Tag Archives: Anthology

Review: Distaff – A Science Fiction Anthology by Female Authors (edited by Rosie Oliver)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

I’m back with a review of a wonderful anthology and I hope my review will make you curious enough to get yourselves a copy. 🙂

The first tale, The Broken Man, by Jane O’Reilly, has a beautiful allegorical feel to it, almost as if it’s a myth which had been handed down through generations, while also being a look at the impact waste and pollution have on society. It follows the efforts of a girl, Kiko, to save a man who fell from a city in the clouds, and how what she does changes her and the man she rescues.

Space Rocks, by Kerry Buchanan, follows the return of a crew to Earth after they’ve collected some interesting rock-samples. These samples turn out to be much more than what they appear to be, and the tale does a great job of exploring how seemingly innocent actions can have wide, even dangerous, ramifications.

The Ice Man, by Rosie Oliver, is a clever murder mystery sans spaceships or aliens, and may seem out of place in this anthology, but it’s one of my stand-out stories; I really enjoyed this one! 🙂

A Cold Night in H3-II, from Juliana Spink Mills, is a claustrophobic and tense look at how a colony continues to dwindle after most of its population was struck down by a mysterious sickness. It’s tense and pacey and reminded me of The Thing (Carpenter’s original). Great tale!

The Colour of Silence, by Damaris Browne, explores the lengths parents will go to to protect and save their children. In this tale, humanity’s future, our children, have been infected with a terrible disease, and the only hope for them is the technology of an alien race.

Holo-Sweet, by E. J. Tett, is a cute, fun tale about love, AI’s, and the search for actors. Having enjoyed ‘Love, Sex and Robots’, I think this tale would translate wonderfully to that show. 🙂

My Little Mecha, by Shellie Horst, is a tale which explores what happens when children break free of the limitations and narratives forced on them by their parents, using an orbital defence station and an attack on it as its vehicles. Well written, and another stand-out story.

Ab Initio, by Susan Bolton, is a tale which explores the changes a deadly disease outbreak wrought on society, and cleverly uses age and how it affects our need to create as one of its vehicles.

The Shadows Are Us And They Are The Shadows, by Jo Zebedee, cleverly explores the aftermath of global devastation from the perspective of an interesting people. I won’t say more than that, in an effort not to spoil the story. It’s memorable and different, another great stand-out.

All in all, this anthology works wonderfully in showing that SF is still a genre which has a lot to say and has so many ways in which to say those things. Filled with great ideas and characters, Distaff is, hopefully, the first volume in what I hope will be an anthology series, and deserves to be widely read and enjoyed.

9 / 10

For more info about the anthology, the talented story tellers and their tales, check out this site. The anthology will be released on August 15 and is available for pre-order. 🙂 Also, go ahead and add Distaff to your Goodreads shelf.

Until next time,


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Posted by on June 28, 2019 in Reviews


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Review: AfroSF – Volume 3 – edited by Ivor W Hartmann (StoryTime Publishing)

You might remember that I reviewed the first volume of AfroSF back in 2013, and although I missed the second volume, I was glad to be able to read and review this third volume.

This anthology features writers also had work published in the first and second volumes – voices who have quickly become a well-deserved barometer of the growth of African Science Fiction, and writers I haven’t read before.

The anthology opens with Njuzu from T.L. Huchu, and explores the roles grief and long-held beliefs co-mingle off-planet. The tale is heartfelt and gentle, exploring a mystery not easily understood – but the mystery of the tale adds to the sadness and Huchu leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the mystery is important or not. Follow Tendai and his work at @TendaiHuchu.

The Girl Who Stared at Mars by Cristy Zinn explores how we always take with us what we’re trying to escape from. It is a lyrical, soft and yet intense read which many, many readers will love, even though it might call upon some of their own painful memories. Head over to for more info about Cristy and her work.

The EMO Hunter, by Mandisi Nkomo, explores a variety of themes by way of a kind of cyberpunk personality-crisis meditation on the extremes of climate science or beliefs. Sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but the tale works on both the detailed, character-focused level and the more encompassing top-down level. Visit for more info and Mandisi and his work.

The Luminal Frontier, by Biram Mboob, is one of the best time travel tales I’ve ever read. One thing that has always bugged me about time travel is the inherent paradox at the heart of every plot – and Biram answers this in a mind-bending manner even Christopher Nolan would be blown away by. I will be very surprised (and both saddened and angered) if this story doesn’t appear in Best Of’s and Mammoth Book Of’s later this year. Mind-blowing stuff! Follow Biram at @BiramMboob.

