Oct 31, 2013

Update on Sean Williams’ Twinmaker series

While Dr Williams is of at World Fantasy Con in Brighton, swanning around with half the Australian speculative fiction community he has released some goodies for fans.  First up I give you the product advertisement for DMat.

But you might want to check out the book website at Twinmaker.

Not sure what I am talking about?  My review of book one is here and the audio interview for Galactic Chat can be found here.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Oct 26, 2013

Book Release – Suffered from the Night

sufferedHeard about Suffered from the Night on the latest episode of the Outer Alliance podcast and after listening to the authors Julia Rios interviewed, I am intrigued and have placed it in next months to buy basket. 

But the internal discussion I had with myself around that decision was interesting.  It’s essentially gay and lesbian fiction riffing off the Dracula story and one part of my brain, that part that listened to the cool authors was going “BUY IT” and another part of my brain was going, “Its Gay and Lesbian fiction are you really that interested?”

Now let’s be clear here, I read authors who are gay and lesbian ( but their work generally isn’t categorised that way) but for some reason the marketing categorisation got me thinking that I wouldn’t be interested ( for a brief second before I told myself to stop being so stupid) it was almost a subconscious reaction, similar to the reaction  I would have to a book on golf or gardening.

Where have I picked up this conditioning? Is there some Australian male macho cultural baggage at play here?

So because I had this reaction, I am going to examine it closer.  If you’re interested in alternate riffs on Dracula you too can check it out.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email orFollow me on twitter.

Book Release – Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart

PathofNightCoverSMIt’s been a weekend of excitement for me so far.  But this bit of excitement is the new Supernatural Thriller from Australian author Dirk Flinthart.  Now if you have been a part of the Speculative fiction community for some time, you should have come across Dirk before.  Most of his rescent works have been short fiction but Path of Night seems to herald a return to the longer form.

Dirk has had a varied career editing Canterbury 2100 by Agog Press, sharing a Ditmar award with Margo Lanagan, and co writing How to be A Man with John Birmingham.  For a full list of his credits see here.

Path of Night:

Michael Devlin is the first of a new breed. The way things are going, he may also be the last. Being infected with an unknown disease is bad. Waking up on a slab in a morgue wearing nothing but a toe-tag is worse, even if it comes with a strange array of new abilities.

Medical student Michael Devlin is in trouble. With his flatmates murdered and an international cabal of legendary man-monsters on his trail, Devlin's got nowhere to hide. His only allies are a hot-tempered Sydney cop and a mysterious monster-hunter who may be setting Devlin up for the kill. If he's going to survive, Devlin will have to embrace his new powers and confront his hunters. But can he hold onto his humanity when he walks the Path of Night?

Path of Night represents Flinthart's longest published work to date, and is planned as the first in a series of stories centering around Michael Devlin.The next one is well under way...

Interested? You can purchase both print and ebooks from Fablecroft.

So expect a review from me soon.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email orFollow me on twitter.

Oct 25, 2013

Galactic Chat 36 Devin Madson

I reviewed Devin’s first book here.  Earlier in the week we sat down and chatted for a Galactic Chat interview.  Please enjoy the episode posted below:


This week Sean talks with author/publisher Devin Madson who has recently released her debut novel.  They talk about overcoming the self publishing stigma, the highs and lows of funding your project through crowd sourcing sites such as Pozible and sourcing publishing professionals when you don't have the commercial weight of traditional publishing behind you.


  You can download here.

