Nick Mamatas (ed) – Phantasm Japan

nickmamatas(ed)-phantasmjapanThe secret history of the most famous secret agent in the world. A bunny costume that reveals the truth in our souls. The unsettling notion that Japan itself may be a dream. The tastiest meal you’ll never have, a fedora-wearing neckbeard’s deadly date with a yokai, and the worst work shift anyone—human or not—has ever lived through. Welcome to Phantasm Japan.

When I was contacted about reviewing Phantasm Japan by its editor, Nick Mamatas, I was excited, because the anthology’s premise — bringing stories about Japan and/or by Japanese writers to a broader public — sounded really good and I’m always interested in broadening my cultural scope so to speak. So I’m a little sad to report I was somewhat disappointed by this collection of stories. To be fair, this may be because it turns out I’m not the best reader for these stories that have a specific aesthetic and form, which can feel a little choppy story-wise. But mostly it was because there were several stories that just didn’t work for me.  Read More …

Tehani Wessely (ed.) – Phantazein

tehaniwessely-phantazeinYou think you know all the fables that have ever been told. You think you can no longer be surprised by stories. Think again.

With origins in myth, fairytales, folklore and pure imagination, the stories and poems in these pages draw on history that never was and worlds that will never be to create their own unique tales and traditions…

The next generation of storytellers is here.

Fairytales and folk tales are some of the most enduring forms of storytelling. It’s no wonder then that fairytale retellings remain a popular staple of speculative fiction. In Phantazein Tehani Wessely has brought together a set of stories that are as diverse as one can imagine, while all fit under the heading of fairytale (re)telling. Not all of the stories are re-imaginings of classic fairytales, some are based on folk tales or myths and some are original, but all of them are new and entertaining. In fact there wasn’t a story that disappointed, something that is rare for an anthology, as there is always at least one story that doesn’t work as well. Not so the stories included in PhantazeinRead More …

Ian Whates (ed.) – Solaris Rising 3

ianwhates-solarisrising3Following the exceptionally well received Solaris Rising 1, 1.5 (e-only) and 2, series editor Ian Whates brings even more best-selling and cutting-edge SF authors together for the latest extraordinary volume of new original ground-breaking stories.

These stories are guaranteed to surprise,thrill and delight, and continue our mission to demonstrate why science-fiction remains the most exciting, varied and inspiring of all fiction genres. In Solaris Rising 1 and 2 we showed both the quality and variety that modern science fiction can produce. In Solaris Rising 3, we’ll be taking SF into the outer reaches of the universe. Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne and Sean Williams are just three of the exciting names to appear.

Solaris Rising 3 is officially the fourth instalment in the reboot of the New Solaris Book of Science Fiction. This anthology series is one of my favourites. Whates finds a nice balance between easily accessible stories and the somewhat harder to parse, making the Solaris Rising series interesting to both relative new readers of SF and those more veteran readers. It is also the series that first made me realise that I might really like SF and short fiction after all, so I admittedly have a soft spot for it.  Read More …

Jared Shurin (ed.) – Irregularity

shurin-irregularityIrregularity is about the tension between order and chaos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women from all walks of life dedicated themselves to questioning, investigating, classifying and ordering the natural world. They promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual rigour in the face of superstition, intolerance and abuses of power. These brave thinkers dedicated themselves and their lives to the idea that the world followed rules that human endeavour could uncover… but what if they were wrong?

Irregularity is about the attempts to impose our order on nature’s chaos, the efforts both successful and unsuccessful to better know the world.

From John Harrison to Ada Lovelace, Isaac Newton to Émilie du Châtelet, these stories showcase the Age of Reason in a very different light.

Reading Irregularity, Jurassic London’s sixth full-length anthology and the second edited solo by Jared Shurin, was a strange reading experience, as I’ve read a lot of seventeenth and eighteenth century literature at university. Much of that was in the Penguin Classic editions (the ones with a black spine and a red bar at the top) and while the cover is in no way reminiscent of those, the font used for Irregularity really resembles the look of those editions. Add to that the fact that a lot of the stories are written in the same language and with the same sensibility as those classics and for a moment it seemed as if I’d traveled back in time to my student days. Thankfully, reading Irregularity in no way felt like an essay assignment, in fact it was fantastic fun.   Read More …

Jonathan Strahan – The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eight

strahan-bestofsffvol8The best, most original and brightest science fiction and fantasy stories from around the globe from the past twelve months are brought together in one collection by multi-award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan.

This highly popular series is released in the UK for the first time with this edition. It will include stories from both the biggest names in the field and the most exciting new talents. Previous volumes have included stories from Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Baxter, Elizabeth Bear, Joe Abercrombie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Margo Lanagan, Bruce Sterling, Adam Roberts, Ellen Klages, and many many more.

