Some reviews

Thirty Years Of Rain by Neil Williamson

Thirty Years of Rain – Edited by Elaine Gallagher, Cameron Johnston & Neil Williamson

Published by Taverna Press (20 Sept. 2016)

This is a collection of stories and poetry from members of the Glasgow science fiction writers group. When the North Bristol writers group created its first anthology North by Southwest one criticism, that we attempted to turn into a strength, was that the book was incredibly eclectic (we had a very loose theme of ‘North’). Although Thirty Years of Rain has a similar issue, with only ‘science fiction’ to bind them, it does make eclectism work.

There are some familiar names in here, and some I’m less familiar with but the level of quality in the stories was consistently high. There’s around 30 stories in the book across the range of SF so there is something in here for every type of SF fan I think.

Standouts for me were: TJ Berg’s tale of grief The Freedom of Above, which was a very human story but still managed to have a big SF idea at its heart; Headkiller by Michael Cobley which was a PKD style story of future assassins; The Marquis of Alcatraz by Richard Mosses which revolved around an unknown Dumas novel; The Lodger by Brian M Milton an epistolic tale about alien refugees  and in contrast to that one Neil Williamson’s affecting tale of refugees from a broken Earth – Foreign Bodies. There were very few stories that didn’t hit the spot, and no duds at all. – that is unusual in a collection. Recommended.

 

Entropic Angel: And Other Stories by Gareth…

Entropic Angel by Gareth L Powell

NewCon Press (24 April 2017)

I’ve been lucky enough to hear Powell read some of these stories at various events but it’s nice to sit down and read them through. It’s also nice to get a bit of explanation at the end of the stories as the author relates what inspired the story.

Powell won the BSFA for his his novel Ack-Ack Macaque in 2013 and at least one of the stories in this collection was also nominated for the award.  So you know you are getting some good writing.

Standouts were The Last Reef, a tale of AI evolution, Gonzo Laptop a story written in response to Hunter S Thompson’s death, Hot Rats a flash fiction about travelling in time and Memory Dust which had more than a hint of Lovecraft to it. But I enjoyed the whole collection, these are just the ones that I enjoyed especially. The majority of these stories have made the grade and been published in magazines. This is a nice collection and it’s interesting to see Powell’s inspirations and influences – Gonzo, the beats, some Banks perhaps.

Overall – a very enjoyable collection. Recommended.

The Enclave (NewCon Press Novellas Set 1) by…

The Enclave by Anne Charnock

Newcon Press (10 Feb. 2017)

Other reviewers like this book because it allows them to live a little longer in the world of her novel A Calculated Life. However I’ve not read the novel, but after reading this novella I would like to. It seems like a well-drawn world and Charnock writes with both grace and heart. This novella is the story of a young climate change refugee, Caleb, who has been sold into indentured servitude to Ma Lexie in The Enclave of the title. Ma Lexie’s crew recycles trash into sellable goods. Caleb demonstrates aptitude and skill in sewing clothes and allowing Ma Lexie to make money in the market. He also has a remote friendship with another such as himself in a neighbouring Enclave who he communicates with by putting messages in a bottle which he tosses over the gap between buildings.

This is an interesting, character driven, social and political science fiction. I will be checking out A Calculated Life based on my enjoyment of this novella.

This is one of four novellas from Newcon Press that are collected in a beautiful box set.

 

Chalk: A Novel by Paul Cornell

Chalk by Paul Cornell

St. Martins Press-3PL (21 Mar. 2017)

After a gentle introduction to the mystical English setting of Wiltshire with its chalk hill figures Cornell then hits you with an astonishing incident of bullying that is breathtakingly brutal. I admit that I didn’t think the novel could sustain itself after the opening; I didn’t see how the stakes would be increased. However any scepticism was soon dispelled as the supernatural element of the plot kicked in.

You get some typical Cornellisms – the TV program Doctor Who plays a part, there is a psychogeographical  overlay of mystical history over the landscape and there are characters that, like us at first, don’t understand the supernatural forces that buffet them.

There are some excellent ideas in here, like scrying using number one singles and the overall concept of the story (which I won’t give away) and there was an extra frission for myself as it’s set in the early 80’s with a protagonist roughly the age I was at the time. But this is no nostalgia trip. If anything it is anti-nostalgic, a reminder of the darker parts of growing up, the lack of control you have, the intense peer pressures, status battles. This is the best of Cornell’s work I’ve read so far.

 

 

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