Devin's website www.devinmadson.com

Devin on Twitter

Devin on Facebook


Interviewer: Sean Wright

Guest: Devin Madson

Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Post-production: Sean Wright


Twitter: @galactichat

Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

Oct 21, 2013

Sean Williams On Matter Transmission and the World of Jump: Twinmaker

At the beginning of October I had a chat with Sean Williams about his new YA book Jump: Twinmaker you can listen to us talk here at Galactic Chat.  I had the opportunity to ask some follow up questions below:

Please enjoy:


1. Jump features Fabbers or fabricators, with more widespread use of 3d printing how close do you think we are to seeing technology like them?Sean Williams

On the one hand, you can see existing technologies like cheap 3-D printers and online libraries of downloadable 3-D models heading in exactly this direction, so it’s easy to believe it might be just around the corner. On the other hand, the sheer amount of data and fine-scale manipulation required to make things like food and the Mona Lisa seems far beyond us. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Printing objects in hard-to-supply places like space or a battlefield has obvious utility for organisations with enormous R&D budgets, so work is being undertaken right now that will eventually filter down to the mainstream. How long until I can fab a convincing steak that required no animal slaughter? I’d guess twenty years, plus or minus ten. The Mona Lisa? Probably sooner. A living person? A very long way off indeed.

2. What do think would be the most monumental change wrought by matter transference technology if it were to occur now?

That’s a hard question to answer because I suspect everything would change.

Our notion of space and time would shift, since being able to step literally anywhere in a moment or two removes all concept of “between” from everyday life. Once a city on the other side of the planet becomes closer in a very real sense to a destination two blocks away, where you might walk instead of d-matting, that leads to a fundamental restructuring of how we view the world. This goes beyond polyglot societies and complicated national identities. This speaks to how we inhabit the universe around us, and leads to powerful new metaphors for finding our place within it.

Then there’s the way we imagine ourselves as creatures with physical bodies and coherent identities inhabiting those bodies. Any device that can scan your every atom and rebuild you at will leads inevitably to the possibilities of copying, mutation and erasure, all of which put severe pressure on our sense of self. If you can change your physical form any time you like, who are you really? If you can make two or more identical versions of you, which one is really you? If you are deleted en route to your destination, are you really dead? This notion of what’s real and what not is relatively easy to answer when the matter we’re made of is mutable. When it is, we’re in a whole new, and very fascinating territory!

jump 3. Jump doesn't go into detail on economics, how does the world of Jump operate when you can live in Australia but go to school in the US, how do people make money when people don't have to pay for consumer items?

I talk a little about the economics in the world of Twinmaker in “Face Value”, a short story featuring characters who will appear in the sequel.

What lies at the heart of the economy of this world is that the one irreproducible commodity people can trade is time. You can make a thousand copies of a roast lamb dinner for no cost at all, but if you want someone to make you the original that the copy is taken from, that will cost you, because it takes time to cook the meal. So it’s the ultimate service economy, but with every transaction conducted electronically, of course; there’s no physical money since that could be easily copied too. It’s not fundamentally different from our world in some ways, but utterly different in others.

Governance reflects that. Things like passports and state borders don’t exist anymore, since they just can’t survive in the face of d-mat technology. This is something you’ll see a lot more of in the sequel. I don’t want to burden the books with the nuts and bolts of world-building, but I do want observant readers to know that they are there.


Many thanks to Sean for answering my questions.  You can buy your choice of three versions of Jump: Twinmaker (or all three if you really want to make Mr Williams happy) at Booktopia.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email orFollow me on twitter.

Oct 18, 2013

Galactic Chat 35 – Julia Rios


This week I chat to Julia Rios, fiction editor for Strange Horizons, host and producer of the Outer Alliance Podcast and one hafl of the Kaleidoscope Pozible project.  In this episode they talk a little about Julia's entry into podcasting and fiction editing, consider what are the genre's issues with Diversity and finally talk about the Pozible project that Julia and Alisa Krasnostein are running.




Kaleidoscope Fundraiser

Julia's Websites:

Outer Alliance Podcast

Julia Rios



Interviewer: Sean Wright

Guest: Julia Rios

Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Post-production: Sean Wright


Twitter: @galactichat

Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

Oct 17, 2013

Book Review – Blood of Whisperers by Devin Madson


Should a book review be just about the text between the covers?

