Friday, March 30, 2012

Celebration day

It proves to be a wealthy birthday in gifts already. I have pictures taken of them, but since I would not get near the computer very often today I’ll not be able to download the photos, so here is a small presentation instead.

“The Concrete Grove” & “Silent Voices” by Gary McMahon – Gary McMahon is one of my favorite modern writers and his short stories and the two Thomas Usher novels were truly great for me. The Concrete Grove series was on my wish list for quite a while, but I didn’t get a chance to buy them yet. No need for that anymore, because my lovely wife offered them as a birthday gift.

“The Wild” & “The Sea Wolves” by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon – Jack London was a provider of plenty of dreaming material in my youth so my interest in these two titles was pretty big. I’ve got them in hardcover editions now.

“The Dragon’s Path” by Daniel Abraham – I am in the middle of catching up on all the excellent works of Daniel Abraham and this gift will help me keep this small collection of novels on track.

“Britten and Brülightly” by Hannah Berry – A graphic novel with which I am not very familiar, but I have to admit that I leafed it a bit already and it looks really good.

“Senna” – I loved the man. For me Formula 1 was never the same without Ayrton Senna. Actually, I even lost my interest completely in this racing competition after the death of this magic driver and rarely followed a race since then. I will save this DVD for later, because I might need some paper tissues while watching it.

“Heroes of Might and Magic Collection” – There are some years now since my playing time on the computer is reduced to minimum, but these games were on my highest spot of preferences for a long time. It will give me great pleasure to relive them a bit from time to time.

I am off for further celebration now, but you know, I am still open for more such wonderful gifts if there are still any ;D

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Title spotlight - "Dark Currents" edited by Ian Whates

I am vaguely familiar with the dark current concept in physics and chemistry, but these classes were hardly my favorites. As a matter of fact I always preferred a good novel over the homework for these classes, or even the classes themselves when it was possible. After all these years though, it looks like dark current can incite my interest and raise its head from underneath the stack of books gathered on top of it. Only because NewCon Press gave it the form suited for my preferences, respectively an anthology of speculative fiction. “Dark Currents” is a collection of stories based on the two words and the ideas brought to life by them from the writers’ inspiration. 16 authors offered their metamorphoses of the two words in a story, but I have to say that I am not very familiar with many of the writers or works. From the line-up the main point of attraction for me is Aliette de Bodard, who proved to be a very talented and imaginative writer in both long and short forms of fiction. I am aware and enjoyed some of Lavie Tidhar, Adam Nevill and Adrian Tchaikovsky’s works, but otherwise the authors featured on “Dark Currents” line-up are either a mystery to me or I never tried any of their writings. That is hardly a point in disfavor of “Dark Currents”. On the contrary, triggered by the anthology’s presentation and Aliette de Bodard’s presence on the table of contents my curiosity is fuelled further by the possible discovery of new interesting writers. All right, add to all these the complimentary cover artwork by Ben Baldwin. “Dark Currents” will be officially launched at Eastercon in April .

A return to NewCon Press’ tradition of offering an exciting blend of science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy and horror; a set of stories that traverses genre boundaries, linked only by their common source of inspiration. Contributors were given just those two words: ‘Dark Currents’ and then asked to write whatever story the phrase inspired. The result is a dazzling blend of exciting fictions, from haunted seascapes to distant starscapes, from reality-hopping soldiers in a surreal war to naval battles in the ether, from the deeply poignant to breathless excitement and back again, delving into the very undercurrents of life… come and immerse yourself in the depths of Dark Currents.

“Introduction” by Ian Whates
“The Fall of Lady Sealight” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
“The Age of Entitlement” by Adam Nevill
“Electrify Me” by Tricia Sullivan
“Alternate Currents” by Rod Rees
“The Barricade” by Nina Allan
“Things that Are Here Now” by Andrew Hook
“Loose Connections” by Finn Clarke
“Sleepless in R’lyeh” by Lavie Tidhar
“Damnation Seize my Soul” by Jan Edwards
“Home” by Emma Coleman
“A Change in the Weather” by Rebecca J Payne
“Bells Ringing Under the Sea” by Sophia McDougall
“In Tauris” by Una McCormack
“Lost Sheep” by Neil Williamson
“The Bleeding Man” by Aliette de Bodard
“George” by V.C. Linde

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 ROMCON Awards

This week-end at Timișoara a new edition of ROMCON (The National Convention of Romanian Science Fiction Clubs and Authors) took place, organized by Helion (Timișoara), Quasar (Iași) and Victor Anestin (Craiova). On this occasion the winners of 2012 ROMCON Awards were announced. The award winners are designated through a complex voting system that combines the votes of a jury and the convention participants. This year the ROMCON jury was formed by George Anania (president), George Ceaușu, Cătălin Badea-Gheracostea, Viorel Pîrligras and Lucian Vasile-Szabo. The winners and the nominated works are:

NOVEL: “Journey in Capricia” (Călătorie în Capricia) by Mircea Opriță

The other nominated works:
“The Honest Courtesan and the Astrologer” (Curtezana onestă și astrologul) by Voicu Bugariu
“Ink and Blood” (Cerneală și singe) by Ștefana Cristina Czeller
“DemNet” (DemNet) by Dan Doboș
“The Seagulls Island” (Insula pescărușilor) by Mircea Liviu Goga

SHORT STORY: “The Story of Calistrat Hadîmbu from Vizireni, foully murdered by Raul Colentina in a Bucharest’s outskirts inn” (Povestea lui Calistrat Hadîmbu din Vizireni, ucis mişeleşte de nenicul Raul Colentina într-un han de la marginea Bucureştilor) by Michael Haulică(Steampunk: A second revolution edited by Adrian Crăciun)

The other nominated works:
“Via Italia” (Via Italia) by Costel Baboș
“Alice in madmen’s land” (Alice în țara nebunilor) by Beatrice Badea
“The Last Hourglass” (Ultima clepsidră) by Oliviu Crâznic
“Emanoil Popescu, superhero” (Emanoil Popescu, supererou) by Ştefan Ghidoveanu
“The Alphabet for Venus” (Alfabetul spre Venus) by Cristian Mihail Teodorescu

