Sunday, 31 March 2013

Rise of the Fallen by Teagan Chilcott

Rise of the Fallen by Teagan Chilcott is a début YA novel about demons, angels and elementals. It's set mainly in Australia and can be described as urban fantasy or paranormal romance (although more on the romance elements below). The blurb:
Appearing as students at a local Brisbane high school, Emilie and Cael are centuries-old elementals on the run. Their inseparable bond starts to fray when Soul, an irresistible demon, comes on the scene and Emilie follows him into the savage world where she and Cael were once kept captive.

Emilie is enchanted by Soul and a new existence where nothing is sacred - where death comes in the alleyway and graveyard brawls are commonplace - and she has to find her way among the shape shifters and vampyres in a demon hierarchy as complex as algebra. At first Soul's intentions seem honourable, but Emilie soon finds that all is not as it seems...

I haven't had a particularly good track record with books featuring angels. Happily, Chilcott does not fall into the trap that other authors have with the portrayal of the angels (although the angels don't get nearly as much page time as the demons, what they did get didn't annoy me, so yay).

However, I didn't find Emilie the most endearing of characters. At the very start she struck me as a bit stupid and I felt like she was relying on Cael and Soul to dictate her life for her. Fortunately, as I got to know Emilie better, I came to realise that wasn't quite true. It turns out she's just hideously naive, which caused a bit of face-palming but was generally less bothersome. I never quite understood what she saw in Soul though and why she kept following him around when she didn't really have to. At first I thought magic, but by the end that definitely wasn't true. Possibly it just took a lot of him doing morally reprehensible things to knock the naive out of her. In any case, it didn't quite feel like romance to me. Emilie is very quickly convinced that Soul cares about her and loves her, and while that is evident in his actions, I couldn't see a reason for her to want to be with him. At least a relationship with Cael would have been based on long-standing mutual trust. Not one for dedicated romance fans.

Which brings me to the writing. It was a bit rough. I felt character — particularly relationships between characters — was not very well developed and some of the conversations were stilted. I was a bit baffled by some of Emilie's actions, despite her explaining some of them to us. There could have been more descriptions of setting, particularly the more mundane Earthly settings, to ground some of the action. Overuse of "seemed" and "strangely enough" and other adverbs was grating although it did improve as it went along.

The ending was strong, setting up the next book in the series well. I read that the last chapter was what inspired the author to write the book, and looking back, I can see how everything was leading up to that point. It was definitely the most clearly drawn scene.

I think teens looking for a quick adventure story might enjoy Rise of the Fallen, particularly if they're into paranormal fantasy. It will be interesting to see how Chilcott's writing develops in the future.

3 / 5 stars

First published: April 2013, Magabala Books
Series: Yes. Book 1 of 3
Format read: eARC
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Friday, 29 March 2013

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare is the final volume of the Infernal Devices trilogy. I have previously reviewed the first two books, Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince and have enjoyed the trilogy immensely. It's hard to write this review without spoilers, so I'm afraid it's going to be a little shorter than usual.

Clockwork Princess picks up a few months after Clockwork Prince left off and jumps into action very quickly. It follows the story of Tessa, Jem, Will and friends as they confront Mortmain and his infernal devices for the final time. There's love, heartbreak, battles, demons, kidnapping, daring-do, magic and generally all that we've come to expect from Clare's books.

The Infernal Devices trilogy is hands-down the best example of a YA (or, thinking about it, any) love-triangle I have ever read. It's handled beautifully and is so much more than just a plot device to annoy the heroine with. (Also, if you're interested in the author's thoughts on love triangles, you can read more SPOILER WARNINGLY here.) I wouldn't be disappointed if I never read a love triangle YA book again (although, what are the chances of that?).

Clare deftly avoids an ending/climax resolution that could have been overly deus ex machina in the hands of another writer. In fact I've seen similar endings go that way, but Clare threw in the right amount of hints that it made perfect sense, even though I didn't see it coming. Finally, I have to say, the epilogue had a bit of fanservice to it but not in a bad way; it was both heartbreaking and lovely. All in all, this is a concluding volume that most fans will love.

I highly recommend the Infernal Devices trilogy to fans of Victorian era stories and YA with paranormal elements. I do not suggest starting with Clockwork Princess under any circumstances, since it very much builds on the previous two books. Start with Clockwork Angel, if you're new to the series. For people who read Clare's Mortal Instruments series, I also recommend the Infernal Devices, even if you didn't love the Mortal Instruments. The setting and characters are quite different and personally I prefer the Infernal Devices gang.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2013, Walker Books (UK edition)
Series: The Infernal Devices, book three of three
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Purchased as a pre-order from Book Depository

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Ditmar Awards Shortlist Announced

Wow, it really is awards season, isn't it? Now we have the Ditmar Awards ballot announcement. You can read the official page here which also includes voting instructions. Don't forget to vote if you're eligible!

The full list is copied below with links to my reviews where they exist and some light commentary.
Best Novel
I see I'm going to have to read both Perfections and Sea Hearts (which I already own) before voting. Ay. Too many books, too little time.

Best Novella or Novelette
Yay, a category where I've read all the stories.

Best Short Story
  • “Sanaa’s Army”, Joanne Anderton, in Bloodstones (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “The Wisdom of Ants”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Clarkesworld 75
  • “The Bone Chime Song”, Joanne Anderton, in Light Touch Paper Stand Clear (Peggy Bright Books)
  • “Oracle’s Tower”, Faith Mudge, in To Spin a Darker Stair (FableCroft Publishing) 
Unfortunately I haven't read any of these yet, but I have a review copy of Jo Anderton's The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories waiting for me, which contains both of her stories and Thoraiya Dyer's story is free to read on Clarksworld's website (in both audio and text forms) so at least I can knock some of these over before voting.

