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Paolo Bacigalupi

Night Shade Books

ISBN: 978-1-59780-202-4

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Fresh from finishing Bacigalupi’s debut novel, I went out and bought myself a copy of his debut collection, Pump Six and Other Stories. Two of these stories, ‘The Calorie Man’ and ‘Yellow Card Man’, actually provide backstory for The Windup Girl (these two stories are freely available for download on the Night Shade Books website). The ten stories collected here are arranged in chronological order of publication, giving us an insight into Bacigalupi’s development as a writer, as well as the development of his Windup Girl universe.

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Amelia Beamer

Night Shade Books (2010)

ISBN: 978-1597801942

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

This is the sexy zombie novel you’ve been waiting for.

It’s not a sexy novel with zombies.

It’s a novel about sexy zombies.

There are whips.

I spoke rather incoherently about The Loving Dead on the last episode of Galactic Suburbia. I’ve since had a bit of time to assemble my thoughts. The topic of pop culture educating the masses on how to cope with suddenly finding yourself in a horror story has been well trod in films such as Scream and Shaun of the Dead – but what Beamer does differently is a grounding in realism. Her characters feel like people you might know – or might have known, in your twenties. Faced with trauma, they act badly and without logic. There are times when it felt too real, as if the casual “right, it’s a zombie apocalypse, good thing we’ve had lots of chats about how to deal with this when stoned” reaction flies in the face of narrative expectation. In genre, we pretend that being desperately original is a good thing, and yet narrative expectation is there for a reason. The book felt more creepy because it had a reality tv vibe about it, or … what’s that term when animated characters are so true to life that it freaks you out? That.

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edited by Jonathan Strahan

Night Shade (2009)

ISBN: 978-1-59780-162-1

Reviewed by Simon Petrie, May 2010

Though they share the same brief – to present an overview of some of the year’s best short speculative fiction, in an anthology without stated limitations of theme – Eclipse Three is a distinctly different beast than Eclipse Two. Probably the most obvious point of variance is in the gender distribution of the authors, with a definite preponderance of female authors in E3, whereas E2 was distinctly male-heavy. It’s difficult to see this as other than a conscious choice by Strahan to redress previous gender imbalances, but if so the strategy receives no acknowledgement in the anthology’s introduction or elsewhere. Nor is it, in the end, a cause for any complaint: whatever one’s personal perspective on affirmative action, the result is an anthology which, for whatever reason, is more cohesive, more fulfilling, stronger than its predecessor.

“The Pelican Bar,” by Karen Joy Fowler has Norah, the archetypal renegade teen, receive a rather unusual gift for her fifteenth birthday: incarceration, in an isolated camp run by mysterious, pitiless adults. Norah’s travails are portrayed unflinchingly, but with compassion. “Pelican Bar” gets the anthology off to an excellent start, with a coming-of-age tale in which the underlying message is left deliberately muddy.

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edited by Jonathan Strahan

Night Shade (2008)

ISBN: 978-1-59780-136-2

Reviewed by Simon Petrie, May 2010

The stated aim of Strahan’s Eclipse annuals is to emulate the unthemed anthology series of decades past, such as Orbit and Universe. Eclipse is intended to provide a selection of stories exploring the gamut of topics within SF and fantasy, by some of the best writers in the business. How does it measure up?

“The Hero,” by Karl Schroeder, has some startling worldbuilding on its side – Jessie is a young, quietly-desperate drifter who, within the story’s brief span, participates in a misguided assault on a truly massive insect, makes a promise he cannot afford to keep, and journeys to the perilous heart of the vast, hollow habitat in which his family ekes out its living. It’s a story that’s big on sense-of-wonder, but it didn’t particularly move me.

Stephen Baxter’s “Turing’s Apples” concerns itself with one of the staples of space-based SF: the discovery of a signal from an advanced alien intelligence, and contemporary society’s reaction to the resultant upheaval. Baxter presents two brothers, both gifted, both of whom agree that the briefly-detected signal has ramifications not apparent to the general populace, but disagree on the appropriate response to the signal’s existence. I must confess that there’s a tendency for Baxter’s stories to rub me up the wrong way, and this one’s no exception: it’s undeniably well done, and those who like their SF underpinned by solid physics (a category into which I generally fall) should find it enjoyable. I didn’t, and I wish I knew why.

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