NON-FICTION: “Ştiință și violoncel” (Science and violoncello) by Mircea Opriță

The other nominated works:
“…Neither Torquemada” (…Nici Torquemada) by Michael Haulică
“Comic books and the postmodern canon” (Benzile desenate și canonul postmodern) by Ion Manolescu
“Introduction in the interpretative fantastic” (Introducere în fantasticul de interpretare) by Cosmin Perta

PERIODICAL: Helion, magazine printed on paper, issues 1-6/2011 and online edition

The other nominees:
Galileo, online edition
Gazeta SF, online magazine
Nautilus, online magazine
SRSFF – website

DEBUT: “Ink and Blood” (Cerneală și singe) by Ștefana Cristina Czeller

The other nominated works:
“The return from holiday” (Întoarcerea din concediu) by Adrian Glosic
“Double Spiral” (Spirală dublă) by Alexandru Neagu
“The morning walk of Miss Vu” (Plimbarea de dimineață a domnișoarei Vu) by Ioana Vișan

VISUAL ARTS: Marian Mirescu – for comics

The other nominees:
Lucian Amarii-Jup – for comics
Adrian Chifu – for short film
Cătălin Negrea – for graphic
Veronica Solomon – for comics

SPECIAL AWARD: Bogdan Bucheru

Congratulations to all the winners!

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Bad Power" by Deborah Biancotti

"Bad Power"
The review is based on bought copy of the book

Hate superheroes?
Yeah. They probably hate you, too.

‘There are two kinds of people with lawyers on tap, Mr Grey. The powerful and the corrupt.’
‘Thank you.’
‘For implying you’re powerful?’
‘For imagining those are two different groups.’

From Crawford Award nominee Deborah Biancotti comes this sinister short story suite, a pocketbook police procedural, set in a world where the victories are only relative, and the defeats are absolute. Bad Power celebrates the worst kind of powers both supernatural and otherwise, in the interlinked tales of five people — and how far they’ll go.
If you like Haven and Heroes, you’ll love Bad Power.

Superheroes and supernatural powers are a very common thing nowadays, with plenty of comic books, movies and books focused on one or more figures with uncommon abilities, it is almost impossible to not have heard of at least one. However, most of these superheroes tend to be shallow figures, hidden behind a disguise that wears itself very thin on a closer inspection, the human element that lies beneath their supernatural powers is missed almost completely. Deborah Biancotti tackles this issue in her latest collection of short stories, “Bad Power”.

Deborah Biancotti’s collection consists of five stories interdependent with each other, but that can also be read independently without any difficulty. However, I do believe that “Bad Power” is much better treated a single story with multiple points of view and repays the reader more if approached as one solid product. The five stories bridge each other, mainly through characters, but also through intrigue. “Shades of Grey” has the longest grip, reaching its grasp until the last story, but also introduces Detective Enora Palmer who investigates a case of harassing in “Palming the Lady”. The subject of harassment, Matthew Webb, is the protagonist of “Web of Lies”, but the previous story holds a key of Matthew’s future of which only the reader is aware of. “Bad Power” has a slender connection with “Web of Lies”, but a deeper and meaningful one with the next, “Cross the Bridge”. Five different tales, five different characters, but read them as one single story and “Bad Power” will reveal new layers.

The stories are bridged together, but there are other connections within the stories as well. Links between the main characters and the titles of the stories, “Shades of Grey” the story of Esser Grey, “Palming the Lady” of Detective Enora Palmer, “Web of Lies” of Matthew Webb, “Bad Power” of the character who names herself Bad and “Cross the Bridge” of Maxillius Ponti, his surname meaning bridges in Italian. Not only the characters have a close correlation with the titles, their supernatural abilities share the same correspondence, dissecting the meaning of the stories for new implications that earn new and delightful prizes to the reader. Deborah Biancotti masters these connections playing wonderfully with words, skillfully mastering the language and tone. She even makes a small display of force with “Bad Power”, a story that digresses from the other four in time and tonality, but integrates admirably with the rest. And following the order of stories set by Deborah Biancotti will bring the best out of “Bad Power”.

What I loved the most at Deborah Biancotti’s “Bad Power”, however, is that no superheroes make their presence felt within their pages, only humans with supernatural abilities. The way the characters of the stories come in possession of their powers holds no importance, what matters is the impact these abilities have on their lives, the new implications and emotions the new discovered potentials bring. Flawed and insecure reactions, satisfactions and frustrations, all present the unbreakable link between the supernatural power and the human who holds it. For these reasons all the five characters are very strong, with very engaging stories, but I do like Maxillius Ponti more. For me he was the most emotional one and his story a little more sensible.

After finishing “Bad Power” I am afraid I will not look the same upon superheroes, but then again, it is not very different situation than before. I have always looked for the human behind the superhero, but I was always left deeply unsatisfied by the answers found. It is not the case with “Bad Power”, because Deborah Biancotti’s main concern with the human rather than the superpower finally brought the response I was craving for. For all these and something more I ardently recommend Deborah Biancotti’s “Bad Power”.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

4 years of blogging

It is said that four years old children are developing greater self-control and ingenuity and that they can engage in long periods of activity. I am not sure about the four years old Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews, because in the past year my schedule took a sharp-turn change and my priorities shifted irreversibly. As for ingenuity I cannot brag myself with much. However, four years of blogging were rewarding in so many ways that I can’t imagine now how my readings would have looked like without it. Four years ago I started a journey almost blindly, I didn’t have any idea what running a blog meant. I imagined something, but I was totally and completely off the track. I made mistakes, I believe that I still make them. I had times when I felt tired and disappointed with myself, but fortunately those were rare moments. These downfalls pale in comparison with the rewards brought by blogging though. The most important is that I had the chance to meet many people that changed me more or less and I like to believe that only for the better. It is true that most of these meetings were online and I certainly like the direct way more, preferably over a chatted beer or coffee, but that would have been almost impossible. So in this case the online method is good too. I would like to thank all of them, but they are so many that I am afraid I will leave someone out. So, a warm thank you to you all!

