Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney (Solaris, April 12, 2022)
Here’s a novel I’ve been anticipating for some time — years even. C. S. E. Cooney has been working on it for even longer, to be sure. It is in a sense her first novel, except that an earlier planned novella, started I believe long after this novel was first drafted, got away from her a bit and ended up novel length, even though it has only been published in an original anthology. (This is The Twice-Drowned Saint, from the Mythic Delirium anthology A Sinister Quartet, which is well worth your time for all its stories.)
Time for full disclosure — I’ve known Claire Cooney for a long time now, and I consider her a good friend. I’ve been reading her fiction since 2007, when her first stories appeared, and I’ve reprinted several of her pieces. We are both long-time contributors to this eminent publication (and indeed it was John O’Neill, the overlord of Black Gate, who introduced us.) Claire gave me an advance copy of Saint Death’s Daughter. So calibrate this review as you will — I was praising her work before I knew her, mind you (and I thought the author of “Stone Shoes” might be male at first.) Still, I clearly am predisposed to like her fiction.
Often when authors discuss their writing process, they refer to bringing two seemingly disparate ideas together to create a story. Jason Fischer clearly followed this idea in writing the incredibly titled “Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh.”
The first story involves an undead man making his way through the Australian outback. As the story opens, the zombie finds itself hungry and surrounded by a herd of feral camels. He makes a snack out of one of the camels, allowing the wounded creature to continue on its way and infecting the rest of its herd.
The other story concerns Trevor Flannigan and Kevin “Swanny” Swanwick, two small time crooks who kill Buchanan, a local farm owner. Their story tells of their flight from the murder scene ahead of the police, as well as a look at Chief Inspector Wallis, who happens to be Buchanan’s brother-in-law and is trying to track them down and bring them to justice.
Behind both of these stories is the background of an Australia settled by the English, but invaded by the forces of Danish king Christian. Although the Danes don’t appear in Fischer’s story, their influence is felt throughout. After killing Buchanan and finding a safe full of krone with King Christian’s face on it, Trev realizes Buchanan was a spy. Trev and Swanny also discover that no matter how much money they got from their heist, they are unable to spend it as the flee, first to Pimba, and then on to Alice Springs, trying to get away from anyone chasing them.
Wallis is Fischer’s answer to Inspecter Javert, following the trail no matter where it leads, even as his realizes that the beaten-up car he is driving may not be able to return him and his quarry to civilization and justice. Even as Willis begins his chase after Trev and Swanny, he realizes that Buchanan was into something unsavory after finding a Danish krone amidst the crime scene. Nevertheless, his task is to bring Buchanan’s murderers to justice. There will be enough time to look into Buchanan’s crimes later.
Robert Aickman: An Attempted Biography (Tartarus Press, February 3, 2022)
Robert Aickman (1914-1981) was an iconic British writer especially known for his strange, uncanny stories, reprinted in several collections.He also penned a couple ofminor novels, but he’s mostly remembered for his ambiguous but riveting short fiction.
In addition, he was also a very active, influential member of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) and was instrumental in saving and promoting the restoration of the network of British canals. Those two activities have been the subject of two autobiographical books, The Attempted Rescue and The River Runs Uphill, respectively.
Aickman was also the editor of several volumes of the cult series of anthologies The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories.
Back in the days of Usenet, I started to put together a bibliography of science fiction that were built around baseball. One of the stories on that list is Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars.” Originally published in Robinson’s collection The Martians, a companion collection of short fiction to supplement his Mars trilogy that included Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Four months after “Arthur Sternback Brings the Curveball to Mars” was first published in the UK, it made its US debut in the August 1999 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, one month before the collection would be released in the U.S. by Bantam Spectra.
Since that time, the story has been reprinted in Robinson’s collections A Short, Sharp Shock, The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson, and Stan’s Kitchen and the anthologies Future Sports, The Hard SF Renaissance, New Skies, and Field of Fantasies (a collection of speculative fiction baseball stories). Demonstrating that interest in baseball is not limited to the US, the story has been translated into French, German, Spanish, and Romanian, in all but the last case as part of the original collection. The Romanian translation appeared in Sci-Fi Magazin. …
How does one describe one of one’s favorite books? How does one describe a book that he and nearly everyone he knew who read it experienced tremendous joy and satisfaction from reading it? How does one describe a book he enjoyed so much he feared any future works by its author might detract something from that book’s perfection? Well, first, he needs to stop writing about himself in the third person, because that’s rarely good. Then he needs simply to write, “Read The Last Coin and you will have read one of the most charming and joyful books I’ve ever read.”
My friend Carl started me down the path of becoming a James P. Blaylock reader when he tossed me an already worn copy of The Digging Leviathan (1984 — his third book. His first two, The Elfin Ship and The Disappearing Dwarf I’ve reviewed here on Black Gate.) With its cabals of conspiracists, hollow Earth theorizing, and besuited axolotls, I was completely enchanted with the book’s story of two boys in California in the middle of the last century in search of a connection with their absent or missing fathers. It’s rougher than his later novels, but here Blaylock was already introducing many of the tropes, and even characters he would revisit throughout his career.
When his next book, Homunculus (1986) came out, I ordered a copy from the long-gone local book store, The Book Nook, something I rarely did. It’s one of the books K.W. Jeter was thinking of — the others being his own Morlock Night and Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates — when he coined the portmanteau steampunk in a letter to Locus magazine. I enjoyed the book, which turned out to be the beginning of the ongoing adventures of Victorian inventor-cum-explorer Langdon St. Ives and the villainous hunchback, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo.
