K.A. Bedford’s fourth published novel, but it’s the first to have been published in Australia. All four of Bedford’s science fiction novels have previously been released by Edge Publications in Canada, including Time Machines, which won Australia’s Aurealis Award for Best SF Novel in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award in the US in 2009. Presumably this lead to Fremantle Press picking this novel up for domestic publication, which makes Time Machines something of a breakthrough novel for its author.

And it shows. This is an assured performance in a mode that reminds me a little of my great love Philip K Dick (especially in that our protagonist, Al “Spider” Webb, is a repairman) but also of authors like Robert Sheckley. The plot starts out relatively simply, with Spider picking up a dodgy used time-machine that may or may not blow up, potentially consuming the universe. There’s this thing called “the Bat Cave”, which to my mind is probably the coolest gadget in the book — it’s a sort of miniature universe for performing experiments or blowing stuff up. Turns out there’s another time machine hiding inside the first (this reminds me of an old Doctor Who episode where two spaceships get merged into one — kind of) and there’s a dead body inside. And Spider, an ex-cop with a chequered past, is itching to solve the crime.

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Trent Jamieson

Death Works Novel

Hachette (2010)

ISBN: 9780733624834

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, June 2010

Steven de Selby is not your average hero. He’s mediocre at his job, he’s a disappointment to his parents, and he’s still moping about the girl who dumped him years ago. To be honest, Steve’s a bit of a loser. But his job is pretty unusual – Steve is a Psychopomp, or Pomp as they’re known – a person who draws the dead through to the Underworld and who stalls Stirrers, things that desperately desire to come in the other direction. When the entire Pomp organisation in Australia starts collapsing and almost every other Pomp in the region is murdered, Steve finds himself on the run, fighting for his life and the lives of those he loves. But who is the enemy, and how can he possibly beat such a powerful foe, one on a par with Death himself?

There is so much to like about this book. To begin with, I loved the very Australian feel to the story. Death Most Definite is set in contemporary Brisbane (mostly) and as someone who has spent time in that state capital, it was pretty cool to read about places I had visited as conduits to the underworld, or simply as part of the story. But it’s not just about the setting; the book feels Australian on so many levels – the dialogue is especially well done, being a realistic representation of Australian vernacular without dropping into “ockerness”. Jamieson has done an excellent job of ensuring the book at all times has a distinct Australian flavour, divergent entirely from American or British fellows.

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Edited by David Kernot

Andromeda Spaceways Cooperative (2010)

Reviewed by George Ivanoff, July 2010

I’ll be brutally honest here and say that the last time I picked up a copy of ASIM, I was extremely underwhelmed. Mind you, that was a few years back. Anyway, I didn’t have high expectations for this issue. Happily, this issue surprised me. I loved it! It has a terrific mix of excellent stories — from science fiction to horror to fantasy.

For me there were three stand-out stories. First off, there’s Felicity Dowker’s “From Little Things” – a story about a man and a dragon and revenge. How can you resist a story that begins with: “There’s a dragon in my pantry.” Then there’s David I Russell’s “By the Banks of the Nabarra” – a wonderfully atmospheric horror with an Australian feel. Dark, chilling stuff! And finally, there’s David Tallerman’s “The Painted City” – an intriguing science fiction story about the discovery of a new planet and the rather unusual city on its surface.

I’ve singled out three stories, my favourites, but they are all good in this issue. There is no weak link in this chain.

ASIM is an interesting magazine in that it is run by a co-operative and has a different editor from issue to issue. So my previous experience with the mag may simple be put down to having different literary tastes to the editor of that particular issue. The changing editors approach can be seen as either a strength or a weakness, depending on how you look at it. A strength, in that it keeps things fresh from issue to issue. A weakness, in that each editor will have different biases, and so there may be a lack of consistency over the issues. Either way, this issue has convinced me that I should give ASIM a further go. I look forward to reading another issue.

Tom Holt

Orbit (2010)

ISBN 978 1 84149 778 5

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce, June 2010

I have long been a fan of Tom Holt’s humorous novels (and his historical ones too). His titles in themselves have often drawn a giggle – Who’s Afraid of Beowulf, Faust Among Equals, Odds and Gods. There have been gods, magicians, the Underworld, and even Jesus’ younger brother Kevin. Rarely aliens, though, which is one way in which Holt has been differentiated from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

Perhaps this is where Blonde Bombshell goes wrong. Because it does go wrong; not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The fundamental premise: aliens don’t like Earth because our music (reaching them through the ether) is driving them nuts. As a perfectly natural consequence, they send a bomb to destroy the Earth. In fact, they send two bombs, because the first for some reason failed to explode. The second bomb (equipped with an AI, just like the first) needs to figure out what happened to the first, and then decide how best to meet its own mission objective of destroying the planet.

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Edited by David Kernot

Andromeda Spaceways Cooperative (2010)

Reviewed by Joanne Kasper, June 2010

The Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine always represents good value for money. Full of stories, mostly good, some quirky and at times just downright weird. But that’s good too! Issue 43 contains the following:

“Thief of Tears”by Jason Crowe – When a woman wants to exact revenge on a cheating lover, or simply give him a timely reminder, someone needs to collect the essential ingredients for the appropriate spell. Not a nice job, but it has to be done – and it isn’t always tears that are required. An old story of how far we can fall from an innocuous beginning, but given a twist of fantasy.

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Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

Tachyon Publications (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-89239-192-6

Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein, March 2010

I was extremely excited when I first heard about this book and even more excited when I received a review copy in the mail. I’ve already raved about the book on our podcast (Galactica Suburbia, Episode 2).  You see, it’s a book that I felt desperately needed to be written – if we are to have more Jews in fantasy, we *must* be able to know what foods we can serve them at great celebratory banquets and during quick stops at random inns along the long journey of schlepping to go get the thing from the ganif (thief). Additionally, this book will serve as a really useful guide for my friends when they are planning to invite me to a dinner where they plan to cook an imaginary animal. No more worrying about whether or not I will eat the, uh …slow roasted manticore or spicy phoenix curry or bbq dragon spare ribs.  What’s more, there is no better time to review this book than at Pesach – a time when Jews traditionally are obsessed with what foods they can and can’t eat.

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals
is a pocket-sized book cataloguing a variety of imaginary creatures and uses dialogue between Ann and Jeff’s evil alter ego, The Evil Monkey, to discuss which animals would be kosher. These discussion are nostalgically reminiscent of various conversations I might have participated in in religious class at school and are also a nod to the kind of rabbinical debates that lead to schools of thought on Jewish laws (like, but in tongue and cheek).

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