My reading speed didn’t change for the better, but the way I read books did. And although I have no intention of reviewing a certain book I find myself taking notes nonetheless. It is not something that helps some of the books I read, as much as I would like to enjoy them without a second thought the notes do not work on their favor. That doesn’t reap entirely the pleasure of a casual reading for the sole purpose of relaxation, but it is not as rewarding as before. However, I would not change the years of blogging for that, because they led to the discovery of plenty of smaller publishing houses with many amazingly beautiful books. Such a discovery would have been very difficult before, after all not all these small presses reached my corner of the world. But with a wider access to information and with the help of the people I met those little treasures were not buried deep anymore. I know that I still have plenty of such gems to find, but that is no longer a problem.

All in all, four years that brought a great experience with them. I am not certain what the future has in storage, but with a couple of ideas for posts, still in need of a push of effort that I am not able to make at the moment, I do hope that my blogging experience would continue to improve.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cover art - "The Alchemy of Stone" by Ekaterina Sedia (Italian edition)

Ekaterina Sedia’s “The Alchemy of Stone”, one of the beautiful and sensitive works of fiction, has two equally charming cover artworks, the first edition’s made by David Defigueredo and the second’s the work of Andrä Martyna. Recently the cover artwork of the Italian edition of Ekaterina Sedia’s “The Alchemy of Stone”, “L’Alchimista – Il Destino dei Gargoyle”, has been revealed by Asengard, the Italian publisher. And it looks really good. The artist of the artwork for the book cover of the Italian edition is Roberto Pitturru and his artwork is a wonderful addition to the collection of covers “The Alchemy of Stone” has. The artwork is focused on Mattie’s heart again, as was the case with the English first edition, but apart from the same edition solely concentrated on the heart. Nonetheless, it is an excellent artwork that matches the beauty of the novel and compliments “The Alchemy of Stone” in the best possible way. Well, for me the best possible way remains David Defigueredo’s cover artwork, but Robert Pitturru’s approach is almost at the same level.

Monday, March 19, 2012

2011 Aurealis Awards finalists

The nominees for the 2011 Aurealis Awards have been announced. The winners will be announced in award ceremony held on 12th of May at the Independent Theatre in Sydney.


“The Undivided” by Jennifer Fallon (HarperVoyager)
“Ember and Ash” by Pamela Freeman (Hachette)
“Stormlord’s Exile” by Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)
“Debris” by Jo Anderton (Angry Robot)
“The Shattered City” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)


“Fruit of the Pipal Tree” by Thoraiya Dyer (After the Rain, FableCroft Publishing)
“The Proving of Smollett Standforth” by Margo Lanagan (Ghosts by Gaslight, HarperVoyager)
“Into the Clouds on High” by Margo Lanagan (Yellowcake, Allen & Unwin)
“Reading Coffee” by Anthony Panegyris (Overland)
“The Dark Night of Anton Weiss” by D.C. White (More Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications)


“Machine Man” by Max Barry (Scribe Publications)
“Children of Scarabaeus” by Sara Creasy (HarperVoyager)
“The Waterboys” by Peter Docker (Fremantle Press)
“Black Glass” by Meg Mundell (Scribe Publications)
“The Courier’s New Bicycle” by Kim Westwood (HarperVoyager)


“Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden” by Joanne Anderton (Hope, Kayelle Press)
“Desert Madonna” by Robert Hood (Anywhere but Earth, Couer de Lion)
“SIBO” by Penelope Love (Anywhere but Earth, Couer de Lion)
“Dead Low” by Cat Sparks (Midnight Echo)
“Rains of la Strange” by Robert N Stephenson (Anywhere but Earth, Couer de Lion)

No shortlist or winning novel – two honotable mentions awarded to:

“The Broken Ones” by Stephen M. Irwin (Hachette)
“The Business of Death” by Trent Jamieson (Hachette)


“And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living” by Deborah Biancotti (Ishtar, Gilgamesh Press)
“The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt” by Paul Haines (The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Brimstone Press)
“The Short Go: a Future in Eight Seconds” by Lisa L. Hannett (Bluegrass Symphony, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan (Blood and Other Cravings, Tor)
“The Coffin Maker’s Daughter” by Angela Slatter (A Book of Horrors, Quercus)


“Shift” by Em Bailey (Hardie Grant Egmont)
“Secrets of Carrick: Tantony” by Ananda Braxton-Smith (Black Dog Books)
“The Shattering” by Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin)
“Black Glass” by Meg Mundell (Scribe Publications)
“Only Ever Always” by Penni Russon (Allen & Unwin)


“Nation of the Night” by Sue Isle (Nightsiders, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Finishing School” by Kathleen Jennings (Steampunk! An anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories, Candlewick Press)
“Seventy-Two Derwents” by Cate Kennedy (The Wicked Wood – Tales from the Tower Volume 2, Allen and Unwin)
“One Window” by Martine Murray (The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower Volume 1, Allen and Unwin)
“The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk, Twelfth Planet Press)

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)

“The Outcasts” by John Flanagan (Random House Australia)
“The Paradise Trap” by Catherine Jinks (Allen & Unwin)
“It Began with a Tingle” by Thalia Kalkapsakis (Headspinners, Allen & Unwin)
“The Coming of the Whirlpool” by Andrew McGahan (Allen & Unwin)
“City of Lies” by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)

“The Ghost of Annabel Spoon” by Aaron Blabey (author and illustrator) (Penguin/ Viking Books)
“Sounds Spooky” by Christopher Cheng (author) and Sarah Davis (illustrator) (Random House Australia)
“The Last Viking” by Norman Jorgensen (author) and James Foley (illustrator) (Fremantle Press)
“The Deep: Here be Dragons” by Tom Taylor (author) and James Brouwer (illustrator) (Gestault Publishing)
“Vampyre” by Margaret Wild (author) and Andrew Yeo (illustrator) (Walker Books)


“Hidden” by Mirranda Burton (author and illustrator ) (Black Pepper)
“Torn” by Andrew Constant (author) and Joh James (illustrator ), additional illustrators Nicola Scott, Emily Smith (Gestalt Publishing)
“Salsa Invertebraxa” by Mozchops (author and illustrator) (Pecksniff Press)
“The Eldritch Kid: Whiskey and Hate” by Christian Read (author) and Michael Maier (illustrator) (Gestalt Publishing)
“The Deep: Here be Dragons” by Tom Taylor
(author) and James Brouwer (illustrator) (Gestault Publishing)


“Ghosts by Gaslight” edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (HarperVoyager)
“Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010” edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
“Ishtar” edited by Amanda Pillar and KV Taylor (Gilgamesh Press)
“The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 5” edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books)
“Life on Mars” edited by Jonathan Strahan (Viking)


“Bad Power” by Deborah Biancotti (Twelfth Planet Press)
“Last Days of Kali Yuga” by Paul Haines (Brimstone Press)
“Bluegrass Symphony” by Lisa Hannett (Ticonderoga Publications)
“Nightsiders” by Sue Isle (Twelfth Planet Press)
“Love and Romanpunk” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet Press)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Dead Harvest" by Chris F. Holm

"Dead Harvest"
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Angry Robot Books

Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.
Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.