Not only did Stephen Baxter win the first Sidewise Award for Best Short Story and the second Sidewise Award for Best Novel, but he went on to serve on the Sidewise Award jury for several years, so he has very strong alternate history credentials. His short story “The Modern Cyrano” is subtle alternate history set during the middle of the nineteenth century.
Written as a series of entries in Queen Victoria’s journal during the period from September 1849 through May 1851, Baxter details the deaths of two of Prince Albert’s close friends and Victoria’s political allies. In the pages of her diary, Victoria plays amateur sleuth, noting down the details of their deaths as well as an accusation raised in both cases that the unexpected death of George Anson and the accidental death of Lord Palmerston were both caused by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was nearby around the time of both deaths.
In the 1850s of Baxter’s tale, Brunel, in addition to the massive engineering projects he was undertaking in our world, including the Great Exhibition, Brunel is also experimenting with a form of rocket. His push to move England forward has stuck in the craw of Charles Sibthorp, an ultraconservative member of Parliament who wanted England to remain the way it was in his youth in the 1700s. An antagonist to Prince Albert, Sibthorp views anything to support the Great Exhibition as an evil to be fought against.
The story’s arc is pretty straight forward from the moment the characters are introduced, but the enjoyment of the story comes from the combination of reading Victoria’s diary and seeing her putting the clues together and a nineteenth century Nancy Drew and the side notes that Baxter includes to provide the reader with the context needed to fully understand the characters and motivations. He has managed to incorporate his “data dumps” into the story in a realistic and entertaining way.
What does it mean to be an exile? How does that meaning bend across lines of nationality, of gender, of religion? How many different ways can being exiled shape, define, ruin, or even save a life?
This is just one set of questions raised by All the Seas of the World, the newest novel from master fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay. The novel, Kay’s fifteenth, comes from Berkley and will be released on May 17, 2022.
All the Seas of the World is the third in a sequence of novels set in the lands around the Middle Sea, Kay’s reimagining of the Mediterranean region of Europe and North Africa, in a time period akin to the early Renaissance. The first novel set in this time and place, Children of Earth and Sky, actually takes place after the second installment, A Brightness Long Ago. This third novel is placed chronologically between the two. Kay prefers not to refer to the books as a trilogy, and with reason. Though related, and featuring recurring characters, each book stands alone. Taken together, the stories here fit into a world history Kay began to build with The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995), and built upon in Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors (1998 and 2000), and The Last Light of the Sun (2004).
“Cambion: the half-human offspring of the union between a human male and a Succubus, or a human female and an Incubus.”
A Hybrid’s Tale is the latest offering by Andrew P. Weston. It’s a short, fast-paced novel set in the realm of “demondim,” and is the first book in his new series, The Cambion Journals. It’s “billed” as Occult Horror, but it’s much more than that. Weston skillfully blends and cross-breeds genres: supernatural horror and science fiction, fantasy and mythology, and a modern-day, action-packed thriller. It’s also a story of love and devotion, and something of a dark and sexy detective story, as well. This is a twisted game of cat-and-mouse — a frantic hunt and chase spanning continents and other dimensions.
Kit Reed’s “The Food Farm” first appeared in Damon Knight’s Orbit 2 in 1967. It has been reprinted in Judith Merril’s SF 12, Voyages: Scenarios for a Ship Called Earth, Fat, Women of Wonder, Alpha 6, The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book, Weird Women, Wired Women, and The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, as well as being translated into German, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese.
In this story, Reed offers up Nelly, a teenage girl who is obsessed with two things: the singer Tommy Fango and eating. While her parents do not have any problem with her musical tastes, they are concerned with her voracious appetite and do everything they can to control her caloric intake. Their concerns makes them take extreme steps to keep her from eating too much, including locking her in her room. Nothing they could do, including starving Nelly worked as Nelly would break out of her room in the middle of the night to find food, either in the refrigerator or outside the house if necessary. Eventually, her parents sent her to the facility of the title, where food is not made available.
Seen through Nelly’s eyes, everything about the place is torture with the sole exception of her roommate, Ramona, who tries to help her get used to the idea of living on the massively reduced rations they are allowed. Ramona also has access to a recording of Tommy Fango, although the girls are only able to listen to it once a day. Although Ramona is able to come up with ways to make it through her days and tries to get Nelly to try her methods, Nelly refuses to give in, insisting in wallowing in the lack of food and focusing her energy on the matron who controlled her access to food.
Sylvia Jacobs has a career in science fiction spanning eighteen years, from the publication of “A Stitch in Time” in the April 1951 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and running through the April 1969 issue of Galaxy Magazine, when her story “Slave to Man” appeared. Her body of work, however, is not entirely reflective of that longevity, consisting of eight short stories and two essays, all except one of which were published within a decade of her first appearance.
Her second story, “The Pilot and the Bushman,” appeared in the August 1951 issue of Galaxy Magazine and would eventually be reprinted in Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction the following year. It belongs to the same category of science fiction as Fred Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants (originally published in Galaxy as Gravy Planet), using an advertising executive to look at consumerism and aliens, although Jacobs’ work has a very different feel than the more famous story.
Jacobs tells the tale of Jerry Jergens, a New York advertising executive, and the Ambassador from Outer Space. Following an accidental statement by the Ambassador that aliens had a Matter Repositor which made trade and manufacturing unnecessary, Earth began to suffer from a buyer’s strike. The Ambassador admits that discussing the Repositor was a mistake, but he refuses to deny its existence and interstellar law forbids him from sharing the technology with humans. Jerry, however has an offer to help get the Ambassador out of the fix he’s in. In return for which, Jerry wants to be able to market Earth to aliens, a proposition that the Ambassador does not see as something that can be successful.