Hello readers and welcome again to my monthly speculative fiction round-up! We have not had as many reviews in June, perhaps because of the sudden cold in some areas of Australia? (At least, that’s what I’ve been hearing. I, meanwhile, have been enjoying a Swedish “summer” and feeling confused about my wardrobe.) Perhaps also because of the slight upswing in YA and children’s spec fic books being reviewed? Whatever the reason, hopefully there will be an improved turnout next month. I will say though, this is the first time horror has been the most reviewed genre. Huzzah! Now to up the popularity of science fiction… (preferably not at the cost of fantasy, of course).
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for reading inspiration, where better to start than this post?
A respectable turnout for horror this month, especially on the short story side of things. Jane Rawson reviewed The Great Unknown, a Twilight Zone-inspired anthology, edited by Angela Meyer. She liked some of the stories more than others and, of one she liked, writes:
Krissy Kneen’s ‘Sleepwalk’ is genuinely creepy and put ideas in my head so I was nervous when the cat stared intently at something I couldn’t see (he does this most days, but now it’s creepy).
which sounds to me like what a good horror story involving cats should do.
I reviewed Kim Wilkins’ collection of novellas, The Year of Ancient Ghosts, which I absolutely loved. It is, in fact, one of my favourite reads of the year. The first and titular story was heart-wrenching and poignant and I was not surprised that it won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story earlier this year. Definitely worth a read.
Moving on to standalone short fiction, C J Dee over at Dark Matter Zine reviewed “Home and Hearth”, a short story by Angela Slatter. It’s set after a homicide trial and, CJ gave it four stars.
Somewhat to my surprise, the next review is of Squirm by Cari Silverwood, a book that can be categorised as a parody of “monster porn”. Apparently, this is a horror/fantasy subgenre of erotica. I was going to say that it wasn’t something I’d come across before, but now I’m wondering whether Spar by Kij Johnson (not an Australian) might count? Anyway, reviewer Kate Belle writes:
Far from being horrified, I was fascinated. And wildly entertained. The great thing about Squirm is Cari’s clever satirical references to the well worn tropes of sci-fi, romance, erotica and especially the 21st century phenomena, 50 Shades of Grey. She takes all the tired phrasing and eye rolling moments that goes with them and weaves them together to create characters and scenarios that will make you laugh out loud.
She also talks about some of the gender-specific ramifications of writing monster porn (men probably can’t get away with it) and possible reasons behind this. The review is well worth a read.
On the paranormal/dark(ish) fantasy front, Faith reviewed The Blood Countess by Tara Moss, the first Pandora English book. Unfortunately, she didn’t enjoy it as much as she might have.
I’m not sure if all the stories are strictly fantasy, but I’ll categorise it here anyway. RandomAlex reviewed Rosaleen Love’s collection Secret Lives of Books. It’s the most recent collection in Twelfth Planet Press’s Twelve Planets series, which many AWW participants have reviewed over the years of the challenge. Of Secret Lives of Books, Alex writes:
Well, most of the stories feel pretty easy to read, thanks to that simplicity of prose Duchamp identifies [in the introduction] and the fact that there’s no padding in any of them. Most of them, though, are likely to sneak around to the back of your head and whack you one to make you realise that simplicity of prose is by no means the same as simplicity of purpose, or theme, or consequence.
On what I gather is the science fiction front (I haven’t read the book yet…) Jane Rawson wrote a short review of Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek, a novella double (flip the book over to read the other novella, start at either side). Both novellas are set in the same world, exploring different societies. Jane was a bit torn about this one, but ultimately decided that it was worth reading.
Finally, Maree Kimberley reviewed The White List by Nina D’Aleo. This is a sci-fi thriller set in a different world to the author’s previous books. Maree writes:
The characters are well-rounded, and I felt empathy for the “bad guys” as well as the “good guys”. For me, it’s the humour that D’Aleo injects into her writing that gives it that extra lift and keeps me cheering Silver and her allies along in their fight.
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 very irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading or writing, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.