The Far Side by Gabriella Muwanga seems almost unfinished, or perhaps ‘unfocused’ would be a better description. The tale follows what a father will do for his child, and on the face of that, works – but the story is marred by the sometimes almost childish reactions and spitefulness of the main character, which leech a bit of the emotional strength of the story. Still, it will make readers think, and succeeds.

Drift-Flux by Wole Talabi is a great example of how much one can cram into a short story to make it exciting, pacey and entertaining. There’s a wonderful feel of The Expanse and Firefly to this tale, and the main character’s Nigerian-Idoma roots play an important part in the plot. It’s well-written, with great pace and excellent action. Check out Wole’s site for more info about him and his work.

Journal of a DNA Pirate by Stephen Embleton is a nasty, vicious, exciting tale – it shows how of group of extremists plan to ‘reset’ humanity, and works well enough despite what some may think is excessive swearing and, perhaps, the story’s setting. The ideas present and how they were explored have definitely put Stephen on my keep-a-look-out-for radar.

The Interplanetary Water Company by Masimba Musodza was a bit of a disappointment; the tale opens with what reads like a pages-long infodump to set the scene, and by the time I was done with that I wasn’t really interested in reading it further. It also features terms which would be more at home in 1940’s pulp SF – but without communicating that nostalgia to the reader. But even though it’s the weakest tale in the anthology, it remains entertaining and clever in places. Check out more of Masimba’s work at @musodza.

Safari Nyota: A Prologue by Dilman Dila is a wonderful example of how a self-contained story can feel as if it’s part of a greater narrative without leaving the reader feeling as if they’ve missed something. The tale takes place on a generation ship, transporting colonists to a new world, watched over by androids, and explores morality and the price of choice from a synthetic (yet identifiable) point of view. The short story is also part of a larger project, so head over to Dilman’s site for more info.

Parental Control by Mazi Nwonwu is a complicated and emotional tale, taking place both in virtual space and the real world, and explores the core of what makes a family – or what most believe ‘family’ means. It hits hard, so be prepared to think about this tale and what it leaves behind.

Inhabitable by Andrew Dakalira is an unwieldy tale in which the themes of camaraderie, the struggle to survive and betrayal don’t retain enough of their power to be really effective. It’s as if there was too much to fit in, and some of the story’s meat was removed in editing to stick to a wordcount. That might not be the case at all, in fact, but it’s the feeling I got from reading it. Nonetheless, Andrew is now also a writer I’ll be watching out for.

Ogotemmeli’s Song by Mame Bougouma Diene is pure, joyous and far-seeing space opera. One of my favourites from this anthology, and also something I hope Mame is considering expanding into a saga. This is the tale that captures the heart and soul of AfroSF. Check out Mame’s Twitter for more info.

If there’s one thing anthologies such as AfroSF continue to show, it’s that Science Fiction (or more broadly, Speculative Fiction) has depths and colours unheard of or imagined, and that we all (humanity) continue to share the same core loves and needs and hopes and fears – as well as the capacity to imagine. I truly think we are only still witnessing the birth of non-Western Speculative Fiction, and AfroSF is a small but important part of its continued expansion and growth. Nicely done, authors, and Ivor. 🙂

8 / 10

Click here to order your copies of AfroSF Volume 3, here  to read a great review from Jared Shurin on, and check out the StoryTime site here.

Until next time,



Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Reviews


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Review: Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders – Edited by Doug Murano

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

I got the chance to read this impending anthology, which will be published by Crystal Lake Publishing, and jumped at it. I’m glad I did – this is a truly memorable publication, and a stand-out addition to the annals of Horror.