Best Collected Work
Best Artwork
  • Cover art, Nick Stathopoulos, for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 56 (ASIM Collective)
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, for Midnight and Moonshine (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Illustrations, Adam Browne, for Pyrotechnicon (Coeur de Lion Publishing)
  • Cover art and illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, for To Spin a Darker Stair (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Cover art, Les Petersen, for Light Touch Paper Stand Clear (Peggy Bright Books)
Best Fan Writer
  • Alex Pierce, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth
  • Grant Watson, for body of work including the “Who50” series in The Angriest
  • Sean Wright, for body of work including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut
Best Fan Artist
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work including “The Dalek Game” and “The Tamsyn Webb Sketchbook”
Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Alex Pierce
  • Antipodean SF, Ion Newcombe
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Snapshot 2012, Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung et. al.
  • Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, Alisa Krasnostein, Tehani Wessely, et. al.
  • Galactic Chat, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Sean Wright
Best New Talent
  • David McDonald
  • Faith Mudge
  • Steve Cameron
  • Stacey Larner
William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
  • Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, and Tehani Wessely, for review of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh, in ASIF
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let's Unpack That.”, in
  • David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely, for the “New Who in Conversation” series
  • Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, for “The Year in Review”, in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011
  • Rjurik Davidson, for “An Illusion in the Game for Survival”, a review of Reamde by Neal Stephenson, in The Age

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Stray by Andrea K Höst

Stray by Andrea K Höst is the first book in the Touchstone trilogy and the second book of Höst's that I've read. The other was And All The Stars, which was one of my favourite reads of 2012 and which has been shortlisted for two Aurealis Awards.

Stray is about Cass, a Sydney teenager, who falls into a wormhole to another planet on her way home from her last HSC (High School Certificate) exam. In her school uniform and equipped only with her history notes, pencil case, an empty drink bottle, and a blank diary she'd bought as a present, she finds herself in a forest, all alone. The story is told through her diary entries.

I liked Cass. Her voice was entertaining to read and the main thing that saved the book during some of the slower patches. She throws in a lot of geeky and Australian references which made me think the book might be a little inaccessible (to non Australian geeks) until I got to the end and discovered that a) there was a glossary and b) it contained the geeky references and Australianisms as well as the alien stuff.

Stray starts off as a survivor story with Cass having to find food and water — and not get eaten by anything herself — on the planet she's been transported to. It was believable; Cass didn't have some secret past as a hard core scout or anything so she was mostly going off common sense and random snippets of half-remembered information. Eventually, after chasing sheep around for their wool and several brushes with death, Cass is rescued by psychic space ninjas (her phrase) and the bulk of the story takes place in an advanced alien society. With psychic space ninjas.

As I said, I enjoyed Stray, but found it a little slow at times. Because it's written as a series of diary entries and the only days Cass skips writing are when she physically can't, there were a few "nothing really happened today" entries. Those didn't actually bother me much, it was the "things happened today but they're not that crucial to moving the plot along" days that I felt could use tightening up. I suspect it's the sort of thing a professional editor might have addressed and that would have made it feel like things moved along more quickly. The structure was a bit unusual too in the sense that it didn't quite contain the traditional build-up, climax, resolution. Not that there wasn't excitement and action — there was, what else would space ninjas do? — but I suspect the larger arc is spread over the entire trilogy.

Don't let that put you off, though. I was never bored and now I wish I could read the next book straight away (but unfortunately I have some other books demanding my attention in the immediate future). I also hope Höst decides to write more SF in the future (other than And All the Stars, her other series are all fantasy) because more Aussie SF is always a good thing.

ETA: I forgot to mention something: I really liked that Höst took into account and remembered to deal with the fact that if you're a girl and you're stranded on an alien planet periods will happen. And they get ignored too often, so yay for realism!

I recommend Stray to fans of science fiction and perhaps space opera (although it's not quite space opera as I understand the definition) and science fantasy. The psychic aspects were (unsurprisingly) not exactly scientific and reminded me of a cross between super powers and the kind of astral plane Rowena Cory Daniells had in the Outcast Chronicles, though, again, not quite. I should also note that as far as putting fantasy into science fiction goes, Stray was the sort of mix I feel I can get behind. Psychic powers, yes; wizards in space, no.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2011, self-published
Series: Touchstone trilogy, book 1
Format read: ePub on iThings
Source: iBooks store (also available from SmashWords)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Monday, 25 March 2013

New Booksies

New books! This time I have two purchases and two review copies.

I received Rise of the Fallen by Teagan Chilcott, a young Indigenous Australian author, from the publisher. It's urban fantasy and set in Australia (Brisbane I think) so I'm looking forward to reading it.

I also got the short story collection The Best of Connie Willis from the publisher via NetGalley. Need I really say more? All the stories included were award winners (Hugos, Nebulas, etc).

On the purchasing front, I got the latest collection in the Twelve Planets series from Twelve Planet Press thanks to my ebook subscription. The collection is Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer and I hadn't read any of her stories before. If you saw my review of Asymmetry, you'll know that I was thoroughly impressed with it.

I also pre-ordered some time ago (and spent a +1 achievement unlocked book purchase on) Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Claire, the final book in the Infernal Devices trilogy. I'm excited to finish off this series, partly because the ending promises to be memorable. And also because I got one of the collectors editions with the (surprisingly glossy!) family tree at the back.

Yay for new books!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Australian Shadows Awards Shortlist

The shortlist for the Australian Shadows Awards, given out by the Australian Horror Writers Association, was recently announced. You can read the AHWA announcement here. On their website, they say:
The Shadows are awarded to the stories and collections that best typify the horror genre, delivering a sense of ‘creeping dread’, leaving the reader with chills and a reluctance to turn out the light.
Now let's have a look at the shortlist. Links go to my reviews where they exist.

