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Edition 31: Book Review: Eyes on You by Steven Jenkins

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 Reviewed by Mysti Parker


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For this issue, I felt like reading something spooky, so I found this ghost story via a BookBub feature and thought it sounded like my kind of thing. Anyone who knows me can tell you I love my “ghosty shows” on TV such as A Haunting and Paranormal Witness. Eyes on You has that kind of feel, which does well for an hour-long TV episode, but unfortunately doesn’t adapt quite as well in book form.

Set in the busy city of Swansea in southern Wales, the story begins with a teenager, Matthew, hearing about his father’s untimely death. The next chapter skips ahead several years to find Matt and his girlfriend Aimee moving in to their first flat. Immediately, odd things begin happening that Matt promptly dismisses as coincidences and accidents. Aimee suspects these things are paranormal in nature, and of course, she’s right. They seek help from a psychic, and all is well for a while.

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Edition 31: Book Review: Excalibur by Tim Marquitz

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 Reviewed by Damien Smith


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Tim Marquitz is well known for his wide selection of epic fantasy, horror and urban fantasy including his acclaimed Demon Squad series. My last foray into his work was the absurd mixture of gratuitous violence and medieval slapstick that was War God Rising. When I discovered he’d recently branched into Space Opera, I had to investigate further.

Our setting is a galaxy where the dominant power (at least in this part of it) is The Covenant in their Allied Space, which feels a bit like the Star Trek Federation of Planets, with various humanoid and hybrid species in residence. Manning what is perhaps the only truly alien ship is Captain Marek Albion, disgraced former Covenant officer and general freebooter.

The aliens in question are the Xebedon. An insect-like species that possess the unique technology to “phase” their ships, rendering them effectively undetectable by the Covenant. If not for a fortunate alignment of circumstances which allowed the Covenant to locate and destroy the Xebedon’s home planet, they would have quickly and efficiently wiped the population of Allied Space from the galaxy. Following the destruction of their home planet, the Xebedon fled into phase space and disappeared for years.

While assisting the Covenant with clearing out some scavengers (think space pirates), Albion and his diverse crew of skilled misfits find and pursue hints that the Xebedon may be once again active in Allied Space.

Given his possession of alien technology, Albion finds himself and his crew in a unique position to investigate the mysterious disappearances of ships, crew and entire space stations. From the opening battle, to the hints of plot to the climactic and reasonably horrifying finale on a supposedly abandoned planet, the action is consistently in-your-face without being over the top.

When first looking into this book, I saw lots of parallels being drawn with Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica and Starship Troopers (although, oddly enough, no Star Wars, despite the blatant mention of a Star Destroyer at one point and the use of a laser scalpel) but to me, this felt a lot closer to Firefly, what with the snark and sexual tension between various crew members, and the feeling that they keep getting pulled in over their heads.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be a larger-than-usual number of typos and missing/odd words in the ebook version of this book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a rare book where there are no errors whatsoever, and occasionally some excellent ones (I have enduring memories of flowers in a purple bowel in an otherwise very solemn funeral scene a while back) and I wouldn’t normally call it out, but there seemed to be a disproportional number in here. Enough to distract me from the action at various points, which is a great shame.

Having said that, story-wise this is excellent. I enjoyed the characters, and there was no laborious world-building. Rather the rules were clearly in place somewhere, and we found out about them as we needed to, which really prevented the story bogging down. It really was a page-turner, and a very quick read to the point where the story occasionally felt it was being pushed along a little quickly. Most notably for me was when we first learn of Albion’s ex-wife and how he gets very melancholy thinking about her and oh look here she is in this particular spot of this huge galaxy.

Despite my various, mostly minor criticisms, I really enjoyed the characters and setting. It felt like a prelude to a larger series, which I would be more than happy to explore should it come to pass. This is an entertaining and action-packed space jaunt without any mind-bending hard science to get your head around. Well worth the price of admission.

 

Excalibur (Tim Marquitz)
Amazon Digital Services, 2017
Science Fiction
ASIN: B06XB79MDS


Being a writer requires dedication, commitment, devotion, diligence, a skin like an armadillo and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. By this definition, Damien is most definitely not a writer, although he does occasionally put pen to paper. More accurately, Damien is a lover of the written word in nearly all its forms (you can keep vampire romances) and always feels a little down if he can see over his To Read pile.

