Saturday, November 27, 2010

Los Angeles Noir edited by Denise Hamilton

I’ve just come across this series of crime books, of which Los Angeles Noir volume two, edited by Denise Hamilton (Akashic Books, $15.95) appears to be the latest addition. It seems that Akashic began this series in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir and in 2007 Los Angeles Noir volume one saw publication.

LA Noir 2 includes 15 stories by the likes of Leigh Brackett, James M Cain, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy and Walter Mosley. The stories cover a period in LA’s history from 1933 to 2007 and are grouped into four sections: “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “After the War”, “Killer Views” and “Modern Classics”.

A very tasty book – and series – I’m sure.

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington

The next title in Freda Warrington’s Aetherial Tales series, Midsummer Night (Tor $27.99) is now available.

“Decades ago, at a remote British estate where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials – the fair folk – is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death.

Decades later, the estate has become an art centre presided over by Juliana Flagg, a noted visionary sculptor and the daughter of one of the long-ago pranksters.”

Meanwhile, a man “stumbles through the portal, into our world, begging for help. The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of a man in this story of loss and redemption.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Greek Street volume 2 by Milligan and Gianfelice

Greek Street volume 2: Cassandra Complex by Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice. Vertigo $14.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

The comic’s title says it all: Greek Street. It involves characters called Furey and Dedalus and Medea. There are visions and vengeance and Oedipal crimes… You won’t need a second guess to work out that in this graphic novel Greek drama is heavily – and cleverly – interwoven: a tragedy repeated as a contemporary thriller.

The action centres round a strip club in Greek Street, Soho, London, run by the thuggish Fureys. Eddie is on the run from just about everyone. (In the previous volume he arrived in Soho searching for his mother. He found her, slept with her, and killed her – he insists that these last two events were both accidental.) Meanwhile, Lord Menon has his own issues: girls seduced and cast off, a daughter maddened with visions, murder, dark secrets – and a wife who apparently commits suicide.

Writer Peter Milligan and artist Davide Gianfelice have wrought a superb Greek tragedy, of discovery and loss – with references to the plays of ancient Athens. They obviously understand their source material but never overload the story with research. The plotting is tight and fast paced. There is little space for reflection or exposition, no long-winded explanations. You got to keep up. If you don’t have a good memory re-read volume one before embarking on Greek Street: Cassandra Complex. In fact, re-read it anyway – and saviour the complete story (although, annoyingly, the drama is not resolved by the end of this book).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl by multi-award winning Paolo Bacigalupi is published in December 2010 by Orbit (£7.99). Time Magazine named The Windup Girl as one of the ten best novels of 2009. The book won five of 2010’s SF awards: Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook and the John W Campbell awards.

“Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he comb’s Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the Windup Girl – Emiko – now abandon to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich.

Lake becomes increasing obsessed with Emiko. Conspiracies breed in the heat of political tensions… But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.”

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year

The 2010 edition Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (volume 4) is now available. Here, you’ll find 29 stories first published in 2009. Authors include Stephen Baxter, Peter Beagle, Holly Black, Pat Cadigan, Andy Duncan, Diana Wynne Jones, John Kessel, Ellen Kushner, Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link. The editor sourced the stories from a wide range of publications including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Postscripts, Interzone and the online Clarksworld Magazine.

Amy Pond sculpture

Hey... Some of these sculptures actually look like the character they model. I like this one. You can buy it for around £50.

Back to the Middle of Nowhere

Back to the Middle of Nowhere edited by Jessy Marie Roberts & Jessica A Weiss. Pill Hill Press. $16.99
Reviewed by Jenny Barber

When reviewing short story anthologies, it’s rare to find one in which all the stories appeal and sometimes the best we can hope for is that the balance is weighted towards the ones that do. Luckily, Back to the Middle of Nowhere has plenty of stories that hit the spot – and strangely, most of the good ones involve food.