The Corpse Rat King – Lee Battersby
Perfections – Kirstyn McDermott
Blood and Dust – Jason Nahrung

As I mentioned when I was talking about the Aurealis shortlist, Perfections and Blood and Dust are on my TBR and to buy lists respectively. I think I'll have to try to get around to reading them before all these awards are announced. Or, well, after if not.

Critique – Daniel I Russell
Escena de un Asesinato – Robert Hood
Sky – Kaaron Warren

"To Wish on a Clockwork Heart" – Felicity Dowker
"Pigroot Flat" – Jason Fischer
"Birthday Suit" – Martin Livings
"They Don’t Know That We Know What They Know" – Andrew J McKiernan
"Creek" – Kaaron Warren
"Mountain" – Kaaron Warren
"Road" – Kaaron Warren

"A Monstrous Touch" – Marty Young

Bread and Circuses – Felicity Dowker
Living with the Dead – Martin Livings
Through Splintered Walls - Kaaron Warren

Surviving the End – Craig Bezant
Cthulu Unbound 3 – David Conyers (co-edited Brian M. Sammons)
The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2011 - Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene

I like that all four pieces of fiction in Through Splintered Walls and the collection itself made it onto the shortlists. I haven't read anything else on the lists, unfortunately, although I've read older stories by some of those authors. The nice thing about awards shortlists, of course, is the fiction they add to your TBR.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Aurealis Awards Shortlist

It's that time of year again when the Aurealis Awards Shortlist is announced! You can read the official press release here (pdf file) and I am reproducing the list with some commentary below. Links go to my reviews where those exist.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth (Random House Australia)
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (Tor UK)
Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier (HarperVoyager)

Wow, so it's a big change for me from last year where I had read all the shortlisted fantasy novels to only having read one this year. I really loved Winter Be My Shield, though, so it's easy to root for it. I swear I will get around to reading Sea Hearts sooooooooooon. It's on my actual physical TBR shelf like three metres away from me!

“Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton (Bloodstones, Ticonderoga Publications)
“The Stone Witch” by Isobelle Carmody (Under My Hat, Random House)
“First They Came” by Deborah Kalin (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 55) 
“Bajazzle” by Margo Lanagan (Cracklescape, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Isles of the Sun” by Margo Lanagan (Cracklescape, Twelfth Planet Press)

In this case (as you'd be able to guess from my reviews) of the stories I've read I'm hoping "First They Came..." takes the award. Nothing against Margo, of course, but I was really taken by Deborah Kalin's piece.

Suited by Jo Anderton (Angry Robot)
The Last City by Nina D’Aleo (Momentum)
And All The Stars by Andrea K Höst (self published)
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Walker Books)
Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (Harper Collins)

Whew, at least I've read most of the science fiction novel shortlist! I also have The Last City sitting on my ereaders waiting for me to get around to it (and it's just moved up the list, of course). I haven't heard much about The Rook, though, so I'll have to check it out.

I'm a bit surprised to see Ambelin Kwaymullina on the SF shortlist (although I'm glad she made the YA one) because it was a fairly borderline book in terms of SF or F. I would have put it with (post-apocalyptic) Fantasy (with superpowers). Same with Suited. I strongly feel Anderton's series is fantasy and just because it has structured magic, doesn't make it less magic. Nothing against either book, I liked them both a lot, but they are not, in my opinion, science fiction (but no less deserving of awards generally for it).

On a somewhat record breaking note, this is the second time Andrea K Höst has had a book shortlisted, making it only the second time a self-published book has made the Aurealis shortlist (the other was her Silence of Medair in 2010). I think it would be exciting if it won in one of its categories (it's also shortlisted below for YA novel) and it would be interesting to see how the (Australian) publishing industry reacted to such a win.

“Visitors” by James Bradley (Review of Australian Fiction )
“Significant Dust” by Margo Lanagan (Cracklescape, Twelfth Planet Press) 
“Beyond Winter's Shadow” by Greg Mellor (Wild Chrome, Ticonderoga Publications)
“The Trouble with Memes” by Greg Mellor (Wild Chrome, Ticonderoga Publications)
“The Lighthouse Keepers' Club” by Kaaron Warren (Exotic Gothic 4, PS Publishing)

"Significant Dust" was my favourite story in Cracklescape, so yay for it's shortlisting. I haven't read the others.

Bloody Waters by Jason Franks (Possible Press)
Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott (Xoum)
Blood and Dust by Jason Nahrung (Xoum)
Salvage by Jason Nahrung (Twelfth Planet Press)

Well this category is mostly TBR for me. I recently acquired Perfections and Blood and Dust is already on my to buy list. Hadn't heard of Bloody Waters but (particularly in light of my horror reading challenge) I'll have to take a look. I enjoy Salvage and I believe it made it into the novel category by dint of being slightly longer than an official novella (it was published as a novella).

“Sanaa's Army” by Joanne Anderton (Bloodstones, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Elyora” by Jodi Cleghorn ( Rabbit Hole Special Issue, Review of Australian Fiction)
“To Wish Upon a Clockwork Heart” by Felicity Dowker (Bread and Circuses, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Escena de un Asesinato" by Robert Hood (Exotic Gothic 4, PS Publishing)
“Sky” by Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls, Twelfth Planet Press)

Again, I've only read one in this category. It's interesting though, that while I really enjoyed Kaaron Warren's collection (which is shortlisted in the collection category), "Sky" was my least favourite story. It was, however, the most substantial of the lot, so I can see why it beat out its siblings.

Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney (Allen & Unwin)
And All The Stars by Andrea K Höst (self published)
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Walker Books)
Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
Into That Forest by Louis Nowra (Allen & Unwin)

I think it really speaks for the quality of all of these books, that three of them appear shortlisted in other categories as well. I will definitely be having a look at the two I know less about.

