Of Sorrow And Such by Angela Slatter – review

25664279Of Sorrow And Such by Angela Slatter

Tor

Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a word—Gideon has been good to them, and it’s always better to keep on her good side. Just in case.

When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the supernatural in their midst any longer; Gideon and her like are captured, bound for torture and a fiery end.

Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or can she turn the situation to her advantage?

Angela Slatter is one of my favourite authors, an absolute master fantasist. Her collections Sourdough and Bitterwood are among my all-time favourite collections ever, and this novella is set in the same world. You don’t have to have read those collections to enjoy this book though – it’s an entirely standalone story with gorgeous prose, fabulous characters and a dark, grim plot.

Slatter does a great job of evoking the cunning woman in the patriarchal society trope, but breathes entirely new life into what could easily be old and stale ideas. Her women are powerful, but not entirely nice. They’re often selfish survivors driven to questionable actions. The men are not simply moustache-twirling bad guys, but complex and complicated characters with equally difficult lives. All of these things are expertly woven into a dark and spellbinding plot.

The story does start slowly, but it builds in intensity, particularly from the middle onwards. The slowness is never boring, though, because Slatter’s work is simply a joy to read. Beautiful prose, tight dialogue and evocative description abound. And if you haven’t read her collections of short fiction, I highly recommend you do, for all the same reasons as those above and more.

And again, this is a story which proves the value of the novella length, perfect for this tale. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. (And there are lots of novellas in the Tor line, either out now or forthcoming, that demand attention.)

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X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron – review

Xs-For-EyesX’s For Eyes by Laird Barron

Journalstone

Brothers Macbeth and Drederick Tooms should have it made as fair-haired scions of an impossibly rich and powerful family of industrialists. Alas, life is complicated in mid-1950s USA when you’re child heirs to the throne of Sword Enterprises, a corporation that has enshrined Machiavelli’s The Prince as its operating manual and whose patriarch believes, Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds, would be a swell company logo.

I’ve been a fan of Barron’s work for a while now, and his fiction can be very dark. There’s certainly darkness here, but there’s a decent amount of comedy and light-heartedness too.

This novella sees rival Men-In-Black-esque corporations, Lovecraftian mythos, twisted characters with convoluted pasts, and a mind-bending plot. It’s some truly bizarre and compelling stuff.

The characters have very little agency, but that’s rather the point it seems. On the one hand, it annoyed me initially as I read, because it seemed like nothing more than a litany of stuff happening to people. But as we observe these people juggled like inconsequential balls by cosmic powers beyond understanding, the larger truths of the story become clearer. Though never clear. And the novella is a perfect length for stories of this kind. All tremendous fun.

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The Eschatologist by Greg Chapman

Queensland horror author Greg Chapman has announced the upcoming publication of his fifth novella, The Eschatologist.

The Eschatologist is a survival horror tale centred on David Brewer, who is trying to keep his family alive in a world torn asunder by a Biblical apocalypse. Yet there is salvation, in the guise of a stranger who offers survivors sanctuary. All they have to do is declare their faith in God’s final – and bloody – plan.

The post-apocalyptic tale is expected to be published by Voodoo Press in the second half of 2015.

Chapman’s previous novellas include Torment, The Noctuary and The Last Night of October. Black Beacon Books released his debut short story collection, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares in September last year. He is currently working on a novel.

Bullet Ballerina, the one-shot comic Chapman illustrated for Tom Piccirilli and SST Publications is also now available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats.

You can find out more by visiting www.darkscrybe.com

Australian Shadows 2014 shortlist

The Australian Horror Writers Association is thrilled to announce the final shortlist in the 2014 Australian Shadows Awards.

From the AHWA: “We believe this year’s short list represents the finest in horror fiction written or edited by an Australian or New Zealand author and first published in 2014 in the fields of short fiction, novella, novel, collection and edited works.”

Judges were asked to prepare a shortlist of up to five works from each award category, with a finalist to be announced from that shortlist on Friday, April 24.

The shortlisted authors and their works are (in alphabetical order):

Novel:
Jeremy Bates – Suicide Forest
Greig Beck – Book of the Dead
Lauren Dawes – Dark Deceit
Aaron Sterns – Wolf Creek Origin
Matthew Tait – Davey Ribbon

Short Fiction:
Alan Baxter: Mephisto
Alan Baxter: Shadows of the Lonely Dead
Rebecca Fung: Mummified Monk
Michelle Jager: Bones
Andrew McKiernan: Last Year When We Were Young

Edited Works:
SQ Issue 14 – edited by Sophie Yorkston
SNAFU – edited by Geoff Brown and Amanda J Spedding
Suspended in Dusk – edited by Simon Dewar

Collected works:
No shortlist, winner to be announced

Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction (novella)
Darcy Coates – Ghost Camera
Shane Jiraiya Cummings – Dreams of Destruction.
Robert Hood – The Shark God Covenant

A big thanks goes to the judges Natalie Satakovski, Bianca de Loryn, Christine Ferdinands, Lee Pletzers, Kathy Williams-DeVries, and Jay Caselberg who had the tough job of pouring over the entries and choosing the final shortlist.

Winners will be announced online via the AHWA Facebook page on Friday, April 24 at 8pm. If you haven’t already be sure to go online and follow the AHWA to get the winners as they drop.

Winners will receive an engraved trophy created by Creepy Collectables.

Exile by Peter M Ball – review

index

Exile by Peter M Ball

Apocalypse Ink Productions

Exile is the first novella in what is (I believe) a trilogy, The Flotsam Series. Broadly defined, it’s urban fantasy. But I like to think of it as a whole new subgenre: Gold Coast Demon Noir.

The story follows the return of Keith to the Gold Coast (in Queensland, Australia) from sixteen years of self-imposed exile. It was self-impose exile or die in circumstances that are slowly revealed through the plot. But returning is utter lunacy and Keith knows it. The trouble is, he and his partner, Roark, really messed things up with a cult in Adelaide and returning to the Gold Coast is about the least deadly option left open.

Ball has done a great job of creating a grimy Gold Coast noir setting here and it was great to read something so thoroughly Australian, yet retaining all the great tropes of noir as we know it. Then add in the supernatural elements and it’s a heady brew of worldbuilding. Ball’s description of the Gloom and the creatures from it who inhabit people and live just beneath the fabric of society is expertly handled. The development of the plot and characters shows a writer at the top of his game. He’s also used the novella length really well for structure.

However, it’s not all rainbows – after all, what is? As far as the writing is concerned, the only real complaint I have is that it’s a novella. I know that seems strange after my comment above, but Ball writes really tightly and with great economy of language, which suits the novella well, but this story is left hanging wide open and there are all sorts of things follow up on. It’s not like the next one will be a sequel – rather a continuation. So I wonder why all three weren’t put together as a novel rather than three novellas. But let’s be honest, that’s a pretty weak complaint.

My other concern is with the publisher. The edition I read via the Kindle Store was absolutely riddled with typos, missing words and so on. This is no fault of the author, as the publisher’s job is to find and fix that stuff. So that was rather disappointing. But it’s no reason to avoid this story.

Dark, gritty, funny in places, horrible in others, this is Gold Coast Demon Noir done perfectly. Highly recommended. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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