The Best of All Possible Worlds. Book ReviewComments Off
Jo Fletcher Books, h/b, £12.80
Reviewed by Laurel Sills
Dllenahkh is a sober, wise, practical Sadiri man, who is playing a central role in building his people back up after a terrible disaster. Grace Delarua, a chirpy, quick thinking female linguist, is assigned to support Dllenahkh through this period of adjustment. Together they make a solid if unlikely partnership.
We see this unfold from both Dllenahkh and Delarua’s perspectives. Dllenahkh (whilst having an annoyingly unpronounceable name) is an interesting, rounded, layered character. Here Lord uses poetic imagery and beautiful phrasing, which colours the world seen through his eyes in a way that feels very suited to his personality. I was disappointed that Dllenahkh’s sections were so few, as I found Lord’s writing in this style particularly lovely.
Whilst The Best of All Possible Words is certainly not Young Adult, Delarua, who’s point of view takes up the majority of the book, has a decidedly youthful voice, which did ring at odds with her age and position for me at first. I think that maybe Lord is accentuating Delarua’s emotions and lightness of tone to contrast with Dllenahkh’s control and gravity. Here Lord sacrifices detail in order to be true to what Delarua would notice. This is a brave thing to do, because I could tell from sections with Dllenahkh that Lord is very good at delicate detail, unusual imagery and creating a solid sense of place, which I found slightly lacking in Delarua’s sections. However, as I got used to the two personalities, this became less of an issue for me.
In fact about halfway through the novel Lord seems to really find her feet, and suddenly I felt safe in her hands and able to relax into the story. The first half of the book covers a lot of time very quickly, and I feel that as a reader I would have appreciated perhaps focusing in on some of the adventures more and honing in on a deeper level of attention to detail.
The Best Of All Possible Worlds looks at issues such as adjustment, mourning, love, and to some extent asylum – how people have to change and rework their social patterns and ways of life in order to deal with a completely alien environment. In particular it is about a culture that suddenly has a surplus of men, and looks at what sort of difficulties this might create.
While Lord has incorporated all of these themes, it is essentially a light, easy to read boy-meets-girl narrative. I appreciated the build up and soft realisation of the romance from an adult’s perspective, rather than the usual tumultuous star crossed lovers angle that often focuses on younger protagonists.
I think it would have been interesting to look more closely at the difficulties different cultures can have living side-by-side. In the world Lord has created, people from different planets and races have settled on Cygnus Beta, mostly staying segregated in isolated communities, except for in the few cities, where they have mingled into some kind of liberal governing body. Despite having vastly different values and ways of life (everything from something resembling medieval serfdom to an approximation of fairy) they largely live peacefully side by side. When the Sadiri come to settle, everything possible is done to accommodate them. As we know, this unfortunately isn’t normally how people receive newcomers. Even though this is a completely constructed world – although it is touched upon a little by Delarua – I felt like more could have been done to explain why people were so open minded and culturally tolerant.
Having said that, this is me picking at what is essentially a very well thought out, well written book, that is certainly worth having a look at.
Doctor Who: The Sands of Life. Audio Book ReviewComments Off
Big Finish, CD £10.99, download £8.99
Reviewed by Chris Limb
“Why are humans always so aggressive?”
Sheridan Moorkurk may very well have just been elected President of Earth, but soon discovers that even the President can finds it difficult to say no to Cuthbert, CEO of the all pervasive Corporation. Nearby the Doctor, Romana and K9 are startled to discover a space-going swarm of aliens, the Laan who number in their billions, heading for the SaharaDesert, nearly destroying one of the Corporation’s space platforms on the way in and disrupting one of Cuthbert’s experiments.
What are the aliens’ intentions? The TARDIS crew are caught in the crossfire of what could be the beginning of all out war between the Humans and the Laan…
Before the video recorder became commonplace the only way you could experience the show again was to place a tape recorder in front of the TV speaker and record the soundtrack. 1979, when this story slots into the real-world timeline of the programme, was a year in which portable tape recorders were commonplace. This lends the experience of listening to The Sands of Life without being able to see what’s going on a delicious extra kick of verisimilitude for Doctor Who fans of a certain generation, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to what is already a very fine recreation of the time.
This recreation is aided and abetted by a very fine incidental music score (by author Nicholas Briggs) which successfully generates the atmosphere and sound of the works of 70s Who composer Dudley Simpson.
