Friday, December 20, 2013

Postscripts to Darkness

Received an email this afternoon from Ranylt Richildis, Fiction Editor at Postscripts to Darkness, with the edited copy of the short story I've sold to them, At Union. Just a few very small tweaks required. I'm a bit embarrassed I didn't see those flaws myself, but I suppose it's a simple case of that forest and tree thing.

Anyway, seems the crew at Postscripts are hard at work putting together Volume 5, and my story will be in it.

Ahem. You will please excuse the momentary loss of cool.

If you haven't checked out Postscripts, you should. They're publishing some fascinating short, dark fiction.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: The Midwife of Venice, by Roberta Rich

The Midwife of VeniceThe Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Roberta Rich's The Midwife of Venice was recommended to me by a colleague some time ago. It would seem tastes and expectations vary widely.

Rich tells the story of a Jewish midwife in 15th century Venice, caught in an intrigue which threatens her life.

For the most part the story is well-researched (there were a few hitches over which I stumbled, but I'm critical that way, among others). However, for this reader, the major hitch occurred when the infant the heroine, Hannah, delivers of an aristocratic Christian woman, becomes the major hook on which this story hangs. With the child dead, the two predictable and dissolute brothers-in-law will inherit all. Knowing this, and the proclivities of his brothers, the Conte whisks his lady-wife off to the country shortly after she is delivered, leaving the child behind in the known ambivalent care of the wet-nurse, and in the company of his dastardly uncles.

Given the Conte is presented as an intelligent businessman, and one of the patriarchs of Venice's senate, and a man who would do anything to ensure the safety and longevity of his newly-born heir (certainly he has paid an astoundingly handsome fee to Hannah to ensure the child's safe delivery), why would he then abandon the child who ensures his title to the questionable mercies of his uncles?

After that dissolution of belief, the entire novel fell apart for me, leaving me with a somewhat saccharine taste come the happily-ever-after ending.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: Westlake Soul, by Rio Youers

Westlake SoulWestlake Soul by Rio Youers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you haven't heard of Rio Youers before, you need to go out right now and look up Westlake Soul, purchase it in whatever form you prefer, arm yourself with handkerchief or tissues, and settle down for a story that will shatter you with its beauty, elegance and raw honesty.

Similar in emotional impact and tone to Mitch Alboum's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Youers' novel takes the reader into the world of former surfer, Westlake Soul, who is now in a vegetative state from a catastrophic surfing accident. Told in first person, mostly stream-of-consciousness, this is an ambitious novel delivered with such ease and simplicity it's as though Westlake himself sits beside you, telling you his tale.

And although the novel is pigeon-holed as science fiction, it is far more, part magic-realism, mostly stunning literary fiction.

The only caveat I would have is not to read this in public spaces, because people will wonder about the nervous breakdown you're having.

Well done, Rio Youers!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay

River of StarsRiver of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It pains me to give only three stars to one of my favourite authors, Guy Gavriel Kay.

The story Kay relates takes up events several hundred years after the fall of the great dynasty in a China-like world Kay created in Under Heaven, revolving around, primarily, an unorthodox and intelligent woman, an unwitting and reluctant warrior/hero, and the usual cast of supporting intellectuals and likable villains.

I could not help but feel, however, Kay revisited what have become familiar and comfortable character-types and plot constructions, and thus the experience of reading River of Stars lacked lustre. His heroine is of course intelligent, an unorthodox woman in an orthodox society. His hero is caught in both political and magical nets. Both characters can easily be found in any of Kay's previous impressive canon. And thus, by now, one could hope for something new, something fresh from that highly literate and artistic mind of Kay's.

Certainly Kay's writing remains evocative and lyrical, with some breath-taking images and descriptions that cannot help but move the spirit. Yet even that was marred by Kay's understandable love of poetry and the poetic form, so that much of the narrative ended up lost beneath esoteric discussions that stopped all action.

Beyond that, Kay has chosen a narrative style in this novel wherein many subsidiary characters are introduced in detail, so that the reader is set up to believe this is a character which will continue throughout the novel because of the level of detail devoted to them, only to find by the close of the chapter they've been exiled, or killed, or in some manner marginalized, their complete future revealed and summarized and ended. By the second or third introduction of such a character, the reader no longer invests either attention or interest, longing to return to the main thrust of the story.

Most readers, I suspect, will enjoy River of Stars. Indeed there is much here to enjoy. But this reader, who longs to be surprised, found only the familiar, relatively well-executed tale, but without that lingering bouquet of a fine story-telling.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: Terry Pratchett's Interesting Times: Discworld 17

Interesting Times (Discworld, #17)Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rincewind returns in this instalment of Pratchett's Discworld, as do a cast of other heroic(?) characters. Good fun. Well written. No surprises, but giggles sprinkled liberally.

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