“You should not judge a book by its cover” is one of the most common expressions I know, but in plenty of times it proved to be correct as it was false. And when there is little else information at hand when I discover an unknown author or title for me the first thing to refer to is the cover artwork. That was the case with “Dead Harvest”, the debut novel of Chris F. Holm, which came into my attention through a classic looking, but a very attractive cover artwork.

The cover artwork was the starting point of my interest in Chris F. Holm’s novel, but nostalgia is the main reason for building that interest from a spark to a bonfire. When Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler are being mentioned, as they were in the presentation of the “Dead Harvest” cover, and the respective book cover looks reaped from some of those classical noir novels memories come flooding in. I grew up following breathlessly the adventures of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe and since Sam Thornton promised to be in the same line I was convinced.

However, Sam Thornton is no Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe and any comparison would not be fair. For Sam Thornton, who is quite a character on his own. Hardboiled soul collector, Sam Thornton has all the wrong connections and is not what can be called an extremely likeable character at first. By the end of his adventure Sam will get under the readers skin though. Smoking his way there! Because Sam Thornton has no consideration for the constantly growing smoke free environment or for any of his bodies and will scorch cigarette after cigarette. That is about the only constant characterization of Sam Thornton, because his physical description would be very difficult to pinpoint. Sam Thornton is dead, for quite a while as a matter of fact, and he fulfills his soul collecting missions by possessing different bodies, dead or alive.

But the last mission Sam Thornton is sent doesn’t seem exactly right and makes a kick to his conscience. And from this point forward Sam Thornton will embark in a maximum thrill ride, full action, chasing and violence. While at the same time he tries to figure what is wrong with the last collecting he had to make. Nothing is clearly revealed in the bustled soaked pages of “Dead Harvest” until the final scene when the entire scheme is disclosed. Until then, the reader must be prepared for running, shooting, driving, flying and fighting, on, above and underground. All assorted with supernatural accessories. There are plenty of opportunities for the catching of breath, especially through frequently travels into Sam Thornton’s past. And as much as I liked the action scenes, those were my favorite moments of Chris F. Holm’s novel. The history behind Sam Thornton recruitment in the soul collectors’ ranks always left me eagerly waiting for the next fragment, enough being said and revealed for my curiosity to remain constant and die until the following installment of the journey in the past.

Still, despite the moments when “Dead Harvest” slows down to allow air being inhaled at normal intervals I was left a bit panting. The action scenes are very good, but I would have liked to see Sam Thornton’s investigation following more the intellectual course rather than the physical one. I liked that Chris F. Holm kept a mystery and insecurity behind Sam’s actions, until the end of the novel I was not sure if he was right or wrong, but the finality of the story comes a little out of nowhere. I am not sure if I have missed some of the clues Chris F. Holm left throughout his novel, but for me the final answer came too sudden and lacking full support. It is a logical choice in the grand scheme, but there is no much that leads to it. There is a constant threat of a starting apocalypse until we reach this end though and this is another my complaints. Sam’s choice and actions might lead to the world’s end, but that is reminded too often for my liking. A bit too much the reader is reminded that everything might collapse without Sam Thornton collecting the designated soul and I would have left a few such mentions out, because they more quickly might turn into annoyance than coming in handy.

“Dead Harvest” has a couple of shortcomings, but in spite of them it is a very nice novella and in its case I am happy that I followed the lead left by the book cover, because the result was rewarding. And since I mentioned Sam Spade and Humphrey Bogart is most commonly associated with the said detective I have only one more thing to say to Chris F. Holm and his character, Sam Thornton, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"A Cold Season" by Alison Littlewood

"A Cold Season"
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

Cass is building a new life for herself and her young son Ben after the death of her soldier husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there's strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd. And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he's surly and aggressive and Cass's only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster. Not everyone approves of Cass's growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he's not all he appears to be either. If she is to protect her beloved son, Cass is going to have to fight back. Cass realises this is not the first time her family have been targeted by Theodore Remick. But this time, the stakes are immeasurably higher...

Quality short fiction brings many benefits to the reader, especially by rendering a condensed story that resolves the plot in a shorter and tighter amount of space, but with equal or greater efficiency than its longer relative. But what I love the most about short fiction is the opportunity it gives for discovering new writers. One such chance emerged with three short stories published in the excellent magazine, Black Static, “The Empty Spaces”, “Black Feathers” and “About the Dark”, three fiction pieces that led to my discovery of Alison Littlewood. Only naturally I followed my curiosity and interest in the work of Alison Littlewood when her debut novel, “A Cold Season”, was released at the beginning of this year.

Cass and Ben try to recover from the disappearance of Pete, Cass’ husband and Ben’s father, by trying to start again in a new place, the charming village of Darnshaw. Not only Cass and Ben will settle in their new home, but heavy winter will start making room for itself on the peaceful village, so much that Darnshaw becomes isolated, cutting completely all the inhabitants from the rest of world. The sense of complete seclusion is one of the main keys of “A Cold Season”, masterfully played by Alison Littlewood to an almost perfection. From the beginning of the novel, when Cass drives in heavy fog, and through the constant falling snow that not only that rips Cass and Ben from the rest of the world, but also limits their movements locally an atmosphere of entrapment and discomfort gathers momentum. The solitude of Cass and Ben is made more poignant by a very small cast of characters, be them major, minor or with only a fleeting presence.

