Siren Beat is a little bundle of joy.
At least that's how I felt when I dipped into this novelette from Tasmanian author Tansy Rayner Roberts.
I was on a break from reviewing a particularly difficult to read ARC (which I suspect was self published). Before I realised it, two hours had flown by. I 'd finished the story, annoyed and distracted my wife with entertaining snippets and been left wanting more.
Enter Nancy Napoleon
Nancy is a guardian. She guards the Hobart docks from those that dwell in the deep, creatures that would lure humans to the deaths for fun or even more clandestine purposes.
Some Siren's are on shore leave and they are causing problems, dead body problems, the kind of problems, that only Nancy can deal with. She's getting over the death of her sister, the sisters ex boyfriend, who is also a Kelpie(in the folk lore sense, not a cattle dog) and coming to terms with her partially crippled body.
This is Urban fantasy with an Aussie flavour. It's good Urban Fantasy as well. Nancy Napoleon is no wilting flower, neither is she one of those glamorous airheads that miraculously transform themselves into demon fighting, vampire killing femme fatales only to fall in love with strong silent cardboard cut out male eye candy.
There's some strong language as well as a couple of very saucy patches, that make this a very funny, memorable and adult piece of fiction. It reminded me of the Dresden Files, only I think I like Nancy as character more than Harry Dresden.
This is the best piece of short fiction I have read in a long while. It picked up the WSFA Small Press Award for 2010 at Capclave in October this year(confirming my impeccable taste). It's punchy, funny and leaves me with a taste for more.
Tansy secured a grant from the Australia Council to write the first full length Nancy Napoleon novel. Called Fury, it will hopefully be out in early 2012.
Where can I get it?
At $1.99 US for the ebook version through Smashwords makes a nice little ePresent for yourself or someone else. Kudos to Twelfth Planet Press for making the title available in multiple formats too.
It was originally released with Road Kill by Robert Shearman in tête-bêche format by Twelfth Planet Press as the first of their doubles collection. Go here if you would like to purchase it in printed form.
Angel Rising is a novella by Tasmanian writer Dirk Flinthart. The story is set in the shared world of New Ceres a now defunct (or it just in haitus) Australian Speculative Fiction project.
The tale is set on the World of New Ceres, a planet isolated from the rest of space faring humanity by virtue of laws that preserve it as a replica of eighteenth century earth. You will find examples of Enlightenment era Europe as well as, in this case Feudal Japan.
Certain modern technologies are banned, there is only one spaceport on the planet, entry and departure from New Ceres is strictly controlled.
Our protagonist George Gordon is a Proctor, a genetically enhanced human who forms part of the Lady Governors network of secret protectors. He and others are sent to weed out illegal off worlders and investigate those who threaten society and culture on New Ceres.
Gordon is sent to to the Sunrise Isles (New Ceres' Japan) to investigate a potential off world incursion. What follows is action and subterfuge aplenty involving samurai, ninja and nuns.
And it's not as corny as that last sentence sounds.
What I liked
Angel Rising, and the New Ceres setting reminds me of the feel of Firefly - though with more swashbuckling. Always a bonus in my opinion. Dirk Flinthart's writing is punchy, the action smoothly written and his characterization of George Gorden has left me wanting more stories with this protagonist.
What I didn't like
Not enough George Gordon. Please write more. I have had to hunt down all the other New Ceres works just to get my fill.
Horn by Peter M Ball is another brilliant Australian novella from Twelfth Planet Press. It's a paranormal detective story.
But be prepared, this ain't your little sisters ( unless you have a rather odd family) book about faeries and unicorns. This is a hard boiled detective novel, dark and probably a little confronting for some.
Miriam Aster ain't no Nancy Drew, either, she's an undead freelance investigator on the trail of a murderous, horny unicorn- Oh did I mention she's a Lesbian.
To give away more, would I think ruin the novella. Horn needs to be experienced on a personal level.