First shout-out has to go to Josh Malerman for an incredible foreword – it’s not often that a foreword truly captures the essence of what the reader is going to be reading, but Josh did an incredible job; so much so that you’ll probably find yourself re-reading the foreword, as I did. And if you’ve yet to read Josh’s work, the foreword alone will make sure you do; the man has an enticing, evocative and lyrically rhythmic turn of phrase which seems perfectly suited to Horror. (and yes, I too have yet to read Josh’s work)

The anthology is divided into three sections – Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, and Lisa Morton’s LaRue’s Dime Museum opens the anthology – an inspired choice by editor Doug Murano, as this tale hints at practically every strange and terrifyingly wondrous thing you’ll read. Let me be clear: the feel of it, how it blends reality, fear, and longing, as well as the imagery and atmosphere of it, will prepare you (to a certain degree) for the rest of the tales. It’s also a tale which defies end-guessing, and which will probably make you look twice at that strange-looking person across the street… Here’s an exceptional illustration from the mad-skills-afflicted Luke Spooner, to give you a taste of what you’ll be reading:

The next tale, Brian Kirk‘s Wildflower, Cactus, Rose is absolutely chilling in how it looks at society’s sick need to ‘look better’, as well as how ‘normal’ and ‘accepted’ abuse becomes. It’s a difficult story to read, and should be – we have to talk about the things that make us uncomfortable and that have no easy answers, and this tale doesn’t flinch from showing the uglier sides of human nature… Yet there’s a strange kind of beauty there, too.

Hal Bodner‘s The Baker of Millepoix is filled with the kind of imagery you’d expect from a charming foreign-language movie; the writing is flowing, lyrical, easy – as if your eyes are following the happy gurgling of a stream with birds tweeting in the background and a slight breeze puffing your hair. Yet when the horror arrives, it seems almost sweet and -dare I say it again- charming. You, the reader, will have witnessed something society says you must not allow to happen, must not take part in, yet… You’ll have found it a bit wonderful.

Next you’ll read Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament – not saying who the author is (either let yourself be surprised or spoil it for yourself). This tale is about the discovery of talents, the exercising of power, the black-hole-pull of love and lust, the physicality of intention, how guilt is able to ravage and inflame, and how, strangely enough, there’s a sick, twisted and yet breathtaking beauty in the experiences of pain and horror. The tale also ends with one of the most unsettling, yet fitting, scenes I’ve ever read.

What also makes Behold such a memorable anthology are the poems which split the book’s sections – Stephanie M. Wytovich isn’t one of those ‘read and have no clue what you’ve just read’ poets; her work won’t leave you feeling as if you missed classes at some high-brow literary school. It’s as if Stephanie has woven scenes or micro-stories using the ideas of Horror, the foundational elements and emotions. Her work is unsettling and addictive. An Exhibition of Mother and Monster is, to me, a scathing indictment of humanity’s need to make a spectacle of that which freaks us out. The poem points at us and says, ‘You giggle and cringe and thank your genes that you haven’t come out different, yet you don’t see the beauty and tragedy in what you’re paying to see and selfie.’

The next tale, John Langan‘s Madame Painte: For Sale is a quirky tale – it almost serves as a warning to bargain- or antique-hunters to be very careful of what they find, yet it could also be a warning to folks against believing the stories which accompany the pieces you’re interested in; it works both ways.

The next tale, Chalice, by another author I won’t name (for the same reasons as Jacqueline Ess) is one of those quaint, leaves-you-with-a-good-feeling tales – it’s sublimely written and marries the strange and out of place beautifully with the solitary life of a small-town retiree.

Fully Boarded by Ramsey Campbell is a story every traveller will love. 😉 Or maybe you’ll never travel again. Or maybe you’ll never go anywhere just to find fault with a place… Who knows? 😉

In Amelia’s Wake by Erinn L Kemper is, to me, a brooding, lovely and yet dark meditation on loss and progress, and about how grief can become a wall which not even more loss can break through. There’s a dark magic to this tale.

In A Ware That Will Not Keep, from John F.D. Taff, we hear the confession of an old man to his grandson, and we’re taken back to World War 2 and the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Nazis. It’s a tale which explores the nature and repercussions of revenge, and is probably also the first time I’ve ever felt true sorrow for a mass-murderer. Here’s a hint of what you can expect, again from the excellent Luke Spooner:


Then comes Ed Pruitt’s Smoker by Patrick Freivald – this tale ranks among my favourites because of the nature of the tale. It takes a seemingly innocuous subject -bees and bee-keepers- and gives it a terrifyingly wonderful twist; you simply have to read this one to understand what I mean.

We’re then treated to another poem by Stephanie Wytovich, As a Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party, and this time she focuses on the utter uselessness, faux frivolity and inherent judgements made by women who hold tea parties. Or does she? You decide.