The story itself plays to the strengths of the series in this era, with echoes of the late great Robert Holmes in its plotting and situations, although the medium of audio of course allows for far more impressive locations – such as a helicopter trip across the deserts of North Africa – than the production team in the late seventies would have been able to recreate.
The guest cast is impressive, especially David Warner whose genre credentials and excellent voice make his portrayal of Cuthbert a memorable one; a bluff, no-nonsense businessman (who can easily be imagined starring in this century’s version of the Apprentice) who is more dangerous than you might give him credit for. His arrogance makes him the perfect target for the Doctor’s scorn, a balance of anger and ridicule that Tom Baker recaptures in his performance.
Once more Mary Tamm’s Romana takes charge, holding her own in a story which once more sees her separated from the Doctor, and after an absence from the preceding story it’s good to hear John Leeson as K9 again.
The Sands of Life turns out to be the first part of a longer story, the cliff-hanger upon which it ends making the listener all the more eager for the next instalment.
Adam Robots. Book ReviewComments Off
Gollancz, p/b, £12.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
I have previously read a small part of Adam Roberts’ vast output and had more than a wee bit to say about his writing style, mainly because I find some of it a tad too clever and over-written at times. Yes, he does continually push the boundaries, but he also tries too hard to sucker-punch his reader. Far too often for my tastes: “You will accept my clever writing even if I have to beat you over the head with it…”
A recent discussion I caught on Twitter raised the issue of modern genre writers trying to be too smart nowadays, leading to an alarming trend of writing that feels forced, weird, and generally hidden behind that all-encompassing mystic buzzword known as ‘style’. For me, writing of this type does little other than distance me from the story the author is trying to tell, making things harder to follow and often leading to a look of befuddlement and an amicable parting of the ways between me the reader, and whatever message the author is trying to convey. Imagine then, a whole book of this kind of thing —24 stories, in fact— as Adam Roberts takes up the baton: “I like the idea of writing at least one thing in all the myriad sub-genres and sub-sub-genres of SF” (quoted from back cover). One can perhaps understand how I initially thought my own personal reading hell had arrived, quite literally, at my doorstep… Imagine then, also, if you will, my pleasant surprise to find that more than a few of these stories were perfectly accessible even for one such as I: a man of relatively simple tastes, as it were.
As with any short story collection, there will always be those that hit the mark and those that drift so far off base they end up sprouting in someone else’s playground, and this is no exception. The majority of the stories have appeared previously, but this is apparently the first time they’ve been collected into one publication in the UK. Space doesn’t permit me to go through each individual story, but here’s a quick snapshot to give you some idea of what you may be letting yourself in for…
Adam Robots examines the question of robotic purpose in a very twisted take on the standard tale of Adam and Eve, this time involving robots Adam 1 and Adam 2 discussing why a blue jewel has been put atop a steel pole in the centre of the garden and both robots given explicit instructions not to touch it…
Shall I Tell You the Problem With Time Travel? is probably the most widely read from this collection, and takes a sideways look at the subject of time travel, including an admission that history is usually written by those who don’t necessarily know the whole truth.
Throwness is told in the first person, and is a haunting study of how one might behave if they were given carte-blanche to do as they please, knowing full well that whatever they chose to do all memory of their existence would be erased every three days. Can a life of no consequence be considered any kind of life at all?
Dantean and The World of the Wars are both classic takes on tales of yore. Here, the Divine Comedy feels neither comical or interesting, and not particularly clever, either; while the classic H. G. Wells story is given a Martian viewpoint, with a tiny little sting in the tale… Ahem. Similarly, Pied is a classic fairy tale retold, but didn’t exactly stick in my mind, either.
The Imperial Army was one of the stronger stories in this collection I think, and whichever way you choose to interpret it, this read like a clever ‘homage’ to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers; with a subtle dig at Orson Scott Card’s Enders universe thrown in for good measure.
The Man of the Strong Arm is my personal favourite of the bunch, telling an amusing tale in which real-life history is re-interpreted as a series of corking, ‘pulp-like’ stories from the likes of Edgar Burrough of the Rice, Wells from World’s-End, Robert Highline and the Jew, Verne; also featuring such colourful historical pioneers as Sir Arno of Bergerac, and the preposterous concept of flying to the moon on a giant firework full of gadgets… A very tall tale this, and a funny one at that.
The Woman Who Bore Death felt like an attempt at fantasy that failed completely for me, serving as a timely reminder that an author should usually stick to what they do best, frankly.
