Archive for August, 2016

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Based upon Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II play, Elizabeth Bear’s No Decent Patrimony is an intriguing slice of sci-fi. Transporting Marlowe’s essence into a future where ‘Elites’ have discovered the path to immortality, this is a story that considers patriarchy and all it’s complications.

After the death of his father, the protagonist is left to ruminate on his place as an Elite, his feelings as a son (but also as a cloned son) and the possibility that this death has greater implications. Sumptuously detailed and wonderfully written, No Decent Patrimony is fascinating.

The Big Whale by Allen M. Steele is a reinterpretation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick with the added twist of a 1940s pulp novel. Here, Ishmael is a hard boiled detective who totes a harpoon, plying his trade in Massachusetts. Asked to investigate Captain Ahab’s obsession with a mysterious ‘Moby’ after his wife becomes suspicious, Ishmael is soon right in the eye of the storm.

It’s a fun take on the classic novel, full of clever nods to the original and references to the tropes and style of pulp stories from the 40s. A meta-fiction mash up and a very cool read.

Review copy
Published by Titan Books

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Titan Books have put out another exceptionally clever anthology of short stories. This time the prompt used is ‘first lines’; the opening lines of a favourite story or poem as chosen by the writer. Bringing together an impressive list of names, Mash Up looks to be packed with great content.

The opening gambit by Robert Charles Wilson is based on a children’s book by Carl Sandburg. What’s nice is that each short story is prefaced by the author, giving a little background and insight into the forthcoming work. Fireborn is a wonderful and evocative tale of two commoners who happen to meet and befriend a skydancer – one of the immortal Fireborn. It’s a curious blend of magical and technological world building but one that the author manages beautifully.

The story gives witness to so much detail and character. Yet, it is the dichotomy and similarity between the common and the Fireborn that gives this story it’s heart.

The Evening Line by Mike Resnick is a very different prospect. Featuring Resnick’s character, Harry the Book, the author takes his first line from Pride and Prejudice. A punter has won a large sum of money at the horses and has gone from ugly duckling to eligible bachelor in the blink of an eye.

This is a stylised story that used a bar for the setting and mixes a magical, fantasy feel with the vibe of a 1930’s speakeasy. But, it’s the bizarre characters and the relentless banter between them that makes this such a fun read.

So far, so mashed up. Such a promising idea, I’ll definitely be reviewing more from this anthology soon.

Review copy
Published by Titan Books

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This isn’t my usual type of read but The Silent Dead (known as Strawberry Night in Japan), proved to be an engaging and interesting book. It came highly recommended by the good people at Titan Books and I’m glad I decided to give it a try. Tetsuya Honda is a popular writer in Japan and this is her first title to be published in English.

It was really interesting to read a popular Japanese thriller and though some of the dialogue reminded me a little of Anime/Manga (forgive me as I’m no expert), it wasn’t too jarring so as to disturb the flow of the book. The insight it gave into Tokyo culture was definitely part of the intrigue but the story itself was gritty, sensational and cleverly plotted.

Focusing on the protagonist Lieutenant Reiko Himekawa, supported by an ensemble cast of fellow Homicide detectives, as well as the voice of the killer, The Silent Dead digs deep into the thoughts and minds of all involved. A discarded, brutalised body begins an investigation which slowly reveals a disturbing and bizarre series of murders.

Reiko, an enigma herself, has a talent for intuitive detection and is soon piecing together disparate facts. Yet, the politics within the police force are also a central part of this story. Her rivals are underhand and many are overtly sexist towards her and the disparity between public, social politeness and private crudeness and insult is eye opening (for this westerner at least).

In the end, the serial killer at large is something quite different. The murders are part of something very disturbing and the person behind it all comes as a real shock twist; I didn’t see it coming at all. I don’t want to give it all away, so I won’t. What I will say, is that The Silent Dead is a smart, well paced, crime thriller. The dynamics between the cop characters is intriguing, revealing a side of Japanese culture I was not aware of. However, the conclusion is a perfectly grim ending for a serial killer story. Honda has penned a series of Reiko Himekawa novels so, if tough, female cops and ghastly crime books are your thing, check The Silent Deadout, you won’t be disappointed.

Review copy
Published by Titan Books