“Stilled Lifes x 11” by Justin D’Ath (Trust Me Too, Ford Street Publishing)
“The Wisdom of the Ants” by Thoraiya Dyer (Clarkesworld)
“Rats” by Jack Heath (Trust Me Too, Ford Street Publishing)
“The Statues of Melbourne” by Jack Nicholls (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 56)
“The Worry Man” by Adrienne Tam (self published)

Oh, another self published shortlistee. Interesting. I believe this is the first self-published short story to be shortlisted (someone please correct me if I'm wrong)!

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words) 
Brotherband: The Hunters by John Flanagan (Random House Australia)
Princess Betony and the Unicorn by Pamela Freeman (Walker Books)
The Silver Door by Emily Rodda (Scholastic)
Irina the Wolf Queen by Leah Swann (Xoum Publishing)

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures) 
Little Elephants by Graeme Base (author and illustrator) (Viking Penguin)
The Boy Who Grew Into a Tree by Gary Crew (author) and Ross Watkins (illustrator) (Penguin Group Australia)
In the Beech Forest by Gary Crew (author) and Den Scheer (illustrator) (Ford Street Publishing)
Inside the World of Tom Roberts by Mark Wilson (author and illustrator) (Lothian Children’s Books)

Blue by Pat Grant (author and illustrator) (Top Shelf Comix)
It Shines and Shakes and Laughs by Tim Molloy ( author and illustrator) (Milk Shadow Books)
Changing Ways #2 by Justin Randall ( author and illustrator) (Gestalt Publishing)

The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011 edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
Bloodstones edited by Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications)
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume 6 edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books)
Under My Hat edited by Jonathan Strahan (Random House)
Edge of Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan (Solaris Books)

That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote by K. J. Bishop (self published)
Metro Winds by Isobelle Carmody (Allen & Unwin)
Midnight and Moonshine by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)
Living With the Dead by Martin Livings (Dark Prints Press)
Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren (Twelfth Planet Press)

Did anyone else notice that in (almost?) every category that Twelfth Planet Press published a work, they received a shortlisting? An impressive record.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer is the latest in Twelfth Planet Press's Twelve Planets series of collections. You can read my reviews of the other collections at this link.

Asymmetry does not contain linked stories like some of the other Twelve Planets — in fact they're all very diverse. They fall in different places on the science fiction to fantasy spectrum, but one thing they have in common is sheer innovativeness. These are the first stories I've read of Dyer's and I was very impressed. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of her work in the future.

"After Hours" is a story about a vet, some army dogs and a werewolf. I think it was my favourite in the collection. It's told from two different first person perspectives which have very distinct personalities. Although the formatting kindly lets us know which narrator is speaking, I think it would have been clear even without the typographic distinction. A mark of the strong writing. Also, I appreciated how Dyer's veterinary experience clearly came out in this story.

"Zadie, Scythe of the West" is a gender-flip story set in a fantasy world. To put it simplistically, it's a world where women are warriors and men are housekeepers but the worldbuilding is more complex than that. There are very clear ideological reasons for why the women go to war and also for the rules constraining their abilities to do so. I suspect it's the sort of story others might compare with Ursula Le Guin or Joanna Russ but I don't feel well-versed enough in those authors' works to do so.

"Wish Me Luck" is a science fiction story set in another solar system in a time when interstellar travel exists (but is rare and expensive). The science element is fairly esoteric (in the quantum mechanical sense) and, were it a longer piece, one might call it space opera. In a way, it's a story about a man who just wants to get home. There's more to it, of course.

"Seven Days in Paris" is hard to explain properly without spoilers. It's the sort of story where almost every aspect becomes apparently only gradually. I'll say it's about a disposable clone created somewhat illegally and ostensibly for the greater good. It's told from the clone's perspective, interesting because the clone does not (at first) have any idea what's going on.


Overall the stories deal with themes of identity and belonging in different ways, a trend I noticed only now as I was writing the mini-reviews above. I like how the more I think about them, the more I'm finding things to think about in them. There is nothing simple here. An excellent collection.

Asymmetry is a quick read, with all four stories of the short variety rather than longer novelettes or novellas. It's also a highly enjoyable read which I recommend to anyone interested in modern Australian speculative fiction. Reading and thinking about Dyer's stories made me want to be able to write like that. Dyer is definitely a writer I will be keeping an eye on.

5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2013, Twelfth Planet Press
Series: Twelve Planets (a series of collections)
Format read: ebook on my iThings
Source: Subscription to ebook editions of the Twelve Planets
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Monday, 18 March 2013

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo is a retelling of the Cinderella story. It's not a straight retelling of the fairytale (pun rather intended) with some variations on the theme, but I think it will appeal most to people who enjoy fairytale fantasy.

Ash opens with the titular character's mother's death and the story takes us through her father's remarriage, death and Ash's subsequent indentured servitude to her stepmother. (Gosh, it's nice to be able to just lay out the plot like that because everyone knows it — very liberating!) As well as the Cinderella framework, Ash brings a fairly traditional view of fairies to the table — by traditional, I don't mean "the same as in the Disney version of Cinderella" at all — and a dose of female empowerment in the form of the office of the King's Huntress.

In fact, the Huntress was my favourite secondary character. For reasons we're not told because they don't matter to Ash (but I hope we find out in the sequel), the person in charge of the Royal Hunt, who also acts as a sort of mediator between what's best for the forest and the meat the king requires, is the Huntress. Her job is to lead the hunt in the Woods and she has a team of mostly male hunters that follow her. I am quite intrigued to learn more about her and the office and this will be my main motivation for reading the prequel, I think.

At first I found Ash a little slow and was disappointed at how closely it stuck to the framework of Cinderella. However, I liked Ash as a character and at no point did I want to stop reading about her. Once the Huntress became more of a prominent character — and the hunt and fairyland important plot elements — I was sold.