Hazelnuts and Yummy Mummies by Lucy A. Snyder will have you laughing out loud and perhaps wiping away tears, too – Conventions may be one of those events an author aspires to, but be careful of the cookies, okay? 😉

Brian Hodge‘s The Shiny Fruit of Our Tomorrows launches the reader into the anthology’s final section – Undefinable Wonders. Brian’s tale is one of the most beautiful, and heart-breaking, tales in the anthology. It reveals a world very. very few of us have ever (willingly or otherwise) entered, people by real people, the likes of which you have probably met without knowing it. You know how sometimes truth and need, when combined, can be heart-breaking? That’s what this tale represents. Wonderful, lingering stuff.

The Wakeful by Kristi DeMeester is sublime, slow-building horror… Don’t read it while sitting out in your garden; you’ve been warned.

Christopher Coake‘s Knitter beings to my mind the awesome work Stephen King did in Insomnia – that marriage of the seemingly innocuous with the truly strange; it’s a glimpse into a world which will be very real to you while you read the tale.

Sarah Read‘s Through Gravel is, to me, an exploration of how claustrophobic religion can become – Sarah shows us a world in which darkness is sacrosanct, and change is anathema; it’s when the light begins to filter in that things change…

The collection ends with Hiraeth by Richard Thomas – a beautiful tale which resounds with aching need, sorrow, and a growing love amidst slow and beautiful magic. A reminder that the world has more to offer than we can possibly see, or know from experience. Here’s another one of Luke Spooner’s incredible illustrations – perfectly suited to the tale:

Behold is one of those memorable collections – you haven’t encountered anything like these stories in fiction before. Beauty and darkness and terror and love swirl together to create a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time. You simply have to read this-experience this-absorb this. Major kudos to Doug Murano for excellent editing and to Crystal Lake Publishing for giving readers this anthology. Absolutely incredible stuff, and well deserving of a resounding 10 out of 10.

Pre-order the Kindle version for just $2.99, and join the two ThunderClap campaigns to spread the word about this incredible anthology, and check out the many other top-notch titles Crystal Lake has released. You can also add the book on Goodreads. 🙂

Until next time,



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Review: Thou Shalt Not – Edited by Alex Davis

Hey everyone, Dave here. 🙂 Hope you’ve all been well! Apologies for my absences – I’ve been writing a lot and editing a lot lately and have achieved a balance or sorts which will lead to more regular reviews from me. 🙂

Let’s get into ‘Thou Shalt Not’!

The Ten Commandments were laid down in the earliest days of mankind, a guiding set of principles for our everyday lives. For centuries these tenets have shaped our morality, our laws, our societies. But what happens when these commandments are tested – and even broken? Step inside ten tales exploring the dark consequences of breaking these most ancient and sacred of rules…

That’s the premise for this anthology and, being raised as a Roman Catholic, I was really curious as to how the premise would be explored. Put it this way – I was shocked, stunned and left speechless, and I mean that all positively.

The anthology opens with Jeff Gardiner‘s Dionysus, a tale exploring the commandment, “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.” It’s also a tale about awakening and emerging from from the kinds of chrysalis’ which we find ourselves smothered in while trying to navigate Life. It is hard-hitting and heart-felt, the kind of tale that will probably echo in the reader’s mind when witnessing situations similar to what the two main characters find themselves in.

The next tale, Amanda Bigler‘s The Last Dinner, explores the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Worship Any False Idols” and focuses on a photographer’s confession of love and admiration, exploring not only his quirks and tendencies but also throwing a light on a shady, dangerous business. It hit hard and had me swearing when I finished it – the build up in this tale is perfectly managed and the end is darkly, brutally brilliant.

All the Best Tunes by Clare Littleford takes the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord’s name in Vain” as its inspiration, and focuses on a couple, their desperate love for one another, and how their relationship impacts the community in which they live which, at times, has the flavour of a dystopia. It’s a subtle tale with an intense gut-punch of an ending.

Stuart Young‘s Confessions explores the commandment, “Thou Shalt Keep the Sabbath Day, to Keep it Holy“, and is one of my favourite tales in the book. It’s an absolutely blistering and eye-opening look at the concept of sin – outstanding tale!

The Looking Glass Girl by Laura Mauro, exploring the commandment, “Honour Thy Mother and Father“, is one of the more tragic tales in the anthology and follows the main character as she begins to uncover the truth behind her sister’s disappearance. The thing is, her sister, Stefania, appears in a mirror … or does it? Are we experiencing something supernatural or are long-suppressed memories rising to the fore? Great tale.

