Aurealis #45 – review

Aurealis has been in a long hiatus, as mentioned in my notes on issue #44. Well, they are back with a new format – Aurealis has gone completely digital.

I read through issue #45 on my Kindle. From now on Aurealis will be released monthly and will contain on average two stories as well as reviews, news and interviews. It combines the old print magazine and the monthly AurealisXpress newsletter. Only slight quibble with the format is that the video reviews don’t work on the Kindle, but apart from that the format was fine.

This month contained two enjoyable stories, The Bunyipslayer and the Bounty Hunter by Lachlan Huddy and One Hundred Years by Aimee Smith. I liked both of them, with probably a slight preference for The Bunyipslayer and the Bounty Hunter (I’m always a sucker for an outback dystopia story).

I believe you can download this version of Aurealis for free – go to their website to find out more.

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts – review

Love and Romanpunk is one of the Twelve Planets series published by Twelfth Planet Press (made up of 12 boutique collections of stories by Australian writers). It is made up of four shorter stories, including:

  • Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary
  • Lamia Victoriana
  • The Patrician
  • Last of the Romanpunks

The four stories are connected (although thousands of years apart in timeframe and tracing some bizarre family history). I’ve said in other posts that I’m really enjoying the shorter forms of fiction and this book was no exception. It’s hard to tell from the title, so I’ll say immediately that there is a distinctly Roman sensibility to the stories.

The opening story Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary was cleverly written, with the alphabetical listing of the fantastical beasts woven well into the story. Lamia Victoriana moves us forward to the Victorian era. This was probably my least favourite of the four stories, which is praising by faint damnation as I loved all four stories.

The Patrician was my favourite from the book – I loved the concept of a neo-Roman city in the middle of Australian outback and there was enough monster fighting to keep me entertained. I know it has been commented on elsewhere, but thank goodness there is at least one 2,000 year old immortal that doesn’t fancy teenagers.

The faintly steampunk feeling of the last story Last of the Romanpunks was unexpected, but I enjoyed getting some sense of what happened after the events of The Patrician.

Throughout the book, the writing has a good balance of humour and clever dialogue which really appealed to me.

On the strength of this book, I’ve gone ahead and purchased the first in Ms Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court trilogy which I’m looking forward to reading to (when I get to it – my ‘to read’ list is currently very, very long).

If this was indicative of the general quality, I’m looking forward to the rest of the books in the Twelve Planets series.

As an aside I really liked the blurb for this book, which I’ve included below:

The world is in greater danger than you ever suspected. Women named Julia are stronger than they appear. Don’t let your little brother make out with silver-eyed blondes. Immortal heroes really don’t fancy teenage girls. When love dies, there’s still opera. Family is everything. Monsters are everywhere. Yes, you do have to wear the damned toga.

History is not what you think it is.

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

Snuff by Terry Pratchett – review

I have a great affection for the Discworld series so I’m afraid you’re not going to get any impartial comments from me. If you’re looking for that, move along – nothing to see here.

I started reading the Discworld series when I was in school through the 80s, and in some ways I feel like I’ve grown up with them. I enjoyed the first books mainly for the gags – The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic had my younger self laughing out loud on virtually every page. Later on the books became much richer, with better and deeper stories being told without sacrificing the humour. Pratchett’s Discworld is one of the few series that I will buy every book for as soon as it comes out, and usually drop whatever else I am reading to look through it. I am seldom disappointed.

Snuff is based around Commander Vimes (now a reluctant member of the aristocracy and enthusiastic family man) and the City Watch. I’ve really grown to enjoy the Watch “sub-series” of books and Vimes is one of my favourite Discworld characters.

I won’t spoil the plot, just to say that it revolves around Vimes’ attempts to take a holiday (admittedly not by his own choice) and the hijinks that ensue. I really enjoy Pratchett’s writing and Snuff was no exception.

Knowing about Pratchett’s illness (early onset Alzheimers), there was one minor downside to reading the book. I found myself acutely aware that the pipeline of his future work is finite, and that did create some sadness when reading. Of course I know intellectually that, barring startling advances in modern medicine, no author will write for ever. Still, for me having a much more concrete sense that there is an end date to the Discworld saga did overlay the book with a sense of melancholy.

If you are a follower of Pratchett’s work then it doesn’t really matter what I say here, you’re going to read the book. If you haven’t read any of his work, then for goodness sake don’t start at book 39! I hope you can feel waves of jealousy pulsing in your direction as I say start from the beginning and read them all!