Blood of Whisperers is the debut novel from Victorian author Devin Madson.  It’s the first in a trilogy of novels set in the pseudo-Japanese fantasy world of The Imperial Expanse of Kisia.  What drew me to this particular novel is the way in which the author sought to bring us this tale.

The Blood of Whisperers and the following books, The Gods of Vice( due December 2013) and The Grave at Storm’s End are already written and edited.  I hold the paperback of book one in my hand because Madson chose to fund the book’s production through a Pozible campaign- a nail biting experience if the author’s notes on it are anything to go by. 

It’s a bold step putting yourself out there as a relative unknown, hoping that people will support you on an example of your writing.  In this instance it paid off, raising $8000 dollars for three books to be produced to a professional standard(art, editing,distribution etc). 

I hold a book in my hand that is indistinguishable from many commercially(ie traditional publisher) produced books that grace my shelves.  It bears distinctive artwork by artist Viktor Fetsch, whose work also graces the cover of Brandon Sanderson’s German translation of The Emperor's Soul and Sarah J Maas’, Throne of Glass.  The cover design by Isabelle Young you can judge for yourself, but I think it compliments Fetsch’s artwork.  

All in all, it’s a quality container for the tale within.


A man of common blood sits on the throne. At his command the last emperor was executed, but now the empire is on the brink of war.

Vengeance is coming.

Endymion is an Empath. He was born with the ability to feel another’s emotions and reach inside their hearts for their deepest secrets. Often despised he lives a nomadic existence, but when he finds himself imprisoned for sorcery and facing death, it is his past that will condemn him. Born Prince Takehiko Otako, the only surviving son of the True Emperor, Endymion is already caught in the brewing storm. Fast losing control of his Empathy he seeks revenge against the man who betrayed him, but for Endymion the truth will come too late.

The Blood of Whisperers is a tale feudal infighting and political manoeuvring with some interesting psionic magic thrown in for good measure.  Endymion is pushed forward as the main protagonist of this tale, but the structure that Madson has chosen to frame the story with really gives us three from different factions.  The tale is told in the first person, giving the reader a certain immediacy, a closeness with the the character who is describing events.  We are introduced to Endymion first, then Lord Darius Laroth, minister of the Left and finally Captain Regent, the right hand man to the rebel, Monarch. 

Madson gets around the confusion generally caused by “head hopping”  by prefacing each chapter with an insignia that signifies that character.  It’s an interesting choice, in line, I think with the setting.  How you find the setting will I think depend on your own preferences.  This is very much a tale focussed on the story. There’s a broad sketch of the psuedo-Japanese setting, enough to give you a general idea, to evoke a flavoured background for the characters.  If you are looking for an in depth interrogation of culture I’d suggest you look elsewhere. In essence the story could be set in a feudal European setting and not suffer for it. This is not a criticism mind you, merely a sign post that the story carries more of the weight in this novel.

Madson’s writing is solid, the tale is well paced and the plot suitably intricate enough to carry most reader’s interest to the end.  There were a couple of scenes that I thought were almost cliché, in the sense that I realised (due to prior exposure) ahead of time that the writer was attempting emotional manipulation. That being said, those are really minor quibbles from a reviewer that has a lifetime of fantasy reading under his belt.

As a debut novel it’s better than some of the traditional “best sellers” I have read over the last 12 months. Madson tells a well paced entertaining tale. I am curious whether or not she had attempted to go the traditional publishing route because I think it would have done well with fans of Trudi Canavan, and Kylie Chan - I think they share similar target audiences. 

If you are a fan of political fantasy. if you like a Game of Thrones but don’t like the brutality or the potential of every character ending up dead then, I recommend The Blood of Whisperers. It’s a comfortable read – an enjoyable and intriguing story that I would like to follow up in The Gods of Vice.

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

The paperback can be purchased direct from the author at this time and Devin is currently offering Free postage worldwide. Purchase Paperback

Ebook versions can be bought via Amazon or Smashwords


This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women..






Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Oct 13, 2013

Good news for Anderton Fans

BoneChimeCoverDraft-195x300 Fablecroft announced this week that they would be publishing Unbound, the final book in the veiled worlds series by Jo Anderton.  The first two, Debris(see my review) and Suited were published under a two book deal with the UK’s Angry Robot.

Fablecroft have been a supporter of Jo, having previously published her short story collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories.

You can check out further news at the Fablecroft page





Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Oct 12, 2013

eBook Review – Alternative Alamat

13133725 Once, last century, I studied Filipino history for my undergraduate degree.  The units were imaginatively named The History of the Philippines Part A and B.  Like most things I studied, I remember little. 

To be fair, it was Darwin and  there was a lot of drinking. 

Thankfully Alternative Alamat by Paolo Chikiamco is imaginative and stock full of story that I never got the chance to encounter as part of my history major.  So while reading Alternative Alamat evokes a certain level of nostalgia, there’s plenty here that is fresh and new and exciting.

Alamat roughly translates as Legend, and so we have Alternative Legends, a collection of stories that explore and bring to life in reader’s(both International and Filipino) minds some of the richness that can be found in Philippine Mythology.  After having chatted with Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and reading Alternative Alamat it becomes apparent to me that this is just a taster, an indication of what is possible, of what more there is to explore in Philippine mythology.

Paolo has managed to gather together an interesting group of stories and writers.  There are names that are familiar to me: Eliza Victoria, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Dean Alfar and David Hontiveros but there’s a fair amount that I haven’t had the privilege of reading before.

A quick selection of the tales:

Eliza Victoria, kicks off the collection with Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St. which also featured in her collection A Bottle of Storm Clouds.  It’s a very good modern rendering of Anagolay, the Philippine Goddess of lost things and a comment perhaps on the modernisation of the Philippines.

Harinuo’s Love Song by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, is a beautiful retelling of  the myth of the Sky Maiden.  Beautiful and horrifying at the same time.  This story was pleasurable beyond the tale itself. It contains poems within the text but the whole story itself has a very powerful folktale rhythm to it.

Budjette Tan, famous for his Graphic Novel/Comic, Trese (available form Kobo), gives us the The Last Full Show, a slice of life from that world. It’s a good mix of crime/mystery and the supernatural, Philippines style.

Timothy James Dimacali’s Keeper of My Sky was very good and quite sad at the same time.  An ancient story re-crafted in a modern setting and cleverly structured to produce a unique effect.  Reminds me of some of the character reimagining in American Gods.

Mo Francisco, takes another look at Maria Makiling in Conquering Makiling, the goddess of this tale is a little more primal, earthy in her presentation.  The story was vivid and quite humorous.  This is one of those stories that sits quite happily in the realms of magical realism as it does in speculative fiction or fantasy.

There are others in this collection that I will leave to surprise you.  They were all good stories and showcased what can be accomplished with Philippine folk lore and mythology with a range of literary styles.  Dean Alfar finishes off the fiction segment of the collection with a story told in footnotes – a short excerpt from an historical text (real or fabricated I am not sure) is footnoted* and it is these footnotes that builds the story.  It’s an interesting technique and it bridges nicely to the non-fiction articles and interviews that Chikiamco sourced for the collection.

You can’t ask much more from a book than to be intrigued, entertained and educated.  Alternative Alamat achieves all of this admirably.  It’s an important read not only for those wanting diversity in their speculative fiction but also I think for Filipino’s wanting to explore and engage in their mythology.

It is beautifully illustrated by Mervin Malonzo who did the front cover and the interior black and white plates.  At just over $5 AUD via Kobo, this collection is a steal.  If you are a fan of myth and folktale retelling, take a trip to the Philippines, I don’t think you will regret it.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.


*A word of warning to Kobo app users – the app as you may know does a terrible job with hyperlinks (ie you can’t use them) so I had to read Dean’s story an another app.

