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  • 26/01/2024 09:36 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Trees Grew Because I Bled There cover

    The Trees Grew Because I Bled There: Collected Stories by Eric LaRocca

    (Titan Books, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    Eric LaRocca is the author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke which ‘went viral’ and garnered considerable praise. This follow-up volume brings together eight disturbing short stories, several of them containing elements of body-horror.

    All are about relationships, in one form or another and are also straightforward narrations, except for one—‘The Strange Thing We Become’, presented as a series of forum posts that relay the decline of the author’s partner, Evie, following her cancer diagnosis. As Evie retreats to the attic, at first to meditate, then to self-mummify, an atmosphere of paranoia and desperation builds up, which breaks in an ending that is not so much horrific, as just very weird.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 22/01/2024 17:13 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Brian W. Aldiss cover

    Brian W. Aldiss by Paul Kincaid

    (University of Illinois Press, 2022)

    Reviewed by Dev Agarwal

    Neither Brian Aldiss nor Paul Kincaid needs any introduction here. These two titanic forces don’t collide so much as combine in critical symbiosis in Kincaid’s analysis of Aldiss’s work, Brian W. Aldiss (2022).

    Aldiss was a SFWA Grand Master (in 1999) and inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2004. He won the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and the Hugo twice. As part of the BSFA’s accepted lore, at one time Brian Aldiss held membership 01 in the Association, so it’s fitting that Kincaid, a voice so central to both science fiction and to the BSFA, should write this key appraisal.

    Aldiss (1925 to 2017) had a writing career spanning sixty years and is famed for a range of his works. Mentioning them runs the risk of leaving seminal works out, but obvious highlights include Hothouse (1962), Frankenstein Unbound (1973), The Malacia Tapestry (1976), Brothers of the Head (1977), The Helliconia Trilogy (1982 onwards), and his own critical appraisal of our genre, Billion and Trillion Year Spree (1973 and 1986 respectively).

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 19/01/2024 13:15 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tales from a Robotic World cover

    Tales from a Robotic World: How Intelligent Machines Will Shape Our Future by Dario Floreano and Nicola Nosengo

    (The MIT Press, 2022)

    Reviewed by Ksenia Shcherbino

    Tales From A Robotic World: How Intelligent Machines Will Shape Our Future is one of those books perfectly poised between fiction and non-fiction where it is hard to tell science from science-inspired fantasy. I must admit I kept fact-checking through the whole book, and it was a breath-taking exercise. For a month it became my carry-around treasure. It was a conversation opener with new colleagues at work. It was a research companion when doing a presentation on new technologies in the office. I debated with friends about the advantages of swarm robots over humanoid AI and urged them to watch YouTube videos on various zoobotic (animal-like robots) prototypes playing parlour tricks. In one word, I was converted.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 17/01/2024 19:12 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Stanislaw Lem and his Aliens cover

    Stanislaw Lem and his Aliens: A Tribute and a Challenge edited by Elana Gomel

    (Guardbridge Books, 2022)

    Reviewed by John Dodd

    I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, most tributes usually contain accessible facts and details on the person to whom they’re paying tribute and work well towards getting other people to want to study that person more.

    Not this book…

    This book was written by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, it presumes at all times that you have at least read Lem and understood his work, in order for you to engage with the ideas and theorem that are presented within. This isn’t a tribute to Lem in the traditional sense, the writers of this book were enthused on a high level by what they’ve read and they want to share their thoughts and stimulate conversation.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 15/01/2024 16:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future cover

    The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future by Christi Nogle

    (Flame Tree Press, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    This is a collection of seventeen unsettling and often deeply weird stories, all but one previously published elsewhere. It is bookended by two that offer new twists on werewolf and zombie tales—in ‘Unschooled’ a female werewolf gives birth while yearning for a different life and in ‘The Old Switcheroo’, a man tries to convince his partner that eating a zombie’s brains will confer immunity. The rest cover a series of distorted and disturbing perspectives on families and relationships.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 12/01/2024 11:06 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Ghost Slayers cover

