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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 »

Bill Congreve (ed.)

Five Island Press Associates (1992)

ISBN: 1-875604-03-0

Reviewed by Phillip Berrie (this review was first published in October 2007)

I found this book at a trash ‘n’ treasure stand and promptly paid the princely sum of 50 cents for it after seeing the list of contributors. These authors and the fact that it was an anthology edited by Bill Congreve lead me to expect some very interesting stories. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was the publication date. Printed in 1992, this thin (11 stories, 144 pages) soft cover book is well and truly out of print, though I have seen it listed in some second-hand book shops online. Still, the editor of this fine website has allowed me to indulge myself with a retrospective review of this piece of Australian Horror history.

The opening story, “Dem Bones” is by Robert Hood. I suspect he got to go first because it was his publishing company, Five Islands Press, that published the anthology. This is a revenant story, where some local, and very Australian (presumably a refreshing element of the story at the time), villains get their comeuppance for killing and disturbing the grave of a derelict named Bob Skelton, who had the prophetic nick name, Bag O’ Bones. Nothing very original here, I’m afraid, though remember we are talking 1992.

“A Sprig of Aconite”, by Sue Isle, is a story about a werewolf homicide. Bonus points for those who recognised the clue in the title, though its use, and this story, might not be as you expect. The piece involves two regular characters of the author – a pair of psychic detectives – as they investigate the death of an associate. Interesting characters, but including them and having them solve the mystery of the deaths detracted from what little horror was to be found here for this reader. This piece is a fantasy/crime cross genre story and, in my opinion, would have found a much better home as part of a larger story about these characters. Read the rest of this entry »

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