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  • 15/01/2024 16:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future cover

    The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future by Christi Nogle

    (Flame Tree Press, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    This is a collection of seventeen unsettling and often deeply weird stories, all but one previously published elsewhere. It is bookended by two that offer new twists on werewolf and zombie tales—in ‘Unschooled’ a female werewolf gives birth while yearning for a different life and in ‘The Old Switcheroo’, a man tries to convince his partner that eating a zombie’s brains will confer immunity. The rest cover a series of distorted and disturbing perspectives on families and relationships.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 12/01/2024 11:06 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Ghost Slayers cover

    The Ghost Slayers edited by Mike Ashley

    (British Library, 2022)

    Reviewed by Graham Andrews

    In February 1882, the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London. Mike Ashley explains that the SPR “was the first organization to take a methodical, scientific approach to researching reports of psychic or spiritualist events. Their work provoked much interest in Victorian Britain and led to an interest in ghost hunting” (Introduction). It also sparked off a renewed vogue for occult-detective stories, à la J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Dr. Martin Hesselius (In a Glass Darkly, 1872), usually with Holmes-Watson partnership characters. “Holmes was not an occult detective [far from it, in fact!] but his cases were often unusual, and it was only a small step from Holmes to investigators of the paranormal” (ditto).

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 10/01/2024 18:41 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Death of Jane Lawrence cover

    The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

    (Titan Books, 2022)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    This is a dark and deeply weird book. Set in an alternative nineteenth century England, whose capital is ‘Camhurst’, it opens with the protagonist, Jane Shoringfield, formally meeting her soon-to-be husband, Dr. Augustine Lawrence. Having lost her parents in the war with Ruzka, Jane has been brought up by her guardians, Mr and Mrs Cunningham, in the small town of Larrenton. With Mr Cunningham about to take up a judgeship in Camhurst, however, Jane must find her own way in the world and so she decides to marry but purely as a business agreement. With her mathematically trained mind and having kept her guardian’s ledgers, she feels she has a lot to offer a small-town GP. Dr Lawrence, for his part, tries to put her off, emphasising that there will be blood ‘and great sadness and terror’. He even adds an inviolable stipulation—he must spend his nights at his ancestral home, several miles outside of town and she can never join him there.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 08/01/2024 16:55 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Behind a Broken Smile cover

    Behind a Broken Smile by Penny Jones

    (Black Shuck Books, 2022)

    Reviewed by Dev Agarwal

    Penny Jones is a Devon-based horror writer. She is a short fiction author with a previously published collection, Suffer Little Children (Black Shuck Books), that was short-listed for the British Fantasy Award in 2020 (for Best Newcomer). Her novella, Matryoshka, was also a finalist for the British Fantasy Award in 2022.

    Behind a Broken Smile is Jones’ second collection. In it, Jones draws inspiration from the word sonder—defined as the realisation that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as your own, despite your lack of awareness of it.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 06/01/2024 09:38 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Hollows cover

    The Hollows: A Storm is Coming by Daniel Church

    (Angry Robot, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    The opening pages of this ‘folk horror’ novel are strongly reminiscent of a scene from the BBC tv series Happy Valley: a middle-aged policewoman, carrying the weight of personal tragedy on her shoulders, is looking at a snow-covered body in an isolated valley in the Peak District, just a couple of days away from the winter solstice. For Ellie Cheetham, local constable in the village of Barsall, this is not such an unusual occurrence as people sometimes come to grief in the harsh terrain. However, this is no lost hiker or poorly prepared tourist, this is a local man, one Tony Harper, a member of the clan of miscreants and troublemakers who live on a nearby farm. And bizarrely, he froze to death, knife in hand, with a mysterious symbol drawn in charcoal on the rock behind him.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 03/01/2024 08:46 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Sinister Booksellers of Bath cover

    The Sinister Booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix

    (Gollancz, 2023)

    Reviewed by Susan Peak

    If you already read and like Garth Nix’s books, then you will like The Sinister Booksellers of Bath and its predecessor, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. If you haven’t read his books, then this duology (as it is at present) is a good introduction to his writing.

    It very much is a duology, too—there is background material in the first book that’s necessary to understanding both the booksellers and the kind of dangers they deal with that isn’t repeated in this second book. And, while The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is self-contained, a key plotline and character relationships are continued into this book—so I am taking care to avoid spoilers for either book.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 29/12/2023 08:53 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Book of Gaheris cover

    The Book of Gaheris: An Arthurian Tale by Kari Sperring

    (Newcon Press, 2023)

    Reviewed by David Lascelles

    The legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are among the most well-known tales in Europe and the US, if not wider. There have been many interpretations throughout history and the tales have contributed significantly to the tropes of ‘knights in shining armour’ that we know and love today.

    I’m willing to bet that everyone can name at least some of the knights. They’d certainly recognise Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain and Galahad.

    These knights are not the heroes of this book. They appear, but only as cameos. Here, we are looking in detail at the lesser-known knights, in particular Gaheris.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 26/12/2023 09:01 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    All the Hollow of the Sky cover

    All the Hollow of the Sky by Kit Whitfield

    (Jo Fletcher Books, 2023)

    Reviewed by Anne F. Wilson

    All the Hollow of the Sky is a sequel to Whitfield’s previous novel, In the Heart of Hidden Things. This introduced us to the three generations of Smiths who live in the village of Gyrford: Jedediah the farrier, Matthew his son and John his ten-year-old grandson, an intelligent lad who never knows when to keep his mouth shut. I don’t think you need to read the first book in order to enjoy the second, but it is delightful and why wouldn’t you?

    The novels are set sometime between the medieval period and the early eighteenth century, before steam power. The location is unspecified, but Kidderminster is a nearby town. The struggles of the villagers do not relate to the outside world, however, but to their relations with the Fey, or the “Kind Friends” who cause more upsets when they try to help the humans than when they don’t.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 22/12/2023 08:58 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Wistful Wanderings of Perceval Pitthelm cover

    The Wistful Wanderings of Perceval Pitthelm by Rhys Hughes

    (Telios Publishing, 2023)

    Reviewed by John Dodds

    Writer, explorer, inventor, Perceval Pitthelm’s story in this short novel (or novella) begins on a writing retreat in the town of Figuera da Foz, Portugal. Though it is not his story we first hear, but rather the fantastical tale told by a man Perceval meets in the town, Old Rogerio.

    To say the Old Rogerio’s tale—and the novel itself—is fanciful would be to do both a major disservice. When I posted on a science fiction group on Facebook that this was my current read, one commentator said it sounded “bonkers”, which pretty much sums up what I felt. Seriously bonkers. But in a really good way.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 20/12/2023 09:02 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Pomegranates cover

    Pomegranates by Priya Sharma

    (Absinthe Books, 2023)

    Reviewed by Jamie Mollart

    Pomegranates falls nearly into two literary trends which will hopefully lend it the success it richly deserves. As a retelling of a classic Greek myth, it calls to mind the successes of Madeline Miller’s ‘Circe’, ‘Ariadne’ by Jennifer Saint and ‘Ithaca’ by Claire North. And elsewhere I’m seeing an enjoyable trend for novellas, so it’s especially gratifying to read one in a space which has traditionally been all about length and scope.

    That said, this novella is a deceptively simple piece of work, packing so much into its limited palette that it somehow feels epic despites its slight page count. The plot is taut and crisp. The construction elegant and elusive. The brilliant writing, while sparse, is still redolent with imagery, mystery and portent. Meaning the whole packs much more of a punch than its size would suggest.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.


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