Archive For The “Reviews” Category
Review by Piper Mejia
Crow Shine is a collection of short stories by Alan Baxter. Starting with the title tale, Baxter takes you on a journey of cursed objects and their even more cursed owners. From moonshine and guitars to a street side toy maker and a pair of stolen dice, each story is crafted to make any reader think twice about the power of possessions.
Though the male protagonists are easily recognisable as good time Charlies or the drinking buddy at the bar, the women are less so, but perhaps that’s to be expected as maybe women are not so easily lead astray by the thirst for power and fame.
However, in each story Baxter has shown his skill in observing the human condition; that all we want is to be noticed, to have our lives mean something, and that, in the end, there is nothing we won’t sacrifice for the people we love.
I admire the variation in his characters, his clever world play and his skill in taking an idea to a place you never thought of. For something to read when your life is too busy for a novel, I recommend you give Crow Shine your time.
Review by Robinne Weiss
Frankie N. Stein wants to be a famous inventor, but her inventions only get her into trouble. Her monster tomato named Martie grows to the size of a beach ball and terrorises the school, her shrink ray is confiscated by the teacher, her Homeworkulator decides it doesn’t like doing homework, her Megadron hot air balloon monster eats children…But these setbacks only spur Frankie to more wild ideas.
The Frankie Files is a collection of what are essentially journal entries written by a precocious, nerdy girl. Frankie’s voice is distinct, strong, and full of dry humour, though her thought processes are decidedly those of a child—don’t look for coherence or logic in the mind of a six year-old. As in many children’s books, most of the adult characters in The Frankie Files are simply impediments to Frankie’s brilliant ideas. All except one mysterious woman, Ms Xavier, who shows up from time to time to enable and encourage Frankie in her creative scientific pursuits.
Voiceless by EG Wilson
Review by A.J. Ponder
Adelaide Te Ngawai’s voice is stolen, and not just her voice, her ability to communicate. She knows who infected her, Maunga Richards. But why would Maunga give her Vox Pox?
It’s the worst thing imaginable, especially for a writer, but Adelaide’s brother makes her a device to help her cope, and slowly but surely Adelaide begins to claw her life back. Still, nothing about the illness makes any sense, it’s restricted to a small area, and appears to be a man-made condition. But how? And why? Adelaide is determined to unravel the mystery.
Review: Bound by Alan Baxter
Review by Nix Whittaker
Super action packed well-written story. Easy to read but a little darker than I like my books. Not just that but the swearing and other stuff though realistic to the character’s situation is not my thing.
The story is of Alex Caine a street fighter who can see more than meets the eye. A stranger arrives at one of his fights and we basically fall into a quest/the one trope. I like these kinds of tropes so I thought I would enjoy the story more, especially since it was beautifully written. Unfortunately, I also like my stereotypical completely obvious stories to be peppered with more comedy. Also, I like a story that leans more to being able to pass the Bechdel test. I did like Silhouette. She was fun and witty. I’d recommend this book for male readers though and I admit I like my books geared towards either women or at least gender neutral. This reminded me of Ian Fleming. On the outside the main character looks bad ass and cool but the more you delve into the character you realise that he is shallow. I believe the author was aware of this issue and did try to alleviate this as Alex really doesn’t want to be that stereotypical bad ass.
Review: Ferox by Chris Brausch
Review by Nix Whittaker
If all the teenage dystopian texts had a love child with all the darkest space operas you would get Ferox. It is a little wordy but it is clever so I’ll forgive it its verbose nature.
Set a thousand years in the future where the world is pretty much starving to death and China has taken over New Zealand and made everyone into slaves. We follow the story of a few characters on both side so the conflict. We have the desperate and the pragmatic along with the plain just evil but they are pitched to us the reader in a way that makes us not completely hate them.
The Devil’s Children and Standing on the Threshold of Madness by Benjamin Blake
Review by Dan Rabarts
Benjamin Blake’s The Devil’s Children is a coming-home story, a tale of two young men who have left the small town behind them, but the town has never really let them go. Fuelled by nostalgia, the pointlessness of their existences, and a gnawing sense of things left undone, Harry and Adam return to their hometown of Wycombe, Massachusetts with plans to relive their easy-going teen years in a haze of beer fumes and cigarette smoke, only to find that things are not how they remember. The town is plagued by strange happenings, and so they set about investigating – when they’re not drinking or hunting fruitlessly for their lost phones.
