Welcome to the September speculative fiction round-up! I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the alliteration in the title of this post, excuse the cheesiness.

This month we’re back with a bunch of fantasy reviews and a couple of SF and horror books/reviews. We also have more interviews than usual so look out for those towards the end.

Science Fiction

the-arkOne new science fiction book was the talk of the challenge this month. The Ark by Annabel Smith is set post-peak oil crisis, in Australia. Jane Rawson enjoyed it and writes (as part of a longer review):

The Ark is a workplace, and the story is told through workplace communications paraphernalia: emails, instant messages, meeting minutes. I’m always delighted when a story acknowledges that most of our lives take place in offices and gives the workplace the literary recognition it deserves.

Jane had not, when she wrote her review, delved into the accompanying interactive website (also available as an app). Louise Allan did, and she writes, “Together, the book and the website create the world of The Ark, and add a whole new dimension to its enjoyment.” and goes on to say:

This book is clever in its creation of a futuristic world. I love the means of communication the group uses. For example, minutes of meetings are taken through the voice recognition software, ‘Articulate’, whose tagline is ‘Organising your thoughts since 2016′. Not only does it decipher the words used, but also the emotions conveyed, and inserts them into the minutes.

This book is a study of corruption, manipulation and power. The tension builds as things inside the Ark become more and more perverse.


bitterwood-bibleAs with science fiction, two separate reviewers were excited by the same horror/dark fantasy book: The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter. It’s a collection of linked short stories, or a mosaic novel, as Sean the Bookonaut puts it. He goes on to say:

What I think the mosaic format allows Slatter to do is give herself some wiggle room for story and style and let the layering effect of drip fed world details in each separate tale slowly envelope the reader to give us that realised world. That isn’t to say that Slatter isn’t doing a grand job of combining style, story and detail within each tale but that structurally the envelope of the mosaic helps in some cases to accentuate the impact of certain stories, while at the same time containing deviations is form and style in others.

Random Alex also read the book, and she writes

Here, while there are a couple of stories that feature the same protagonist, a few more with recurring cameos, and most set in the same place or with the same background characters, it’s more like a series of stories set in a couple of distinct suburbs or small towns. Of course you’re going to get the same bars, or neighbourhood characters, or landmarks mentioned; that just makes sense. But the narratives themselves aren’t necessarily connected… although sometimes they are.


dreamers-poolThere was more variety in fantasy novels reviewed for the challenge this month. That said, there were two Juliet Marillier books reviewed. Helen Venn reviewed Dreamer’s Pool, a historical fantasy. She writes:

The author deals with themes of healing, family and friendship in a complex tale where much is not as it seems. The world building is cleverly crafted, whether it is in the horrors of Mathuin’s prison, the mystery of the woodland or the workings of the prince’s court. The details immerse the reader in the society so even minor characters, like those in the vignette of the two farmers squabbling over a dog attack during a hearing before the prince, come alive.

prickle-moon-Marillier-JulietAlso by Juliet Marillier, I reviewed Prickle Moon, a collection of short stories, many of them rooted in fairytales. The collection is a mix of longer, intricate and fantastical tales and shorter tales which were no less serious (but of necessity less intricate). Highly recommended, especially to connoisseurs of the short story.


I also reviewed the (grimdark) fantasy novel Shatterwing by Donna Maree Hanson. It’s the first in a new series and it’s absolutely not for the faint of heart. That is to say:

shatterwingI really enjoyed the story but there were times when the brutality got a bit much for me. Mainly this was towards the end of part one where Salinda, our first main character, is being brutally tortured. It’s not that it’s not relevant to the plot, but it wasn’t fun to read (nor, I think, should it have been).

Faith read Tales from the Tower Volume Two: The Wicked Wood edited by Isobelle Carmody, an anthology of short stories. She describes it:

In this collection, fairy tales grow between cracks in the mundane surface of a city, a suburb, a small town. From the sinister presence of a wildly ambitious artist to the wolf hidden in plain sight, the mermaid who would trade anything for another life to the uncontrollable craving of two sisters to get theirs back, these are stories of hunger and betrayal, longing and hope.

GuardianFinally and conclusively, I reviewed the third volume in Jo Anderton’s Veiled Worlds trilogy, Guardian. It’s a very good read, but not a suitable place to start reading the series. I strongly suggest beginning with the first book, Debris, instead.


It seems we’ve had a rash of interviews of Australian women writers on the Galactic Chat podcast. Conducted by Random Alex Pierce, you can listen to interviews with Rosaleen Love, Angela Slatter, Marianne de Pierres and Nike Sulway.


About Me

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.