Finally, Anticopernicus is another clever tale, this one expertly carving a return to man’s ‘rightful place’ as the centre of the universe. Or not…
In conclusion, I was genuinely surprised and pleased by the number of stories I enjoyed in this collection, and no-one can say the author doesn’t have a fantastic flair for the written word — it’s just that I personally struggle with a lot of it. That said, the University of Lincoln has declared Adam Roberts’ work as the subject for an academic conference later this year entitled New Genre Army: An International Conference on the Writing of Adam Roberts [search ‘Adam Roberts conference’], so he must be doing something right, right?
Herald of the Storm. Book Review(1)
Headline, h/b, £16.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Massoud, a representative of Amon Tugha, approaches Steelhaven with a mission. He is being watched by another of his master’s men and has no choice but to succeed. Amon Tugha, the would be conqueror, has already put his plans in motion.
Kaira Stormfall, a Shieldmaiden of the Temple of Autumn in Steelhaven, is talented, and she knows it. Confident, strong, admired, Kaira knows her place in the world and she sticks to it without question. A summons from the Exarch, however, is about to shake Kaira’s world.
Janessa is tired of dress fittings and the obligations that fell upon her when the plague took her mother and older siblings. As she comes of age her father, King Cael, expects her to marry for political advantage, and in his absence his aide makes sure to steer Janessa in the desired directions. But Janessa never wanted to be queen, never wanted to marry a man out of obligation. As the feast approaches, Janessa considers alternatives to her future.
Elsewhere, a swindler has gambling debts to pay off and a wealthy mark to work on, a failing student can’t make any progress with his magick lessons and daily endures the ridicule and bullying of his tutor, a street urchin has learnt what it takes to survive but is fast learning that sometimes just having the skills is not enough and an assassin realises that not every target is one he wants to kill.
Herald of the Storm is the first book in a series and delivers historical fantasy in an enjoyable and well written format. Some readers may be familiar with the author from his previous steampunk work but this is something very different. Here we have an epic story with multiple sub plots and an underlying tone of dark magic that follows thieves, warriors, street urchins, nobles, con men, criminals and a failing student as they ultimately all just try to survive the situations thrown at them.
There are a lot of point of view characters in this book, and as you would expect from 600 pages plus the story is complex, so to begin with there is a big investment in getting to know the characters and distinguishing their individual desires and struggles. There is a lot to take in and this is the kind of book that would benefit from a cast index. But once you have got to grips with the different characters the action takes over and it does not disappoint.
The pace is good and does not suffer from the amount of time spent setting scenes and introducing characters. Some of the plotlines seem familiar: Janessa’s reluctance to enter a political marriage and become queen, for example, is not an unfamiliar beginning in fantasy fiction, but when woven in with the other characters and the rest of the action, the story soon moves away from the norm into something exciting and different. A solid start to a new series.
Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill. Book reviewComments Off
h/b, the Black Library, €25.00, blacklibrary.com
Reviewed by David Rudden
I don’t know how many Horus Heresy books the Black Library intend to release (and with the success of the series, I don’t dare to speculate) but as the series seems to move into a new phase of the narrative the plot is getting darker and more interesting. I had mentioned in a previous review that I felt that book after book dealing with the reactions of different characters to the series’ central conceit (gloried prince of galactic empire turns against his father) was getting a bit old and luckily the conflict seems to be evolving.
‘Angel Exterminatus’ (now holding the title for the most metal name of a book so far in the series) is the story of uneasy allies Perturarbo of the Iron Warriors and Fulgrim of the Emperor’s Children in their hunt for an ancient and terrible weapon. There’s a nice contrast in the leading characters and their legions, though I feel it’s hampered by McNeill’s constant need to reference himself every five pages. We get that all the books are connected and no-one is enjoying the in-jokes as much as you are.
The triumph of the book is the characterisation of Perturarbo. I’m a big fan of watching how the writers take the characters of the primarchs (monolithic as they stand in the mythology of the other Black Library books) and make them human. While there have been some missteps in this, revealing Perturarbo to be a quiet soul who simply wanted to be an architect and scholar is brilliant. I found myself really feeling for him by the end and could have dealt with a lot less of some of the other aspects of the book (the uncharacteristically jolly Iron Hands scientist for one) in order to focus in on this.
