Sprawl edited by Alisa Krasnostein – review

I’ve been looking for speculative fiction anthologies with primarily Australian content recently. The first I came across was Sprawl edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press), which contains a very entertaining array of stories aimed at the Australian suburbs (i.e. not urban fantasy, more like suburban fantasy). It has stories by some authors I’ve been recently discovering and loving as well as some whose work I haven’t had a chance to see before.

Overall the anthology has a strong Australian feel. In the introduction, Ms Krasnostein talks about wanting to showcase Australian writers and I think this book achieves that aim extremely well. As you’d expect from an editor that is involved with an initiative like the Galactic Suburbia podcast, Ms Krasnostein has done an excellent job achieving gender balance in the author list, with slightly more women than men contributing.

As always when writing about an anthology, I’m conscious that saying something about every story would make for a very long review. As such, I’ve restricted myself to commenting where I have something particular to say – and given the short length of the stories I try not to say too much about plot to avoid spoilers. But up front I will say that there wasn’t a single piece in this collection that I didn’t find enjoyable in some way.

One Saturday Night, with Angel by Peter Ball was the first story by Mr Ball that I’ve read (at least as far as I can recall). It is quite a short story and very self contained in terms of location, but I really enjoyed the writing and I thought the atmosphere of a late night convenience store was a fantastic counterpoint to the supernatural elements of the story.

I found Sweep by Simon Brown interesting. I enjoyed the turn of phrase and found the slowly introduced horror, especially when recounting events from memories of being a child, to be particularly effective. The end of the story stuck with me – very satisfyingly nasty.

I’m beginning to expect to enjoy work by Deborah Biancotti, and No Going Home was no exception.  A beautifully written story about a mysterious woman, Gabe, who turns up at Harry’s house one night, with no memory of her life to that point. The story felt transient, both in the way the characters were rendered and how the story flowed. Lovely to read.

Loss by Kaaron Warren was another very effective horror story, invoking a kind of claustrophobia as the (admittedly somewhat unsympathetic) protagonist’s world shrinks around her.

Walker by Dirk Flinthart was one of my favourite stories of the collection. The idea of ancient spirits adapting to modern suburban life, and the shepherds that stand between them and humanity, was very interesting. I also enjoyed the style of writing, the world building elements and the voice of the protagonist.

Seed Dreams by Liz Argall/Matt Huynh was a clever addition to the anthology – a graphical interlude that was a pleasant surprise in the middle of the book.

The “voice” of the protagonist in White Crocodile Jazz by Ben Peek was very compelling. Tom Tom is mute, and his external interactions are by necessity more physical (and often very violent). I liked the atmosphere generated in this story, with a good plot and satisfying conclusion.

The plot was also very strong in Brisneyland by Night by Angela Slatter. There were hints of a broader story here, with the feeling that you’d just touched one element of a whole world. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Ms Slatter before, but if this story is representative I am going to try to track down more of her work.

There was less post-apocalyptic dystopia than I was expecting in this anthology, but All the Love in the World by Cat Sparks certainly made up for the lack. Set in a post apocalyptic Wollongong (that was a fun phrase to write), the story balanced a description of the disintegrating world with the very personal reaction of the protagonist extremely well. Ms Sparks sketched a very strong lead character, sympathetic while still retaining human quirks and follies.

I recently read Her Gallant Needs by the sadly recently departed Paul Haines in his collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga, so I won’t describe it again here. A powerful piece of writing though, and an excellent way to finish out the anthology.

Also included in the anthology is:

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

5 thoughts on “Sprawl edited by Alisa Krasnostein – review”

    1. Hi Victoria,

      Yes, her recent story in Ishtar and her Bad Power collection have been amongst my favourite recent reading!


  1. Dreaming Again is another good collection of Australian Writers – it features Ball and Westwood and many others

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