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  • 28/06/2022 19:12 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Open Door and Other Stories cover

    The Open Door and Other Stories of the Seen & Unseen by Margaret Oliphant

    (British Library, 2021)

    Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

    One of the most interesting writers of the late 19th century was “Mrs Oliphant” (1828-1897), a novelist, short-story writer and critic of immense if variable productivity who, after her husband’s death in 1879 supported an extended family through her literary efforts. While a number of her novels were best-sellers, she is probably best-known today for her supernatural fiction.

    In The Open Door Mike Ashley presents six stories with an introduction which asks, though doesn’t really answer, why so many British women of that time wrote ghost stories. For Oliphant, the reasons Ashley gives seem sound, linking fashionable spiritualism and a personal set of family traumas and losses. Most of the stories here offer glimpses into what Oliphant was to call the “Unseen”, the surrounding Afterlife which, according to some Spiritualist beliefs, can communicate with us. There’s a sense of loss, melancholy, and moral questioning which speaks well to the modern reader.

    Continue reading…

    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 25/06/2022 08:22 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Book of Accidents cover

    The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

    (Del Rey, 2021)

    Reviewed by Jamie Mollart

    This is a massive book in pages, ideas, style, genres, and in pretty much every way. I picked it up and for the first 50 pages it felt like Stephen King, and I mean that as a compliment.

    It’s got that classic horror feel and is set up using many of King’s tropes: a dysfunctional family moving back to the town where the father grew up; things not being quite why they seem; creepy neighbours; and a history in the town which looks set to resurface with dire consequences.

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 21/06/2022 20:02 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Horseman cover

    Horseman by Christina Henry

    (Titan Books, 2021)

    Reviewed by Dave M. Roberts

    Washington Irving’s story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow makes a point of the ambiguity in relating the local legend of the headless horseman. When Ichabod Crane had his encounter with the horseman, there was question after the event as to whether he had had a genuinely supernatural experience, or if he’d been the subject of a rather brutal practical joke, most likely at the hand of Abraham van Brunt, his rival for the hand of Katrina van Tassel. As Crane disappeared that night, the townsfolk never knew the actual truth, although after rereading the story it seems fairly clear to me it was the latter.

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 18/06/2022 10:47 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Great Troll War cover

    The Great Troll War by Jasper Fforde

    (Hodder & Stoughton, 2021)

    Reviewed by Graham Andrews

    Before me, as I write, is the proof copy of The Great Troll War. Front-cover blurb: “A LONG TIME AGO MAGIC FADED AWAY. NOW IT IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE.” All very reminiscent of The Magic Goes Away and The Magic May Return, but only if Larry Niven had written them in collaboration with Terry Pratchett or Tim Holt. But Troll War is, in even happier fact, the final instalment of “the Last Dragonslayer Chronicles, from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author JASPER FFORDE” (back-cover blurb). I could scribble a “story so far” synopsis of the previous three volumes: The Last Dragonslayer (2010); The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011); The Eye of Zoltar (2014). But that job has already been jobbed on Wikipedia. And, more wittily, by Fforde himself.

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 14/06/2022 19:44 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Monster on Hold cover

    The Monster on Hold by Philip José Farmer and Win Scott Eckert

    (Meteor House, 2021)

    Reviewed by Dev Agarwal

    The Monster on Hold grabs the reader up and hurls them bodily through a wild genre ride. Included are Philip José Farmer’s series works, the wider world of pulp fiction, Win Scott Eckert’s mission to carry on Farmer’s legacy, and the ecosystem of a novel that exuberantly melds and mixes its references.

    The novel continues the adventures around Farmer’s covert society, the Nine. A warning, therefore, would be that The Monster on Hold is not the right starting point. The series began with A Feast Unknown, in 1969. Farmer (1918-2009), like many other writers, had a number of preoccupations that he returned to regularly. However, readers should bear in mind that Feast is the most extreme of this series. It explores what Theodore Sturgeon described as “ultimate sex combined with ultimate violence is ultimate absurdity.”