The story is quite self-contained with the requisite fairytale happy ending (happier than I expected, but not quite a traditional sort of ending either) and I didn't feel a plot-related burning desire to read the prequel (which I initially thought would be a sequel).

I enjoyed Ash overall and I recommend it to fans of fairytales and the sort of fantasy heavy in fairies and enchanted forests. It is technically a YA book, but I see no reason for adult readers not to enjoy it. I will be picking up the prequel when I get a chance (sadly, probably not very soon).

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2009, Little Brown & Company (US) but the 2010, Hodder Children's Book (UK) edition is reviewed and pictured (with actual British spelling most of the time ZOMG)
Series: Yes. I don't think there's a series name but the prequel is Huntress.
Format read: Real life paper book *gasp!*
Source: Christmas present

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Ishtar edited by Amanda Pillar and KV Taylor

Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and KV Taylor, is a collection of three novellas about the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love and war, Ishtar. The three novellas cover the past, the present and the future and together tell an overarching story of Ishtar's trail through thousands of years of humanity. Overall, I was impressed at how well the three novellas hung together and told a cohesive overarching story.

"The Five Loves of Ishtar" by Kaaron Warren is a story spanning thousands of years in the Mesopotamian region. Told from the perspectives of a series of Ishtar's washerwomen — each the daughter of Ishtar's previous washerwoman — it focuses partly on the men in Ishtar's life and partly on life generally at that time. From a god to Gilgamesh to kings, Ishtar's loves are broad and at times it seems her life revolves around them. At times war is her central concern and her army.

I liked the younger Ishtar, before she grew quite so jaded and belligerent, when she was still unsure of herself and cared at least a little about others (which is an ironic statement if you read the story). It was interesting to watch her and her concerns change through the eyes of a succession of servants.

What I also found interesting was how this story served to showcase the broadness of Warren's writing abilities. "The Five Loves of Ishtar" is very different to her other work that I've read; not only vastly different in setting to Through Splintered Walls and Slights, but also different in tone, theme and types of characters. It makes me excited to see what sort of writing I will encounter from her next.

"And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living" by Deborah Biancotti is similar in tone and setting (modern Sydney) to the stories in Bad Power but with Ishtar, rather than superheroes, of course. It follows Adreienne, a detective given an unusual set of homicides to investigate. Of course we know the supernatural origins of the bodies — since Ishtar has to show up at some point — but it was still a compelling story. I enjoyed watching Adreienne slowly uncover the truth. The extra characterisation Biancotti throws in, particularly around Adreienne's sister, was a nice touch that added depth to the story.

Interestingly enough, it was this story that convinced me to classify the collection as horror. Going in I was definitely expecting fantasy and dark fantasy elements, but when Warren's story wasn't as horrifying as some of her other work I assumed the collection overall might not quite count as horror. It does.

"The Sleeping and the Dead" by Cat Sparks is a post-apocalyptic tale set in a world with not much left in it other than sand. Doctor Anna is the protagonist and works at a fertility clinic in a desert with only strange death and sex worshipping nuns for company. There don't seem to be many men left in the world and when a few stumble upon the clinic, Anna and the nuns set out to find their leader.

My favourite aspect of this story was all the allusions to earlier events, particularly to Ishtar's roots. It relies on knowledge of the previous stories more than one would expect from an ordinary collection, but in this context it works beautifully. I enjoyed having more of an idea of what was going on than Anna did most of the time, and watching her come towards her own realisations.


Overall, this is a strong collection. I like what Morrigan (the publisher) have been doing with themed collections (see also Grants Pass and The Phantom Queen) and I think Ishtar is an excellent example of how communal story-telling can work to great effect. I recommend Ishtar to fans of dark fantasy and horror.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2011, Gilgamesh Press (an imprint of Morrigan Books)
Format read: ebook on my Kobo and iPad (yay for not DRM)
Source: Purchased from Smashwords
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Horror Reading Challenge

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman is a difficult book to put into a single category. It's been called urban fantasy by the publisher and while that is technically correct — it is fantasy and some of it takes place in a modern urban setting — the image generally conjured up by that label bears little resemblance to Between Two Thorns.

The split worlds if the series title are the normal world (called Mundanus), Exilium, which is where the Fae live and follows usual fairyland rules, and the Nether, which is a semi-magical place between the other two worlds. Certain families of humans live in the Nether and are able to wield limited magic and age very slowly. Their society is old fashioned and vaguely Victorian.

Cathy is a scion of one of these families but she ran away to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage and generally treated like chattel. She was living in real world Manchester until events conspired, near the start of the novel, to drag her back into the Nether. I liked Cathy, mostly because she's quite practical (flushing toilets are useful!) in her approach to both worlds and her place in them. Her main goal is always to escape, but it never felt at all selfish as it could have in another book.

I also liked how all the men living in the society had similar views and her (and everyone's) place in life, even the nice ones. A common trap is making the sympathetic make characters implausibly feminist in a society which doesn't really have the appropriate frame work in place. While I didn't exactly enjoy the character's I liked holding old-fashioned views, it made sense, and I enjoyed that and the accompanying conflicting emotions.

There are three of four (depending on how you count) story lines in Between Two Thorns and I found myself enjoying reading about each of the characters. My favourite was Cathy, but I also liked Max, the sort of soulless, sort of policeman who became embroiled in the main dramatic problem that arose. I had no idea how Cathy's plot would intertwine with his until it came to pass.

My only complaint is that Between Two Thorns is very much book one of a series. Once the main action had passed and the mystery solved (with some questions left unanswered and some hints of deeper conspiracies yet to be addressed), I wasn't quite sure exactly where the book would end. Unfortunately, it was on a cliffhanger. Not a particularly dramatic one (no actual cliffs), but bad enough to make me try to turn the page thinking there was more. It was an excellent book, but I wished it had ended in a slightly different spot. I will definitely be reading the next book to find out what happens.