The atmosphere becomes heavy not only through the external factors of the protagonists’ isolation, but also by the exposure of the internal elements conceived by Cass’ feelings and emotions. Disoriented and insecure, shaken by recent events and remerging memories of her past, partially lived in the same location of Darnshaw, Cass is just one small step from overwhelming panic. And panic hits Cass in an exploding end, carefully driven and twisted by Alison Littlewood. There are elements in the way Alison Littlewood expresses some of “A Cold Season” events that insinuate one of the final twists. Still, that particular turn holds plenty of emotion to give it value, if not to be surprising in the fullest. Also, supernatural elements make their presence felt from the beginning of “A Cold Season” and converge with the final spins to a maximum effect. Not only that, but Alison Littlewood has in storage an ultimate conflict that is specifically abruptly concluded, only to give the final chapter even more meaning and to extend the story past its actual end.

There are a couple of questions I asked myself while reading “A Cold Season” that seem to have no answer. Or at least an obvious one. I wonder why there is a confusion with the number of the apartment where Cass and Ben live, with a correspondence wrongfully delivered. And what is the specific purpose of the Cass’ working files being corrupted. Also, there is a connection in the final conflict between the negative character and the presence of Cass’ husband in Afghanistan that seems overstretched, it feels like too much of an effort for a potential and still uncertain outcome. I would have left that particular involvement out and stayed close to the randomness of the event. I would also have liked to see the story a bit more from Ben’s points of view, mostly because some of his wishes and desires are played in the plot. But all these issues look more like concerns of a grumpy old man picking on anything for the sake of one more grumbling, rather than serious obstacles in the development of the story.

Alison Littlewood uses old flavors with a fresh and personal approach to brew a story both sensible and terrifying at the same time. The difference between Alison Littlewood’s short stories I read and “A Cold Season” is that her voice grew stronger and more confident, which for certain would make itself heard even more in the future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cover art - "Blood and Feathers" by Lou Morgan

After the yesterday’s post it came to my attention that the cover artwork of Lou Morgan’s debut novel, “Blood and Feathers”, I featured on my blog it was in fact only a preliminary sketch. Simon Parr, the artist of the respective book cover, was very kind and sent me the final version of the artwork that will grace Lou Morgan’s already intriguing novel. I said yesterday that the cover of “Blood and Feathers” was not as great as those of Chuck Wendig’s novels, but in the new perspective Simon Parr’s raised the game a lot. I still find Joey HiFi’s covers exceptional, but the new Simon Parr’s cover artwork is in a very close pursuit now. The combination of black, white and red is more pregnant in the final version, putting more emphasis on the visual effect and highlighting the title and the author’s name with a discreet, but efficient dripping stroke of red. It certainly looks very good. You can find more of Simon Parr’s works and book covers on Pye Parr Art & Design Blog, with the cover of “Regicide” my favorite so far, but also with an excellent collaboration with Luke Preece (responsible for the awesome “School’s Out Forever” book cover) for the electronic editions’ covers of some of James Lovegrove’s novels.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cover Art round-up

I am perfectly aware that I should not judge a book by its cover. But I do love cover artwork so much that I cannot restrain myself very often, especially when an author is unknown to me and the first connection I make with the writer’s work is the visual one. Lately, due to various reasons, I was unable to post some book covers I loved, but I did gather them up and nothing gives me more pleasure than to feature them on my blog. Actually, I would have been happier if I could make a post for each one of them, but given the current situation it is good to show them together as well.

“Blackbirds” & “Mockingbird” by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot Books/ artist Joey HiFi) – These covers are amazing. Joey HiFi’s work is at its peak here, with such depth to each cover that I lost track of myself while admiring them. I also love the black and white combination with the red lettering title a lot.

“Blackbirds” - Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.
But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.
No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

“Mockingbird” - Miriam is trying to keep her ability – her curse – in check.
But when Miriam touches a woman in line at the supermarket, she sees that the woman will be killed here, now.
She reacts, and begins a new chapter in her life – one which can never be expected to go well.

“The Croning” by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books) – This is one of the novels I am looking forward to read this year. Laird Barron’s “Occultation” and “The Imago Sequence and other stories” were excellent and I am eager to see how the author tackles the longer fiction. Excellent cover as well.

Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us...
Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret...
...of The Croning.

“Wide Open” by Deborah Coates (Tor Books) – Both the author and the novel are a mystery to me, but that is one extremely luring book cover. And one reason enough to give “Wide Open” a chance if the opportunity arises.

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.
The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.
The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to.
As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.
Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.

“Rasputin’s Bastards” by David Nickle (Chizine Publications/artist Erik Mohr) – A book cover that does a gorgeous job for David Nickle’s novel. It doesn’t reveal anything too specific, while meeting the novel’s concept with grace at the same time.

They were the beautiful dreamers. From a hidden city deep in the Ural mountains, they walked the world as the coldest of Cold Warriors, under the command of the Kremlin and under the power of their own expansive minds. They slipped into the minds of Russia's enemies with diabolical ease, and drove their human puppets to murder, and worse. They moved as Gods. And as Gods, they might have remade the world. But like the mad holy man Rasputin, who destroyed Russia through his own powerful influence . . . in the end, the psychic spies for the Motherland were only in it for themselves.
It is the 1990s. The Cold War is long finished. In a remote Labrador fishing village, an old woman known only as Babushka foresees her ending through the harbour ice, in the giant eye of a dying kraken–and vows to have none of it. Beaten insensible and cast adrift in a life raft, ex-KGB agent Alexei Kilodovich is dragged to the deck of a ship full of criminals, and with them he will embark on a journey that will change everything he knows about himself. And from a suite in an unseen hotel in the heart of Manhattan, an old warrior named Kolyokov sets out with an open heart, to gather together the youngest members of his immense, and immensely talented, family. They are more beautiful, and more terrible, than any who came before them. They are Rasputin's bastards. And they will remake the world.

“Obsidian and Blood” by Aliette de Bodard (Angry Robot Books/Larry Rostant) – I love that Angry Robot Books went for the omnibus edition of Aliette de Bodard’s series for the cover of the French edition of the first novel in the series, “Servant of the Underworld”. It is a very nice cover, but I am still very curious to see what the other two covers of the French editions would look like.

