Wind Angels by Leigh Kennedy. Book ReviewComments Off
PS Publishing, enlarged p/b, £19.99, signed h/c £39.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
A good short story explores one idea and engages all the reader’s senses. Anyone wanting to become a short story writer should look at the way an expert constructs their fiction. A fine example of such an author is Leigh Kennedy. Each of the fifteen stories in this volume do exactly what they set out to do. Each one is a small gem.
Contemporary short stories have an advantage over genre ones in that the reader is familiar with the background and little needs explaining leaving the tale itself to ensnare the reader in its wiles. Those written by Kennedy start in ordinary ways and subtly change. The first in the volume, “Bats”, starts as a strange incident with a bat flying through the bedroom window – followed by others. By the end both you and the narrator know that something creepy is going on. “Vulture Trucks” could be set in any mid-American small town but the female tow-truck driver owes her success to her prescience.
Some have a very definite SF theme such as the title story, “Wind Angels”, which is set in a flooded future. “Helen, Whose Face Launched Twenty-eight Contestoga Hovercraft” is set on an artificial habitat in Earth orbit and “Belling Martha” is set in a future that has entered another ice age due to the eruption of three massive volcanoes. In each of these, the information needed to understand the setting is dropped in gently, the focus being on the interactions between the characters. These demonstrate the sure touch of Kennedy’s subtle hand and the way stories like this should be written.
Horror can feature as part of a story depending on the traumas the author decides to put their characters through. Several stories here deal with grief. “Tropism” deals with the situation of a wife exhuming her dead husband because she believes that he is not fully dead while “The Preservation of Lindy” is a 3D walk-in image of a dead daughter. “Vida” has grief at its heart when, after fleeing from seeing her stepfather kill her mother, Vida finds a strange sanctuary.
Yet there is also fantasy here, as in “The Ineffable” where a nettle fairy is working in a hospital netting souls and catches a very rare one.
If there is any secret to Kennedy’s ability to write exceptional stories it is that she is able to take and follow through one idea and refuses to get bogged down with the side issues that rightly belong in novels. Also she doesn’t allow genre labels to restrict her. If the idea demands elements from several genres, it gets them. If you have never read any of Kennedy’s stories, buy this book and find out how it should be done.
Postscripts 24/25 ed by Crowther & Gevers — review(1)
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
This is a beautiful book. Not only is there a wonderful Emsh cover on both the dust jacket and the boards but there but there are also some exquisite interior drawings, especially those of Russell Morgan.
The contents include twenty eight stories from a range of authors crossing a variety of genres. Some of the authors are well established, others relative newcomers and most readers will find something within these pages to either enchant or otherwise engage their emotions. Although each one is well written, some are more memorable than others, for different reasons. The title story of this anthology, ‘The New and Perfect Man’ by Carol Emshwiller is a word of warning to all those pushy parents who think they know what is best for their child. Raised with only the best, the girl (they were so sure baby would be a boy) is totally unprepared when she escapes the confines of her upbringing.
Although this story can be regarded as being contemporary American values, other stories are set in the UK and deal with fears that are grittier. Joel Lane & Mat Joiner inhabit the backwaters of the Birmingham canals in ‘Ashes in the Water’. Here a narrow boat becomes a metaphor for death. Ramsey Campbell takes his character back to a moorland village he used visit in his childhood in ‘The Room Beyond’. The hotel he books into is not how he remembers it and as his stay progresses it becomes more and more sinister.
In complete contrast, Alan Peter Ryan’s tale ‘The Story of Princess Rosebud’ is a translation and adaptation of a French tale from the 19th century and contains elements that have been much used in stories such as Cinderella. ‘Child of Evil Stars’ by Annie-Sylvie Salzman has an unfamiliar style as this is a direct translation from the French and is a dark tale of the obsession of a doctor for one of the freaks exhibited at a visiting circus.