Between Two Thorns is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to fantasy fans looking for something a bit different, particularly in the form of merging modern day settings with fantasy worlds. It's a concept that's been done on paper, but Newman does it differently. I keenly await the next instalment.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2013, Angry Robot
Series: The Split Worlds, book 1 of 3
Format read: eARC on my iThings
Source: The publisher via NetGalley

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Guest Review of Havenstar by Glenda Larke

I read Havenstar by Glenda Larke several years ago, after having acquired a second hand copy of the out of print paperback version. Recently, Larke re-released an ebook edition of Havenstar, but to the excitement of fans (there were some copies of the second hand paperback being sold for ridiculously high prices on Amazon — money which sadly the author never saw). I purchased the ebook so that my husband could read it as my paper copy is currently in another country. And so, since I don't know when I'll get the chance to re-read it, I also asked him to review it. Behold, a review of Havenstar by Mr Tsana!

Havenstar, the first book published by Glenda Larke in 1999 and now re-released as an ebook, is a story about order, freedom and maps. The world of Havenstar is consists of two parts, the terribly unpredictable Unstable, where the footprints don't linger and the terrain can change at all times, and the human communities eked out in the Stabilities, places protected from the chaos by the strict rules of the religious Chantry. Slowly the Unstable is encroaching on more and more of the stabilities as the evil Chaos Lord Carasmas spreads his influence.

Keris Kaylen is the gifted daughter of a mapmaker who is not allowed by the Chantry to succeed him in his store due to her gender. Circumstances conspire to force her out of the Stability and into a journey through the chaos with a motley group of travellers on a quest to prevent the eventual destruction of the Stablities.

The world-building was fascinating. In the Stabilities, the Chantry forces everything to stay the same. No new gardens, no new houses, even mining and wood harvesting is kept to a minimum. Changes are only made at the discretion of the Chantry. In the Unstable, the only human settlements are on small patches of land that have proven resistant to the chaos, and even then they only last for so long before the Unstable reasserts itself. Anyone crossing the Unstable is also at the mercy of ley-lines, rivers of magic that can turn people into twisted mutants who are banned from the Stabilities.

While the basic structure of the book's plot was very classic fantasy (motley group, journey across the land, evil Lord to defeat) the issues explored in the book are very modern. It illustrates the cruelty of enforced gender roles and the danger of blindly following tradition. It lacks a little subtlety, considering that pretty much all the characters seem designed to investigate some issue, but the characters are given enough depth for it to not be too off-putting. I did read Glenda Larke's later books first, which I feel are more nuanced with their exploration of issues, so it's possible that I only felt Havenstar wasn't subtle because of a comparison with her later books.

I'd also like to say that it's nice to see a fantasy book that actually involves a mapmaker, considering how many books have a map at the start. In Havenstar, mapmakers straddle the boundaries between the Unstable and the Stable. They must venture out in order to map the ever-changing Unstable, but in drawing the map they impose some semblance of order on it.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who wants a little bit of social criticism in their fantasy or wants to see mapmakers get just a little bit of credit for all the maps in fantasy books.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 1999 as a paperback from Virgin, a publisher which folded shortly after publication. Ebook (cover shown above) released in late 2012 and a new paperback version will be coming out in May 2013 from Ticonderoga Publications.
Series: nope.
Format read: ebook
Source: Purchased from Smashwords
Disclaimer: Review by Tsana's husband
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Flight 404 by Simon Petrie

Flight 404 by Simon Petrie is a science fictional novella set in the mid-distant future with interplanetary travel possible but not as common and easy as an intercontinental flight now.

The main character, Charmain, is piloting a small ship, one of many sent to investigate and search for the remains of a large, missing passenger liner. The main action of the plot deals with the search for the liner, both Charmain's and others' and the mystery surrounding its disappearance.

We are also treated to a lot of Charmain's backstory. It turns out that Charmain has more of a personal stake in the missing liner than she realised at the outset. And furthermore, her life as a trans person in a conservative society (before she left to become a pilot) wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs. The backstory elements blend well with the main story, particularly since the Epsilon Eridani system where the missing liner is thought to be, contains the planet of her birth.

I enjoyed both the story and the physics in Flight 404. My long-time followers will probably be aware that scientific plausibility is very important to me. There were no gaffes, which made me happy and which is just as well since Petrie works, when not writing speculative fiction, in computational quantum chemistry. It was also nice to see non-trivial sociological issues — Charmain's gender identity — tackled in a hard science fictional setting. (I've seen Bujold do similar, but I don't think it's otherwise very common.)

In my edition of Flight 404 (purchased as a standalone novella from the publisher), there was also a bonus (reprint) story, "Broadwings", about a family living on Titan and the difficulties of doing so. Also enjoyable.

Flight 404 was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to all fans of science fiction. I will definitely be searching out more of Petrie's work in the future.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: September 2012
Series: no
Format read: ePub on my iThings and also Kobo (yay lack of DRM)
Source: Purchased from publisher
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Friday, 8 March 2013

New Booksies

I got a bunch of books for review this time around! I also bought one achievement unlocked book: Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott. It was originally a toss-up between it and her earlier book Madigan Mine, but I couldn't find the latter in ebook form. Moral of this story? A large publisher lost a sale to a small press that was on the digital ball. Looking forward to reading Perfections and I'm in the mood for something dark.

From FableCroft, the Aussie small press, I received review copies of One Small Step, an upcoming anthology of Australian speculative fiction edited by Tehani Wessely, and The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, a collection of short stories by Jo Anderton (author of Debris and Suited).