Danuta Reah‘s The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing (with “Thou Shalt Not Kill” as its theme, of course) is a fun, vicious tale in which a budding murderer is given a brilliant lesson in how not to go about being a serial killer. I enjoyed a nasty little cackle at the end of this tale.

Fuxnet by Pat Kelleher, exploring “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery“, is uncompromising and truly scary – the author takes online pornography and creates a nightmare which consumes the main character. It’s a disquieting, unflinching tale and may upset some readers, but is well worth the read.

Mark West‘s The Goblin Glass explores “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and has the main character sent to steal a particular, special mirror (The Goblin Glass) by a man he wishes to impress. He finds the mirror, of course… 😉 A great, tense tale in which you as the reader know that the character is heading into dangerous territory, but you really don’t want to warn him (even if you could) because you need to know more about the mirror.

After Jasper Kent‘s The Tangled Web, you will never break the “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbour” commandment ever again, and you might even look at Twitter from an entirely new perspective, too…

And finally, rounding out the anthology with a tale of salesmanship, business deals and Hell, Jacey Bedford explores “Thou Shalt Not Covet Anything of Your Neighbour’s” in Pitch, an entertaining, surprising mix of themes and outcomes.

Thou Shalt Not

This is a seriously good anthology, exploring different themes with physical, emotional and psychological Horror-elements and should keep you reading late into the night; in fact, you’ll probably be late for work the next day. Not checking Twitter at all. Wondering about Sin. And so much else. 😉

I’ve got no idea how many tales Alex had to choose from, but all of these tales are damned good and memorable. The editing was sharp and completely invisible and I’m definitely looking forward to reading further projects edited by Alex, and written by these authors.

9 / 10

You can order your limited edition hardcovers direct from Tickety Boo Press, or get the Kindle edition at the following links: Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Until next time,



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Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Reviews


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Spotlight: Fox and Raven Publishing – The First ravensmoot Anthology

Hey guys and girls, I’m back with the announcement of a great new anthology coming from my publishers, Fox and Raven Publishing. 🙂


Here’s the official announcement:

The time has come for an epic gathering; a mustering of speculative fiction novelettes, bound into one sickening tome of good writing. We’d like to present to you: ravensmoot: An anthology of speculative fiction. Here’s what you need to know about this limited edition paperback:

In this debut anthology of speculative fiction short stories, Fox & Raven Publishing presents a smorgasbord of delectable tales. In an eclectic mix of horror, fantasy, dystopian dreampunk and all-too-real thrillers, ravensmoot exhibits some of the best new writing in the genre.

With a cartel of South African, Ugandan, British and American writers, ravensmoot promises to delight readers looking for powerful writing that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of their respective genres.

We are very happy to announce that ravensmoot will be available as a print anthology in select bookstores across the country before Christmas! And yes, that makes this the first Fox & Raven print publication, so we’re all warm and fuzzy about that.

With the introduction written by Charlie Human, acclaimed author of Apocalypse Now Now, and featuring six powerful writers, we just know you’re gonna love this.

I’ve read all but two of the stories in this anthology, and I can assure you that you’re in for some excellent tales! I’m busy reading ‘THE TERMINAL MOVE‘ by Dilman Dila at the moment, after which I’ll get stuck into ‘PROJECT HYDRA‘ by Anton Sim, so expect reviews shortly. 🙂

As it stands now, the stories that will be included are:

PASSING VISIONS by Martin John Stokes, (reviewed here)

THE TRIARCHY’S EMISARRY by Nyki Blatchley, (reviewed here)

THE DEAD CITY BLUES by Yelena Calavera, (reviewed here)

PIGS IN GOLFS by Mia Arderne, (reviewed here)



The anthology will be available before Christmas as a limited edition paperback (with the great, eye-catching cover you see above), with the eBook edition becoming available towards the end of January 2014.

If you’re in South Africa and want to pre-order a copy for yourself or for a friend, send an email to Marius Du Plessis, Director at Fox and Raven Publishing –

thefirstravensmoot (at) gmail (dot) com

The paperback will cost you a measly R140, which includes postage anywhere in South Africa – a helluva deal if you ask me, and yes, I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. 🙂 Everyone’s allowed a present to themselves, aren’t they? 🙂


I will, of course, keep you updated as to the official released-date for the eBook-edition of ravensmoot. 🙂

Until next time,



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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Fox and Raven Publishing, Spotlight


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Anthology Review: AfroSF – Science Fiction by African Writers (edited by Ivor Hartmann)

I’m sure you’ve all seen the posts I did for this anthology – an interview with Ivor and three posts spotlighting the authors who had stories published in in (post 1, post 2 and post 3), and now, finally, here’s my review! Just in time for the paperback edition, which is available! 🙂

It goes without saying that I will refrain from saying anything about my story in the anthology, other than I’m lucky that I have one in it. 🙂 Let’s get into the review, shall we?

