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Deborah Biancotti, Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren

Morrigan Books (2011)

ISBN: 9789186865016

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

(Disclaimer: I know all three of these authors. Not that that would stop me from being dispassionate, of course…)

This is a set of three novellas, set in very distinct times, about the goddess Ishtar. Despite having the same theoretical focus, the three vary greatly in tone, style and actual focus. There are, nonetheless, a couple of clear threads that link them. The first is, of course, Ishtar herself. This is no Botticelli-esque Venus, no whimsical romanticised Aphrodite; all three authors present an Ishtar who is very clearly goddess of war and goddess of love/sexuality, and who embodies the struggles that each of those aspects brings – not to mention the way they work together. Coexistent with this is an attitude towards men that could perhaps be described as contempt, although that may be too harsh; disdain may be closer. Aside from Ishtar, the three stories are all categorised by a general sense of dread, of pessimism and darkness. These are not cheery tales.

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Deborah Biancotti

Twelve Planets, Book 4

Twelfth Planet Press (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-9808274-8-4

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This fourth book in the Twelve Planets series, from Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press, comes back to the idea presented by the first collection – that of an interconnected suite of stories, which build on and enhance one another but also stand by themselves.

The overarching idea here in Deborah Biancotti’s set is, as the title suggests, the use and abuse of power – especially when it is given to ordinary, or even undeserving people. The blurb asks “Hate superheroes? Yeah. They probably hate you, too.” It feels to me that the idea of ordinary people having powers and struggling with them is something that’s only become really interesting (at least to me) in the last few years. Biancotti does not present unreservedly heroic or villainous people, in general, here. They do some stupid things … but they’re not out for world domination. They do some heroic things … but they have their struggles and failures, too.

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Deborah Biancotti

Twelfth Planet Press (2009)

ISBN: 978-0-9804841-5-1

Reviewed by Angela Slatter

Deborah Biancotti’s first collection of short stories is jaw-droppingly good. Dammit.

These twenty-one stories, some reprints, some shiny and new, spanning the period 2000–2009, are divided into three sections, ‘End of Days’, ‘End of the World’, and ‘End of an Era’. It also has a sensible introduction by Justine Larbalestier, which urges the reader to just go and read the stories, then come back to the introduction afterwards. It’s okay, it’ll still be there when you’re finished.

So, what do we get in this collection? Well, there’s a healthy mix of horror, science fiction and fantasy – something to please everyone – and these stories do what Biancotti’s work does best: plumbs the dark everyday. She has a particular talent for reminding the reader that under every ordinary surface there lurks a range of dark rips and tides waiting to pull the unwary beneath.

Most have a distinctly Australian flavour that would be more informative for prospective tourists than any government-sponsored tourism campaign. Although, they might actually scare away the tourists, which would defeat the purpose, I suppose. There also seem to be nods to environmental concerns, but the political message never gets in the way of the story, so you are free to read for story alone if you don’t wish to take away an enhanced conscience. In the interests of brevity and not waffling, I’ll just touch on what were for me the stand-outs.

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Deborah Biancotti

Twelfth Planet Press (2009)

ISBN: 978 0 9804841 5 1

www.twelfthplanetpress.com

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, May 2010

I promised myself I would get to this one eventually. I had read most of the individual stories before the release of this, Deborah Biancotti’s first short story collection, and I read all of the new stories last year, as I read most original short stories, in electronic form and in a rush, in order to sift out the best ones for Last Short Story blogging.

But that’s the whole point of a short story collection. It doesn’t matter if you’ve read the stories before. They are being presented anew, forming part of something else, and you haven’t actually read it as a collection unless you have sat down and read it, in order, turning all the pages.

I promised myself that one day I would lounge on a couch, with a box of chocolates or a tall jug of iced tea, and spend a whole afternoon taking in this particular book properly, instead of just waving my hands and telling other people to read it. Of course, my life doesn’t work that way. I consumed it in three parts – one part lying on the bed in my library, glaring at the various members of my family attempting to visit me in there and loudly announcing THIS IS MUMMY’S QUIET TIME, one part perched on my couch while the baby ran ever so slightly amok at my feet, and one part in an armchair today, while eyeing the workmen busily digging holes and swapping power poles outside my window.

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Deborah Biancotti

Twelfth Planet Press (2009)

ISBN: 978 0 9804841 5 1

www.twelfthplanetpress.com

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack, March 2010

A Book of Endings is the first short story collection from Deborah Biancotti; it contains 21 stories, 15 of which have been published before. Most were new to me, but I haven’t been reading much short fiction; the stories reprinted here first appeared in a variety of publications, most of which will be familiar to those who read Australian short fiction. So for some readers, a number of the stories will be familiar.

There’s no indication that this is intended as a “best of” collection, and indeed the fact that over a quarter of the stories are new militates against this. It is, I think, more intended to be representative of the range and quality of Biancotti’s work.  In this, it works well; although it is clear that Biancotti has some favoured approaches and themes, A Book of Endings is quite a diverse collection. Importantly, the stories are all of high quality. Not everyone will like them all, or indeed choose the same favourites, but I think most readers will appreciate what Biancotti has achieved here.

This isn’t a light collection. I don’t recall a single story here that I found humorous, or would call light relief. That’s okay.  But given that most of these stories are on the darker side, and many have quite a lot for the reader to think about, it’s not the sort of collection I can read quickly.  I found I needed to read one or at most two stories, and then put the collection down for several days to enable me to absorb the impact of that story before I could consider reading another.  They’re strong stories, with a lot to think about, and some of them have a strong impact on the reader.

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