Neil Gaiman – Trigger Warning

neilgaiman-triggerwarningIn this new volume, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction-stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013-as well as BLACK DOG, a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods.

Trigger Warning is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explores the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story-a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane-Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year-stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A new Neil Gaiman book or collection is usually greeted by lots of cheers of readers all over the world. When his third short story collection was announced, this was readily apparent all over the internet. And then the title was announced and things got a little less cheery. Gaiman decided to title his collection Trigger Warning: short fiction and disturbances. For various reasons people were unhappy about this. The announcement came at a time when mainstream discussion on trigger warnings and whether to include them on prescribed reading lists at universities and colleges  was turning heated and the discussion was quickly co-opted by the ‘feminism is ruining everything’-crowd. In his introduction to his collection Gaiman explains that he was fascinated by the phenomenon of trigger warnings in an academic environment and his thoughts on the subject led him to decide to slap some trigger warnings on his own fiction before someone else did.  Read More …

Jennifer Brozek – Apocalypse Girl Dreaming

jenniferbrozek-apocalypsegirldreammingPeek into the mind and dreams of award winning editor and author Jennifer Brozek. Travel from the weird west to the hidden worlds of Kendrick all the way to the far reaches of space. This collection contains twenty previously published short stories and includes the brand new Kember Empire story “Found on the Body of a Solider.” Enjoy your journey and don’t forget your survival gear. Apocalypse Girl is waiting.

Includes a foreword by science fiction author Jody Lynn Nye.

When I was contacted about reviewing Jennifer Brozek’s new short story collection Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, there were two things that sprung to mind: I remembered hearing her on the SF Signal podcast and really enjoying the episodes and I remembered reading her Valdemar story in Under the Vale and liking her angle of looking at those who are rejected for Collegium instead of the ones who are Chosen. So I was pleased to get the opportunity to read more by Brozek and discover what else she had written. It turns out Brozek is a versatile writer as at home in fantasy as she is in military SF or the Weird West and everything in-between.  Read More …

Carrie Cuinn – Women and Other Constructs

carriecuinn-womenandotherconstructsRobot tech support, helpful zombies, monster hunting in the Lacandan Jungle, a little girl who grows up to be the Ice Queen–and just for fun, a sonnet about a murderous robot. You can find all of this and more in Women and Other Constructs, the first short story collection by Carrie Cuinn.

Having previously encountered Carrie Cuinn’s work mainly in her capacity as an editor – and enjoying it a lot – I was curious to see how I would like her short fiction. The publication of her first – of hopefully many more – collection of short stories seemed a perfect opportunity to find out. And I have to say that the only thing wrong with the collection is its length, because I ended the collection wanting more. The collection contains eight stories and one poem and still only takes 84 pages and I would have loved to read more.      Read More …

Guy Hasson – Secret Thoughts

guyhasson-secretthoughtsUsually I start off a review with the cover copy of a book or the description from the publisher’s page. Since the book doesn’t have cover copy and the description on the publisher’s page is almost as long as my average review, I thought I’d forego that custom today and just give you the gist of it myself. Secret Thoughts contains three novella’s set in the same alternate Earth-setting in which telepathy is possible and even regulated. Each novella examines the use, the ethics and the dangers of using such a gift, set against a background where possession of said gift quickly comes to mean a death sentence.    Read More …

Cat Rambo – Near+Far

catrambo-near+farWhether set in terrestrial oceans or on far-off space stations, Cat Rambo’s masterfully told stories explore themes of gender, despair, tragedy, and the triumph of both human and non-human alike. Cats talk, fur wraps itself around you, aliens overstay their welcome, and superheroes deal with everyday problems. Rambo has been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, and among many others. She was an editor for Fantasy Magazine, has written numerous nonfiction articles and interviews, and has volunteered time with Broad Universe and Clarion West. She has been shortlisted for the Endeavour Award, the Million Writers Award, the Locus Awards, and most recently a World Fantasy Award.

Before reading Near+Far, I had only heard Cat Rambo’s work in audio form as there have been numerous Escape Pod episodes featuring her stories. In fact, if after reading this review you are still wondering whether this collection is to your taste, I highly recommend listening to these stories. The ones from this collection available from Escape Pod are in chronological order: Kalakkak’s Cousins, The Mermaids Singing, Each to Each, Angry Rose’s Lament, and A Querulous Flute of Bone. They’re not just a good taste of Rambo’s writing, they’re also great stories and well worth your time. These were the stories I already knew, but in Near+Far I discovered a collection filled with wonderful stories and even if there were a few that didn’t work so well for me, the majority of them were a treat.

