Dragon, Fly And Other Flights Of Fancy by Jilly Paddock. Ebook review(1)
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
If you haven’t encountered Jilly Paddock’s fiction before, this is an excellent taster. A collection of short stories showcasing the strength and variety of her writing – there is science fiction here, fantasy, horror, crime and folk tale, but not delineated by story. She is never afraid to stir genres together and create something new.
Her prose is consistently excellent, and she peoples her various worlds with brilliantly drawn characters. She writes especially good strong female leads.
The title story Dragon, Fly is a beautiful and melancholic folk tale. It has dragons in it but don’t let that put you off – there’s nothing twee about it.
Playing Possom is a ghost story, perhaps not entirely original but well-told and effective.
The Omnidirectional Woman is straight horror set firmly in the here and now, somewhat in the style of Stephen King.
She really gets into her stride with Death and Cai-Lee McGeoghan, darkly Lovecraftian and very creepy. It’s followed by a sequel of sorts The Serpent’s Claw, set in the same place several hundred years in the future. Between them they tell an epic tale of the rise and fall of Galactic empires, but concisely and with a handful of characters.
A Cold terrible Place Filled with Stars is a mainstream but exciting sci-fi adventure with one of Ms. Paddock’s trademark kick-ass heroines.
The Bride Carried Tigers has an interesting and slightly yucky premise that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been pregnant.
She finishes the collection off with two stories featuring Anna and Zenni – a sort of superhero/witch/spy and her cyber-familiar – characters you’ll recognise if you’ve read To Die a Stranger. These were a treat for me, though others can judge how well they stand up as standalone stories.
Overall, a highly entertaining collection from an author too inventive and playful to be neatly pigeonholed.
To Die A Stranger by Jilly Paddock. Ebook reviewComments Off
TO DIE A STRANGER by Jilly Paddock, Cathaven Press, Ebook, £3.23, http://tabbycat.wordpress.com.
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading Ms. Paddock’s novella The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone. The titular “spook” was an intriguing character with deadly, apparently supernatural powers, and I wanted to know more. Now I think I do.
This is more or less a superhero story, with added space opera and a liberal dash of conspiracy thriller. Ms. Paddock is not one to be restricted by the conventions of any one genre.
Beautiful young actress Anna survives a plane crash and goes home, scarred and no longer employable in movies, to work in her father’s company. The company turns out to be mixed up in military stuff and Anna accidentally pairs with a Zenith computer, simultaneously gaining superpowers and making herself a target for evil government agents. What follows is a fast-moving thrill ride through space with lots of chases, fight scenes, cliffhangers and gloriously evil baddies. Imagine if Iain M. Banks had written The Matrix.
This is my third JP experience, and I see her contructing a universe, subtlely referencing her other works to create a consistent and intriguing mythos of her own. However, this creativity is only background work – what we really enjoy is the characters, the plotting and the storytelling. She has given us half a dozen believable and engaging characters, and spun a cracking yarn with them.
I’m not telling you any more, but you won’t be disappointed when you find it all out for yourself.
I could criticise a little, if I were feeling pedantic: the villains are perhaps too thoroughly evil to be realistic – they come across as a little pantominey. One of them even does the whole I’m going to explain my whole scheme because you’re going to die anyway Mr. Bond. But these things don’t spoil the book – if anything they add to the fun.
Another great read from an author to watch.
The Spook And The Spirit In The Stone by Jilly Paddock. Ebook review(1)
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
It’s usually a positive thing if a story is difficult to categorise. This one is set in the future on another planet; only some of the characters are human; and there’s a scary supernatural beastie. At heart though, it’s a noirish thriller, complete with kidnapping, assorted murders and a gruff but engaging first person narrator.
An ambassador’s child is kidnapped, and policeman Jerome is assigned to the investigation along with his career-driven female partner and a spook, an agent from Earth with apparently supernatural powers. I’m not telling you any more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it for you.
It takes both confidence and skill to mash up genres like this, and Ms. Paddock has pulled it off nicely. It’s competently set up in the first chapter, with further surprises along the way. The characters are well-drawn, and I enjoyed spending time with all of them. Her prose is classy and smooth and the unfolding of the plot is paced to keep us on our toes. The narration felt quite dry at first, but it fits the character.
My only complaint is that I wanted more. There are half a dozen good characters in here, two or three of whom are well fleshed out, but I really liked Jerome, Lamont, Sophie, Giselle, even Vincenzo. It felt like meeting some really cool people, having a brief chat about all the things you have in common, then never seeing them again. I wanted to relax a bit with Jerome and Val and find out about Lamont’s home life. I wanted to get the feel of Ms. Paddock’s world.
There is enough invention here to fill a novel, and it would be a more satisfying read at maybe three times its current length. It could even succeed as a series of novels, especially since the rules of her universe are so fluid.
An enjoyable taster, but I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
No Earthly Shore by Jilly Paddock. E-book review(1)
NO EARTHLY SHORE by Jilly Paddock, Cathaven Press, E-book, £1.28, http://tabbycat.wordpress.com/about/bibliography/
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
It’s the distant future: humans are colonising far-flung corners of the galaxy and the only rule is that we don’t take over a planet with any incumbent sentient life. Word gets back to Earth from Yemitzov 5 that a young girl is having telepathic conversations with “sea-quilts” – invertebrate creatures hitherto not considered any more sentient than jellyfish, since they seem to float around aimlessly in the planet’s oceans. A team is sent to investigate, contact is established and we all learn a lesson from the encounter.
From the synopsis it all sounds a bit familiar – the likes of Clarke, Asimov and Bradbury have been there and literally written the book many times over. But Ms. Paddock is doing much more than rehashing old themes.
There is a bit of tedious but necessary exposition at the beginning, but once we meet the characters and the story gets going, this is a great read. NES is a short piece: a long short story or compact novella, but it is absolutely cohesive and convincing. Her prose is smooth, stylish, sensual and occasionally beautiful. The characters are convincing and engaging. Importantly her science is spot on (once we get to the planet – we’ll ignore the whole warp-drive thing) – the internal logic of the story is well thought out and completely believable. The sea-quilts themselves are wonderfully brought to life. There is some nice social and political subtext but we’re allowed to work it out for ourselves rather than being bludgeoned with it.
If there is a checklist of good writing Jilly Paddock ticks every box, and I’m looking forward to reading more.