A Review of You’ll Know When You Get There, by Lynda E. Rucker

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh


Arriving at the Unknowable

Lynda E. Rucker has built a reputation as one of the more significant talents of the new generation of weird and strange fiction writers through a superb first collection, appropriately entitled The Moon Will Look Strange, and some distinctive anthology contributions. You’ll Know When You Get There, from Irish independent The Swan River Press, is a departure in some ways, in that the collection has a very strong common thread. As Lisa Tuttle writes in her introduction, “Lynda E. Rucker writes haunted house stories the way they should be written – hers are original, weird, and compelling, and as much about the people as the place.” Read more »

A Review of Bone Swans, by C. S. E. Cooney

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

No Swan Song

 

Is it good? Bone Swans won the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Its title story, “The Bone Swans of Amandale,” was a 2015 Nebula Award finalist for Best Novella. The book boasts a personal introduction to the author from Gene Wolfe, no less. ‘Nuff said.

C.S.E. Cooney respins familiar fairytale yarns with a masterly hand, and has built up an impressive record during her writing career. As Gene Wolfe’s introduction remarks, she has been writing since her teens, partly under his tutelage, and the practiced assurance shows. “In Gene I found a mentor and correspondent, a kindred spirit,” she says. “He’s the one who told me to write short stories in the first place. He said that’s how writers begin … He taught me everything I know.” Yet she comes across as by no means derivative or imitative, simply supremely accomplished. Read more »

A Review of The Famished Road, by Ben Okri

 

by William Grabowski

In that land of beginnings spirits mingled with the unborn.

 

Ben Okri‘s Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road frequently has been compared to Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a not dissimilar work. Closer scrutiny reveals the facile utility of this comparison, but readers of Márquez unfamiliar with Okri will find much to like—even love—in The Famished Road. The ride itself, though, will be more turbulent and unsettling than that typically experienced in what is labeled Magical Realism. “The novel was written,” says the author in his Foreword, “to give myself reasons to live.”

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A Review of She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Out of the Shadows

She Walks in Shadows is the fruit of an Indiegogo campaign to create “the first all-woman anthology of stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.” Thanks to the campaign’s success, the editors were able to commission a grand total of 25 original stories, and include illustrations by 10 female artists. The book’s also been graced by two very gifted author/editors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula Stiles. And it’s already won a World Fantasy Award in the Anthology category, and been a finalist in the Locus Poll for Best Anthology. Some of its stories are already starting to pop up in year’s best anthologies and other collections – such as “Violet is the Color of Your Energy” by Nadia Bulkin, already included in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 3.

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A Review of Pirate Utopia, by Bruce Sterling

Review by William Grabowski

To celebrate his new, improved torpedo, the engineer took his pirates to the movies.

 

Few novelists can create work that combines science, philosophy, art, and adventure into stories that shape the form and trajectory of emerging culture—popular and collective. The seminal cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades (1986), assembled and edited by Bruce Sterling, introduced the wider world to William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and others whose individual stars still burn bright. Sterling’s incisive take-no-prisoners Preface could be considered the Cyberpunk Manifesto, and it’s difficult to overestimate the movement’s influence—disruptive and liberating—on so-called hard science fiction and even the austere realms of post-postmodernism. Read more »

A Review of Other Places, by Karen Heuler

Review by Lauren Colie

Seeking equilibrium in a strange new world

This is the experience of attempting to reconcile the images in your mind with the solid mass of the chair beneath you.

Karen Heuler’s short story collection, Other Places, transports you briefly, as promised, elsewhere. While you’re there, she asks you to consider the value and expectation you ascribe to place, and how a place can hold memories, ghosts, shadows, ideas and mirrors. Read more »

A Review of A Natural History of Hell, by Jeffrey Ford

review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh
book review of A natural history of hell by Jeffrey ford, at See the Elephant MagazineHellishly Good Stories

Veteran fantasy, science fiction, weird, and fantastic writer Jeffrey Ford has accumulated awards like it was going out of fashion: multiple World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards, Nebula Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award …

A Natural History of Hell, from the enterprising and frequently delightful Small Beer Press, brings together 13 very diverse examples of his work, all of them except the opener, “The Blameless,” first published in various venues over the past four years, including one Shirley Jackson Award winner, the delirious Japanese yakuza weird slayride “A Natural History of Autumn.”

This collection pretty much picks up where the last Jeffrey Ford collection leaves off, but you only have to read it to know just why that is such a good thing. And if you haven’t yet had that pleasure, trust me, you should. Read more »

A Review of Cassilda’s Song: Tales Inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ King in Yellow Mythos, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

book review, cassilda's song, published by Chaosium Inc.The Coming of the Queen

Chaosium Inc. has made an incalculable contribution to the current weird fiction renaissance – from a very strange angle. The games publisher launched one of the most celebrated franchises in RPG history with Call of Cthulhu in 1981, second only to D&D in popularity and influence. That game turbocharged the revival of interest in H.P. Lovecraft which underpins much modern weird, and secured Lovecraftian weird fiction a hugely enlarged fan base. Along the way, Chaosium became an important weird/horror publisher, working broadly within the Cthulhu Mythos cycle – and the associated King in Yellow cycle/co-Mythos created by Lovecraft precursor Robert W. Chambers. This has also risen in popularity in the wake of the Lovecraft boom, and now Chaosium has revisited it with Cassilda’s Song, “a collection of weird fiction and horror stories based on the King in Yellow Mythos created by Robert W. Chambers—entirely authored by women.” Read more »

A Review of The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories, by Joan Aiken

by William Grabowski

Cover of A Review of The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories by Joan AikenEmpty and peaceful the old house dreamed . . .

Joan Aiken, over 50 years and more than 100 books for adults and children, mixed elements of the supernatural, folklore, fairy tale, and alternate history spiced with mordant humor in a style worthy of applause from Strunk and White. For readers unfamiliar with Aiken’s work, its ice-and-stars clarity, naturalism, and unerring dialogue can be described as hypnotic: “Empty and peaceful the old house dreamed, with sunlight shifting from room to room and no sound to break the silence, save in one place, where the voices of children could be heard faintly above the rustling of a tree.” [from “A Room Full of Leaves.”] Read more »

A Review of The Language of Dying, by Sarah Pinborough

by Lauren Colie

the-language-of-dying-sarah-pinboroughThe Wasting Agony of Waiting

The deep kernel of anger that has since burned you hollow. The petty betrayals and muddled affections of a broken family. The wordless sorrow of watching parents, those mighty Titans, crumbling in like a rotten egg, stinking, seeping into nothingness.

Sarah Pinborough holds aloft: death. In your eyes, your ears, filling your nose with the unpleasant emissions as a soul passes on – this is The Language of Dying. Read more »