A massive fantasy omnibus containing all three novels in the Obsidian and Blood series:
Servant of the Underworld: Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Harbinger of the Storm: The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.
Master of the House of Darts: The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming… The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere forty prisoners of war – not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favor of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.

“Blood and Feathers” by Lou Morgan (Solaris Books/artist Simon Parr) – Another beautiful combination of black-white-red for a wonderful visual impact. Not as great as Chuck Wendig’s covers, but a very good one nonetheless.

“What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘angel’?” asked Mallory.
Alice shrugged. “I don’t know... guns?”
Alice isn’t having the best of days: she got rained on, missed her bus, was late for work. When two angels arrive, claiming her life so far is a lie, it turns epic, grandscale worse.
The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; an age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. the angels must act to restore the balance – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem – alice will learn the truth about her own history... and why the angels want to send her to hell. What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and lucifer himself, it isn’t just hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat...

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday) – It is not a title that fits to the genres that make my reading bulk, but that doesn’t mean that it should be neglected. Especially when it comes with such a simple, but very efficient cover artwork.

When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.
He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking to save someone else’s life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 Premio Minotauro

Premio Minotauro is an international science fiction, fantasy and horror award offered to the best unpublished novel by a Spanish or Latin American author. The award is organized by the Ediciones Minotauro, a publishing house with more than 55 years of experience on the Spanish speculative fiction market. Premio Minotauro is awarded by a jury of seven persons chosen by the publishers, consists in a prize of 10,000 euro and the respective novel being published by Ediciones Minotauro. The award is at its 9th edition and the previous eight winners are:

2004 – “Máscaras de matar” (Masks of killing) by León Arsenal
2005 – “Los sicarios del cielo” (The assassins of Heaven) by Rodolfo Martínez
2006 – “Señores del Olimpo” (Lords of Olympus) by Javier Negrete
2007 – “Gothika” by Clara Tahoces
2008 – “El libro de Nobac” (The book of Nobac) by Federico Fernández Giordano
2009 – “El Templo de la Luna” (The temple of the moon) by Fernando J. López del Oso
2010 – “Crónicas del Multiverso” (Chronicles of the multiverse) by Víctor Conde
2011 – “Ciudad sin estrellas” (City without stars) by Montse de Paz

This year, the jury of Premio Minotauro was formed by Montse de Paz, the winner of the previous edition, Fernando Delgado, Juan Eslava Galán, Laura Falcó, Ángela Vallvey and José López Jara as secretary and it took into consideration 227 manuscripts. The winner was chosen from a list of 5 finalists and announced in a ceremony held in Madrid, Spain, on 9th of February. The 2012 Premio Minotauro was awarded to “La Torre Prohibida” (The Forbidden Tower) by David Zurdo and Ángel Gutiérrez.

The winner of the 2012 Premio Minotauro is a horror novel with an unexpected finish. After suffering an accident that almost ended his life and led to a total loss of memory Jack Winger is admitted in a nursing home to recover from the serious consequences of the accident. Jack Winger is an investigation journalist who has no visits in hospital where all the patients suffer from amnesia. What nobody speaks of is that all the patients suffer from recurring nightmares, terrible dreams that are repeating every night. Also that sometimes the head nurse takes a patient to the nearby woods but returns alone or that there is a tower with its entrance hidden and that no one is allowed to enter…
With the help of Julia, a young patient whose nightmare seems more terrible than his, Jack discovers that are places that is better not to enter and that some secrets are better left uncovered. “The Forbidden Tower” is a horror novel with a suffocating atmosphere and such an unexpected finish that would leave its readers with their mouth opened. David Zurdo and Ángel Gutiérrez have succeeded to create a novel that entraps the reader from its first page.

Congratulations! And hopefully we would see this novel translated in English (and not only) too!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book trailer - "The Steel Seraglio" by Mike Carey, Linda Carey and Louise Carey

I know that the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 caught me tangled in different things and I was not able to write a top of my favorite 2011 readings or a list of my most anticipated titles of 2012. However, I will say today that one novel that I am looking forward to read this year is the result of collaboration between Mike Carey, Linda Carey and Louise Carey and due to be released by Chizine Publications next week, “The Steel Seraglio”. There are plenty of reasons for my interest in “The Steel Seraglio”, my love for Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels, the publisher’s name, because Chizine is one the strongest small presses present on the market and is an almost guarantee for great quality in published fiction, and last but not least a very intriguing, but equally appealing, synopsis. There are a couple more, but let’s resume only to these ones. Well, maybe one more, the book trailer that fulfilled its role and increased my interest in “The Steel Seraglio”.

The sultan Bokhari Al-Bokhari of Bessa has 365 concubines - until a violent coup puts the city in the hands of the religious zealot Hakkim Mehdad. Hakkim has no use for the pleasures of the flesh: he condemns the women first to exile - and then to death! Cast into the desert, the concubines must rely on themselves and each other to escape from the new sultan's fanatical pursuit. But their goals go beyond mere survival: with the aid of the champions who emerge from among them, they intend to topple the usurper and retake Bessa from the repressive power that now controls it. The assassin, Zuleika, whose hands are weapons. The seer, Rem, whose tears are ink. The wise Gursoon, who was the dead sultan's canniest advisor. The camel-thief, Anwar Das, who offers his lying tongue to the concubines' cause. Together, they must forge the women of the harem into an army, a seraglio of steel, and use it to conquer a city. But even if they succeed, their troubles will just be beginning - because their most dangerous enemy is within their own number...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Title spotlight - "Terror Tales of the Cotswolds" edited by Paul Finch

Back in September last year I’ve spotlighted Paul Finch’s “Terror Tales of the Lake District”, due to be released at the time by Gray Friar Press. Unfortunately, like many other titles I wished to read last year “Terror Tales of the Lake District” ended up forgotten in the hectic turn taken by my personal and working schedule. This year I settled on a steady reading rhythm, not as before, although that was not a very fast either, but pretty regular nonetheless. A little piece of news brought hope to my readings catch-up desires, at least for Paul Finch’s anthology, “Terror Tales of the Lake District. Why for this particular title? Because Paul Finch brings through the same Gray Friar Press a new similar collection of stories, “Terror Tales of the Cotswolds”. With a similar cover as well, realized by Steve Upham, and which although is not at the same level as the first one it is still good to see that it keeps the same line as that of “Terror Tales of the Lake District”. With subject and stories that do not need to claw for my interest, because it was settled already after I first saw “Terror Tales of the Cotswolds” presented, the collection also features some of the authors I really appreciate, such as Alison Littlewood, Gary McMahon, Reggie Oliver, Joel Lane and Ramsey Campbell. Hopefully I would be able to read Paul Finch’s both anthologies of terror tales by the end of the year.