    The Ghost Slayers edited by Mike Ashley

    (British Library, 2022)

    Reviewed by Graham Andrews

    In February 1882, the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London. Mike Ashley explains that the SPR “was the first organization to take a methodical, scientific approach to researching reports of psychic or spiritualist events. Their work provoked much interest in Victorian Britain and led to an interest in ghost hunting” (Introduction). It also sparked off a renewed vogue for occult-detective stories, à la J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Dr. Martin Hesselius (In a Glass Darkly, 1872), usually with Holmes-Watson partnership characters. “Holmes was not an occult detective [far from it, in fact!] but his cases were often unusual, and it was only a small step from Holmes to investigators of the paranormal” (ditto).

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 10/01/2024 18:41 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Death of Jane Lawrence cover

    The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

    (Titan Books, 2022)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    This is a dark and deeply weird book. Set in an alternative nineteenth century England, whose capital is ‘Camhurst’, it opens with the protagonist, Jane Shoringfield, formally meeting her soon-to-be husband, Dr. Augustine Lawrence. Having lost her parents in the war with Ruzka, Jane has been brought up by her guardians, Mr and Mrs Cunningham, in the small town of Larrenton. With Mr Cunningham about to take up a judgeship in Camhurst, however, Jane must find her own way in the world and so she decides to marry but purely as a business agreement. With her mathematically trained mind and having kept her guardian’s ledgers, she feels she has a lot to offer a small-town GP. Dr Lawrence, for his part, tries to put her off, emphasising that there will be blood ‘and great sadness and terror’. He even adds an inviolable stipulation—he must spend his nights at his ancestral home, several miles outside of town and she can never join him there.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 08/01/2024 16:55 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Behind a Broken Smile cover

    Behind a Broken Smile by Penny Jones

    (Black Shuck Books, 2022)

    Reviewed by Dev Agarwal

    Penny Jones is a Devon-based horror writer. She is a short fiction author with a previously published collection, Suffer Little Children (Black Shuck Books), that was short-listed for the British Fantasy Award in 2020 (for Best Newcomer). Her novella, Matryoshka, was also a finalist for the British Fantasy Award in 2022.

    Behind a Broken Smile is Jones’ second collection. In it, Jones draws inspiration from the word sonder—defined as the realisation that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as your own, despite your lack of awareness of it.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 06/01/2024 09:38 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Hollows cover

    The Hollows: A Storm is Coming by Daniel Church

    (Angry Robot, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    The opening pages of this ‘folk horror’ novel are strongly reminiscent of a scene from the BBC tv series Happy Valley: a middle-aged policewoman, carrying the weight of personal tragedy on her shoulders, is looking at a snow-covered body in an isolated valley in the Peak District, just a couple of days away from the winter solstice. For Ellie Cheetham, local constable in the village of Barsall, this is not such an unusual occurrence as people sometimes come to grief in the harsh terrain. However, this is no lost hiker or poorly prepared tourist, this is a local man, one Tony Harper, a member of the clan of miscreants and troublemakers who live on a nearby farm. And bizarrely, he froze to death, knife in hand, with a mysterious symbol drawn in charcoal on the rock behind him.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 03/01/2024 08:46 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Sinister Booksellers of Bath cover

    The Sinister Booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix

    (Gollancz, 2023)

    Reviewed by Susan Peak

    If you already read and like Garth Nix’s books, then you will like The Sinister Booksellers of Bath and its predecessor, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. If you haven’t read his books, then this duology (as it is at present) is a good introduction to his writing.

    It very much is a duology, too—there is background material in the first book that’s necessary to understanding both the booksellers and the kind of dangers they deal with that isn’t repeated in this second book. And, while The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is self-contained, a key plotline and character relationships are continued into this book—so I am taking care to avoid spoilers for either book.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.


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