Oct 11, 2013

Galactic Chat 34 – Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

Well here is the latest Galactic Chat which (like all my chats) I thoroughly enjoyed.  As part of the We See A Different Frontier Carnival I encourage you to listen to and to check out all the other folks posting in the Carnival (link) and to monitor the hashtag #wsadf on twitter.

You could also, you know, read We See A different Frontier (my review here).

In this episode Sean chats with Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about her reading experiences growing up in the provinces of the Philippines and the influences on Filipino Writing particularly Speculative Fiction.  They also talk about conceptions of Diversity in the genre and the where the largest misunderstandings seem to be. The finish the show talking about Rochita's story, What Really Happened at Ficandula.

Please enjoy.



Links mentioned:

Hunting for Stories in the Philippines published in Weird Fiction Review (2012)

We See a Different Frontier

Indian SF

The World SF Blog (archived)

Cheeky Frawg

Flipside /Flipreads( for Australian's search on Kobo or Amazon for titles)

Charles Tan

Strange Horizons

Alternative Alamat

The Future Fire

Expanded Horizons

Crossed Genres

Hard Copy Books:

Fabulists and Chroniclers by Christina Pantoja Hidalgo

Author links:

Rochita's Websites: From the Beloved Country , Chie and Weng Read Books

Rochita's Twitter: @rcloenenruiz 


Interviewer: Sean Wright

Guest: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Post-production: Sean Wright


Twitter: @galactichat

Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

Trucksong cover reveal

Here it is, the cover of the new Andrew Macrae novel Trucksong, published by Twelfth Planet Press, cover art by Kenkichi Tai.


Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Oct 9, 2013

Are we critical enough?

I have had a whinge on my Facebook about Snark/Nastiness in book reviewing.  I am talking mainly here of Goodreads, those .gif laden pieces of performance art that seem to pass for critical response to books.

I am not a fan of snark unless it’s done well (obviously “done well” is subjective and probably in line with my biases, political opinions etc).  I have come across discussion threads where piling on an author is carried out with maniacal glee and where until recently people could name their book shelves ‘this author should be shot”.

My complaint is that when I as a member of the public, reading a publically posted review seek to query, discuss, perhaps challenge people in the discussion, they aren’t prepared to participate in a discussion, I am policing their reviewing.  In essence they are willing to lump truckloads of shit on to an author but are not prepared to defend that position or clarify a stance. They have an opinion and you dare not express one that is counter to it.

My position is of course that you are entitled to an opinion if you can argue it sufficiently (and civilly is my preference, an honest civility not civility masquerading as tone-policing).

My feeling is that if you hold an author to the standard “well if you put it out there, you take the good with the bad” then as an ”author of a review” you should hold yourself to the same standard.

Maybe I need to look for better reviews, seek out better reviewers.  Maybe its a case of SOMETHING IS WRONG ON THE INTERNETS!

Maybe the hardest part about being an author is developing the ability to take it on the chin( with the same regularity as sports stars but without the money)- it’s not about you but more about the reviewer.

But even after 3 years of reviewing I am not sure what effect reviews have.  Do they really influence sales?  Is any publicity good?  Does it all matter?

I also wonder in a hyper connected world where authors are expected to do more and more of the selling, to be online and active, if, while reviews may not matter, angst, hate and the magnifying effect of social media might very much matter to the writer.  Gone are the days when you would wake up to a week of bad reviews in the papers (where bad might have been some intelligent snark) now you could wake up to perpetual poo flinging that can drag on for months, confront you every morning while you realise that you get paid less than an unskilled labourer.

Mind you the other side of that coin could be waking up to fan love each day.  But I still think  we tend to like complaining and criticising more than praising.

It’s not a phenomenon restricted to book reviewing mind you. A culture of nastiness, of flinging shit and not having to deal with any consequences will be familiar to anyone who has teens on Facebook or anyone who followed political discourse in Australia over the last 6 years.  I think it cheapens and polarises the discussion,  it’s cheap entertainment at the expense of good solid discussion. 

