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Sean Williams

Ticonderoga Publications (2008)

ISBN: 9780980353167

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in February 2009)

When I see ‘best of’ anthologies from a writer who is still alive and producing work, I get a bit suspicious. Are they expecting to produce nothing worthwhile over the rest of their life? Does this mark some significant milestone? Is it a chance to clear out stories that have not yet seen the light of day? Is it a money-making ploy?

So far as I can tell, none of these questions would be answered in the affirmative for Magic Dirt (except possibly the last, although I doubt it). It marks fifteen years of Williams’ writing, and one reason I can see for producing it at this juncture is that, at 348 pages, should we wait until Williams is dead (or not writing, which is probably the same thing), it would have to be one mammoth tome – or missing some awesome stories. There are eighteen stories in this collection, and each comes with an introduction or afterword, with a short reflection from Williams on the writing of it. As the introduction from John Harwood indicates, Williams’ stories cover a gamut of genres, with a number that refuse to be typified. (As an aside, don’t read the introduction unless you want some of the stories spoiled.) If, like me, you haven’t had the opportunity to follow Sean Williams’ career over the last fifteen years, this is the easy way of catching up. Read the rest of this entry »

Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Troubletwisters, book 1

Allen & Unwin (2011)

ISBN: 9781742373980

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

I am a long-time fan of both Garth Nix and Sean Williams (more so the latter’s SF than fantasy), so the idea of a collaboration between the two – aimed at children – is exciting indeed. And I was fortunate enough to hear Sean Williams speak about the act of collaboration at Natcon Fifty, where he discussed the different aspects that each brought to the writing.

Troubletwisters harks very strongly to the classics of fantasy written for younger readers. The main characters are twins: Jaide and Jack. (In talking about the story, Williams admitted that he has long been intrigued by twins and their use in fiction. As I see it, it’s almost like you’re getting a character for free – and it means that you always have the opportunity for your characters to discuss things, disagree about things, or be worried about someone.) Their father is away a lot, and they know nothing about his side of the family … until a disaster means that they have to go and stay with their mysterious paternal grandmother, where they begin to learn about some strange abilities. These plot devices could have felt hackneyed and stale, being by no means original; instead they feel familiar, but by no means comfortable. Williams and Nix use the twins as a means of exploring different reactions to scenarios and individuals, and there are indications that the two will have different experiences of their abilities that will be explored in later books of the series (there will be another four). The trope of leaving home and going to an alien place is as old as fiction itself; it can be, and is used here as, the catalyst for self-discovery and learning about the world. The strange relative and slightly intimidating new environment – Grandma X and her weird house – are perfect for the target age-group: visiting unknown relatives can be a very scary thing indeed.

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