AfroSF is an awesome look at the talent of African Futurists and Fantasists; one might expect to be subjected to preaching in this anthology, perhaps focused on what Colonialism did to Africa, perhaps regarding the lengths to which the developed West seems to want to keep Africans uneducated and labour ready. But that’s not what this anthology is about – it abounds with optimism, ingenuity, fresh looks at SF tropes we’ve come to take for granted. It looks at many subjects – the bonds of a family, extremism, exploitation, how important community and respect is, how easy it is to give up everything we cherish for a quick fix. It takes the reader and pushes them into situations they will probably never face but which echo, nonetheless, and more importantly  force the reader to wonder and ask questions.

‘Moom!’ by Nnedi Okorafor is a wonderful, bitter-sweet tail revolving around the experiences of a swordfish; it’s a tale that echoes the many experiences mankind has had with industry and the pain of these interactions. She captures beautifully the cycling emotional turmoil of fear, anger, resolute action, understanding, revelation – it’s a short tail, but one beautifully told, the ideas beautifully expressed. 🙂

‘Home Affairs’ by Sarah Lotz is a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, and scarily believable tale that examines the bureaucracy of a government department – in Sarah’s tale, the emotionless, uncaring civil servants have been replaced, with terrifying and comic consequences; definitely a tale that will resonate with anyone who’s ever hated standing in a que while waiting for a bored civil servant to get to them. Which is everyone. 🙂

Tendai Huchu’s ‘The Sale’ is actually a damned scary tale – a look at what the world might be like in a decade or two, when Corporations -massing more money than any government on the planet- run everything. How far will we go, the story seems to ask, to ensure that our lives are peaceful and productive?

‘Five Sets of Hands’ by Cristy Zinn is a tale that will resonate with many students of history, especially people who have studied slavery and its various incarnations – and it also asks the question: “When we spread out onto new planets and create new colonies, when we find strange new faces looking at us, will we find something new for humanity to explore or will we be forced to face every dark aspect of ourselves?”

‘New Mzansi’ by Ashley Jacobs was one of my favourite tales, a story that fans of Lauren Beukes’ ‘Moxyland’ will definitely enjoy, too; it follows one man’s quest to make sure that his friend, Lion, get’s the medication he needs; it’s filled with amazing and yet useless technology (much the same as the tech we use today – I mean, we can’t feed ourselves wirelessly, van we?), a country that seems to be suffocating under the pressure of its history – I wouldn’t at all mind reading an entire novel, or series, set in this future South Africa.

‘Azania’ by Nick Wood is pure SF gold – great, conflicted and memorable characters, a limited and contained setting (which adds to the tension that permeates the tale), and a plot for the characters that will define not only their lives but ensure the continuation thereof; excellent story!

‘Notes from Gethsemane’ by Tade Thompson is a look at the loyalty between brothers, how any government wanting to keep people out of a place will fail, and how something strange and beautiful can hide in plain sight – excellent SF!

Sally Partridge’s ‘Planet X’ is an excellent look at how  the people we almost never meet in SF tales -those walking the streets, waiting at the traffic signals, working in the kitchens of fast-food joints, living in shacks and taking taxis to work, how these people might experience something world- and life-changing, like the discovery of a a new planet in our solar system, and how that discovery might affect a society that struggles daily with xenophobia…

‘The Gift of Touch’ by Chinelo Onwualo can best be described by what I said to Chinelo on Facebook just after I finished reading the story – if Firefly ever returns to our screens, Chinelo should write some of the episodes. 🙂 I definitely want more of these characters! Excellent, funny and a real adventure in space. 🙂

The Foreigner by Uko Bendi Udo tells a tale of belonging and the right to have rights; here we have an asylum-seeker who is very young and stubborn, and you’ll probably cheer as I did at the end of the tale. 🙂

‘The Rare Earth’ by Biram Mboob is excellent – not many SF tales can pull off an injection of religion, but Biram manages to do it very well; it’s intense and thoroughly thought-provoking, with a messianic man at the story’s centre who is also the leader of an insurgent group. It’s tense, action-packed, and a tale that lingers.