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 12/06/2022 08:51 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Cwen cover

    Cwen by Alice Albinia

    (Serpent’s Tail, 2021)

    Reviewed by Nick Hubble

    ‘Why is “gynotopia” not listed as a word in either the OED or Merriam-Webster? Answer: Because men have erased such places from our memories.’ This putative pub quiz question, found on the back of a grocery bill along with a list of ideas such as giving every girl five acres at birth and a process of mandatory re-education for men aged seven to seventy-seven, is read out in court as part of the ‘Inquiry into Unfair Female Advantage in the Islands’ which is narrated in Cwen. The ‘Islands’ are an unnamed archipelago off the east coast of Scotland, whose culture has been transformed by a subtle programme of intervention in support of women led by former cabinet minister’s wife, Eva Harcourt-Vane. Her recent disappearance at sea during a storm has brought her social experiment to the attention of the UK media, leading to a frenzy of predictably sensationalist headlines, such as ‘FEMALE TAKEOVER OF ISLAND’S LEADERSHIP’ and ‘FEMALE EDUCATORS CAVORT TOGETHER NAKED’. The loose inquest format of the novel, in which the women Eva has worked with testify as to their collective motivations and achievements, invites readers to ponder whether it is indeed time both for a thoroughgoing overhaul of the patriarchy and to put gynotopia in the dictionary or, indeed, on the map.

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 09/06/2022 19:18 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Beautiful Ones cover

    The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    (Joe Fletcher Books, 2021)

    Reviewed by Anne F. Wilson

    The Beautiful Ones are the crème de la crème of Loisail society. Aristocrats from old money, they despise the merely rich. They are however prepared to be amused by entertainers such as Hector Auvray, a telekinetic stage magician. Hector meets Nina at a ball, and is unimpressed by her “square jaw, black hair and thin lips”. But in any case, Hector is madly in love with Valerie Beaulieu, Nina’s chaperone and sponsor into society. Valerie is a Beautiful One, and Nina will join her if she marries well. Ten years ago, Valerie threw Hector over to marry Nina’s wealthy cousin Gaétan, and Hector crossed the ocean to make his fortune in the continent of Iblevad. But now Hector is back, and he is still obsessed with Valerie.

    Continue reading…

    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 06/06/2022 20:13 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Cabinet cover

    The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim

    (Angry Robot, 2021)

    Reviewed by Kate Onyett

    The book begins with a tall tale about a man alone and the lengths he took to populate his isolated days. It ends with a man alone and wondering if staying safe and isolated is worth it. The book started with a question, posed to the creative loner: what happened to make you this way?

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 04/06/2022 16:23 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Other Side of the Surface cover

    The Other Side of the Surface by J.A. Lawrence

    (ReAnimus Press, 2021)

    Reviewed by Phil Nicholls

    The Other Side of the Surface is a 624-page collection of 35 stories; however this includes a 70-page bonus story by James Blish and 92 pages advertising the back-catalogue of ReAnimus. This leaves Lawrence with 462 pages, which is still a decent length, but not the full 624 as it might appear. Lawrence introduces her stories as “voyages of the starship of my mind”. These voyages reveal many insights into her craft as a writer.

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    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


  • 02/06/2022 14:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Question Mark cover

    The Question Mark by Muriel Jaeger

    (The British Library, 2019)

    Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

    Published in 1926 as an “answer” to the utopias of Wells and Bellamy, Muriel Jaeger’s The Question Mark predates Brave New World in posing the question at the heart of Aldous Huxley’s novel: if it is indeed true that utopias are more “realizable” than was previously thought, how do we prevent their realization? The paradox here, of course, is that (as Wells knew perfectly well, but left it to others to grapple with) utopias are dynamic states, throwing up their own issues which may result in social fossilisation or the deliberate thwarting of the utopian impulse.

    Continue reading…

    Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.


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