Dark Currents

I’m off composing new stuff, so you get this retro review from October 27, 2012.

I got a review copy of this book through LibraryThing.

Retro reviews are useful to see what stories remain unconsumed by the flames of time smoldering away in my brain.

Basically, in this collection, it was the Nevill story. Though I see I thought highly of the Nina Allan work. Megan over at From Couch to Moon has favorably reviewed some of her work.

Review: Dark Currents, ed. Ian Whates, 2012.Dark Currents

Soliciting stories built around a cover is an old pulp tradition, and editor Whates continued the tradition by approaching authors at Eastercon 2011. And a surprising number of authors faithfully alluded, literally or metaphorically, to the titular illustration.

But did they produce good stories?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The quality here varies wildly and a lot of sub-genres of the fantastic are represented. “Name” authors rub shoulders with newcomers.

I’ll forgo any groupings based on genre taxonomy or quality and just take them in order.

I certainly recognize the name of Adrian Tchaikovsky, but, since “The Fall of Lady Sealight” is the first story of his I’ve read, I can’t say how representative it is. In its elements of extra-dimensional adventure and conflict and alternate Earths, it reminded me a bit of Michael Moorcock. The titular character is an Abyssonaut. Raised up from childhood for her job, she fights for the Crown against the Commonwealth in an English Civil War in an alternate timeline. Lady Sealight finds meaning in the Void where others are driven mad. It is there she combats Icarus, an Abyssonaut for the Commonwealth. The story alternates between that combat and her flitting from timeline to timeline, where her mere presence often upsets the political order. Thrown in the mix is her love for Isender, a fellow fighter for the Crown. I rather liked this one.

However, Adam Nevill’s “The Age of Entitlement” was by far my favorite story of the collection. It extrapolates the current world economic woes to show a France and Britain in the grip of an even worse downturn. The narrator, along with hanger-on Toby who ungratefully sponges off him, explores the historic ruins of France. The story has rather Lovecraftian imagery — “black infinite depths above the earth” which may not be entirely metaphorical. And a sudden revelation pushes the story into a Poe-like track of vengeance with an ending that perhaps invests the title with a moral observation or, perhaps, irony. Continue reading

Lovecraft Unbound

I’m off polishing up work for other outlets, so you get this retro review from April 26, 2010.

Out of curiosity I added up how many anthologies Ellen Datlow has done since her career started in 1981. It’s eighty-nine by my rough count. A fair number are famous titles — at least as far as anthology titles go.

Review: Lovecraft Unbound, ed. Ellen Datlow, 2009.Lovecraft Unbound

Unlike Datlow’s earlier tribute anthology, Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, where many of the stories, removed from authors’ notes and the context of the book, didn’t seem to have much to do with Edgar Poe, almost all these stories have an obvious Lovecraft connection. It usually isn’t a listing of the blasphemous tomes and extraterrestrial entities created by the master. Datlow wisely avoided that, for the most part, along with Lovecraft pastiches.

It isn’t an entirely new anthology. Four of the stories are reprints. But virtually all the stories are enjoyable and work as either modern examples of cosmic horror, horrific nihilism, or interesting takeoffs on Lovecraftian themes and premises.

The one exception is one of those reprints and, surprisingly, from the biggest name here. Possessing no discernable Lovecraftian theme, image, or plot element, Joyce Carol Oates “Commencement” also fails even in its internal logic. The plot concerns the allegorical cast of the Poet, the Educator, the Scientist, and the Dean and a fate they really should have seen coming at a future graduation ceremony. Continue reading