‘Terms and Conditions’ by Sally-Ann Murray is a tale that looks at what could happen if Big Pharma was in charge of everything; it’s a melancholic  affecting tale, an exploration of the many answers to the question, “What might you do to survive? To live?” Very good!

‘Heresy’ by Mandisi Nkomo is one of my favourites in the collection – as close to proper South African SF as it comes; satirical, thoughtful, funny, it also pokes fun at the government and a particular former Youth League leader, while also poking fun at  science and religion at the same time. Excellent! 🙂

‘Closing Time’ by Liam Kruger is an excellent time-travel tale, and trust me, Liam’s tale is unique – no-one has ever travelled the way the main character does!  It’s not only strangely cautionary but sparsely, beautifully written, too. 🙂

‘Masquerade Stories’ by Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu is an excellent exploration of tribal customs and their origins; just how might the tribe be affected if the origin wasn’t African, or even earthly…?

‘The Trial’ by Joan De La Haye is thoroughly terrifying – being a writer or a poet in Joan’s world might just cost you your life! It’s a dark look at a South Africa that has fallen to leaders bereft of the gift of imagination and empathy, tensely written with a hard ending – excellent!

‘Brandy City’ by Mia Arderne is a dark tale, a tale of car-modification, a new and oddly intriguing form of prostitution, how alcohol can come to be the answer to everything, and the end. Memorable, especially in the way the characters swirl together toward’s the tale’s hectic climax!

‘Ofe!’ by Rafeeat Aliyu is probably the best example I’ve ever read of what African superheroes might be like – flavours of exploitation and oppression abound in this tale of a dangerous weapon and a targeted minority, and though it does seem to end a bit abruptly it’s still entertaining. 🙂

‘Claws and Savages’ by Martin Stokes is an excellent tale that looks at a problem many African countries face – that of infinitely richer tourists hunting for sport, but takes it off-world and introduces the reader to a bastard; thoroughly engaging!

‘To Gaze at the Sun’ by Clifton Gachagua was a tale of the price of war and survival, the pain of parents releasing their children into the world, and the exploitation and misunderstanding that occurs when we lose sight of the humanity of others; affecting and sadly beautiful.

‘Proposition 23’ by Efe Okogu deserves all the praise it has already received and will receive – practically an epic in it’s own right, it’s the tale of freedom fighters, infiltrators, martyrs, those who are curious enough to become caught in their own traps, and the simple yet deeper pleasure of disconnection – excellent!

This anthology is truly ground-breaking and excellent, taking the reader beyond our solar system, backwards and forwards into time, on journeys towards distant stars and planets, putting the reader in the minds and behind the eyes of warriors, dreamers, prophets, mothers, fathers, children… Entertaining and vibrant, it announces the African Futurists and Fantasists are every bit as good as their world-wide counterparts, and I’m sure it’ll put many new writers on the radar of SF fans everywhere! It goes without saying -yet I’ll say it anyway- that I’m damned proud to be associated with this excellent anthology! 🙂

9 / 10



To order AfroSF, click here (Kindle Edition) and here (paperback) for Amazon US, here (Kindle Edition) and here (paperback) for Amazon UK, and for readers in South Africa, order your copies from 🙂 If you’re on Facebook, check out the publisher’s page at Story Time, and you can also interact with the authors and with Ivor at the AfroSF page. AfroSF Volume 2 has already been announced – check out this page for details!

Thanks to Ivor and all the contributors for such an excellent anthology! 🙂

Until next time,



Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Reviews


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Anthology Review: Mirages – Tales from Authors of the Macabre (Edited by Trent Zelazny)

I received this anthology a couple of months ago from one of its contributors, Curt Jarrell, a fellow bookseller and champion of all things Speculative. 🙂

I’m really glad that I got an opportunity to read this anthology, because it’s one of the best collections of dark, unsettling tales that I’ve ever read. I won’t say that it was a pleasurable read -I’m not sadistic or masochistic- but it was definitely an eye-opener, and supremely memorable.

The anthology kicks off with The Conclusion by Tom Piccirilli, which was, for me, a beautiful and heartbreaking tale about how one man deals with the impending death of someone very close to him – the story was dark and, in places, unsettling, but quite beautiful.

