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Richard Harland

Allen & Unwin (2011)

Review by George Ivanoff

Ever since reading Richard Harland’s YA steampunk novel, Worldshaker, in 2009, I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel. I am very pleased to say that it has lived up to all my expectation. It’s an exciting, imaginative and engaging read.

Set in a world where Imperialist societies exist on massive mobile juggernauts, powered by an oppressed sub-class known as the Filthies, Worldshaker and Liberator are terrific example of the steampunk genre. Steam-driven machinery, Victorian elegance and exciting adventure combine to make these books difficult to put down.

In the first book we met Colbert Porpentine, grandson of Worldshaker’s supreme commander, and Riff, one of the Filthies. Together, they brought about a revolution in which the Filthies overthrew the ruling class and took over the juggernaut. In book two, the juggernaut has been renamed Liberator, but despite the high ideals of the revolution, things are going wrong. There is a saboteur on board the juggernaut, a murder has been committed, radical elements are gaining power and distrust is rife. The Filthies want to take their revolution out to the other juggernauts, but the Imperialist forces are determined to stop them. Col and Riff’s relationship is put to the test, as loyalties are called into question. Exciting stuff!

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Edited by Tehani Wessely

FableCroft (2010)

Reviewed by George Ivanoff

Worlds Next Door is a fab little anthology of Australian spec fic for kids. A quick look at the contents page and you’d be pretty surprised if it wasn’t a good read — the editor has assembled an enviable list of contributors well known in specfic circles.

As with any anthology, there were some stories I liked more than others — but there were no clunkers. I enjoyed each and every one, it’s just that some shone for me, whiles others were merely a pleasant read. Overall, I love the fact that none of the stories try to dumb things down for the target readership… which, of course, has the side-effect of making them very readable for an adult audience as well. The stories are intelligent, sometimes challenging and always entertaining.

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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.

James Norcliffe

Allen and Unwin (2009)

ISBN: 9781742371160

Reviewed by George Ivanoff, March 2010

Confined to the Great House along with other unwanted children, Michael longs for freedom. One day, an enigmatic stranger calling himself the loblolly boy offers him a chance for escape. The loblolly boy says he can teach Michael to fly, so that he can get over the wall that surrounds the Great House. But things don’t turn out quite like Michael expects. In order to fly, he needs to change places with the loblolly boy — in fact, he must become the loblolly boy. And at first he loves it — the exhilaration of flight, the freedom to go anywhere he wants and the ability to go unseen by all but a few ‘sensitives’. But he soon realises that there are disadvantages, not the least of which is an obsessive collector who wants to add a loblolly boy to his collection. It’s not long before the new loblolly boy is longing to get his old life back. The problem is how to do it.

The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe is an entrancing, exciting, unexpected read — a kids’ book that really does have the potential for much wider appeal. Although set in the modern world, it has a wondrous, magical fairy-tale ambience. And even though the story is quite simple, I never quite knew where it was going or how it would be resolved.

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