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Kaaron Warren

Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (2005)

ISBN: 0-958139-03-2

Reviewed by Gillian Polack (this review was first published in November 2005)

The Grinding House is a collection of stories by Canberra-writer Kaaron Warren. Most of the stories are reprints, but there is some new material, including the story “The Grinding House” itself. Several of the reprinted stories have been nominated for awards or have received awards, including the Aurealis. Warren is known for her horror writing, and all of the stories in The Grinding House have a strong element of horror. The volume itself has been published by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild with the assistance of an ArtsAct grant. It is the first CSFG Publishing anthology to focus on one author, reflecting the status Warren has earned as a short story writer.

Short story collections are often a worry. You know they’re going to be a mixed bag, but what you won’t know until you reach the end is how many of the stories are good, outstanding, or should have been left out entirely. There’s also the rule of averages – you tell yourself things like “Margo Lanagan’s Black Juice has miraculous writing. There won’t be another decent anthology for ten years.”

Kaaron Warren’s The Grinding House actually defeats that expectation. It is good. A large portion of it is outstanding. Published so soon after Black Juice, it beats that law of averages. It is not, however, everyone’s cup of tea. Warren gets billed as a horror writer, and certainly her stories creep under the skin. She does not write a classic horror story, though, and is far more an interstitial writer. She writes each story both close to home (presenting us with situations that we recognize as kin to our own), and in entirely alien environments, ones which we are thankful we are so far from. Read the rest of this entry »

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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Kaaron Warren

Angry Robot (2009)

ISBN: 9780007322428

Reviewed by Martin Livings (this review was first published in November 2009)

Stevie is a young woman with some issues. Her beloved policeman father was killed in the line of duty when she was just a little girl, her mother died in a car accident while Stevie was driving, and her brother is a self-help guru and aspiring politician whose ambitious wife loathes her.

Oh, and in her spare time, she occasionally kills people to find out where they go when they die. You see, Stevie herself has nearly died a number of times, sometimes by accident, sometimes … not. And every time she has, she’s found herself in a dark place, trapped in a room and surrounded and tormented by the people she’s slighted in her life. She wants to know why that is, both horrified and strangely attracted to it. And she also wants to know why she keeps finding bones in her backyard, along with trinkets that may have belonged to people who’ve gone missing over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

Kaaron Warren

Ticonderoga Publications (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-9806288-6-9

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Kaaron Warren’s collection Dead Sea Fruit, which was released by Ticonderoga Publications last year, is quite simply one of the best single author collections I’ve read. In his introduction, Lucius Shepard (no slouch in the art of short story writing himself) claims that Warren is one of the few writers who is both a stylist and a storyteller, and he’s right. Some of these stories are not only technically masterful, but emotionally gruelling, horrific, and just plain awesome.

In the title story, “Dead Sea Fruit”, our protagonist is a dentist tasked with visiting the ward of the Pretty Girls, women so weak from anoxeria that “they don’t have the strength to defecate” (p21). The fabled Ash Mouth Man seems to be the source of the Pretty Girls’ worries, as once he kisses them (and nobody can resist) everything they eat tastes of ashes. Not even our protagonist is immune to the Ash Mouth Man’s charm, despite her expertise in oral hygiene.

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