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

Asimov’s Science Fiction September 2011 – review

The Observation Post by Allen M. Steele – Cuban Missile Crisis with a twist. Interesting description of the military grade blimps used by the US air force post WWII.

Shadow Angel by Erick Melton – one of those stories where you are thrust into the confusing middle. Careful reading to work out what is going on. Some interesting ideas on space travel and manipulation of the future.

Burning Bibles by Alan Wall – interesting protagonist Tom – deaf and dumb but with an interesting version of telepathy. Only the powers of Tom are speculative, the rest is a a fairly straight forward mystery.

Grandma Said by R. Neube – describes the world of an apprentice plague cleaner on a frontier world in the future. I enjoyed reading this one, I tend to like reading about the kind of challenges humanity might face while colonising other worlds. Nicely self contained short story.

I liked the concept behind Stalker by Robert Reed and thought it was told from an interesting perspective. If only Dexter had lived in this future…

Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column contains a very interesting article discussing the practice of retired Emperors in Japan in the time period 1000 – 1200 AD. The ceremonial burden of being Emperor had got so over the top, that Emperors retired but maintained political power, leaving the ceremonial duties to their young successor (often under 5 years old at the time of transfer!). Very interesting comparisons with his own stories based in the world of Majipoor – although he didn’t know anything about the Japanese practice when he first started writing the stories.

Also included:

  • D.O.C.S. by Neal Barrett Jr (short)
  • Danilo by Carol Emshwiller (short)
  • The Odor of Sanctity by Ian Creasey (short)
  • Harold Gets Off on the Doppler Effect by James Kamlet (poem)
  • I Have a Remote in Each Hand by Jessy Randall (poem)
  • Elven Alvin by P M F Johnson (poem)
  • Stone Roach by Fiona Moore (poem)
  • The Music of Robots by Bruce Boston (poem)
  • Science Fiction Haiku by Kendall Evans and David C. Kopaska-Merkel (poem)

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – review

Like a lot of people I suspect, I first came across Brandon Sanderson because sheer bloody mindedness is driving me to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (14 books is ridiculous but I started reading them in my university days and feel an irrational need to get through to the end).

Sanderson was the author chosen to complete the series after Jordan’s passing. After reading The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight I decided to give his newest novel, The Way of Kings a go and really liked it. So I decided to go back and read some of his earlier work.

That is a long way to explain the reason why I’ve been reading the Mistborn trilogy of late – an epic fantasy series. I read The Final Empire earlier in the year and I’ve just finished The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. The first thing I’ll get out of the way is the magic. Every review/article I’ve ever read about Sanderson’s books talks about the excellence and innovativeness of his magic systems. And they are right. I loved the description of the magic in The Way of Kings. I love it in the Mistborn books. It is consistent, well realised and lends itself to excellent action sequences.

I found the books to be very readable as well. I liked the characters, they had enough flaws to be relatable and I thought the stories were interesting. While it is in a lot of ways a “typical” fantasy series, all three books contained a bit of a twist at the end. I don’t really try to guess twists – I’m more of a “see where the story takes you” kind of guy – but I don’t like it when the kink in the road is so obvious that even I see it coming. Fortunately each of these books had a genuinely surprising element for me.

Look, it is probably very “bowing to the gods of the commercial author of the moment” of me but I’ve really liked all of Sanderson’s stuff so far. I’d recommend the Mistborn trilogy. I see on Amazon that he has a new Mistborn novel – The Alloy of Law – coming out later in the year. I’ll probably get that too.

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

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #51 – review

This is the first issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) that I’ve read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think I’m going to have to stop saying things like “it was a bit of a mixed bag” in these discussions on magazines – that is true of every one of them.

In this particular issue, I quite liked Basil Hawthorne and the Cliff Tomb by E Catherine Tobler, which describes an old fashioned adventurer and his brush with the spirit of Hatshepsut in one of her tombs. I liked the style of the writing it was a short piece but well rendered. I liked that almost Indiana Jones feel to a bit of swashbuckling adventure.

A Mirror, Darkly by Keith Stevenson struck a chord for different reasons. It is set around where I live, so the references to places I’m familiar with was both cool and a bit distracting. It is a horror story and well written. This kind of story isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I found myself intrigued right through to the (somewhat grisly) end.

I also enjoyed Children of War by Rachel Zakuta. This story, describing some of the aftermath of humanities rebellion against alien overlords, was interesting. I didn’t feel a strong connection with any of the characters, but I thought it described the detail of the universe well in a very short period of time. The end was a little unsatisfying, but did fit in with the rest of the story.