Sure the other end of the spectrum can be as bad - if we pat authors on the back, fail to interrogate the work enough then we do risk becoming stagnant.

Which brings me to the title for this post. 

Am I being critical enough in my own reviews?  Am I every bit as to blame as the monkeys on Goodreads, because in the main I choose to talk about books that I enjoy, that I don’t find too much of an issue with.  Am I not interrogating these works sufficiently.  Am I too nice?

This is the question I am left with and the question I ask you, fellow book reviewers, are we critical enough, where being critical is interrogating the work and having honest opinions without playing it up for the reader?

Feel free to list reviewers/bloggers that you think do a good job of being critical.  I have some in mind but I don’t want to skew your answers.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Oct 4, 2013

Diversity in Specultive Fiction – more than lip service

Earlier this week I reviewed the wonderful We See a Different Frontier and I mentioned that it was one of those books that you really need to read if you are paying more than mere lip service to the concept of diversity.  So when Twelfth Planet Press gears itself up to provide us with diverse YA Fantasy and they convince Julia Rios to co-edit you know you are in for something special.

So go on pledge, lets get this thing off the ground.

And authors who feel they don’t get support for diverse stories they have already received original stories from Sofia Samatar, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, and Jim Hines. But they want yours too.

Click the badge above, check out the rewards.

Make a difference.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Interim Gender Audit October 2013

 seal_thumb[3] I started doing gender audits of my reading in 2011 and have done one each year - see 2011, 2012.  My reasons for doing this can be found in my first post snipped below:

Some time in March1 this year{2012] I did a gender audit of my reading.  I had been listening to those subversive women at Galactic Suburbia and I really wanted to see how I did. 

Now prior to conducting the audit I had a fairly high opinion of myself.  I have no obvert preferences for male writers over female, and I thought on the whole the gender split would probably be fairly close, say 60/40 in favour of men.





As a feminist friendly male reader I had a gender split of 82/18.2  So I set about making a conscious effort to read female writers, especially for my recreational reading as opposed to my official reviewing.[read on]

Now I am doing this one early, mostly as a check on myself, as it’s been a busy year with work and a podcast to run. I have had to let some focus drop.  So without too much focus on what I am picking up to read, I wanted to see if other factors had skewed my reading in anyway.

So as of today the breakdowns are as follows with last years graph below:













graph (1)_thumb[6]











So you’ll note at this point that I have read more collections that feature a mix of genders and that the gender balance of Male and Female authors is more evenly split. I’d have to dig a bit deeper into the actual titles to examine the effect of say major publishing houses versus small publishers on that balance ie does more big publishing titles that I get for review skew the data towards more male authors read.

At this stage I am ok with the results, I like to aim for a 60/40 split in favour of female authors to help correct the situation that occurs in major reviewing publications.

I still had to perception though that I was reading far more female authors than I have. Interesting.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Alan Baxter 3 Book Deal

I’m on holidays, hence your getting some news that would usually end up in my tweet stream. Alan Baxter announced this morning that he had signed a 3 book contract with Harper Collins via their Voyager Imprint.  I’ll let him tell you all about it though

There is no doubt in my mind that October 2013 will live on as possibly the most amazing month of my life. Not only is my first born child due at the end of this month, which is amazing enough news on its own, but I’ve just signed a deal with Harper Collins Australia for their Voyager imprint to publish my new trilogy in the second half of next year. Honestly, I’m bouncing off the walls here. Never has so much Snoopy dancing been done.

This news has been burning me from the inside out while…[Read On]

This is really good news and good to see someone who has been fairly upfront and open with his writing and his experience online get rewarded in such a fashion.  Success doesn’t happen overnight and Alan is testament to what hard work can do.

Congrats Alan (and Alex Adsett his agent).


Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Book Review – Cross and Burn by Val McDermid

cross-and-burn This is my first McDermid.  I dabble in a bit of crime reading every now and again, along with some “Lit” fiction because it’s good to change gears and experience new writing and structures.  That being said I am very familiar with the setting of the book as the other books in the series form the basis for the wonderful crime drama Wire in the Blood, starring Robson Green and Hermione Norris.

In that sense half the work was already done for McDermid, I really enjoy the show and that transferred to the characters in the book.  The cover blurb calls it a page turner and it’s fair to say that once your about 20% in, the pace is fairly steady.  I did at times find the descriptive detail a little long in the tooth, that we were being told rather more than shown but then this is forensic psychology meets crime thriller and there’s just some information that needs to be imparted in certain ways. I was just impatient.

This is about the eighth “Tony Hill” novel and picks up after the spilt up of MIT and the murder of Carol Jordan’s bother and sister-in-law by Jacko Vance.  Carol is retired and blames Tony for not doing enough to save her family.  Tony is confronting the fact that he’s lost the one person(Carol) that he’s come close to loving in the way “normal” people do.  So for most of the book the action centres around the now Detective Sergeant Paul McIntyre a former member of the MIT team who is on a new patch and working for a new boss.

Women are being stalked and abducted by a sexual sadist, budget cutbacks and the disbanding of MIT have resulted in a force that is pushed to meet targets and to impress the Brass with how much they can do with so little.  Paula’s new chief Alex Fielding wants results and wants them quick even at the expense of the innocent.

So a trigger warning if you have suffered any sort of assault.  Is this sort of scenario overdone in crime fiction?  I think there’s an argument for that but then I think the real interest at this point in a series like this is the characters.  I think this one is for the fans who might have been a little broken by Retribution.

It’s a tense thriller that places some of your best loved characters on the wrong side of the interview table.  Fans of the books and the show will no doubt lap it up but I think its an easy entry point to the writings of Val McDermid, there’s really nothing here that requires any previous knowledge of the show or characters.  It must be said if you’re a fan of Robson Green’s portrayal of Dr Hill with his quirky social interactions, then you will get bonus squirm when he’s made a fish outer of water.

My copy also featured a short story about a career criminal trying to go straight.  This was an enjoyable little extra and McDermid did a great job with voice and register.  I do wonder if this is a new character that might get his own series. So if you are looking for a bit of crime and suspense I’d recommend it this is comfort food for those of us that like examining the dark side from the safety of a paperback novel.

This copy was provided by the publisher.  Australian readers can purchase Cross and Burn through Booktopia here.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email orFollow me on twitter.

Oct 2, 2013

eBook Review- We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology

frontA criticism that I think can be levelled at the science fiction community is that when it comes to diversity we are still not quite there.  Sure there are lots of authors that include a more diverse range of characters in their stories but where I think we struggle is with supporting and promoting diverse authors.  Paolo Baccigaluppi gets noticed for writing about Thailand, but what about Thai writers writing about Thailand using Science Fiction and Fantasy as the framework?

I think that white western writers need to be careful that in the rush to write more diverse characters that they aren’t indeed silencing authors from those diverse backgrounds – the result if you are not careful, is almost a second wave of colonisation.

For this fact alone I find We See A Different Frontier to be a very important book.  Some stories engage directly with the effects of historical colonialism, some tap into the experience, all the stories have something of value.

Beyond that of course is the fact that they are enjoyable fiction for the good stories they tell and the choices the authors make in structure and form.

The Arrangement of Their Parts by Shweta Narayan opens the collection and examines the arrogance that the coloniser displays in regards to the colonised, the perception of the colonised as inferior, especially intellectually.  In this steampunk India Shweta skilfully weaves an moralistic folktale with the main narrative of the story to underline her point.

Sticking with the steampunk theme, so often the preserve of western writers who want to experience the grace and refinement of the Victoria age without examining how that was arrived at, we have Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus by Ernest Hogan.  An American tale ( in a geographic sense) that manages to combine Tesla, Deathrays and Hollywood.  A subtle dig at American cultural colonisation is had here.