Take “Specialty of the House” by Michael Giorgio, an excellent story set in a road-side cafĂ© where visitors are rare but always gladly welcomed. There’s a thread of dark humour running through this tale and while the denouement isn’t unexpected, it’s seeing how it gets there that will keep you reading.

Out in the wide open spaces, it’s no surprise that strange breeds of flora pop up so don’t eat the apples in “In Apple Blossom Time” by Colin Insole. Once you get past the slow opener, this grows into a beautiful story with an ending that promises creepiness to come.

In “Land of Enchantment” by Mark Souza, the fruit to watch out for is the humble blackberry; this fruit bites back. The characters are unlikeable which does mar it somewhat, but the story is tasty enough to satisfy.

Moving away from food is the slightly predictable but still very good “Clutching at Straws” by Jay Raven. You know where it’s going as soon as the scarecrow is mentioned, but like “Specialty” the journey is going to keep you entranced.

As a whole, this is something that could be said about the anthology – many of the other stories have elements you’ve seen before, some of them take you there in ways that will keep you reading, others will flip you into a surprise turn-off just when you think you’ve got the route figured. So while the road may be a little bumpy in places, for the most part, the destination is worth it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse! edited by Stephen Jones

Zombie Apocalypse! edited by Stephen Jones. Robinson £7.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

To be honest, I get bored with trends – very quickly. The rash of books all about vampires and werewolves and zombies tend to pass me by. So I was a little apprehensive at first when I obtained Zombies Apocalypse! Fortunately, I had no reason to be concerned. Zombies Apocalypse! was a joyride, from page one to the end.

With over 15 contributors one might expect an anthology. Wrong. This is a mosaic – an epistolic – novel, cleverly woven together by Stephen Jones. Michael Marshall Smith kicks off the saga. Here, a man writes a long missive to his mother, almost a suicide note full of loss and regret. It hints at the tragedy to follow. The entry by Christopher Fowler describes the source of the zombie plague: a church yard being redeveloped for a New Festival of Britain. There then follows a series of police reports, medical reports, diary entries, and so on, and the horror of the plague becomes clear – there is no easy solution (if, indeed, there is a solution).

It’s not obvious exactly when the events are set. Based on clues sprinkled throughout, I suggest 2013. It appears that London’s Olympic Games were a flop – or didn’t take place – and so the Government forces through plans for the New Festival. Picture the Millennium Dome. At the same time, surveillance and the militia-like police create a society of fear and unease. But that society needs something to be frightened of and the zombies fit that bill. The zombies are clearly a metaphor for today’s bogymen (your choice).

Does this mean that the Government deliberately released the plague? Or just try to take advantage of it? Whatever, they failed to control the situation and the end of civilisation becomes inevitable.

Besides Smith and Fowler, other the contributors are (in order of appearance) Mandy Slater, Paul Finch, Sarah Pinborough Jo Fletcher, John Llewellyn Probert, Jay Russell, Kim Newman, Lisa Morton, Tanith Lee, Paul McAuley, Tim Lebbon, Peter Crowther, Robert Hood, Pat Cadigan, Mark Samuels, Peter Atkins, and Scott Edelman. There is no contents page, so it takes a bit of detection to work out who wrote what. It’s fun to do so but not necessary: just get on and read the book. A few characters reappear over the length of the book, notably Sarah Pinborough's young girl writing in her diary about the death of her mother and father. It felt realistic -- very touching.

Zombies Apocalypse! is a mix of horror and science fiction, with added supernatural elements. There is an end, of sorts, but not a satisfactory conclusion to the plague. It’s a scary read, reminding me of The Andromeda Strain and other convincing post-apocalyptic novels. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Unwritten 2 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Vertigo $12.99
Review by Peter Coleborn

This is volume two in Carey and Gross’s clever story arc, about Tom Taylor who may be the model for Tommy Taylor, hero of a children’s fantasy series. Or is he, in fact, the caricature himself? But Tom has disgraced himself, it appears. He’s imprisoned for several murders (see volume 1). Even in prison he’s not safe from the people who want him dead, and somehow he escapes. Perhaps he is magical, after all. Tom and his two companions find themselves in alternate realms, one a Nazi-like world.

