Blog Archives

Edition 29: Book Review: Crow Shine by Alan Baxter

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


crow-shine-alan-baxter

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.

Read the rest of this entry

Edition 28: Book Review: Shadows of the Dark Crystal by J.M.Lee

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 8.40.58 PM

Some three years ago now I recall seeing an open submission that blew my cynical mind. The Jim Henson Company (yes, THAT one) was teaming up with Grosset & Dunlap with an open call for submissions to find an author for a new novel set in the Dark Crystal universe. Brief visions of puppet-inspired literary glory flashed through my mind before the reality of the hugely restrictive (read: perfectly reasonable) submission time frame and the prospect of competing against a myriad of writers with, well, talent for this sort of thing brought me back down to Earth. Fast forward to a few months ago and, having completely put it out of my mind, this lovely if brief volume crosses my path.

Read the rest of this entry

Edition 27: Book Review: Apocalypse Machine by Jeremy Robinson

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


apocalyse machine cover

Apocalypse Machine is the latest Kaiju Thriller option from Jeremy Robinson, who I initially discovered through reviewing SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest. Read the rest of this entry

Edition 26: Game Review: Lifeline by Dave Justus

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


lifeline

Symbiosis, as defined by a quick Google search, is “interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.” This could be between two close family members, one of those little birds that pick bits out of crocodiles’ teeth or, in this case, between protagonist and reader.

Read the rest of this entry

Edition 24: Book Review: X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


xs for eyes cover

Regular readers of cosmic horror will likely be familiar with Laird Barron. Before I tackled X’s For Eyes, however, I was entirely unfamiliar with his works, having picked up this novella on the back of a recommendation on Facebook. There’s a lesson here that can’t be driven home often enough-if you like a book or an author, give them a plug. The minor signal boost is invaluable for anyone who’s not J.K.Rowling or Stephen King, and it really works.

Read the rest of this entry

Edition 23: Book & Film Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


Cover The Martian

I have been a little late to the party with The Martian. Andy Weir’s novel has been gaining steam for a good year or so, but by the time I finally managed to perch a copy on top of the To Read pile, we were only a month away from the movie release. So this issue I thought, why not look at both? I’ll gloss over much of the detail beyond the basics (guy stuck on Mars, does science, takes a long journey, gets rescued) because I really think you should read AND see this for yourself.

So here’s The Martian vs The Martian, a comparative review.

Read the rest of this entry

Edition 22: Book Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


zeroes cover

I’ve just finished reading an awesome movie. At least that’s what it felt like. Zer0es is the latest in the growing bibliography spawned by Chuck Wendig, and for every fan of cyberpunk, well worth the effort. Throughout the book I found myself harking back to various TV shows and movies rather than other novels, which lead me to the conclusion that this should absolutely join the ranks of cinematics.

Read the rest of this entry

Edition 21: Book Review: SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest edited by Brown/Spedding

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


survival of the fittest cover

SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest is the fourth instalment of the SNAFU military horror anthology series from Cohesion Press, due for release very soon. Having not read the preceding offerings, I went in with no preconceptions and was smacked firmly in the face by a strong and varied collection of monsters and military might.

The collection as a whole flowed well, but each and every story in here is worthy of a mention:

First off is Badlands by S.D. Perry. The opening line of this story sets a tone for the entire collection. What follows is a dark and action-filled story of Korean War veterans facing down the impossible in the form of badder-than-usual zombies. An appropriately unsettling start.

Of Storms and Flame by Tim Marquitz & J. M. Martin caught me off guard and made me realise that military horror is not just modern, as we are thrust back to a Viking invasion gone awry with the mighty Bard and his companions set against magic and monsters. Read the rest of this entry

Edition 20: Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


grace_of_kings_cover_w_quote_blog

Anyone who has paid even passing attention to any of the major speculative fiction awards over the last few years (I’m talking Nebula, Locus, Hugo—before the current controversy) will know of Ken Liu and his prodigious ability to pump out a quality short story. If you’re not an award watcher, Ken’s short story Running Shoes appeared right here in Issue 16, so there’s no excuse for being unfamiliar with his work.

Grace of Kings is Ken’s debut novel and given he’s gone for an archetypal Big Fat Fantasy, and given that it’s the first of a trilogy, there was always going to be a lot of expectation and pressure around this book. I’m happy to say, the story defuses this tension and acquits itself on many levels, with a couple of caveats that I’ll address shortly. Read the rest of this entry

Edition 19: Book Review: The Ark by Annabel Smith

flag US

 Reviewed by Damien Smith


ark annabel smith cover

I got wind of this novel via the magnificent communication channel that is social media. It’s always nice to have a novel suggested, and then totally by coincidence see it get a mention by a bunch of more familiar sources. It helps turn that “What have I got myself in for?” feeling into smug validation that I, as a reviewer, have made a wise choice promoting this to the top of the To Read pile.

In this case, I was hearing a lot of good press about a great “interactive novel”. I had no idea what an interactive novel was, and there’s always a delicate balance between finding out a bit more and stumbling across spoilers, so I took the plunge and gave it a spin. From what I had read (along the lines of “What would YOU do if the apocalypse came? Lock yourself in a bunker or take a chance outside?”), I was expecting some sort of choose-your-own-adventure novel.

Read the rest of this entry