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Robert Hood

MirrorDanse Books (2002)

ISBN: 0-958658-36-6

Reviewed by Devin Jeyathurai (this review was first published in November 2005)

The subtitle of this book is an example of understatement, as well as truth in advertising. While it might be true that this is a collection of ghost stories, that phrase does not adequately convey the breadth of Robert Hood’s talent, nor does it offer the prospective reader any real idea as to what to expect. None of the ghosts in this collection are of the conventional sheet-wearing, chain-shaking variety, and not one of them actually goes “boo”. Hood quite deliberately defies convention, and the result is a series of stories that run the gamut, from quiet mood pieces to stirring cinematic epics. In at least one instance, it’s doubtful whether the “ghost” is anything more than the product of a disturbed mind.

In an interview with Kyla Ward (done for the book, and reproduced after the last short story), Hood explains that this collection is called Immaterial “because the material world is haunted by an immaterial reality.” Read the rest of this entry »

Edited by Cat Sparks

Agog! Press (2004)

ISBN: 0-958056-73-0

Reviewed by Devin Jeyathurai (this review was first published in November 2005)

Most days, if you asked me to choose between a good short story and a good novel, I’d pick the short story. This isn’t really anyone’s fault. It has more to do with the way my life is structured. I work all day and the only times I have to read on a regular basis are when I’m on the bus in the morning, when I’m on the bus in the evening, and briefly before I fall asleep. You can then understand why a short story is perfectly suited to my lifestyle. I can fit a complete story into a forty minute ride to the office in the morning, and then head into work without feeling like I need to read just one more page. On the way home, I can read a slightly longer short story, and finish it off before I hit the sack.

The experience of reading a short story is different from reading a novel, and markedly so. A novel is more languid, more expansive. A novel has more room, more space. A novel can explore ideas and plotlines and character more slowly, more deeply, differently.

By contrast, a short story needs to work quickly, grab the reader by the (eye)balls and drag them along for the ride before they can change their minds. Forget about establishing background, or those long dreary descriptions. A short story is kinetic, it moves. Some short stories start in medias res and require that the reader catch up on their own. Often figuring out what’s going on is part of the fun.

All the same, there aren’t very many markets for speculative fiction short stories, and correspondingly few ways for readers to get hold of them. That’s why I applaud Cat Sparks’ effort to showcase new Australian science fiction shorts in anthologies like Agog! Smashing Stories (and Agog! Terrific TalesAgog! Fantastic FictionAustrAlien Absurdities and Daikaiju!). I can’t vouch for any of the others, because I haven’t gotten around to buying or reading them, but when writing about Agog! Smashing Stories, the word that springs to mind is “solid”. Read the rest of this entry »

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