We’ve already had many speculative fiction reviews submitted to AWW. So far this year, more than 50 reviews of more than 45 books by over 20 reviewers. A great effort in less than two months. Those statistics include YA speculative fiction, but I’m mostly covering “adult” speculative fiction in my round-ups. For YA spec fic, check out Shaheen’s posts, the first of which can be found here.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of spec fic books reviewed have fallen into the fantasy genre, but only a few science fiction and horror books have been reviewed. I’ve personally challenged myself to read more Australian SF and horror this year because there’s some really great stuff out there that I worry I’ll overlook otherwise. Perhaps others may want to join me.
The most reviewed speculative fiction authors in 2013 so far are Isobelle Carmody, Tara Moss and Margo Lanagan with four reviews apiece. Writereaderly has been making their way through Carmody’s Obernewton series, reviewing books 4–6, The Keeping Place, The Stone Key and The Sending. Of The Stone Key, Writereaderly says:
“In the full thousand pages there was not a superfluous word, the plotting was complicated but tightly controlled, characters were given nuances and emotions sorely lacking in the previous four books, and I was most impressed overall.”
Meanwhile, Mel @ Mel Reviews Books has reviewed Carmody’s short story collection, Green Monkey Dreams, calling it “an amazing collection of short stories”. Lanagan’s collection Cracklescape out from Twelfth Planet Press, was reviewed by Dave Versace and Mel @ Adventures of a Subversive Reader. Her novel Sea Hearts, recently announced to be on the inaugural Stella Prize longlist was reviewed by Kathy and Faith (and by many people last year). Tara Moss’s most recent paranormal fantasy, The Skeleton Key, was reviewed by Writenote1, who found it fun, Sally from Oz, who didn’t like it as much as the earlier books but still enjoyed it a lot, and Shaheen, who found it “just as quirky and fun as the previous books” and also reviewed the second book in the series.
As far as more traditional type fantasy goes — and I use the word “traditional” very loosely here since if there’s one thing Aussie fantasy writers are good at it’s writing unconventional settings and characters — Nalini Haynes has reviewed Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman, a duology set in a China-inspired world with dragons and explorations of gender. Fiona McIntosh’s latest tome The Scrivener’s Tale, was reviewed by Monique Mulligan who called it “an extraordinary read set in a vivid and well-constructed realm”. Jessie reviewed A Blight of Mages, the prequel to Karen Miller’s Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology. I reviewed KJ Taylor’s Fallen Moon trilogy — The Dark Griffin, The Griffin’s Flight and The Griffin’s War — about griffins, racism and slavery.
Combining traditional text story telling with graphic novel story telling was Small Shen written by Kylie Chan and illustrated by Queenie Chan. It was reviewed by Australasian Educator who called it “an excellent example of the promise graphic prose storytelling has for readers.” Emma @ My Book Corner reviewed Black Spring by Alison Croggon, a fantastical retelling of Wuthering Heights, which she says “has harnessed the gothic mood of its original, before taking it to a wonderful new level.” On the romantic fantasy front, Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out reviewed For the Love of a Goblin Warrior by Shona Husk, the third book in the series but which Shelleyrae suggests could easily be read standalone. Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts rev by Mel @ Adventures of a Subversive Reader who recommends it “to history lovers, of course, but also to people who aren’t usually interested in speculative fiction, but would like to dip their toes in a bit.” On the urban fantasy front, Chaos Born by Rebekah Turner was reviewed by Kat @ Book Thingo who says of it:
“A fast-paced, well-written urban fantasy with a flawed but charming heroine. There isn’t much romance in this book, but if you like a lot of action and aren’t put off by a high body count—usually by decapitation—then Chaos Born is a promising start to a new series.”
Finally, three self-published fantasy books were reviewed in January and February. Brenda reviewed Erich’s Plea by Tracey Alley and enjoyed it enough to pick up the next in the series. Leonie Rogers reviewed Treespeaker by Katie W Stewart and says that the author “has done a wonderful job of creating a believable and interesting world.” Lastly, Lynxie reviewed Fairy tales for Freya by Georgina Anne Taylor and laments that the stories in the collection do not last long enough although the characters are masterfully painted.
Of the few science fiction books reviewed the only non-YA book was Dark Space by Marianne de Pierres, the first book in the Sentients of Orion space opera quartet, reviewed by Mark. He says:
With three unsympathetic main characters you’d think the story would be in trouble, but the way the storylines interact really works. You see glimpses of the potential for growth in Mira and Trinder, and Tekton is so self centred and devious I found myself cheering for him. So while the characters were not sympathetic, I found them compelling. Just as good in my books.
I also want to mention two YA SF books. Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman was reviewed by Nalini Haynes who says it’s “entertaining while exploring coming-of-age and teen-conflict-with-authority-figures tropes with humour and heart.” The other YA SF book reviewed was And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst which Heidi @ Bunbury in the Stacks says evoked the full gamut of emotions and which Erin Golding found captivating from the first page.
A handful of horror books were reviewed as part of AWW, which is great to see. Kaaron Warren garnered the most reviews, with Vikzwrites reviewing her dark fantasy novel Walking the Tree, in which she found “Warren’s focus on illness and disability particularly interesting,” and Sean the Bookonaut and myself reviewing her excellent four story collection, Through Splintered Walls. Sean found that it was the mundane situations (rather than the paranormal) in these stories that effect him the most, and I though the first three stories would be perfect to tell around a campfire.
In-Human by Anna Dusk was reviewed by Michael Jongen who confesses he didn’t buy it for the Catholic school he was working at when it was released because of the cover, and “felt wrung out after finishing it.” Perfections, by Kirstyn McDermott, a book high up on my want to read list, was reviewed by Mark Webb who says:
The horror is more subtle, with less “jump in your seat” moments and more “stays with you and creeps you out at unexpected times in the future” moments. …. Even in the sections of the book that are describing relatively mundane life, there is something about the way things are described that adds to the sense that there is something wrong, that things aren’t quite right.
And finally, I reviewed After the Darkness by Honey Brown which is marketed as mainstream contemporary fiction, but which contains the “creeping dread” that I associate with good horror writing.
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas of some great spec fic books to read by Aussie women writers. I’ll be back in a month with the next spec fic round-up.
I’m Tsana Dolichva and I’ve been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction since I first started reading “grown up” books (back before YA was its own genre). More recently, I’ve been blogging my reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads. I irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.