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Tanith Lee – Cold Grey Stones

A unique collection of eleven stories from Britain’s foremost Mistress of the Fantastic; all are previously uncollected, two have never appeared in print before and five stories are wholly original to this collection.

Tanith Lee’s latest collection, published by NewCon Press, is part of their new Imaginings line. This line will consist of short story collections by selected authors and contain previously published, but uncollected, stories and some original stories picked by the authors themselves. You can find more information on this venture on the NewCon Press website.

When I was offered a chance to review this collection, I jumped at the chance. Tanith Lee is an author I’ve heard so much about, but never got around to reading, at least that’s what I thought when accepting this collection for review. It turns out however I’ve read two anthologies containing her work, The Dragon Quintet, which contained her novelette Love In A Time Of Dragons, and Winter Moon, which has her novella The Heart Of The Moon. Both of these were purchased because they also contained stories by Mercedes Lackey and as such I hadn’t remembered that Lee was also part of them. However, after looking them up, I do recall enjoying them a lot and marking down Lee’s name to find more work by her. This brings us back to the present and Cold Grey Stones, which provided me with more of her work and I didn’t even have to go out and hunt for it.

Cold Grey Stones contains eleven stories that range from quite long, almost novella-length, to just short vignettes. In subject they range from horror to fantasy. While I liked all of them, I did have some favourites, but what bound all of them together was the wonderful quality of the writing. For some of the more modern stories, the style was crisp and contemporary, but many of the stories included in this collection have an almost fairytale-like quality to them, which I really enjoyed. Lee’s use of language ranges from the sharp and angular (Killing Her) to the poetic (The Heart of Ice), but they all convey a mastery of language and a facility with words, which makes reading these stories such a lovely experience.

My favourite stories were Clockatrice, The Greyve, En Forêt Noire and My Heart: A Stone. These all contain a riddle and possess something haunted, in some cases literally, in the others more metaphysically. Clockatrice, the first story in the collection and one of the longest, tells the story of the 16th-century Diana, who was petrified by a cockatrice, and that of modern-day Dru, who becomes fascinated by her story and that of her lover, who had a clock created in her memory, which was ornamented with both her image and that of the cockatrices. I loved the Gothic feel to this one and the visuals it created in my head of the clockatrice being. Another story set in the modern day, the combination of its depiction of the horror that today’s economy is for people badly affected by it, and the protagonist’s somewhat lackadaisical acceptance of the appearance of what seems to be an animated headstone, lends The Greyve a rather absurdist tone, but one that is laced with hope, even if the ending is somewhat less than happy. En Forêt Noire is a blend of horror, mystery and classical ghost story set in what seems to be 18th-century France. I loved the sensibilities in this one and the ending really surprised me. My Heart: A Stone is a true ghost story, one with a moral about human nature. I loved the narrator and his fey-like nature that allowed him to shift into a hare at night. He’s also rather unreliable, as it isn’t clear what is true and what is fancy until the very end. I liked this aspect a lot and again, it made for a surprising ending. I loved the stark visuals Lee created of opulence gone to seed, of beauty corrupted by the bitter consequences of indulgence.

The combination of the stories collected in Cold Grey Stones not only gives a good overview of Tanith Lee’s broad range, but it’s also a wonderful jumping-off point to explore her work further. The book opens with a lovely introduction by Ian Whates, who recounts his first encounter of Lee’s work on the form of the first two volumes of The Secret Books of Paradys. He waxes quite lyrical about them and, as luck would have it, my husband brought an omnibus edition of these books home last year, so I’ll be able to follow in Whates’ footsteps and explore more of Tanith Lee’s work. If you haven’t encountered her writing before, but like me have heard a lot of good things about it, Cold Grey Stones is an excellent introduction. If you’re a long time fan, it will provide you with some lovely new work or previously printed work you may not have encountered before. In either case, Cold Grey Stones comes highly recommended and is well worth your reading time. Cold Grey Stones is available in the UK as a signed, limited hardback edition and in both Kindle and ePub-formats everywhere.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.