Them Ships by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, examines what American rescue might mean for different parts of a society colonised by Aliens.  Mexico has been invaded by largely benevolent Aliens, their Jellyfish-like ships hang over the city and rich and poor alike are contained in cells until the aliens find a use for them.  Silvia contrasts the plight of the different classes, the rich and the poor in Mexican society.  She asks the question would an American rescue mean freedom for everyone? The story, however,  presents the reality that sometimes you just need to do what you can to survive.

JY Yang gives us Old Domes, the first of series of stories that tap into hidden or obscured history.  I think this is about the third Yang story I have read and I like her mixing of traditional concepts with modernity.  The erasure or forgetting of place due to colonialism or progress struck a chord with my experience of living in Darwin, a city where new seemed to replace old within decades.

Dinesh Rao’s A Bridge of Words, carried through this theme of hidden histories.  Our protagonist Riya is a outsider in her own culture- part coloniser, part colonised. This story is a mystery and comment on the way important cultural information can be conveyed through art.

Lotus by Joyce Chng is I think a piece that stresses the need for a different paradigm, a different way of viewing and being, one that does not require endless exploitation of finite resources or theft or control of resources that are needed by everyone. It’s a post-environmental apocalypse piece that argues that we need to stop making the same mistake.

Lavie Tidhar’s piece is perhaps the most experimental story in form. Dark Continents gives us an alternate Israel set in Africa. Tidhar remixes and restarts history before our very eyes, examining and imagining a wealth of possible histories and ending perhaps with an unlikely utopia?

Sunny Moraine in A Heap of Broken Images, focuses on humanity as colonisers of an Alien world where a great atrocity has been committed against the Aliens in the not too distant past.  Our protagonist is a tour guide of sorts who works to guide human scholars and students around the scenes of the atrocity. It is a beautiful story that at its heart discusses the way in  which the coloniser and the colonised set up structures to avoid having to deal with what has happened.

Remembering Turinam by N.A. Ratnayake, has shades of Steampunk but is really the story of a benevolent society colonised by an aggressive and militaristic one.  It is also a brilliant examination of the way in which colonial powers destroy or subsume cultures through language ie the insistence that the colonised speak the language of the coloniser, either through threat of force or by making the Colonists language the one that is most beneficial or necessary.  Ekaterina Sedia has some sombre thoughts on this very point in her afterword.  What did astonish me was that this was Ratnayake’s first professional sale.  I hope we see more from him.

Vector by Benjanun Sriduangkaew left me breathless due to the second person present tense.  It is a story whose form reinforces the sense to produce a direct hard hitting effect. It places you the reader in the driving seat, demands that you experience the feeling of being the colonised. 

I have not mentioned all the stories in the collection, but this is not a comment on their quality.  I need to leave some surprises for you to discover.  I can’t sign off however without mentioning the story that bookends the collection. Rochita Loenen-Ruiz leaves us with a very solid and thoughtful piece in What really happened at Ficandula.  The story is based on a historical incident that happened during the American occupation of the Philippines and weaves a historical tale with that of the fantastic.  I had the privilege of talking to Rochita for Galactic Chat and discussing the story and her decision to frame it within speculative fiction.  Her answer was that “facts” surrounding the incident were limited and biased and that this story was the only way to present elements that needed to be spoken about or remembered.  This story left me contemplating my own country’s colonial history. How, stories and histories disappear for both the colonised and the colonists. 

The strength of this collection is , not surprisingly, its diversity in story, approach, and form while still being focussed on a theme.  This is a book that anyone that wants to pay more than just lip service to the idea of diversity, needs to read.  It is also a collection that I think you can  point critics of speculative fiction toward when they say that the genre can’t deal with serious issues.

Kudos to Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad for bringing these writers together.

This review copy was provided by the publishers.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...