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“(The) horrifying entities of Lovecraft and the terror-in-the-mundane that is Stephen King’s signature”

American Elsewhere is a work of classic American horror.

It’s written with energy, verve and great imagination. It evokes both the unknowable, horrifying entities of Lovecraft and the terror-in-the-mundane that is Stephen King’s signature, but Bennett manages to create something unique.
Wink is the perfect American small-town, with town halls, sun-dresses, gossip, and surgical lawns. The main protagonist inherits property there, but soon begins to peel back the veneer of perfection to find the unspeakable.
The book skips along briskly with interesting characters and intriguing set pieces. My only complaint is that it drags ever so slightly in the climax.


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Review: A Killing in the Sun by Dilman Dila

Short version: 4/5 stars. I recommend that you read it.

 A Killing in the Sun is a speculative fiction collection by Dilman Dila, published by Black Letter Media. The titular story was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

This anthology includes ten short stories and I read them in sequence. I found the copyrights page confusing because it refers to a story that is not actually in the collection (Fragments of Canvas). As in most collections the quality is uneven. To my mind the first six stories were enjoyable, but I struggled through the last four.


The best story appears to be A Killing in the Sun. It is the most consistent and the most polished. It opens on the day of an execution by firing squad. The condemned man, Mande, appears to have been convicted for something he did not do, but finds his salvation to be almost as bitter as his previous fate. It also touches on one of the themes that run through the whole collection: being taken by authorities and somehow harmed. The other theme that runs through is that of the protagonist somehow changing state. The Leafy Man is an imaginative science fiction tale about artificially mutated mosquitoes nicknamed Miss Doe and is Promethean, with unintended consequences of innovation. The Healer is a fantasy story with magic and themes of loss. Itanda Bridge is a science fiction piece about extraterrestrials and while Diba does not show as much control of the material as he did in other stories it is creepy and enjoyable.

With The Doctor’s Truck flaws begin to show. This story is reminiscent of Christine by King in some parts. The explanation is satisfactory enough, however I found the motivation of the doctor difficult to accept in some parts. The ending appears too pat, slightly rushed and perhaps is a revenge fantasy. Lights over Water has an interesting premise, but as in most of the rest of the stories appears to need more work. A Wife and a Slave for example, builds up well, but the ending is again too neat. Things go too well for the protagonist and there is easy wish fulfilment.

The Yellow People had genuinely macabre moments and is a first class sci-fi horror story. It uses the image of the moving of a stone slab away from a cave, which has Biblical resonance for resurrection. The removal of thumbs makes one think of dehumanization since opposable thumbs are essentially what makes us human. The problem here is that the protagonists appear to be moving like chess pieces. It’s a story of alien contact and a serial killer. This story has great potential, but all the explanation seems rushed towards the end, which is disappointing.

Reading this anthology was frustrating, and not because Dila can’t write elegant prose. He can. Generally, I found the book poorly edited. The mistakes were annoying tense problems, syntax problems, unintentional repetitions etc. All avoidable if more care was taken. Apart from the copy editing issues, many of the later stories could benefit from continuity and story editing. Dila has good material and can clearly write brilliant speculative fiction. I just do not understand what the editors at Black Letter Media were thinking.

That said, I did enjoy reading the book. As speculative fiction and as a snapshot of life in sub-Saharan Africa it succeeds. I expect great things from Mr Dila.


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Book Geek shows the Afrofuturistic Mothership some Love

More Mothership love:

“With limited space, the best short stories grab the reader from the start, throwing them headfirst into an imaginary world. Tade Thompson’s story, ‘One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sunlight’ does exactly that, and it’s one of the best stories in this collection. A delicate, eerie tale, it uses west African folklore to disrupt the everyday reality of life in a quiet village; it’s both shockingly visceral and beautifully erotic, with an original voice and a love of flesh and the physical which seeps out of the page.”

Thanks, Book Geek.

Go buy the book.

You know you want to.

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Short Book Review: The Vorrh by B.Catling



This is the best book I’ve read this year. It is simply exquisite.
It’s difficult to compare this to any other work and to call it fantasy is to do it a disservice. It is a grotesque and beautiful narrative poem masquerading as a novel.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted, and it manages to ratchet up the sheer weirdness almost on a page-by-page basis.
The eponymous Vorrh is an imaginary but magical jungle in Africa. The book is loosely plotted around three individuals. Tsungali, a hunter and assassin brought out of retirement to hunt Williams, a white man gone native. Both of them are walking legends, larger than life. The third is a cyclops called Ishmael grown, but new to the world.
The plot conspires to bring them together in the Vorrh, but that is simplistic. There are many amazing asides. There is language so beautiful you will read a sentence three times just to feel it caressing your mind.
There is so much that is enigmatic and wonderful and disturbing. There are a number of different magic systems that all have internal consistency.
Love it or hate it, you will not forget this book. It shies away from nothing and you will wonder how the hell the author came up with the ideas.


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