Over the last almost four years that I’ve been running A Fantastical Librarian, I’ve come to appreciate the art of short form more and more. But most of my short fiction consumption comes from reading anthologies and listening to podcasts such as Escape Pod, PodCastle, Lightspeed and Clarkesworld; most of the fiction published in magazines completely passes me by. And when the email about a review copy for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year volume 8 arrived, it plugged that gap nicely, especially given the fact that I was in the process of putting together my nominations for this year’s Hugo’s. What I found in this continuation of Jonathan Strahan’s series of ‘Best of the Year’-anthologies with a new publisher, was a fantastic set of stories, some of which didn’t completely work for me, but all of them interesting. Below I’ll call out some of the stories I really liked and talk in more detail about my favourites.  Read More …

Jan Edwards & Jenny Barber (eds) – The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic

edwardsbarber-urbanmythicThere is magic on the urban streets. The Mythic are alive and creating chaos in a city near you. Fourteen fantastic fables by weavers of wonder: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kate Griffin, Mike Resnick, Gaie Sebold, Christopher Golden, Alison Littlewood, Jaine Fenn, Jonathan Oliver, Graham Edwards, Anne Nicholls, Ian Whates, Joyce Chng, Zen Cho and James Brogden. Here are tales of magic and horror; ancient curses and modern charms; strange things in the Underground; murder and redemption; corporate cults and stalwart guardians; lost travellers and wandering gods; fortune tellers and urban wizards; dragons, fae and unspeakable beasts.

There is nothing I like more in my urban fantasy than a dose of magical London of the sort found in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun, Ben Aaronovitch’s The Folly series, Tom Pollock’s The Skyscraper Throne series, and Rosie E. Best’s Skulk, to name but a few. So to be offered a chance to explore more of these magical metropolises (metropoli?) in The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic wasn’t one I was about to refuse. And by no means are all of these stories set in London, and even more surprising most of my favourites from the anthology weren’t even set in London.  Read More …

Alex Shvartsman (ed.) – Unidentified Funny Objects 2

alexshvartsman-ufo2UFO2 is the second annual collection of humorous science fiction and fantasy short stories. Inside you’ll find:

– A golem on an interstellar cruise ship
– Dragon-taunting for fun and profit
– Time travel gone really wrong
– Cubicle farm wizardry
– Alien behemoths in Central Park

And much, much more!

Last year I read and enjoyed the first Unidentified Funny Objects anthology. When Alex Shvartsman approached me about reviewing the second volume, I immediately said yes, curious to see what he’d found this year. I wasn’t disappointed. There are fewer stories than last year, though they are longer and there are repeat appearances and new big names. I had a great time with the book, but there were some stories that didn’t work as well for me as others did.  Read More …

Jonathan Oliver (ed.) – The End of the Road

jonathanoliver-endoftheroadEach step will lead you closer to your destination, but who, or what, can you expect to meet at journey’s end?

Here are stories of misfits, spectral hitch-hikers, nightmare travel tales and the rogues, freaks and monsters to be found on the road.

The critically acclaimed editor of Magic, The End of The Line and House of Fear has brought together the contemporary masters and mistresses of the weird from around the globe in an anthology of travel tales like no other. Strap on your seatbelt, or shoulder your backpack, and wait for that next ride… into darkness.

Scary stories are still tricky reads for me. The balance between deliciously scary and nightmare-inducing is a thin line. As opposed to End of the Line which was straight-up horror, End of the Road takes road stories on with a slant to the weird, but still there are some pretty scary stories here. However, they stayed firmly on the side of deliciously scary, even if some of them pushed the line quite closely.   Read More …

Jared Shurin (ed.) – The Book of the Dead

jurassic-bookofthedeadThe Book of the Dead addresses the most fascinating of all the undead: the mummy. The mummy can be a figure of imperial dignity or one of shambling terror, at home in pulp adventure, contemporary drama, or apocalyptic horror. The anthology will be published in collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society, the UK’s oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt, dedicated to the promotion and understanding of ancient Egyptian history and culture.

This anthology includes nineteen original stories of revenge, romance, monsters and mayhem, ranging freely across time periods, genres and styles. The stories are illustrated by Garen Ewing, creator of The Adventures of Julius Chancer and introduced by John J. Johnston, Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society.

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Quick ‘n Dirty: Jared Shurin (ed.) – Ash

Quick ‘n Dirty is a term used for that first quick search you perform when starting a new research project. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive and all encompassing; it’s just an exploratory search to see what is out there and to collect more search terms before starting a true literature review. I thought it would be a good description for reviews of shorter works, such as short stories or novellas or for less comprehensive reviews of longer works. They may not be as in-depth as I usually try to write my reviews, but hopefully they’ll be a good introduction and indication whether you’d like the stories or books reviewed.

jurassiclondon-ashWhen Krakatoa exploded, it shook the world. The volcano rained fire and unleashed floods, but the worst was still to follow. 1883 was a year of darkness and cold, as the global temperature dropped and the skies were wreathed in ash. It was also a year of fiery sunsets and blue moons, where the impossible could – and did – happen…

Ash explores a world where myths come to life and strange creatures wash up in the shallows – a world where survival is only the first of many struggles, and the monsters can take many forms.

The stories of Ash take place in the same shared setting as 1853, A Town Called Pandemonium and the forthcoming The Streets of Pandemonium and The Rite of Spring.

Ash can be read on its own or part of the series.   Read More …