Review: The God of Last Moments by Alethea Kontis

June 22nd, 2011

Reviewed by Erica Davis
The God of Last Moments by Alethea Kontis focuses on a pessimistic character named Max, who’s dealing the recent death of his mother. A few days after her funeral, Max receives a mailed package from her, introducing him to a world of sweet, warm death.

This story definitely had me hooked from the beginning. It was well-told and the characters were unique. It was, however, a little too depressing for my tastes. I’ve read some dark stories before, and don’t have any aversion to them in general, but I felt that this story could’ve used some more optimism. It’s refreshing to see a story that isn’t predictable, but I like to feel like there’s some hope left in the end.

5 Stars for Benjamin Rosenbaum’s “A Siege of Cranes”

June 17th, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
What a tremendous story! I started to read A Siege of Cranes when I had a few minutes to spare, intending to stop half way (it’s quite a long story, at thirty-eight pages); but I found myself having to read to the end, and then having to run to get to a meeting on time.

It’s quite hard to categorise, but it has a timeless, myth-like feel to it; it feels like a mixture of African, Egyptian and Arabian storytelling, with maybe a bit of English fairytale thrown in. There is no way to predict what’s going to happen from page to page: I particularly liked the fact that there were no unnecessary loose ends – if Rosenbaum mentioned something, then sure as eggs are eggs it had some relevance to the later parts of the story.

I had only two minor quibbles. I thought the speech patterns of the main character improved dramatically after a few pages; and I would have made more of the dramatic unmasking that takes place towards the end. But these are minor quibbles only.

I heartily recommend A Siege of Cranes, pretty much whatever sort of anthology you are building – except possibly if it is for children, as some of the themes require a strong stomach and in any case it is probably too complex for children.

Featured Anthology: Mortal Immortals

June 14th, 2011

$13.95

Mortal Immortals

Yes, we’ve all heard stories of the man who couldn’t die. But you’ve never heard them told like this before…

Featured Anthology: Chaos Theory

June 6th, 2011

$12.95

CHAOS THEORY
A collection of tales best read with an open mind. For these stories answer the age-old question what if…

Featured Writers: June 2011

June 1st, 2011

This month, please enjoy a $1 discount on anthologies that contain a story by one of these authors:

Aliette de Bodard
Aliette de Bodard lives in Paris, where she holds a day job as a Computer Engineer. When not busy programming software, she writes fantasy and science fiction stories.

Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Interzone, Writers of the Future XXIII, and in Electric Velocipede. Visit http://www.aliettedebodard.com for more information.

 

Tobias S. Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell is a Caribbean-born speculative fiction writer who grew up in Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has published stories in various magazines and anthologies. He is a Clarion graduate, Writers of The Future winner, and Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer Finalist. He has three novels out from Tor: Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose.

Rick Novy
Rick Novy has flown satellites, manufactured surgical implants, tested integrated circuits, and simulated binaural sound. Rick writes from his home in Arizona (it’s a wry heat).
Learn more: www.ricknovy.com.

Benjamin Rosenbaum 
I was lucky enough to meet Ben Rosenbaum at the seventh Villa Diodati Workshop last year.  He’s been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the BSFA Award, and the World Fantasy Award.  The man is a genius in nearly all senses of the word, and you can read more about him here.

Review: The Way of the Restless by Alethea Kontis

May 26th, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
The Way of the Restless is written quite well and is a quirky science fiction story. Perhaps it is a bit too quirky. I found it jumped around a bit too much for my personal taste. It tells the story (I think) of a rogue in the future, cloned from Elvis genes (I think), who has had a fallout with somebody he loved and is thinking about that quite a bit as he gets stuck into another job. The job is a theft of a picture from a spaceship but when he goes ahead and completes the job… complications ensue. I had better not say what they are, for fear of spoiling the story if you decide to read it.

There’s a twist at the end which I didn’t quite follow. It’s possible I could go back and read everything in great detail to find out what I’m missing, but as I read stories for pleasure I don’t want to do that. So I’m left with a vague feeling that there’s a lot in this story that I’ve missed; and I’m also left with a feeling that the main reason I’ve missed these things is that the action and the main character’s thoughts jump all over the place. There’s too much crammed in. In my opinion, either the story needs to be longer, of some of the detail needs to be removed.