My only other problem with the novel is McNeill’s habit of dialling the nonsense up to eleven. Different BL writers deal with describing the mind-bending ways of Chaos and far-flung technologies in different ways but McNeill tends to just loose the hyperbole dogs until you’re honestly not sure what is going on. It’s that Lovecraftian trope of ‘distances to make a man go mad, dizzying infinities far too big for any human mind to contain’ which works in moderation, but after a while it just comes across as confusing.
That said, there are a lot of great little touches in the novel and there’s a twist that in retrospect I should have seen coming but didn’t (the best kind) and it’s worth a read. I’d just wait for the paperback.
The Siege Of Castellax by C. L. Werner. Book reviewComments Off
p/b, the Black Library, €12.50, blacklibrary.com
Reviewed by David Rudden
One of the things I look forward to when reading the Space Marine Battle series is how the writer is going to put a new and interesting slant on the Marines in question. Each of the eighteen legions is supposed to have their own personality, after all. Aaron Dembski-Bowden did a great job in making the Night Lords sarcastic, bitter and hollow. I had always thought the Space Wolves silly until Dan Abnett’s ‘Prospero Burns’ characterised them as surprisingly complex tribesmen with a mandate for extreme brutality and Chris Wraight’s idea of the Thousand Sons are self-despising philosophers on the path to monsterhood was excellently done.
Unfortunately that’s what C. L. Werner’s ‘The Siege of Castellax’ is desperately lacking.
The plot itself is generic fare; the forge planet Castellax is under siege by the innumerable ork horde and the bickering forces of the Iron Warriors legion must band together to face the threat while pursuing their own machinations and so on and so forth. I could forgive the basicness of the plot if the prose sparkled; Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s ‘Helsreach’ is almost the exact same set-up and it was excellent, but aside from one noticeable exception the Iron Warriors here lack personality and the kind of imaginative cruelty you want to see from millennia-old crusaders of evil.
The book is also lacking a strong enough antagonist. There are two, but one is barely mentioned and the other is completely wasted. These books live and die by their villains and I wanted something a lot meatier here. I think there’s a lot that could have been expanded on here but it’s an opportunity missed.
It’s not actively bad at anything it tries to do, and the subplots involving the Iron Warriors’ beaten-down slaves are actually pretty good (there’s one chase through a tunnel which is particularly atmospheric) but unfortunately like too many of the Space Marine Battle Series, this doesn’t have a lot to recommend it past mild curiosity.
Charon’s Claw: The Neverwinter Saga Book 3 by R.A. Salvatore. Book reviewComments Off
Wizards of the Coast, h/b, £18.99, Dungeons&Dragons.com
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Based on the popular award winning action PC game, ‘Neverwinter Nights’ and forthcoming MMORPG ‘Neverwinter’, this marks the last book in the Neverwinter Saga. Set in the land of Faerun, hero Drizzt Do’Urden has warred his way through his enemies, and two other people, his lover Dahlia and Artemis entreri seek revenge against their own enemies, but Dahlia wants to take her revenge through Drizzt, yet it’s not something Drizzt wants to do.
Charon’s Claw refers to the sentient sword wielded by Herzgo Alegni, a man who can’t ever be trusted, certainly not by Drizzt. The sword seems to control Enteri, and his interest in this woman annoys him to no end. Drizzt Do’Urden only wants to live his life as he desires, considers himself a good man within reason and wants his freedom away from Menzoberranzan most of all. Many will see the similarities of Alegni’s sword to that of Stormbringer wielded by Michael Moorcock’s Elric character, but besides that many will also enjoy the series for what it is. Drizzt has come to an impasse. He has reached over two hundred years of his life, and reflects on what he has done during that time, whether it is good or bad will be for the reader to decide.
Unlike many warriors, he can see through the deceit that has trapped many who considered themselves stronger. He sees both sides, the ally and the enemy equally, and believes that they are both wrong based on their past struggles. On his trails he sees only conflict, mainly for personal or monetary gain, and dreams of better times when he was in Icewind Dale. He only hopes that his life was not lived in vain, as he has a great deal to reflect on now that he is older and wiser.
Even though this is the last of the Neverwinter Saga novels that feature the life and times of Drizzt Do’Urden, we could only hope it could also spark another series. While his lover Dahlia has a strong persuasive streak, Drizzt, despite his fighting prowess is also naive about the success of his conquests when it could go either way. It is good to see familiar names in this novel, Bruenor, Ravel, Artemis and Jearth. They all have a greater part to play and R.A. Salvatore makes sure they play it well.