The next tale, American Chinnamasta by Jeffrey Thomas, was insanely twisted and yet deeply affecting – we become a passenger on a girl’s journey toward getting the love and acceptance from her father she always believed she lacked, and it’s what happens during this journey, what she does, that really shocked and held me.

Dumb Luck by Barb Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper was awesome – a truly speculative look at luck which I really enjoyed! Sort of still boggles my mind. 🙂

Poor Old Soul by Lee Allen Howard gave me a new perspective on those old ladies everyone seems to know – the nosy ones, those who always have opinions, who’s loneliness seems sadder for all that; very good tale. 🙂

No Name, No Voice by Tina Swain was sooo damned good – an excellent exploration of the kinds of thoughts we hide from everyone, those bloody, murderous, deviant thoughts.

Reprieve Eve No. 33 by Joe S. Pulver Sr. was incredibly unsettling and different to anything I’ve ever read – I felt like I was in the midst of a deeply fractured and ill psyche, where very little made sense, but with sights and thought paths that kept on drawing me deeper. Very strange and darkly brilliant.

Switchbitch by Gerald Hausman answered the question for me – what would it be like in someone else’s body, and the answer isn’t as cool or exciting as what I envisioned. A short but excellent tale.

Bastard by Billie Sue Mosiman was quite scary, in that it showed me how badly the search for answers can sometimes go, or even how sometimes that search shouldn’t even be undertaken.

Angela & the Angel by Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio was, to my mind, the saddest tale in the collection, because it illustrated -in stark and jagged-edged lines- just what can happen when what you get is not what you wanted, or the idea behind something is more powerful than the disappointing reality.

Offline by Kealan Patrick Burke was terrifying and very, very creepy – after reading this I just didn’t look at electronic communication (email, social networks, etc) the same way. It’s a tale that’ll probably haunt you a bit, too.

Fairy Tale by Lori R. Lopez was dark and sometimes brutal, a tale of a desperate woman and a desperate man, and how both find release of a kind, very cool.

The Sum of Spectacle by Jason S. Ridler was a fun, almost frantic tale, about the realizations concerning loss and how, sometimes, we find our way back – yet the path and the destination might be darker than we imagined.

The Descent Upstairs by Leigh M. Lane is a tale that I’ll probably remember for a long time – I certainly wouldn’t want to be pushed as far as the poor woman in this story was. Sort of makes me think that the fantasies we have regarding how to deal with people who irritate us and enrage us could be dangerous fantasies to have…

The Pit by Joe R. Lansdale was the most difficult story for me to read, which might sound strange to you once I explain why – I abhor violence and cruelty against animals, and there’s a scene in this tale which is pretty damned hectic; which means that it’s incredibly well-written, and not just that scene but the entire story. It focuses on the battle of one man to survive in to-the-death battles that lead to absolutely no kind of victory, even for the survivor. It’s bleak and brutal and brilliant.

Jagged Night by Curt Jarrell was brutal, too, and sad. It’s the tale of a man who loses it and does something terrible, who then runs and tries to not only survive but to live, dogged the whole time by what he did. It’s a dark tale, very unsettling, but honestly so – we can never escape our mistakes, can we?

Shattering the Meat Tunnel by E. A.Black was a really distasteful story, but a damned good one, too. Two lonely people are randomly thrown together, one of them desperate for any kind of contact, the other made angry by the loss of this contact – both of them hurtle towards a climax that is terrible and brutal.

Beast: A Fable for Children by Edward Morris is definitely not for children, not young human beings, if you get my meaning, but a tale for the frightened child in all of us who has had to experience something that was levels above what we could understand at that age. But it’s also a tale about how that frightened child will deal with this experience, and how the outcome will change them forever and in ways that they probably won’t even understand with a grown-up mind. It is sad and beautiful.

Taken together, this anthology is an exploration of the darker, more distasteful aspects of being a thinking, feeling human being. It doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery or ideas, doesn’t pull any punches at all – every tale was something new and thunderstorm-incredible, something that momentarily stole my breath, and I can only applaud Trent for bringing together these awesomely talented authors. It’s an anthology that lingers and taunts and, sometimes, disgusts, but it is an excellent collection, and all of these authors are now on my radar.


10 / 10


To order your copies of Mirages, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here for South Africa. Also, check out Trent Zelazny’s website for more info on him and his work. 🙂

Huge thanks to Curt Jarrell for sending me Mirages – loved it!



Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Reviews


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