Via NetGalley, I got:
  • Jamie Reign: The Last Spirit Warrior by PJ Tierney from Harper Collins AU (it doesn't have a cover yet), about Kung Fu and China and magic — a winning combination from a new Australian author.
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near from Random House AU. A YA which has been described as "dark bubblegum-gothic" by the publisher and as a "pulp-fable about grunge girls, the occult, and slightly sinister talking rabbits" by the début author, another Australian.
  • Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot). It's about a girl who wants to be an exoveterinarian, yes a vet for alien creatures. Sounds cool, right?
  • School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins from Hyperion (Disney Book Group). It's set in the same world as the Hex Hall series, which I quite enjoyed, so I'm looking forward to returning. (Hex Hall reviews) And I'm quite glad the US covers are continuing the theme from Hex Hall, because those were rad. (Pity the UK/Aus covers were a bit boring.)

Yay books!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

ASIM Issue 55

I received a copy of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) issue 55 for review, edited by Jacob Edwards. I made some notes about each story as I read and those are included below in table of contents order.

A few stories really stuck out for me, making me think about them long after I'd moved on to the next. "Illuminated" by KJ Parker had an unlovable initial narrator, mostly thanks to his sexism, but the ideas and thematic elements made me keep coming back to it. Similarly, "Angel Air" by Jacob A Boyd had a fairly unlikeable narrator but was surprisingly memorable and I think could be incorporated into a longer story/novel with the same setting. I couldn't help but like "Attack of the Killer Space Lizards" by Tom Holt. It was humorous (as one would expect from Tom Holt) and, well, spoilers. The final story in this issue, "First They Came..." by Deborah Kalin was surprisingly powerful. After a mix of serious and silly stories, I first expected it to be of the latter variety, but wow. I know which future Twelve Planet collection I'm most looking forward to now.


Some words on each of the stories. (I'm afraid I skipped the three poems — and other features — due to not being able to summon much of an opinion on them.)

“Mick’s Suit” by T A Robinson — A quick and amusing tale about talking clothes.

"Attack of the Killer Space Lizards" by Tom Holt — a serial in four parts
A humorous and entertaining story about colour-centric aliens who discover a copy of everyone's favourite trans-galactic magazine. A fun and somewhat meta read that had me clicking the links to the next instalments later on in the magazine.

"Angel Air" by Jacob A Boyd
A longer story about a lighthouse keeper in a port town dependent on him to guide ships safely through the port's shifting sands. I didn't enjoy it at first because of the main character's harshness (bordering on abuse) towards his apprentice. Mostly it bothered me that he didn't particularly realise what he was doing. But it redeemed itself with the ending.

"The New House" by Kate Rowe — A nice, gentle story about houses that spring up naturally and grow.

"Hammer Fall" by John Birmingham. Opening of his novel Stalin's Hammer. Not bad per se, but not sure that I'd keep reading; I'm not generally a fan of non-Russians writing about Russians. Quite enough damage has been done by Hollywood etc already. Not to mention that Stalin as the point of view character is inherently a bit discomforting.

"The Wrong Righters: Zero G" by Simon Messingham — an amusing and rather meta deconstruction of the science fiction genre and its physically inaccurate tropes. Thumbs its nose at the laws of physics for being too boring. One of my favourite stories.

"Cullsman #9" by Michael John Grist. A story of an apocalypse that sustained life. I liked it, though it wasn't the cheeriest of tales.

"Paint By Numbers" by Dan Rabarts. Robot creates art and, later, a relationship without understanding how or why it works. Observes the effects. A strong, sad story.

"Illuminated" by KJ Parker. A particularly well-written story about magic, books and writing. It explores the nature of how information is passed on with the written word and the relationship between the writer and the reader. I enjoyed it a lot.

"Soul Blossom" by Lisa A Koosis. A story about love and holding on too tight.

"Eternal Flame" by Stephen Gallagher. A story about a man who made a wish and got more than he bargained for. Not quite in the standard way either.

"Ashfield" by Agatha Christie
An excerpt from An Autobiography, in which the author reminisces of a house no more. A somewhat surprising inclusion.

"First They Came..." By Deborah Kalin. A really beautiful story that subverts expectation in unexpected ways. It started as a tale of a Melbourne in which shyness had been classed a disease, but it ended as so much more. A couple of choice quotes:
in ridding the world of silence, half the world has been silenced.
there is a sharp difference between the freedom to be silent, and the silence that condemns freedoms to perish.
A strong end to the issue.

First published: December 2012
Series: Sort of — it's a magazine.
Format read: ePub on my iThings
Source: copy courtesy of the ASIM collective (for review purposes)
Challenges: two of the stories qualify as being part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge — "First They Came" by Deborah Kalin and "The New House" by Kate Rowe. Additionally, several stories fall into the Aussie SF and Horror challenges I'm doing, but for progress-counting purposes I'm only including novellas or longer.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Holders by Julianna Scott

The Holders is Julianna Scott's début YA novel. It's a secret magical race living hidden in the modern world type of novel, set mostly in Ireland with an American main character. It wasn't my favourite read of the year. This review contains spoilers. If you don't want to be spoiled, I suggest not reading past the blurb. Blurb exerpt:
17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother - from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland's "problem" and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms.
She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination.
I thought The Holders started promisingly enough: Becca's younger brother is recruited by a boarding school in Ireland that doubles as a magical training school for Holderkind. Becca goes with him to the school for a few weeks to look out for him and make sure no one wants to hurt him (like the shrinks who've previously wanted to institutionalise him). One of the school recruiters is an attractive, more-or-less age-appropriate guy who Becca quickly develops a crush on; par for the course in YA. An additional complication is that Becca's estranged father happens to be the principal of the school, opening the story up for some familial angst.

The further into the story I got, however, the more various aspects bothered me. On the one hand, it was a change of pace to have Becca's ten-year-old brother be the special one in the family. It wasn't a huge surprise when the twist turned out to be that Becca was the really special one, but that was OK. What I found slightly problematic at best, however, was the assertion that women don't usually have as strong/useful magic as men, except not Becca because she's special. I think it was initially used to make it more surprising when Becca did turn out to have magic, but it didn't exactly rock my boat. There were some good female characters along with Becca in the book, however they pretty much included every single female Holder nearby, ie all two of them.