Hell to Pay by Matthew Hughes. Book reviewComments Off
Angry Robot, p/b, £8.99/ ebook, £5.49, angryrobotbooks.com
Reviewed by David Brzeski
One thing that occurred to me while reading this third volume in Matthew Hughes’ ‘To Hell and Back’ series, is just how clever he’s been with the setup. What he’s done is to take a lot of characters/elements that would normally suggest a broad situation comedy approach, then treat them completely seriously. That’s not to say the books are without humour – there are many laugh out loud moments – but the main focus is on the plot.
The first book in the series was very good, the second was better. The events of those books were leading up to this final volume in the trilogy and it’s the best yet.
Chesney Armstruther doesn’t even appear until quite a way into the book. Matthew Hughes spends a lot of time carefully building the story of a confidence trickster, only to then have him dealt with very expediently by ‘The Actionary’. It’s this sort of attention to detail that really makes this book work. It needs this attention to detail, because things get very complicated. Chesney wants to expand The Actionary’s area of operations, as there’s not so much crime in his city since his crime-fighting career got going. There are contractual problems for Satan, a confused archduke of hell, and a good cop trying to weed out centuries-old corruption in high places. Chesney had his functional autism cured by Joshua Josephson (a written out version of Christ they found in an abandoned draft of the book God is writing). During an unplanned trip to the distant past (dinosaur fans will love this) he begins to see that this may not have been such an advantage after all. In heaven and hell various denizens are aware that “something is going on.” Chesney’s demon helper, Xaphan, is beginning to think for himself, which is not really in the demon design specifications.
I’ve said enough. This is a great series. The covers, while nice to look at, perhaps emphasise the silly aspects a little too much for such cleverly plotted books. There’s so much more to them than humour.
Monster Earth edited by James Palmer and Jim Beard. Book reviewComments Off
Mechanoid Press, p/b, £9.29/ Kindle, £1.92, mechanoidpress.com
Reviewed by David Brzeski
The premise of this book is that the sort of giant monster, so popular in Japanese and many other movies from the 50s and 60s actually exist and have had a major impact on world history.
Co-editor and originator of the concept, Jim Beard, starts us off with ‘The Parade of Moments’, set during a time when China was in a state of civil war, with the Communists fighting the old Imperialists, and the Japanese were taking advantage of the situation. Things soon escalate into fully-fledged war, but it’s fought with more than just guns and tanks.
It’s in I.A. Watson’s ‘The Monsters of World War II, or, Happy Birthday, Bobby Fetch’ that we first get a clear idea of the concept behind this book. It’s very much an alternate history, where many major events of our world still happened, but involved giant monsters. Early on in this tale, the events of ‘A Parade of Moments’ are mentioned as having been the first irrefutable proof of the existence of these ‘Kaiju’, or giant monsters. Here we see how they were involved in this world’s version of Pearl Harbor.
We move forward to the early 50s in Jeff McGinnis’s ‘The Beast’s Home’. In 1944, America’s own monster, Johnson, was dropped on Japan, resulting in their complete surrender. The problem was, after the war, what could they do with the now unemployed monster? They lock him in an inpenetrable secure facility in LA, which pretty much cripples the growth of the movie industry in that area… and what happens if he gets out? We follow four people, a cabbie who has more or less given up on life, a wannabe actress who works a dead-end job in a bank, a cop too pig-headed to leave his home town, even when his wife and kids refuse to stay with him any longer, and an armed criminal. We follow them as their lives intersect and witness how Johnson’s latest escape changes the course they’re all on. McGinnis, by focusing on these people and keeping the monster in the background, has written a story which very much reminded me of some of the noir movies of that era. The parallels with the dangers of nuclear reactors makes me wonder if the CMD (Campaign for Monster Disarmament) could be on the horizon.
I first encountered Nancy Hansen’s work in an issue of Pro Se Presents magazine, and was seriously impressed. Her contribution to this collection, ‘And a Child Shall Lead Them’, certainly didn’t disappoint. Indian monster clashes with Indian (as in Native American) monster in my favourite story in the book. It’s a shame that this story wasn’t written back in Ray Harryhausen’s heyday, as it would surely have made for the best stop-motion animation feature of his career. I loved it. I think part of the reason it was my favourite is that it didn’t follow the formula of the others in detailing how various major world conflicts were affected by the existence of the monsters. This meant it worked as a stand alone story, outside of the book’s theme better than the others. Nancy Hansen proves, once again, that she is an author to be watched.
