The Murders of Molly Southbourne (2017) by Tade Thompson

To run or fight is the most important rule, but there is also the blood rule. Don’t bleed.’

 

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My Thoughts

I’ve been hearing great things about author Tade Thompson over the last couple of years. ‘Rosewater,’ his 2016 Nigeria-set sf novel, has been receiving high praise around the blogosphere. (I recently bought a copy and will be reading it in November.)

I chose The Murders of Molly Southbourne as one of my 2018 Halloween reads. It’s a very readable horror novella about coming of age, survival and murder. It has a nonlinear narrative, opening with a tense scene that occurs right near the end of the story. Learning how we reach that scene is both compelling and disturbing. Continue reading

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Hallowe’en Reads 2018

The sky before a typhoon. View from my garden.

Happy Autumn!

As the days cool and grow shorter and the darkness spreads its ebony fingers, are you ready for some chills and thrills?

Yes, it’s that time of year again when I make – and often fail to complete – a plan for my October reading. As the theme is Hallowe’en, my chosen genre is horror or any kind of weird fiction. I’m planning to focus on novellas and short stories this year as my reading-time has shrunk over the last few months. So, without further ado, here is my list of stories to read as I tentatively set foot into the October country. Continue reading

Bearly a Lady (2017) by Cassandra Khaw

Last year I read and reviewed Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone and Rupert Wong novellas. Both works really impressed me, putting Khaw on my must-read author list. Bearly a Lady was released in July 2017 and I bought it on release day – the first time I’ve done so with a new book for quite a while. Unfortunately, my tbr pile and lifeTM have delayed my reading of it until this month.

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Bearly a Lady is a very funny story about modern relationships. It’s set in present-day London and introduces us to Zelda, a young woman working for a fashion magazine. She shares a flat with her roommate Zora. But these two twenty-somethings are no ordinary flat mates; Zelda is a werebear and Zora a vampire. Continue reading

Ironclads (2017) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

In the near future, giant corporations run the world. Britain is now part of America, and is at war with the Nords, (basically Scandanavia). The technology of war has advanced, enabling the sons of the rich to be equipped with ‘Ironclads’. These are giant Gundam-style battle suits which make the fortunate operators close to invincible. Lucky for the haves but what about the have-nots?

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For ordinary soldiers such as Sergeant Ted Regan, there is no such protection. They are the ground troops, the cannon fodder, the expendables. They are the ones who must take the biggest risks. Their chances of coming back in one piece are pretty slim. And if they are expecting thanks for their efforts, then they’re in the wrong job. Continue reading

The Ballad of Black Tom (2016) by Victor LaValle

“The more I read, the more I listened, the more sure I became that a great and secret show had been playing throughout my life, throughout all our lives, but the mass of us were too ignorant, or too frightened, to raise our eyes and watch.” (p.41)

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As a prelude to reading this novella, I sought out and read H.P. Lovecraft’s 1926 short story The Horror at Red Hook. It isn’t essential to read this story first, but it does add background to LaValle’s novella. It is also pretty shocking for the sentiments its author so blatantly reveals. Here’s what I wrote about it on Goodreads:

The Horror at Red Hook is infamous for being Lovecraft’s most racist tale. It’s a short story of black magic, human sacrifice, and a policeman chasing after his sanity. Dosed with some cringe-worthy xenophobia and the usual Lovecraftian purple-prose, it’s a forgettable story that doesn’t compare to his later, more famous tales.”

 

The Ballad of Black Tom is Victor LaValle’s re-imagining of the events depicted in Lovecraft’s short story. LaValle brings in some new characters, notably Tommy Tester, a young, black bluesman who shares an apartment in Red Hook with his father. When the story opens, Tommy is mixed up in the illegal ferrying of rare books, specifically books of an occult nature. His meeting with the mysterious Ma Att, a buyer of such books, foreshadows the strange and dangerous path Tommy’s life will follow from here.  Continue reading

Black Amazon of Mars (1951) by Leigh Brackett

“My name is Stark. Eric John Stark, Earthman, out of Mercury.”

 

From 1949 to 1951, Leigh Brackett wrote three short stories set on Mars: “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”, “Enchantress of Venus” and “Black Amazon of Mars”. They each featured her Mercury-born hero, Eric John Stark, and were published in the pulp magazine Planet Stories. Pulp adventure or space fantasy, “Black Amazon of Mars” is an entertaining adventure story that both tips its hat to, and outshines, the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.

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At the beginning of the story, Stark is travelling across the cold “Norlands” of Mars with Camar, his Martian friend. They are being pursued and Camar has been mortally wounded. He has stolen something of great value, a “talisman”, which Stark promises to return to his friend’s city of birth, “Kushat”. Camar is pleased but fears for Stark’s safety if he continues on alone. Continue reading

Acadie (2017) by Dave Hutchinson

“What if I were to offer you a way off this howling nightmare of a planet? Right now?”
     “You have some kind of magic spaceship that takes off through seven-hundred-kilometer-an-hour blizzards?”
     She wrinkled her nose and grinned coquettishly. “Oh, I have something better than that.” (Loc 219)

 

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Art by Stephen Youll

Back cover blurb: “The first humans still hunt their children across the stars.

The Colony left Earth to find utopia, a home on a new planet where their leader could fully explore their genetic potential, unfettered by their homeworld’s restrictions. They settled a new paradise, and have been evolving and adapting for centuries. Earth has other plans.

The original humans have been tracking their descendants across the stars, bent on their annihilation. They won’t stop until the new humans have been destroyed, their experimentation wiped out of the human gene pool.

Can’t anyone let go of a grudge anymore?


John Wayne “Duke” Faraday, president of “the Colony”, is recovering from his 150th birthday celebrations when he is rudely awakened. An unidentified probe has been picked up on the scanners; a probe which could be from Earth. This is not good news for the Colony as they have no intention of being found. Will they shoot first and ask questions later? Or is the probe’s technology too valuable to simply destroy?

Part of Tor’s “Summer of Space Opera”, Dave Hutchinson’s new novella “Acadie” explores themes including genetic modification, artificial intelligence, and the colonization of new worlds. Being a Dave Hutchinson story, it is replete with crisp, flowing dialogue and a biting sense of humour. Continue reading