The Overneath (2017) by Peter S. Beagle

The Overneath is a new collection of short stories by Peter S. Beagle, the writer of The Last Unicorn (1968). I enjoyed all thirteen of these stories, and found it difficult to single out favourites. They are all of the highest quality and cry out to be read. These gems cover genres including fantasy, science fiction, supernatural horror, and steampunk. For fans of The Last Unicorn, there are two stories which feature one of Beagle’s most beloved characters, Schmendrick the magician.

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The following stories impressed me the most: Continue reading

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What happened to Summer Reading?

Hello September! Where did the summer go? It’s finally cooling down at night over here on the west side of Japan. Which means autumn is just around the corner, I’m happy to say. I love the heat of the summer over here, but you can take the humidity, please, no really, please take it away! Can you imagine working at a school in 35+ degree-heat with over 70% humidity, without air conditioning? It’s like working in a sauna.

But enough moaning from me. I hope your summer was fantastic. Did you get a lot of summer reading done?..

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I didn’t. Continue reading

White Time (2000) by Margo Lanagan

“One night he woke and it was spread around the moonlit room like oil dribbled on water; its bare organs leaned in a clump near the door, swaying very gently.” –The Night Lily (p.130)

 

7bd5896a57-c7ec-43a4-bf47-3c534d6b08c07dimg400Margo Lanagan is an Australian writer of short stories and Young Adult fiction. Her 2004 book of short stories, Black Juice, won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection in 2005. White Time is Lanagan’s first short story collection, and was published in Australia in 2000 and America in 2006. It contains ten short stories of speculative fiction.

It was Neil Gaiman’s glowing recommendation of Lanagan’s Black Juice which first brought the author to my attention. Black Juice’s opening story, “Singing my Sister Down”, is a mesmerizing piece of short fiction which left a deep impression on me when I first read it. So, I was looking forward to reading this, her first collection, and comparing the two books. (Which means a re-read of Black Juice is in order!) Continue reading

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven (2017) by Jonathan Strahan (Editor)

As the unreality readings spike, the ghost by her side becomes sharper and sharper,
– “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard, (Loc 2088)

 

Jonathan Strahan’s latest collection of the best science fiction and fantasy stories of the year features 28 short stories from 2016. His selected stories include works of hard sci-fi, space opera, dystopia, alternate history, future noir, cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy, grimdark, and reimagined fairy tales. Such a wide range of short stories makes this an ideal collection for readers who are looking for variety in their speculative fiction. And the talent on display is quite staggering.

Volume Eleven includes two Nebula Award-nominated short stories: “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller, and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar. It also contains the Nebula Award-nominated novelette: “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” by Alyssa Wong. The remaining 25 stories are by Catherynne M. Valente, Naomi Novik, Paolo Bacigalupi, Joe Abercrombie, Rich Larson, Aliette de Bodard, Daryl Gregory, Alex Irvine, Alice Sola Kim, Seth Dickinson, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Delia Sherman, Genevieve Valentine, Geoff Ryman, Nina Allan, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K. Jemisin, Theodora Goss, Lavie Tidhar, Yoon Ha Lee, Paul McAuley, E. Lily Yu, Ken Liu, Ian R. MacLeod, and Charles Yu.

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In his introduction, Strahan writes about some of 2016’s SF&F short story trends including the “reaction to climate change,” “the novella boom,” as well as more exposure for “writers from Asian and African nations”. It was nice to see the editor including stories by some of these writers whose names and works I am now familiar with. This has led to a more diverse and entertaining reading experience for me, and gives us some idea of just how much quality there is out there. Continue reading

The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories (2017) Edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

“Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud.  And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire”
(Quran 15:26-27)

Up until quite recently, I was only familiar with the word “genie” as a descriptor for supernatural beings that have a reputation for living in old lamps and granting wishes. The stories in this collection use either “djinn”, “jinn” or “genie” to represent these entities that are very different from the Robin Williams-voiced, cute, animated character seen in Disney’s Aladdin. So, what are these mysterious, misrepresented creatures? Here is what the website “islamreligion.com” says about them:

“The Jinn are beings created with free will, living on earth in a world parallel to mankind.  The Arabic word Jinn is from the verb ‘Janna’ which means to hide or conceal. Thus, they are physically invisible from man as their description suggests.”
(Source: islamreligion.com. Link here.)

the-djinn-falls-in-loveIn The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories, editors Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin have compiled a wonderfully varied collection of 22 tales of “Djinn” from authors including Nnedi Okorafor, Sami Shah, Monica Byrne, Claire North, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J Parker, Saad Hossein, James Smythe and Neil Gaiman. It was nice to find a mixture of writers I knew as well as ones who were new to me; one of the great things about short story collections.

And what a collection this is. I haven’t enjoyed a short story collection as much as this in a long time. This is a wonderful book and a book full of wonders. Every tale is well told. It’s a cornucopia of enchanting tales that sheds light on the human condition as well as the supernatural Djinn. It was difficult to select a favorite so I’ll write a couple of lines about the stories that really stood out for me. Continue reading