Now for those not reading closely, I said undead, lesbian, and horny unicorn all in the same sentence. No this isn't some paranormal erotica gone wrong. It's possibly the best paranormal fiction I have read all year, possibly ever. It will be confronting, it will take some of you close to edge. But I think Ball crafts a delightfully dark little tale, revealing a more honest portrayal of the Fae, the sex, lust and double edged devious nature.
If you grew up playing Faeries and Unicorns with 'My Little Pony' you might want to skip this one. If you are looking for great noir fiction and a good angle on paranormal fiction, read it, possibly with stiff drink in hand.
The Smoke Dragon tells the story of Yamabushi(a wild mountain fighting monk) Kaidan and his sidekicks Aiko and Yumi as they battle against bandits and their Smoke Dragon and an opportunistic Samurai clan.
It's classic mystical Japan with Kaidan casting spells that augment his martial prowess and dispensing wisdom left, right and centre. The tone is somewhat reserved, perfect for the genre.
What I liked
This piece of fiction took me back to days spent wasted playing in the pseudo-historical world of Tenchu - Stealth Assassin.
I'd like to read more of these Characters and from the extra chapter included at the end of this download its seems Cummings will be doing that in the not too distant future.
What I didn't like
Not too much to dislike really.
It does feel like the opening to a longer tale and while perfectly self contained as a story in its own right I would have liked more so that the characters and their motivation could be filled out.
If your a fan of pseudo-historical oriental tales, anime or games, download it. Hell even if you're not into any of the above enjoy a good free read.
Shifting Reality is a science fiction novel set in ISF-Allion Universe that Patty Jansen has been developing over the last couple of years. Other works in the series are Luminescence (novelette), His Name in Lights (novelette) and Charlotte’s Army (novella).
I mentioned in my review of Luminescence above that I wanted longer works set in the ISF- Allion Universe and while I don’t think Patty was specifically listening to me, she has steadily delivered, writing Charlotte’s Army and then Shifting Reality.
Shifting Reality is the tale of Melati Rudiyanto the granddaughter of expat Indonesians who form the labour force on the aging space station of New Jakarta. The space station comes under ISF(International Space Force) jurisdiction and Melati joined the an ISF training program to repay a debt to the Doctor who saved her and to give herself a chance at a better life. Her family sees her as betraying them and her people. She sees them as stuck in the same cycle of poverty, unwilling to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.
He job is to train/teach human constructs (clones) through their accelerated growth period. The action begins when one of the clone children displays an understanding of adult concepts and language that he should not have yet developed. Melati’s concern and care for the children in her charge leads to an unravelling of a larger station threatening plot.
What I particularly like about Jansen’s science fiction (she writes hard–sf as well) is that it’s rare that the tech or the science is the reason for the story but when it does surface, it’s well thought out, realistic and logical. It makes for a quick immersive read with no oddities to drop you out of the immersion.
What I particularly like about Shifting Reality is the choice to have a person of colour and a woman as the central character and that she is a teacher. It’s refreshing to have a protagonist who is not military special forces in high tech spandex.
I don’t know enough about Indonesian culture(s) to know how well Patty has transported it to the life on board a space station but she does a convincing enough job of playing off tensions between family, work and the wider community for me.
While Shifting Reality sits somewhere within the sphere of military science fiction I like the focus on the other aspects life at New Jakarta Station : tourism, refugees, organised crime and human trafficking.
I also like the way in which Jansen slowly builds her “world” with each outing, enabling the attentive reader to pick up on actions and outcomes that occurred in earlier works.
If you are looking for something less over the top than space opera, but still with a broad scope. If you are looking for something with a solid scientific under pinning that’s different to all the “square-jawed Marines save space” narratives, then I think you should check Jansen’s Shifting Reality out. But I'd also recommend reading the entire ISF-Allion series of works to appreciate the scope of the “world” Jansen has devised.
This book was provided by the publisher.