The Cotswolds – land of green fields, manor houses and thatched-roof villages, where the screams of ancient massacres linger in the leafy woods, faeries weave sadistic spells, and pagan gods stir beneath the moonlit hills …

The flesh-eating fiend of St. John’s
The vengeful spirit of Little Lawford
The satanic murders at Meon Hill
The ghastly mutilation at Wychavon
The demon dancers of Warwick
The cannibal feast at Alvington
The twisted revenant of Stratford-upon-Avon

“In The Quiet And In The Dark” by Alison Littlewood
Fury From Beyond
“Straw Babies” by Gary McMahon
A Bizarre and Terrible Event
“Charm” by Reggie Oliver
The Grimmest Castle in All England
“Hoxlip And After” by Christopher Harman
The Undead Who Wander The Wye
“The Shakespeare Curse” by Simon Clark
Oxford’s Black Assize
“The Scouring” by Thana Niveau
The Cannibal Feast
“Wassailing” by Steve Lockley
Bloodbath Under A Spectral Sun
“The Silent Dance” by Joel Lane
What Walks In Ettington Park?
“Waiting For Nicky” by Antonia James
The Satanic Slayings at Meon Hill
“The Horror Under Warrendown” by Ramsey Campbell
Worcester’s Most Odious Relic
“The Lurker” by Gary Fry
The Beast of St. John’s
“The Cotswold Olimpicks” by Simon Kurt Unsworth
God’s Dire Warning
“A Taste of Honey, A Horror of Stone” by John Llewellyn Probert
Lovell’s Long Wait
“Bog Man” by Paul Finch

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

19th Spectrum Fantastic Art Annual awards finalists

The finalists for the 19th Spectrum Fantastic Art Annual were announced. The winners will be announced in an award ceremony held at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!, in Kansas City. Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! will be held between May 18-20th and as the official site states “is a natural extension of the eighteen-year success of the award-winning Spectrum art annual. As an international melting pot of talent, Spectrum: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art has come to symbolize the vibrancy, diversity, and overall excellence of the creative community. The popularity of the books has steadily increased over the years, and Spectrum exhibits at the Museum of American Illustration in New York City in 2005 and 2009 shattered attendance records, leaving artists and the public clamoring for more. Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!, in collaboration with Bob Self and Baby Tattoo Books, is an answer to that call.
We envision Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! as a fantasy-focused art fair, one in which creators will be able to sell originals and prints while promoting their work to patrons, collectors, and potential clients. Presentations, panels and displays will help broaden the public’s awareness of and appreciation for our field; art directors will be invited to meet new talent and conduct portfolio reviews; workshops and educational opportunities will be offered; and there will be the chance to network, socialize, and share.”

A great event I wish I could attend.
On Spectrum’s website you can also find photos and videos from the judging process. Here are the 19th Spectrum Fantastic Art Annual awards finalists:


Justin Coro Kaufman - Mothead
Android Jones - Boom Festival
Tyler Jacobson - Talon of Umberlee
Tyler Jacobson - Daask Crime Lord
Lucas Graciano - Temple Guardian


John Jude Palencar - Bared Blade
Edward Kinsella - Wooden Bones
Petar Meseldzija - Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul
Dragan Bibin - Vid the Vampire
Jean-Babtiste Monge - Ragnarok


Jim Murray - DOTA 2: Tales from the Secret Shop
Sonny Liew - Malinky Robot
Andy Brase - DarkSun II
Phroilan Gardner - The Destroyer
Alex Alice - Sigfried III

Concept Art:

Justin Sweet - Jack the Giant Killer
Brian Matyas - Spartan Victory
Robh Ruppel - Yemen
Daniel Dociu - Hangar
Allen Williams - Unknown One


Jonathan L. Matthews - Batman, Black and White
Thomas S. Kuebler - I am Providence
Virginie Ropars - Jack
Allan Carrasco - Rhinatuar
Michael Defeo - Octopus


Chris Buzelli - Strength in Numbers
Jean-Baptiste Monge - Mic Mac Cormac
Bobby Chiu - Early Bloom
Ture Ekroos - Beneath
James Gurney - Kosmocertatops


Android Jones - Water Dragon 2012
Petar Meseldzija - The Rescuer
Bill Carman - Three Wishes
Raoul Vitale - Turin and the Glaurung
Omar Rayyan - Crow and the Pitcher


Eric Fortune - Last Embrace
Andrew Theophilopoulos - Princess of the Pleia Dians
Justin Gerard - Portrait of a Monster #3
Kei Acedera - Morning Chill
Michael Whelan - CK Unmasked

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Monday, March 5, 2012

RIP: Paul Haines (1970-2012)

This sad day sees the ascendance to Heaven of Mr. Paul Haines.

