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Karen Miller

Fandemonium Books (2007)

ISBN: 9781905586004

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper (this review was first published in March 2009)

Media tie-in novels can be problematic as they are often viewed by other members of the writing community as something less than real writing. With an existing fan-base waiting eagerly for anything new, there is a temptation for publishers and authors to be less stringent in standards of writing and adhering to canon. Certainly, some of the media tie-in novels I have read in the past fall into this category. Fortunately, there are many more such novels that are written by talented authors who are fan enough to ensure that not only is the writing good but that the canon survives. Alliances is one of the good ones. I’m a Stargate SG-1 fan and reading this book has given me a deeper understanding of the individual characters and a new perspective on the Stargate universe.

The story is set immediately following the events depicted in the Season Four episode “The Other Side”. In this episode, SG-1 are faced with making some heavy moral decisions regarding obtaining new technology and weaponry to assist Earth in its fight against the Goa’uld, at the cost of supporting a totalitarian regime determined to ethnically cleanse their planet, Euronda. The divisions within the team that develop during the TV episode are carried through into the book and threaten the successful completion of their mission. Although you need to have at least a passing familiarity with the series to fully appreciate this story, don’t worry if you haven’t seen the relevant episode recently, there’s enough back-story provided for even the most forgetful fan.

After the spectacular failure of the mission on Euronda, serious questions are being asked in Washington about Colonel Jack O’Neill’s abilities and leadership. Not surprisingly, it is Senator Robert Kinsey who is leading the pack. Fans of the series will know Kinsey, and if you had any sympathy for him beforehand, that will change after reading this, he is the ultimate self-serving, slimy politician. The trouble deepens when O’Neill is temporarily suspended from duty for attempting to strangle Kinsey and there are also serious divisions between members of SG-1 over the decisions that were made during the Eurondan mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Simon Petrie

Peggy Bright Books (2010)

ISBN 978 0 98069981 4

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper

A collection of short (some very short) stories that seemed to come from the dark recesses of Simon Petrie’s mind. Most are funny, some are spooky and others are just plain weird and then there are the ones that are all three.

I found that sitting and reading the book all in one go was not a good idea because each story was so short that they tended to blend into each other. On the other hand, it is a brilliant book for reading before bedtime, or if (like me) you have young children and reading is done in short bursts during the day. Like pinching a chocolate from the box when no-one is looking as opposed to sitting and gorging the whole lot in one go … equally as satisfying!

This is a highly entertaining collection, with some sharp and funny commentary on science fiction and fantasy tropes, human nature and the perils of going into space. There is poetry, crime solving, sudoku puzzles (yes, really), sex education, and downright laugh out loud humour (“Highway Patroller”). It’s not all rolling in the aisles though, with stories such as “Running Lizard” looking at a more serious, and grisly, side to genetic mutations.

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Written by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Charles Vess

HarperCollins (2010)

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper

If you grew up, as I did, reading fairy stories, you already know what this poem is telling you. This is like the condensed version of all you need to know to successfully navigate the world of fairy. Remember your manners, be helpful and kind, and maintain a positive attitude. It is beautifully written and reads aloud wonderfully, and if you have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews or small children within a reasonable radius you should buy this book and read it to them.

The illustrations are beautiful, with intricate, page-wide panoramas that will have you asking, “Is that Cinderella’s coach over there behind the trees?”, and, “Do you see all the creatures hiding in the dark, mysterious wood?”.

I have not enough superlatives for this book, the only thing better than reading it yourself is finding a recording on the internet of Neil himself reading it aloud. Go, do it, he has an amazing voice.

Edited by Gillian Polack

Eneit Press (2010)

ISBN: 9780980691122

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper, July 2010

This anthology is a collection of stories from Australian authors, all talking about the baggage that people carry around with them. Each author has taken a different tack at the idea but ended up with a collection that holds together and reads as a complete experience.

When I heard about this anthology, my first thoughts were about the immigrant experience. I was expecting that most of the stories would be about the baggage that others brought to Australia. It was good to see that in amongst these stories there are also stories relating to the indigenous experience in Australia because that is just another part of the baggage that we, as Australians, all carry with us.

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Edited by David Kernot

Andromeda Spaceways Cooperative (2010)

Reviewed by Joanne Kasper, June 2010

The Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine always represents good value for money. Full of stories, mostly good, some quirky and at times just downright weird. But that’s good too! Issue 43 contains the following:

“Thief of Tears”by Jason Crowe – When a woman wants to exact revenge on a cheating lover, or simply give him a timely reminder, someone needs to collect the essential ingredients for the appropriate spell. Not a nice job, but it has to be done – and it isn’t always tears that are required. An old story of how far we can fall from an innocuous beginning, but given a twist of fantasy.

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Christian Tamblyn

Sid Harta (2009)

ISBN: 9781921362583

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper, June 2010

Alex Hall is an exile from a ruined Earth. Part of the maintenance crew of humanity’s last hope, an ark of frozen people orbiting the destroyed earth, Alex is forced by a lotto draw to leave the ark to maintain their population balance. He is placed in a cryo-sleep in a space pod and sent out into the blackness. When he wakes from an unknown length of time, with no knowledge of how far he has travelled, he finds himself on a fertile world, with an abundance of life in many forms, all amazingly similar to those previously found on Earth. It is at this point that we move from the science fiction portion of the book into the fantasy. This new world is your typical big fat fantasy world, basically Earth transplanted, with some superficial changes so we know we’re not in Kansas anymore. This is not a book to read if you really appreciate detailed world building.

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Gillian Polack

Eneit Press (2009)

ISBN: 9870980691115

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper, March 2010

Life Through Cellophane, the latest novel from Canberra author Gillian Polack, is the kind of book you start reading lightly and then find that it has taken you over and suddenly it’s dark and the family wants feeding and you can’t understand where the day went.  I read it on my computer screen while sitting on a hard wooden chair and still didn’t want to move until it was finished.

It’s not that there is a lot of action in the book, great deeds are not done nor worlds in peril saved.  It’s a story about a woman, in her forties, unmarried, recently made redundant from a public service position made untenable by the Boss from Hell.  You’re thinking that this sounds like chick-lit, that it shouldn’t be reviewed on a site for fantasy.  But you see, there’s this mirror…

The book starts with Liz both looking forward to and also dreading her last week in a job she enjoys with a boss she hates.  The boss, whose expensively coiffured hair is the inspiration for the name “The Bee Hive”, given to her by her victims, has made Liz’s working life miserable and she plans to make life very difficult indeed for this middle management monster by doing just enough work to get through her last week and then hiding all the files.  Delicious little daydream, I’m sure we’ve all had it at some time or other.  Of course, things don’t always work out how we plan and when dealing with someone as vindictive and nasty as The Bee Hive it is always best to be prepared for the worst.

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