Apart from its kangaroo nature, the writing is solid enough, and the dialogue is good (in some places it is very good). If you are a hard sf fan who likes a bit of a puzzle, then I expect you would include this in an anthology. But if you are a more eclectic reader looking for good, varied stories, then this probably wouldn’t suit.

Featured Anthology: When We Slew Dragons

May 24th, 2011

$12.95

When We Slew Dragons: and other stories by Jennifer Schwabach
Jennifer Schwabach is a founding member of the Carpe Libris writers group.

She’s also my friend, which is why I want to surprise her with this collection. ;)

It also contains stories by other Carpe Libris members, including an entry from the infamous “CL Duck Challenge.” Enjoy!

–Melissa Mead

Vampires and Giants and Unicorns. And Garden Gnomes!

May 22nd, 2011

We’ve got new fiction by Brent Knowles, Tim McDaniel, Clinton A. Harris, Andy Echevarria, Yoon Ha Lee, Ann Leckie and the fabulous Alethea Kontis.

You really ought to check out Alethea’s portfolio. Not only does she have steampunk unicorns, mermaid vampires, and psychoprojective manifestation of the monster under the bed, but she’s a featured author this month, and until May 31 you can have a $1 discount on any anthology containing one of her stories.

While we’re on the subject of featured authors, let’s not forget that Tim McDaniel also has a new story up. His Gardening Tip #8 follows the adventures of a devoted gardener with an unwelcome infestation of garden gnomes.

Review: “The Surgical Option” by Gustavo Bondoni

May 21st, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
Well, this story is all very much a matter of taste. Let me explain. The Surgical Option is all about a meeting between members of different species, set a long time in the future. And the purpose of the meeting is to hear complaints against humanity which, it seems, has done nothing to further galactic harmony but instead has provided waves of “sleazy lawyers”. The story doesn’t really tell a story – it is rather a series of jokes based on the different imaginary traits of other species, and the ways in which man has exploited them. Many of the jokes are quite visual.

The whole thing is quite well written and the dialogue (of which there is a lot, given that it’s a meeting) isn’t bad either. There’s not really a plot, more a series of jokes and a bit of a punchline at the end. Now here’s the rub. I can see some people rolling in the aisles, tears streaming out of their eyes, thinking that The Surgical Option is the funniest thing since sliced bread (not that sliced bread is funny, but you know what I mean). On the other hand I can see others reading it with not the trace of expression, with no flicker of amusement on their stony faces. Me? I’m somewhere in between. I chuckled at some of the gags, but I have seen this sort of thing before and it’s not something I would now read from choice.

That’s the trouble with humour. Very few writers have the knack of making it work for the majority of readers. So, I can hear you wondering whether I would recommend this for an anthology. Hmm. Hmm. I think the answer is yes, if you are deliberately trying to collate stories with humour as their central theme. But if you are not, then you would probably find some other story meets your needs better.

Review: “Deeds of Men” by Marie Brennan

May 21st, 2011

Reviewed by Ziv Wities
“Deeds of Men,” by Marie Brennan, is entirely upfront in establishing its particular genre niche: it’s a historical faerie murder mystery. And a damned good one, too. So if any of those elements, or the delicious combination thereof, sound up your alley, then “Deeds of Men” won’t disappoint.

Sir Michael Deven bridges between the fae Onyx Court and the politics of Great Britain; he is the faery’s representative and expert in mortal affairs. He’s responsible for ensuring the coexistence between both people – but he’s growing old, and his greatest fear is that he might die before finding a successor for this duty. And now, Henry Ware, the protege he’s been grooming for three years, turns up murdered in an alleyway.

Mysteries, when done well, can be wonderful vehicles for exploring both setting and character – the investigation provides both motivation and means to discover as much as possible about the world and the people involved. “Deeds of Men” makes good use of this: having established cooperation between humans and fae, it explores the challenges of such cooperation, the qualities necessary to make it possible, and the character of Henry Ware – and how well he lived up to those expectations.

Altogether, this story is well-written and intriguing. It knows how to use the tropes it depends on and bring the most out of them, and presents many compelling situations and relationships. It’s also an enticing introduction to Brennan’s “Onyx Court” novels – if this is what Brennan manages with a novella, I’d love to see what she does with the same ideas in full novel scope.