I first encountered Paul Haines’ fiction in Amanda Pillar & Pete Kempshall’s “Scenes from the Second Storey”. His story from that exceptional anthology, “I’ve Seen the Man”, was one of the best of the collections and had one of the strongest impacts on my thoughts. I re-read it today, because in the light of Paul Haines passing away “I’ve Seen the Man” reveals new depths, more meaningful and profound then before. I’ve also leafed Paul Haines’ collection “Slice of Life” last year, released in electronic format by Morrigan Books, and I am happy to see that Paul Haines leaves behind some wonderful works, but very sad to know that he will not offer us more. The world is a poorer place without Mr. Paul Haines!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Phantasmagorium #2

edited by Laird Barron
The review is based on a bought copy of the magazine

To advertise a new short fiction magazine can prove to be tricky. Nowadays there is plenty of material to be found, both in print and online, so a new such magazine needs interesting elements to attract readership. The first thing that attracted me at “Phantasmagorium” was its editor, Laird Barron. Since his short stories are something that I cannot easily forget, stories I first read on my favorite yearly collections such as “The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” and “The Best Horror of the Year” and then in Laird Barron’s two personal collections, “The Imago Sequence” and “Occultation”, I was very curious to see Laird Barron transit from the talented writer to the editor position in the case of “Phantasmagorium”. The second thing was the presence of Paul Tremblay on the second issue’s line-up of stories. Paul Tremblay’s presence on the magazine it’s the second thing that advertise “Phantasmagorium” to me because I discovered it on its second issue, but nonetheless made me curious since Paul Tremblay’s “The Little Sleep” was a truly an interesting ride for me. With these in mind there was only one thing left for me to do and that was to experience “Phantasmagorium” on the first hand.

The magazine contains three short stories and two poems. I am not very familiar with poetry, I read and continue to read poems, but only occasionally at best, so I cannot say that I have a lot of experience with it. Still, “Having Sex with Sylvia Plath” by Steve Harris didn’t do much for me, while Mike Allen’s “Budding” proved to be another species entirely. Steve Harris“Having Sex with Sylvia Plath” associates the intimate act with a series of visions, some of them interesting, some a little uncomfortable. Especially, when it is something similar with Prometheus’ ordeal. Mike Allen’s “Budding” is a very short poem, but inversely proportional in quality to its length. It has some very beautiful and unsettling verses.

“Endless Life” by Nadia Bulkin – General Jon Henry Fest, a ruthless and bloody dictator, committed suicide in a hotel room, but when tourists and TV shows come in search of thrills to this room they will discover the haunting ghost of Melanie, a hotel maid who died in the same place. My country experienced in its recent history the overthrown of a dictatorial figure through a bloody revolution and although these are very different events Nadia Bulkin’s story contains plenty of similarities with our past and present to ring very true for me. “Endless Life” approaches the human existence under such governance from the perspective of the ruler, but especially from that of the people. Also history plays an important part in the story, with the past becoming distorted with the passing of time, from people starting to forget the horrible events to the newer generation that see them as mere entries in the history books.

“Almost, Majic Man, Posters and Doors that Never Lock” by Chesya Burke – In a small town a strange pandemic breaks loose raising the small community to high psychosis levels. The story will not reveal its every facet, there are layers that remain unreachable to a point. That is what makes Chesya Burke’s story a personal experience for every reader. Also, the end of the story will bring the fear that brought hysteria to the small town on a new level, while at the same time opens a new and surprising dimension for the main character.

“House of Windows” by Paul Tremblay – Overnight a new building appears next to the public library and after some time it begins to grow on its own while in other places around the city similar buildings spring forth. “House of Windows” is a weird story full of deeper meanings. It is an urban and social comment in which lines and boundaries begin to blur and disappear. Very much the same with things from our modern society that seem to grow on their own accord, only they are not as visible as the one in Paul Tremblay’s story.

Despite reading “Phantasmagorium” almost breathlessly I did have a problem with this new magazine. Just above its title can be found “The Horror quarterly publication” statement, but that buries plenty of very good things under a label that lately proves to become more and more a misconception. The horror label drives readers away although it stretched its limits of inflicting terror just for fear or shock sake. That is why I regret “Phantasmagorium” cover statement, because the issue I read will not cause horror to any reader through shocking images, but instead will offer plenty of reasons for reflection and thought. I do know that it still nudges and probes my mind.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Galileo Awards

The winners of 2012 Galileo Awards have been announced. The award ceremony will take place on 18th of March at the Final Frontier F&SF Book Fair and Millennium Books wishes to release the “2012 Galileo Awards” anthology with the same occasion.

The Best Volume: “DemNet” (DemNet) by Dan Doboș (Media-Tech)

I received a copy of this novel through the courtesy of Dan Doboș, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to read it yet. However, I enjoyed Dan Doboș’s “The Abbey”, a fresh Science Fiction novel that it is also available in English. It is the first novel in “The Abbey” trilogy and since Millennium Books recently released an omnibus edition I am hoping that by the end of this year I would manage to catch up with Dan Doboș’s works.

The Best Short Prose: “The Story of Calistrat Hadîmbu from Vizireni, foully murdered by Raul Colentina in a Bucharest’s outskirts inn” (Povestea lui Calistrat Hadîmbu din Vizireni, ucis mişeleşte de nenicul Raul Colentina într-un han de la marginea Bucureştilor) by Michael Haulică (Steampunk: A second revolution edited by Adrian Crăciun, Millennium Books)

It gives me great pleasure to see Michael Haulică’s story win this category, because I liked it a lot. Also, I believe it is the best story from the “Steampunk: A second revolution” and fully deserves the award. Michael Haulică’s story reminded me in a small part of China Miéville’s “The City & The City”, but without losing its originality. Michael Haulică has an imaginative steampunk vision of Europe, with a few very interesting characters, humor and a captivating local touch, worthy of appearances on any worldwide “Best of SF” collection.

The Best Anthology: “Steampunk: A Second Revolution” (Steampunk: A doua revoluție) edited by Adrian Crăciun (Millennium, 2011)

It is one of my last year readings that unfortunately I was not able to review and feature properly on my blog by the end of 2011. It is an excellent step taken by the Romanian speculative fiction scene and despite the fact that Adrian Crăciun’s anthology suffers in some places it is a good project. I cannot say that “Steampunk: A Second Revolution” is a remarkable anthology, but it does feature some very strong voices and very good short stories.

The Award for the Entire Career: Liviu Radu, for the extraordinary stories he gifted us with and still does

Liviu Radu is a writer of speculative fiction who made his debut in 1993 with the story “Fața Nevăzută a Planetei Marte” (The Unseen Face of Planet Mars). He published until now 7 novels, 5 short stories collections and 1 non-fiction volume and was rewarded with the Vladimir Colin Award and the Eurocon Encouragement Award, both in 2000. In the present, Liviu Radu works as translator and is a reviewer for the Romanian speculative fiction ezine, Nautilus.

Congratulations to all the winners!