Two very dark stories are ‘The Inn of Distant Sorrows’ by Thomas Tessier and ‘The Girl on Mount Olympus’ by Christopher Fowler. In the former, Richard Poole, a Canadian project director is deep in South America. He is due to meet a geologist to assess a particular area as a mining prospect. Arriving first and unable to speak the local language his trip begins to take on a surreal aspect as he begins seeing someone who looks like himself with people he hasn’t met yet. Fowler’s story intercuts the narratives of Anna who goes to Cyprus with a new, male acquaintance and the newly engaged Paul and Lily on holiday there. The story is more horrific as this couple just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The price of this book may seem a little steep, but it is worth it to have it grace your bookshelves.
Osama — book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Jay Eales
Can you fictionalise a real-world bogeymen like Bin Laden without trivialising things? Dash it all, I think you can! Everyone has their 9/11 story, I think. I was delivering a washing machine, and they happened to have the TV on when I arrived, and we all just gawped. My cousin’s first foreign holiday saw him posing for photos on top of the World Trade Centre, and three days later, it was no longer there. Our world has irrevocably transformed in small and large ways since then. Some you notice, and some you don’t.
Tidhar shows us a world with an Osama-shaped hole. Nothing so mundane as a what-if scenario where life kept on track, but an alternate reality where metafictional worlds bleed across and echo with the one we’re more familiar with, much as Watchmen did with its pirate comics and Gunga Diners. Osama presents the reader with a mystery, though not a convoluted one, dressed in finest noir. As with so many stories, the destination is not the important part, but the travelling. As Joe searches for the mysterious author of the Bin Laden: Vigilante pulp novels, there’s an ever-present feeling that whatever the truth is, when he gets there, he’ll wish he hadn’t.
Add to this the presentation of the book, courtesy of PS Publishing. Already with a deserved reputation for handsome editions, Osama stands among their very finest.
Ghosts Know — book reviewsComments Off
Reviewed by John Howard
Being a character in a Ramsey Campbell novel is never an easy option. Good, bad, and all shades in between: they’re all in it together and it’s usually hell – or even worse. Graham Wilde in Ghosts Know is no exception. Wilde is the presenter of a radio phone-in show. He stands up for the right things, challenging the views of his callers and refusing to let them get away with sloppy thinking or inaccurate comments. But all too often Wilde seems unable to actually say the right thing, to either his listeners or his friends. His very articulateness continually lets him down, and his rage grows. It’s Down the Line going truly toxic, barely remaining on the rails (or the air).
When a teenage girl goes missing, a psychic is brought in to provide his version of help and comfort. He also gets interviewed on Wilde’s show; the two men have something of a Past. From then on Ghosts Know develops into a narrative of the blackest humour and suspense. The novel is taut and intense. Campbell’s imagery never ceases to startle and makes sure that the reader is always kept off-balance and uncertain – just enough. Questions get answered with more questions; the main characters are always on the edge, ready to fall or get pushed by the unintended consequences of words and actions.
Ghosts Know is a story of seeing and sight. There is what a psychic sees and says he sees; what is seen through the eyes of anger, suspicion, and grief; and what can only be seen when un-regarded pieces finally and laboriously come together and understanding dawns into sight. The truth that Wilde eventually confronts is messy and ambiguous, in contrast to that apparently declared through psychic revelation. And then for our sake (as well as Wilde’s) Ghosts Know doesn’t seem to end entirely in the darkness, but rather in a new light made all the more worthwhile because of what had to be endured in order to be able to see it.
Reminder – BFS EGM / London open nightComments Off
An Extraordinary General Meeting of the BFS will be followed by its annual London Open Night on Friday 9 December 2011. The venue is The Mug House, London Bridge, London, SE1 2PF. The EGM starts at 6:00pm and the open night starts at 7:30pm.
The open night will involve the usual mix of book launches (by Pendragon Press and PS Publishing amongst others), general chit-chat, and a little drinking! All welcome.
|Twisted Tales of the Weird West – eventComments Off|
Book sales now on!Comments Off
NewCon Press is offering its vampire anthology The Bitten Word signed limited edition hardback, at half price. 336 pages, seventeen original stories from the likes of Kelley Armstrong, Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Gail Z. Martin, Freda Warrington, Simon Clark, Chaz Brenchley, etc, all in a beautifully presented dust-jacketed hardback. This limited edition book is signed by all the authors on two bespoke signing pages and includes a full colour plate of the magnificent back cover art by award winning artist Les Edwards, plus a bonus story by Ian Watson. All for just £16.00 (plus p&p – £2.50 in the UK) rather than the listed £32.00.
