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Jack Dann (ed.)

Harper Voyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286255

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in August 2008)

I need to preface this review by saying while I think this collection is missing a number of Australia’s best contemporary genre short story writers, there are many highly readable works in this fatly packed book. I’ve chosen to discuss only a very few that particularly resonated with me, but with more than thirty stories, the fact I have not talked about a story does not mean it wasn’t a good yarn. You will need to test these waters for yourself, and just see if you agree with me…

In “This is My Blood”, Brisbanite Chris Lynch teams up with fellow Clarion South graduate Ben Francisco from the US. I found it interesting that editor Jack Dann chose to include a story co-written by a non-Aussie in this Australian anthology, especially given the weight of stories enclosed. However, it’s a strong piece. To me, this story was a dark journey into an otherworldly missionary life. Mother Rena attempts to bring God to the natives but at the same time finds herself coming to understand their alien culture in ways she had never imagined. A challenging consideration of sex and gender and religion, this piece drew me in and engrossed me from the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (eds.)

Bloomsbury (2007)

ISBN: 9780747590569

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in January 2008)

Anthologies, in my experience, are fraught experiences. Sometimes the theme just works, and completely different stories sit quite comfortably together. Sometimes the theme feels forced, and it’s almost like a bunch of authors thought, “There’s a new anthology being put together … if I tweak this story like that, it will probably work.” And then, of course, there’s the anthologies where all of the stories are simply dreadful.

Dark Alchemy is not dreadful. There are a number of absolutely outstanding stories in it. The theme – the idea of the wizard – generally works. There were, though, some stories that I found a bit on the average side, that I thought let the team down overall. The Wizard, as the editors point out in their introduction, is a motif found in pretty much all cultures across the span of history. Some of the wizards in this collection are instantly recognisable – you’ve read or seen their story before, which is not to say that the story as presented here is boring. Some of the authors have taken a more sideways slant on the topic, with mixed results. And the cover is lovely – silver and grey, with an imposing castle on the front complete with bats, and a cobweb too. Not necessarily representative of all the stories, but attractive anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Jack Dann

Harper Voyager (2010)

ISBN 978 0 7322 8848 8

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

The premise behind this anthology seems essentially to have been that Australian authors would contribute short stories set in worlds they had already created, which would fill in certain plot elements or backstory, though there’s one story that doesn’t fit this mould. The difficulty with such a premise is that, if you are not familiar with every single author’s work, you might find that you only read or enjoy a handful of the stories. Of course, the other possibility is that it could act as a gateway to work you’ve not previously encountered. Happily, the latter case was largely how this anthology worked for me. I only knew the worlds of three stories in this anthology: those created by Garth Nix, Isobelle Carmody, and D M Cornish. I’d read some works by Sean Williams, Jennifer Fallon, Juliet Marillier and Cecilia Dart-Thornton, but not from the worlds represented here.

The first story is contributed by Garth Nix, and is set in his Old Kingdom where Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen were all set. “To Hold the Bridge” is set in the Old Kingdom, where magic is real and nasty critters might come get you if you don’t know the right Charter mark (enchantment). Morghan is a young man, down on his luck, hoping to join the Bridge Company and thereby find both gainful employment and a secure bed (and food). Morghan himself is a likeable fellow – it was enjoyable to follow his discovering about the Company, and his fellows. Some of the other characters were also amusing – none too similar to another – and it’s clear Nix has a wealth of stories about this land just bubbling away inside his head. I don’t know whether it would be as engaging to someone without knowledge of the Charter and its magic from the novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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