I read a lot this week, but I only have four speculative fiction reviews and recommendations for week 39:
Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars by Andrea Phillips (from Jews vs Aliens, published by Jurassic London)
March 2015; about 3,300 words. Hilarious, engaging, and imaginative. Readers of my previous reviews probably know by now that I love any fiction that veers away from the standard prose format. Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars tells a story through brochure copy, letters, menus, ticketing for problem resolution, and newspaper clippings. If anything, this plethora of formats makes the story feel more real as the reader pieces together ephemera from Phillips’ world to understand what poor Rachel has had to go through. An issue I have with a lot of alien stories is that many don’t put enough thought into culture, whether that’s building a new alien culture or incorporating existing human cultures into an alien context. Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars handles both facets beautifully; Phillips simultaneously renders a fascinating intergalactic business culture while displacing a familiar human culture as something “alien” to the people running Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars. The story may be set in a distant galaxy, but the tales of culture clashes are delightfully familiar.
Don’t Blink by Gon Ben Ari (from Jews vs Aliens, published by Jurassic London)
March 2015; about 7,600 words. Another not-quite-standard-prose story, told only with dialogue between the narrator and a mirror. I adored this story. It’s a little dense in the beginning, but I found myself fascinated by the philosophical and religious discussion even as some of topics flew over my head—the strength of Ben Ari’s writing kept me reading. The conversation then takes a sharp turn into an intimate family story. Ben Ari handles emotions masterfully here; the narrative felt poignant, regretful almost, and at many times painful. Don’t Blink is one of those stories where I find it difficult to articulate why I loved it so much; I just know that it spoke to me. The interpretation of aliens is intriguing, and the last line was perfect.
A House of Anxious Spiders by JY Yang (The Dark Magazine)
August 2015; 5,000 words. A wonderful story. The premise itself is fascinating: In this world, spiders lurk beneath tongues, and people settle arguments via spider fights. A dead spider renders the loser literally speechless until the next spider hatches. To avoid this fate and maintain peace, the characters swallow their anger and keep quiet. A House of Anxious Spiders is as much filled with spiders as it is with that tension of things left unsaid and of unresolved resentment. The speculative element integrates well with the imbalanced family dynamics that Yang builds up. The story doesn’t end as neatly as I might like, but maybe that’s just me picking up on the muted, unsettled atmosphere of the last scene.
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Del Rey)
February 2011; 300 pages. A fun romp through a magical London. I love Aaronovitch’s personifications of the rivers and the interactions he writes between magic and technology. In so many fantasy stories, magic and technology seem antithetical, but Aaronovitch makes them intersect in an intriguing way. Every character is colorful and unique—Molly has to be my favorite, and Peter’s voice is so refreshing. The only change I would wish for would be for Peter to stop objectifying women. Sure, people have sex drives and romantic interests, but Peter’s comments always felt gratuitous. Other than that, I loved the richness of Rivers of London world, and I love a good mystery. I’ve queued up the next novels at my local library and hope they come in soon.