Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Oliver’


Continuing my way through the excellent anthology, Dangerous Games, and following once more the advice of the equally excellent editor Jonathan Oliver, I set to reading South Mountain by Paul Kearney. Whilst I expected a re-enactment story about war games, I did not expect it to be so fine.

I think fine is the correct word. It’s both poignant yet restrained, both detailed but not overloaded. It’s crafted and subtle as opposed to Lavie Tidhar’s brutal effort in the same collection whilst carrying the same power.

Concerning a group of Civil War re-enactors, led by a grizzled Vietnam vet and joined by a first-timer skeptic, the tale sets out the characters and setting with a delicate touch. Each man is given their due and soon talk turns to the war and their feelings behind it. As the newcomer, and a black man at that, the protagonist is put on the spot by his Union chums. With his mind set on his ancestors as sleep drifts over their camp, things change from playing at war games to actually being in the war.

It is an interesting premise on the time travel trope, fuelled by the protagonists memories and feelings. It’s not a hammer blow but the author has delivered a subtle, moving story.

Review copy
Published by Solaris


Clearly I’m having a short story bonanza at the moment but my recent reading choices have been perfect. Short and sharp is great when you have little spare time but still want for the enjoyment of reading.

Die by Lavie Tidhar fits the bill of short and very sharp effectively. Extremely so. I read it on the recommendation of editor Jonathan Oliver’s introduction and it’s a stunning story. The writing is sparse but all that space allows the imagination to run wild. A twist on Russian Roulette, there is little detail to the whys and where of it all but what is there manages to touch at ideas of cruelty and horror but also the depths of humanity.

Lavie Tidhar has produced a brilliant take on the game motif. I wanted to fill this review with expletives and exclamations and too many punctuation marks; it’s that hard hitting.

The Stranger Cards by Nik Vincent is another inventive take on the idea of game. Her story has the feel of a horror as the creeping, unrelenting truth of the situation crawls into the consciousness of the protagonist. A lawyer sent to meet a death row inmate due to be executed for a series of murders. A child’s game played on an old deck of cards.

For those clever with numbers, patterns are laid out but it becomes clear that the game the serial killer taught the lawyer is oh-so-very-sinister. A fantastic and atmospheric tale that reminded me of that horror writing great Stephen King, Stranger Cards manages a lot in with a little and does it brilliantly.

Review copy
Published by Solaris


I have one or two (I’d need to check the tower of book boxes) Chuck Wendig novels stashed away, yet to be read so I thought it fitting to start with his story as I began the anthology Dangerous Games. It’s a great premise for a set of stories and Mr Wendig’s opening gambit sets a terrific and terrifying tone.

What seems like a set piece, road-rage tale of a man lost and losing his senses changes by turns, each stranger than the last, into something more odd and unsettling than I could have predicted. The mix between the visual failure of the protagonist’s car and his inner monologue, cataloging his many errors, creates a powerful setting. The innocuous confrontation that begins the chase is fuelled with emotion.

However, the game is something else here and it’s for Chuck Wendig to tell it. A superb intro story: a bit weird, a bit wild but very entertaining.

Chrysalises by Benjanun Sriduangkaew is a totally different ball game altogether (excuse the pun). I’ve read one of Benjanun’s stories before and this strange tale is just another example of her unique talent. The premise, ostensibly, is the notion of war as a game and games as metaphors for war. However, Chrysalises is something else.

It’s hard to pin down Sriduangkaew’s style which is both sublime and aesthetic. There’s a real beauty to the writing and an ungraspable imagination at work behind it. Once again I’m struck by this author’s ability to meld ideas into a world so alien yet so grounded, so strange yet so understandable. I know I’ve not said much about the story but this is truly brilliant piece of work that is well worth seeking out.

Review copy
Published by Solaris

Part of the reason my reading has been sporadic of late has been due to moving house – and country… So, all my books, new and old, are now in several towering columns of boxes. Thankfully my wife provided us with a kindle so that we can continue to indulge in one of our favourite past times.

Just as thankfully, I received some great looking ebooks recently. First up is Rogues , an anthology from the great minds of George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois.


If youre a fan of fiction that is more than just black and white, this latest story collection from #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois is filled with subtle shades of gray. Twenty-one all-original stories, by an all-star list of contributors, will delight and astonish you in equal measure with their cunning twists and dazzling reversals. And George R. R. Martin himself offers a brand-new A Game of Thrones tale chronicling one of the biggest rogues in the entire history of Ice and Fire.

Follow along with the likes of Gillian Flynn, Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Cherie Priest, Garth Nix, and Connie Willis, as well as other masters of literary sleight-of-hand, in this rogues gallery of stories that will plunder your heartand yet leave you all the richer for it.

Next up is Dead Man’s Hand , an anthology of weird west tales that I’m very keen to delve into as the cover alone looks awesome, never mind the listed authors.


From a kill-or-be-killed gunfight with a vampire to an encounter in a steampunk bordello, the weird western is a dark, gritty tale where the protagonist might be playing poker with a sorcerous deck of cards, or facing an alien on the streets of a dusty frontier town.

Here are twenty-three original tales—stories of the Old West infused with elements of the fantastic—produced specifically for this volume by many of today’s finest writers. Included are Orson Scott Card’s first “Alvin Maker” story in a decade, and an original adventure by Fred Van Lente, creator of Cowboys & Aliens.

Other contributors include Tobias Buckell, David Farland, Alan Dean Foster, Jeffrey Ford, Laura Anne Gilman, Rajan Khanna, Mike Resnick, Beth Revis, Ben H. Winters, Christie Yant, and Charles Yu.

Finally, and continuing their awesome run of anthologies is another collection from Solaris. Dangerous Games has an interesting sounding premise, one I want to explore very soon.


Edited by critically acclaimed Editor Jonathan Oliver with an incredible range of authors that includes Hugo award-winners, bestsellers and exciting new talents, Dangerous Games is out December 2014.

Featuring tales of the deadly, the macabre and the strange, Dangerous Games continues Oliver’s journey as the rising star of short form fiction, bringing together a highly original collection of new tales that take a slanted look at the world of gaming: from parlour games to role-play, the traditional to the futuristic.

As 18 authors sit down to play, the cards may be marked, and the dice are certainly loaded, but as Oliver states in his introduction “win or lose, Dangerous Games are always worth playing.”

The wonderful people at Titan books also emailed me some Terminator Salvation tie-in novels. As a huge fan of the films I’m definitely going to be checking these out soon as well. So, all in all, an email haul; expect reviews aplenty soon.