In addition, they are offering the following at half price:
Limited edition hardback (unsigned) and paperback of the anthology Myth-Understandings: featuring all women authors, themed on ‘communication’, with stories from: Gwyneth Jones, Pat Cadigan, Justina Robson, Liz Williams, Tricia Sullivan, Sarah Pinborough, Storm Constantine, Deborah J Miller, Freda Warrington, Leigh Kennedy, etc.
Limited edition hardback (signed by author, introducer, and cover artist) and limited edition paperback (signed by the author) of Andrew Hook’s existential zombie novel And God Created Zombies (introduction by Sarah Pinborough).
Limited edition hardback (signed) and paperback of The Beloved of my Beloved – a collaboration between British SF author Ian Watson and Italian surrealist Roberto Quaglia. Surreal, shocking, inventive, bizarre, hilarious, outrageous, obscene, and quite, quite brilliant: Arabian Nights meets the Illustrated Man with added weirdness.
Please contact NewCon Press using the contact form on the website if you are interested in purchasing any of these titles.
Meanwhile, PS Publishing are having a clearance sale with several paperbacks at just £2.99. Some novellas, novels, collections and anthologies are priced at under £10, together with a handful of signed slipcased editions at just £12.99. ARC copies are being sold at £4.99 plus postage for the novellas and £8.99 plus postage for everything else.
Red Gloves by Chris FowlerComments Off
Coming from PS Publishing: Red Gloves by Christopher Fowler. This is another of PS’s two books in one volume: Devilry and Infernal. Part 1 consists of 14 stories under the subtitle “London Horrors” – including a Bryant & May tale. Part 2, subtitled “The World Horrors”, includes thirteen stories (and again a Bryant & May tale). So that’s 25 stories – collected to celebrate 25 years in the business. Fowler is one of our finest writers of short fiction – and thus this book is a must for connoisseurs the dark side. The book is available in two editions at £19.99 and £49.99. [Photo courtesy of Mr Fowler’s blog.]
The Emperor’s Toy Chest by Tobias Seamon. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Tom Crouch
Tobias Seamon is a newish writer I’ve not come across before, showcased in PS’s Showcase line. The first story is ‘A Day in the Life of the Grand Vizier’, an Arabian fables-like tale. Seamon paints an authentic picture of this remixed world, in which Mr Sultan has issues with one of his harem, a certain Shahr-azad. And all told with a wicked sense of humour. Perhaps my favourite story is ‘Without Kong’, which tells of what happens to the islanders – and the scientists – after the great ape had been captured and crated off the New York. It’s very moving and thought provoking, and a little sad. Otherwise, I have to say that this is a bit of a curate’s egg – a few tales left me unimpressed; although it’s a great title, ‘The Emperor’s Toy Chest’ is too slight for it to lend its name to the collection as a whole. But fortunately, the wit and imagination mostly shone throughout these tales, and on this basis I will keep an eye open for Tobias Seamon’s future collections. A signed edition is also available.
Terra Damnata, by James Cooper. Book review(1)
Reviewed by Cavan Scott
Terra Damnata, the first novella-length work from up-and-coming writer James Cooper, is an oppressive slice of suburban life. Arthur Woodbury is faced with a sickening decision. He has been offered the chance to pay off his debt to local casino owner Norman Foley. The only snag is that he must sell the corpse of his dead daughter to wealthy businessman Gerald Appleton.
While the reason behind Appleton’s request to purchase the mortal remains of Arthur’s daughter is macabre rather than sinister, true horror awaits the Woodbury house as soon as the deal is struck. Sombre and oppressive, Terra Damnata is exquisitely written and despite Edward Miller’s gleefully ghoulish cover is concerned not with supernatural chills but the horror perpetrated by men. My only complaint is that it was just too damned short. The story, at times reminiscent of a 1950s thriller, could have easily been expanded without losing the doom-laden atmosphere and at points felt a little rushed. Of course, this could be just because this reviewer was so enjoying Cooper’s taut, considered prose that he didn’t want it to come to an end.