Auckland Allies, by Mike Reeves-McMillan
Reviewed by Nix Whittaker.
I’m a big fan of stories that represent who we are. I hadn’t realised how important it was to also have stories set in places familiar to us as well. Auckland Allies is set in Auckland where I went to Uni just like Steampunk Sally. The places the Auckland Allies run around is a wallow in nostalgia that was glorious.
Auckland Allies is set in modern times but with people with magic, called practitioners, Tara is a Maker and Sparx is her neighbour. They end up being chased by blokes in black all because Tara did some work for Sally. A mistake on their part as instead of keeping their plans secret they made enemies. Okay, they aren’t powerful enemies but they are resourceful.
Hand of the Trickster by Mike McMillan-Reeves
Reviewed by Nix Whittaker
This is a novella about a band of thieves that have come together to steal a book of questionable safety. Mostly we follow the character Now you see it. He is a a priest of the trickster cult that allows him to conjure up items. They have been commissioned to steal the book by a demon and things get tricky from there.
It took me a while to read this even though it isn’t very long mainly because I’m not a fan of male protagonists but Now is an interesting man with a strong set of rules that fits interestingly with his complete lack of qualms about stealing things.
Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith
Book One in the Agents of Kalanon Series
Ever since Darian Smith won the SpecFicNZ/Steam Press Manuscript Award, many of us have been waiting less than patiently for the release of Kalanon’s Rising, the first book in his Agents of Kalanon fantasy mystery series. Let me just say, it’s been worth the wait.
Simply put the story goes like this: when the body of the king’s cousin is found mutilated in a local inn, the king calls in his friend, soldier-turned-surgeon, Sir Brannon Kesh, to solve the murder.
The Sleeper’s Dance, Mouse Diver-Dudfield
Reviewed by Lee Murray
Mouse Diver-Dudfield is an exciting new voice in New Zealand dark fiction, whom I stumbled upon by chance via social media. It was a lucky find. I one-clicked her novella, The Sleeper’s Dance and read it that same night before bed. In short, I loved it. A blend of historical fiction and pulp zombie, this is the story you might get if David Livingstone had discovered a new life form amongst the ruins of an Incan civilisation ‒ that is, if Livingstone hadn’t been somewhere in southern Africa at the time. Diver-Dudfield’s particular skill is in the voice of her main character and narrator, Rupert Mendenhall, his gentleman’s account so perfectly academic and matter-of-fact in spite of the calamity his party faces. There is no breathless panic, no thundering of hearts, or stench of blood in the nostrils. And it’s this restraint, this careful pacing of her narrative, which serves to freeze the reader’s blood. Small and perfectly formed, for the cost of a gold coin, The Sleeper’s Dance is a must-read for horror fans.
Mariah’s Dream by Grace Bridges.
Review by Lee Murray
I read Mariah’s Dream quickly last year, when it appeared on the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Awards ballot, but because there was a lot of material on the reading list, I didn’t get around to reviewing it, which meant I’ve now the pleasure of reading it a second time. And the second time around, Mariah’s Dream is as satisfying and thought-provoking as the first.
Grace Bridges’ dystopic tale is set in a near future, in Ireland, where history is repeating itself and the people of Belfast are dying of starvation. The crops fail, this time by design, when a ‘terminator gene’ is introduced by a government regime as a means to oppress the people. Mariah has already lost her mother, her brother is mouldering in a work camp, and now, on the eve of a breakthrough which might save them all, her best friend is being deported by the regime. Amid the turbulence, outspoken and resourceful Mariah becomes the unwitting leader of the Guild, a group which just might turn out to be the world’s best chance of survival.
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The story is a simple journey. Simon and his friend, the Tin Man, must journey through this world of ruin and decay to try and find a way home. We learn of the world with Simon. We are experiencing his journey. There is no base experience to leverage off. Everything is strange and foreign and this is what absorbs you as a reader. You need to learn what is over the next wall. You need to make sure that Simon and the Tin Man escape the current horror, only to face more down the path.