A small thing that wouldn't have bothered me if it was the only issue I had with the book, was the arch bad guy and his powers. Sort of. Apart from the assertion early on that none of the Holders can fly, they're basically superheroes particularly as they exist in a modern setting. Which made me think of other group of superhero narratives which brought me to Heroes (the TV show), particularly when the arch bad guy is revealed to be similar to Sylar, the arch bad guy of Heroes. And then what does special Becca's power turn out to be? (Hint: very similar to Peter's in Heroes.)

But the thing that really pushed my buttons was the imprinting/soulmate trope. The idea of having your free will to love whoever you want taken away is kind of repulsive to me. The only justification in The Holders is that Becca has a crush on her love interest before magic imprinting binds them together. The idea is not deconstructed at all. The closest we got was Becca's dad, who had imprinted on her mother, leaving the family for their own safety. It all irked me. Even Twilight did a better job of analysing moral implications of imprinting with Leah/her ex and later Jacob imprinting on a baby. There was something to dig into there, but in The Holders it was all too saccharine with Becca waxing too lyrical too often about how awesome her love interest was after the imprinting event. On the other hand, I suspect issues of free will are going to be confronted in a different context — mind reading — in the sequels (and were a little in the first book), but I just don't have confidence that the imprinting thing will be.

The Holders wasn't one of my favourite reads. Stylistically it wasn't poorly written, however, it was more the content that bothered me. The ending leaves it open for sequels and I would be tempted to read the next book if it had a promising blurb. I am interested in watching Becca defeat the bad guy, and I would hope that Becca's love interest relationship wouldn't not take centre-stage, having now been established (well, one can hope).

I recommend The Holders to YA fans who aren't bothered by the things I discussed above. It happened to push a lot of my buttons at this point in my life, but I suspect that if I'd read it some years earlier I probably would have been less annoyed. The timing, of course, is not the book's fault.

3.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2013, Strange Chemistry
Series: The Holders, book 1 of ?
Format read: eARC on my iThings
Source: the publisher via NetGalley

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobson

The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobson is different to the books I normally read. It's written in verse. It's also much more literary than my usual fare, even when compared with the more literary books I've read recently, like the The Mad Scientist's Daughter. I admit I probably wouldn't have given it much of a second glance if not for the fact that after I tweeted in mock shock about a spec fic book* making the Stella longlist, Kerryn Goldsworthy (chair of the Stellar judging committee) tweeted at me that there were actually two spec fic books on the longlist and directed me to The Sunlit Zone.

*Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan, which I'll get around to reading and reviewing some time hopefully soon

The Sunlit Zone is told by North in two parallel time-lines: her present in 2050 and her childhood from birth in 2020ish through to high school and university. North is a marine biologist, working in the fictional Victorian coastal town Anglers Bay, where she grew up. The future chapters serve mainly to establish North's character, friends and the setting. The real story, in my opinion, was the journey through her childhood.

The form of the writing means that mostly what we see isn't quite a long narrative as prose would more likely be, but a series of moments, some directly connected to the ones either side, others a bit less so. The glimpses we see of North's childhood show her growing up with her uniquely different twin sister on one hand (with allusions of selkie) and the neighbour's perfect genetically engineered daughter on the other. The friction comes from both sides; her sister's childish joy standing in the way of North's chosen activities, and the neighbour's sophisticated perfection, egging North on.

The science fictional elements in The Sunlit Zone are relatively minor, mostly confined to the genetic engineering and futuristic mundane technology. As a science fiction reader, I found the technology a bit iffy. The brevity of the form restricted the descriptions spent on future tech leaving fewer words with which to stuff it up. Nevertheless, there were a few odd things like referring to future ereaders generally as ibooks and similar. The sciencey strength, to me, was the marine biology and genetic engineering, although a biologist might disagree with me. Overall, the worldbuilding was the weakest part and the delivery (the writing) the strongest.

I was surprised how readable The Sunlit Zone was, given that it's poetry of which I don't usually read much. If you're wondering, it's not rhyming verse, although there are a few occasional scattered rhymes. I may be wrong, but I got the feeling that the more upset North was the more there was a rhyme and beat, although most of the time it was absent. I think others who don't usually read poetry would equally find it readable and should give it a try. If you're unsure (as I admit I was), you can read a sample in the Kobo store to get an idea of what it's like.

I really enjoyed reading The Sunlit Zone, but ultimately I was disappointed by the ending. It was a bit too subtle for my tastes. The story is a personal journey for North in which she comes to terms with her past, which is fine. The disappointment comes from the fact that I feel if it was a more science fictional (or fantastical) story, the ending would have been a bit more hopeful and less mundane. I suppose it's that I had an image in my head of an ending that almost but not quite came to pass. The real ending made me rethink the whole book and find it more depressing than I had upon first reading. Having given this point more consideration I've realised that my expectations were based on a spec fic trope that the author, being a poetry person, rather than a spec fic person (as far as I can tell from her website), probably wasn't aware of/didn't give consideration to while writing. And so the trope's absence in the ending of The Sunlit Zone does not necessarily signify the depressing view I first thought. Interesting how our expectations can define how we perceive stories and how we think stories should work.

Anyway, The Sunlit Zone was overall a good if unusual read. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different to the usual spec fic fare. I think it's worth a read purely for the way it's written (which I suppose is why it made the Stella longlist) and I imagine readers who usually shy away from speculative fiction would enjoy it as literature. It's not a long read, either, and not the kind of poetry that one has to reread a few times to digest, so I do encourage you to give it a go.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2012, Five Islands Press
Series: No.
Format read: Kobo ebook
Source: Kobo store
Challenges: The Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge