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Review: The Dead City Blues by Yelena Calavera (short story / novelette)

Hey everyone, I’m back with another review of the short fiction that Fox and Raven has published – this time I look at a Dystopian tale set in a Jo’burg that has been devastated and largely emptied of life. Here’s the blurb for ‘The Dead City Blues‘:

What do you do when your own dreams hunt you? You hunt them back.

Johannesburg has been destroyed. It is a dead city – torn asunder by the horrors, the nightmares, of its inhabitants. And the nightmares are roaming free. Shelby Maddox and her sister Lara are the only survivors, fighting for their lives, scavenging the ruins of this goldmine metropolis for scraps of food.

With the appearance of Luke, a Dreamer with mind-bending powers, everything changes. Shelby embarks on a journey to save her sister, to save herself – and to conquer her demons.

What first dragged my attention to this tale was the awesome cover art – it put me in mind of a Rorschach ink-blot test gone haywire and psychotic, and I was immediately interested (check out the cover at the end of the post).

The story centres on Shelby, a girl living in the shattered remains of the African metropolis, with her younger sister. Life is beyond difficult – just leaving the relative safety of their refuge could lead to serious injury or even death. Yelena does a great job of describing the ruins of the city – the streets are empty, the buildings are desolate and sad, and wild animals roam are slowly taking back the concrete-and-glass spaces. Shelby is a great character, given to philosophical musings and deep insights, but she’s also capable and dangerous – she has learned the hard way what to do to survive, and has also had to take the role of guardian for her sister.

But things change when Shelby save a very personal nightmare from another human, Luke – what is further revealed about the world in which these remnants of humanity live, through as Shelby and Luke’s fate unfold, shows Yelena’s skill at building a world with layers of menace and beauty.

The nightmare creatures that roam the city are well-imagined and memorable, and the tale flows easily and liquidly in the imagination; couple this with Yelena’s imaginative creations and you’ve got a tale you’ll read, remember, and talk about. 🙂

Looking forward to more from this talented writer!

And as you read it, make sure you’re listening to the incredibly awesome soundtrack created specifically for the story: it’s a Ravensong, and it’s called, ‘I Don’t Need a Savior’. It was composed by Adolf De Beer, and he’s creating amazing sounds to go along with these stories! 🙂

9 / 10

The Dead City Blues

 

For more info about Yelena visit her blog here; to order your e-copies of ‘The Dead City Blues‘ click here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK.

And don’t forget to check out Fox and Raven Publishing for more news on awesome publications! 🙂

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Fox and Raven Publishing, Reviews

 

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Review: Passing Visions by Martin John Stokes (Short Story)

I’m back with a review of the first short story launched by Fox and Raven Publishing. 🙂

FRPublishing

You can get more info at this link, and at Fox and Raven’s Facebook page, but what you need to know is that Fox and Raven are a new independent publisher, based in Cape Town, South Africa, who are focusing on bringing readers excellent new writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as stories that could be considered Urban Fantasy and Horror.

Martin first came to my attention when he was published in the first Science Fiction Anthology featuring African Writers, AfroSF (reviewed here), and with Passing Visions Martin shows his versatility as a storyteller and writer who doesn’t allow himself to be caged by a specific genre.

Passing Visions is about a psychologist is pulled into the sadness and horror of his patient’s life. James is trying to be a normal teenager, but and encounter with the school bully has turned his life upside down. I won’t reveal just what happened (the cover of the eBook is clue enough), but I will go into why I thought this was a brilliant, captivating read. And pretty damned unsettling, too.

Like every other teenager in high school James is searching – for himself, for balance, for hints of who he wants to (or might) when he becomes an adult. He struggles with fitting in and conversely, with standing out.

Indie is a psychologist who is trying to balance his career (or calling) with the stress of an impending divorce. He feels that he knows what life is about, what and who he is; his entire world is changed when James enters his practice.

These two characters play off each other wonderfully – the majority of the tale is told from James’ point of view, so the reader gets to know James quite deeply, but even so, Indie’s strength as a character shines through; he’s not James’ opposite but a person in his own right, not a foil but an explorer who is approaching James and the reason he has come to see Indie from a clinical, logical direction. James at the beginning of the tale is the person who’s gone through everything and we get snapshots of who he was, or the person who is now hiding, as he tells his tale. With Indie we witness the fall into darkness and madness, vicariously listening as James’ story unfolds, both imagining Indie’s reaction and living it through our own thoughts and responses.

Martin manages to begin the story at an even, gradual pace, introducing not only the two characters but the room in which the tale occurs – as the tale progresses he takes us to James’ high school, home and garden, and even though the pace remains even and measured throughout -this isn’t an action adventure or a thriller- the psychological onslaught begins, at first hardly noticeable but gradually becoming more powerful. And this is before the horror of what is happening really takes hold. By the time it does, I’m sure the reader – as I was- will be held fast, unable to stop reading. It is, as they say, too late.

Martin also writes with a beautiful and enviable control, stringing sentences together in such a way that scenes take shape and characters take life with what seems to be no effort – and there are so many memorable lines in this story! Memorable and unsettling, both.

This is definitely a story that will remain with me for a long, long time. It shows that Martin can weave an incredible, memorable tale with realistic characters that make the reader wonder and flinch and grimace and shudder – I can’t help thinking that he’ll be giving many readers many, many sleepless nights!

An excellent tale – psychologically disturbing, emotionally powerful and creepy as hell!

9 / 10

Passing Visions

To order your e-copies, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK. If you want more info about Martin, check out his profile on Goodreads. 🙂

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Fox and Raven Publishing, Reviews

 

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‘Angelsong’ ready to be edited

So, last night I finished another short story – Angelsong (working title, may change and all that). 🙂 It’s a really short story, not even 3000 words, but I like it – hopefully I’ve managed to keep it focused and tight, and it definitely packs more of a punch than Bloodheat or Stalker, so I’m chuffed. 🙂

I’ll stay away from it until Monday, then I’ll get back into it and start editing and changing and rewriting, fun fun fun! 🙂 But yep, another one is done. 🙂

Final wordcount: 2624 words.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2009 in On Writing

 

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M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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