It’s clear that the borders between Tom’s ‘real’ and ‘fantasy’ worlds are thin, that things are not as black and white as the words on the pages in the Tommy Taylor books. Inside Man ends with Tom and friends preparing to meet his long-dead (he believed) father.

This is an intelligent tale, about stories within stories, with plaudits from USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Paul Cornell and Eisner Award nominations.

Wild Stacks update

Issue 1 of Wild Stacks: The Library of the Imagination will feature new fiction by Rob Shearman and Rod Rees. Coming soon.

Songs of Love & Death

I can’t resist an anthology, especially one packed with new stories. Songs of Love & Death fits the bill perfectly. Edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, you can be sure of the quality, as well. This anthology includes fiction by Peter S Beagle, Jim Butcher, Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, Tanith Lee, Melinda M Snodgrass, Lisa Tuttle and many others – 17 stories in all.

According to the blurb, this book explores “the borderlands of their [the writers’] genres with tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods to faery-haunted fields, from high fantasy to a galaxy-spanning empire … these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate.”

Songs of Love & Death is published by Gallery Books ($26.00).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wine and Rank Poison by Allyson Bird

Now available from Dark Regions Press: Wine and Rank Poison by Allyson Bird:

“Revenge. Best served cold. Here are ten stories involving most of the deadly sins: greed, lust, envy, wrath, and pride. Strange stories woven in time and place from Ancient Greece to 1929 Odessa, Italy to the modern United States ... stories that mix reality, mythology, legend, half-humans and the inhuman...

‘The stories in Allyson Bird's Wine and Rank Poison draw us into a world of dark magic, infinite possibility and abiding terror; and she does it with a style reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Robert Bloch. Highly recommended.’ -- NY Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry, author of Rot & Ruin

With cover art by Dani Serra and an introduction by Joe R Lansdale.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Art of Zombie Warfare by Scott Kenemore

How to kick-arse like the walking dead: “This manual provides a review of the tactical combat advantages enjoyed by zombies and gives the reader a step-by-step guide to adopting them for him or herself.

Have you wondered where the great military leaders of modern history have found their collective inspirations? Well look no further. It is the walking dead upon whom the most important tactical infantry innovations of the last three hundred years have been based. Do you dream of becoming a soldier who fights with the efficacy and skill of a zombie? Are you a general or commander seeking to imbue your troops with the ruthless, soulless killing-efficiency of an animated corpse? Are you a voodoo priest or wizard desiring to raise an actual army of zombies to help you conquer the land and install yourself as ruler? Then, friend, this is the book for you.”

The Art of Zombie Warfare by Scott Kenemore is due from Robinson in January 2011.

Apocalyptic SF edited by Mike Ashley

Now available: The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF edited by Mike Ashley (Robinson 2010, £7.99). This is the type of book that Robinson is good at: tasty, hefty anthologies edited by some of the best anthologists around. This time Mike Ashley has selected 24 stories all about … yes … the end of the world.

“Humankind has long been fascinated by the precarious vulnerability of civilisation and of the Earth itself. When our fragile civilisations finally go, will it be as a result of nuclear war, or some cosmic catastrophe? The impact of global warming, or a terrorist atrocity? Genetic engineering, or some modern virulent plague?”

Contributors include: Robert Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm, Cory Doctorow, David Barnett, Frederik Pohl, James Tiptree Jr, Fritz Leiber and Stephen Baxter.

Essentially a reprint anthology, six are original to this book.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zombies in New York by Sam Stone

Piper friend Sam Stone's collection of horror and dark fantasy, Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings, is set to appear in February 2011, published by Telos Press (£12.99). Vincent Chong provides the cover illustration and Russell Morgan the interior artwork. This promises to be a fine-looking book. More details on the BFS website.