Edition 31: Book Review: Defying Doomsday (eds. Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench)

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 Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston


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Whenever there’s an end of the world scenario, it’s only the able-bodied (and usually horrendously emotionally flawed) that survive. It ignores the on-going survival of anyone differently-abled, and how they might adapt and sculpt a changing world. Defying Doomsday, edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, takes these oft-excluded voices and brings them to the fore in a vibrant exploration of other survival stories. All manner of challenges, both in physical and mental health, are mentioned here, and as Robert Hoge’s thoughtful introduction states, “They’re active participants negotiating their way through a world that is degrees harder than it was before.”

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Edition 30: Book Review: Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

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 Reviewed by Damien Smith


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If you’ve managed to snag yourself a copy of Wall of Storms, the second book in the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy, I’m am reasonably certain you will have already experienced the wonder that is Grace of Kings. If not, what on Earth are you doing starting the second book of a trilogy? Luckily, I’ve previously reviewed Grace of Kings right here at SQ Mag. Nip over and have a quick read of that review, then settle down for however long it takes you to plough through an 800+ page Big Fat Fantasy. I’ll wait.

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Edition 30: Book Review: A Little Knowledge by Emma Newman

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 Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston


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When we finished All is Fair, we left Cathy as the new Duchess of Londinium, having rescued a house full of women and servants inconvenient to the political aspirations of the powerful Aquae Sulis ruling class. She is secure in the love and respect of her husband, Will Iris, believing that he will back her as she challenges the Victorian-era status quo.

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Edition 30: Book Review: Fate of Perception by K.F. Breene

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 Reviewed by Mysti Parker


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For this edition of SQ Mag, I went in search of the newest releases to kick off 2017. I found the beginning of the new dystopian sci-fi Finding Paradise series from author K.F. Breene. Though I anticipated diving into it, I found it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Fate of Perfection introduces us to a dreary futuristic world where humanity is controlled by conglomerates who breed the best of the best to handle their most important workings. The heroine, Millicent, is a physically perfect, exceedingly intelligent woman who is at the top of her game designing weapons systems for her conglomerate, Moxidone. She’s chosen to be bred via artificial insemination, knowing that her offspring will become the property of Moxidone. She soon finds out that the baby’s father is an equally perfect and muscle-bound head of security by the name of Ryker. The two of them grow closer due to his inborn instincts to protect her and the child. Read the rest of this entry

Edition 29: Book Review: Crow Shine by Alan Baxter

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 Reviewed by Damien Smith


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Disclaimer: I have known Alan personally for a number of years, but this does not mean I will be unreasonably harsh on his work. I did not receive anything other than an uncorrected proof copy of Crow Shine for this review.

Alan Baxter has been doing the rounds of the Australian Spec Fic scene for quite some time now, and regularly pops up in top-class short story publications. With the recent news that his Alex Caine trilogy is going global, it would be easy to forget about Alan’s widely-scattered and occasionally very hard to find shorter works. Crow Shine represents Alan’s first, very attractively-covered, short story collection and gathers together sixteen hand-picked tales from over a decade of works, along with three original pieces.

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Edition 29: Poetry Book Review: Corona Obscura by Michael R Collings

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 Reviewed by Lee Murray


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I was in high school when I discovered sonnets and Donne. I saw Donne as someone who embraced form but was entirely irreverent in his approach. Even now, I imagine him as the hip bad boy rapper of his day, the 16th century version of Snoop Dogg.

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Edition 29: Book Review: Slade House by David Mitchell

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 Reviewed by Mysti Parker


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Every October, I try to find a good spooky read that will keep me looking over my shoulder while I’m munching on too much Halloween candy. This time, I gathered up a list of recommended reads and randomly chose one: Slade House by David Mitchell. Though I found the premise to be intriguing, sadly it didn’t give me any goosebumps, nor did it keep me flipping the pages, anxious to read more.

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Edition 29: Book Review: The Ghosts of Moonlight Creek by Sue Copsey

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 Reviewed by Lee Murray


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Remember your first ghost story? You probably heard it late at night. You were in your pyjamas, maybe snuggled in a sleeping bag on the floor, the story told to you in a rasping eerie voice while torchlight glanced off the ceiling. For me, it was during a power cut, the ghostly story told by my dad against a backdrop of flickering candlelight. I don’t know how he managed it, but as Dad reached the story’s terrifying conclusion, the lights went on. It was miraculous, as if some supernatural being had been listening in and flipped the switch at just the right moment. It also flipped the switch for me on ghost stories. And a similar phenomenon affects the main character, Joe, in Sue Copsey’s middle grade novel The Ghosts of Moonlight Creek.

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