Now you won’t hear me say this often about poetry, but I actually liked Lacking an Adequate Metaphor for the Human Brain by Darrell Schweitzer. The layout of the poem was cool, the content was witty and the subject matter interesting. I like the thought of hyper intelligent but zen like goldfish.

Merchant’s Run by Calie Voorhis was a fun story to read, describing the adventures of Merchant and her ship Old Maid’s Mercy in the far future, and in particular the perils of dealing with bubbles in the pirate trade economy. I liked the style of the writing and it was consistently amusing all the way through.

Nessa 1944 by Ellen C Glass was an enjoyable tale about the evolution of an AI told from the point of view of a high tech cleaner she befriends. The character of Robbie was well realised.

This is a quarterly magazine and there were a boatload of other stories/poems/articles, including:

  • Bonsai by Robin Shortt
  • Aberrant Artifacts Found in Two Owl Indian Mound by Lee Clark Zumpe
  • The Household Debt by Chris Miles
  • The Story of the Ship that Brought Us Here by Stephan Case
  • The Birds, the Bees, and Thylacine by Thoraiya Dyer
  • Following in Harlan’s Footsteps by Sandra M Odell
  • A Cup of Smoke by Rachel Manija Brown
  • The Tectonics of the Misty Mountains by Chris Large
  • Review of the film Limitless by Jacob Edwards

I believe issue # 52 has just come out, looking forward to getting my copy.

Aurealis #44 – review

I subscribed to the magazine in mid-2011 and they recently sent out a copy of issue #44. This edition was published in 2010 and afterwards the magazine went into an extended hiatus (I believe the editor, Stuart Mayne, retired). According to the Aurealis website the next edition should be out in late 2011/early 2012. I hope so, this was a good read.

I really enjoyed gunning for a tinker man by Jason Fischer, a story based in a post-apocalyptic world where the main character, Lanyard, is a fallen “jesusman” (a caste of warrior priest types who can kill the ‘witches’ that prey on the remnants of the human race). I also enjoyed for the want of a jesusman that I heard on the Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction podcast (number 18) set in the same world. The characters are not clean cut hero types and I enjoyed the way the world was described and realised. Fairly gritty and violent in places – not for the faint of heart or those that like a neat happy ending. I understand from Mr Fischer’s website that he is working on a full novel set in the same world, which I am now very much looking forward to reading.

I also particularly enjoyed Storm in a T-Suit by Simon Petrie (a good rescue story based in an interesting depiction of the frontiers of colonisation of the solar system), The Death of Skandar Taranisaii by K J Taylor (love a bit of swords and sandals action) and A Billion Tiny Lights by Adam Ford (I am quite fond of the flash fiction format at the moment).

The other stories in the edition were fine stories, overall I liked the magazine a lot.

  • Runners by Christopher Snape
  • We All Fall Down by Kirstyn McDermott
  • Jumbuck by Christopher Green

Analog – September 2011 – review

This month’s Analog is a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve been enjoying the serialised novella  Energized by Edward M. Lerner. It is part III of IV this month and the race by Russian sponsored terrorists to use a prototype microwave power transferring satellite as a weapon of mass destruction gathers pace. There is some interesting exploration of potential alternative energy sources when the world runs short of usable oil. The action in space is more interesting than on the ground, but this story has kept me engaged all the way through and I’m looking forward to the finale in next month’s issue.

I also enjoyed Asteroid Monte by Craig DeLancey – a short space detective story (but then I’ve always been a sucker for a space detective story). It’s a pretty straight forward and quickly resolved mystery with perhaps slightly too much time on the setup given the length of the overall story, but still I enjoyed it.

The other stories in the issue were OK, but none of them stood out for me. I don’t know that I would strongly recommend them but none of them were offensively bad or anything.

  • Therapeutic Mathematics and the Physics of Curve Balls by Gray Rineheart
  • Helix of Friends by Carl Frederick
  • Hostile Environment by Emily Mah
  • The Chaplain’s Assistant by Brad R. Torgersen

Worldshaker by Richard Harland – review

Went on a course by Richard Harland at the NSW Writer’s Centre on September 3 2011. Thought I better know something about his work, so I’ve started reading one of his successful recent novels Worldshaker. Alternate history steam punk styled work, based on a society that lives in a juggernaut – a giant mobile fortress rolling across the world (called Worldshaker of course). Aimed at young adults but interesting so far for adults as well.

Wish there had been more novels like this when I was a young adult!