The monsters in Nancy Hansen’s tale were revered by the native peoples of their respective lands. Edward M. Erdelac explores similar ground in his excellent ‘Mighty Nanuq’, in which the US government find sending your monster to quash a protest by the downtrodden indigenous peoples of the land might not be as simple a matter as they thought.
We return to the theme of how major world conflicts in our world were changed by the existence of monsters in ‘Peace with Honor’, by Fraser Sherman. While Nancy Hansen got my vote for best overall story, this tales of monsters in Vietnam gets my award for best monster battle in the book. In some ways, it reminded me of ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla’, albeit Johnson Jr. bears a lot more resemblance to King Kong than The Champion does to Godzilla.
The book is rounded off by the ‘Monster Earth’ version of the Cold War in co-editor, James Palmer’s ‘Some Say in Ice’, in which we’re introduced to this world’s somewhat different concept of Monster Hunters. Dr. Jack Davis is part of a team who try to capture monsters so that the US can add them to their arsenal, and more importantly, so that other nations can’t add them to theirs. When they try to bring in the sea-dwelling Titanicus, they didn’t bargain for another monster joining the party. Capturing Titanicus soon takes a back seat to the possibility of learning more about how they come to be.
‘Monster Earth’ is a great, fun read. There genuinely isn’t a bad story in the book. Let’s hope there’ll be many more volumes to follow.
Grimm And Grimmer: Volume One edited by Theresa Derwin. Book reviewComments Off
Fringeworks, kindle, £1.97/ chapbook, £3.80, www.fringeworks.co.uk
Reviewed by David Brzeski
In his introduction, Adrian Middleton points out that traditional fairy stories have been considerably watered down through the years, leaving us with the saccharine-sweet Disney versions. Even the much darker Brothers Grimm versions were a little watered down, but things have now come full circle and the time is ripe for darker fairy tales for adults, which brings us to this volume…
I feel I should admit up front that it was a couple of the contributors that interested me in this collection much more than the concept. I have nothing against modern fairy stories, but on the other hand, they don’t generally interest me all that much either.
The opening story, ‘Building the Dream’, is a witty tale by Lynda Collins, in which she asks who exactly would build some of those strange structures that feature in the well-known fairy stories? Here we meet Frank Ory, architect to the fae. The bulk of the tale reports how Frank is commissioned to build a tall tower with no doors, just one window high up, to house one Rapunzel. This is followed by a very short retelling of Rapunzel’s story and how things turn out differently to the popular version. I liked the first part much better. Frank Ory is an interesting character and I could have happily read more of the trials and tribulations of his life and work, designing buildings commissioned by the fae. As it was, the ending seemed a little sudden, almost as if the author saw that she’d reached the prescribed word-count and needed to tie it up quickly.
I don’t suppose I really need to say which story ‘Beast’ by Hannah Lackoff is a riff on. It’s engaging enough. Junie is likeable, her father, Abelard, is odd, but not quite as odd as the people she goes to work for as a babysitter of sorts for their son, Eden. It’s nicely written and captured my interest, but again it just ended, leaving me hungry for more.
Colin Fisher’s ‘Gretel’s Way’ was the most satisfying so far. He explains in the introduction how he was never quite convinced by the witch falling for Gretel’s trick at the end of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. In his version Gretel is way out of the witch’s league as far as smarts go.
Jan Edwards is the first of the two authors who initially drew me to this collection. I’ve really liked everything I’ve read by her. Granted that’s only three short stories, including this one, but she’s still batting 100% with me so far. In ‘Princess Born’, we get a re-imagining of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s simplest tales in a style somewhat reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse.
‘A Taste of Honey’, Theresa Derwin’s reversal of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, gave me the distinct impression that the author doesn’t really like chavs very much. It does at least redress the main problem I have with this collection so far, in that it contains more comedy than the darkness the foreword leads us to expect.
William Meikle has no problems with darkness. In ‘Pork Hammy and Chop’, he continues with what I’m beginning to suspect is a concerted effort on his part to get me to like zombie stories. It does have a nice dark twist at the end.
To sum up, despite the fact that the overall concept of this collection didn’t appeal to me all that greatly, I did actually enjoy all the stories herein. The first two actually intrigued me more than the others, but they both ended too soon. I would have preferred the authors to have been given a little more room to allow their ideas to stretch. I’m hoping that Lynda Collins will expand upon the life of Frank Ory in future volumes.