Book Review: At the Edge, edited by Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_at_the_edgeAt the edge of reality, the edge of sanity, things get darker, grimmer and a little bit strange. This is a collection of such tales from a selection of New Zealand and Australian authors. Beautifully, lyrically written, these are not stories for the faint of heart. From the realistic to the surrealistic, within these pages you’ll find a mix of horror, science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalyptic; stories to keep you reading far into the night, stories to haunt your dreams.

Here are a few of the stand-out tales, in my opinion:

‘Hood of Bone,’ by Debbie Cowens, is a tale that borders the realms between reality and horror, and sent shivers down my spine. Decidedly unsettling; a women drags her dog away from a rotting fish and is confronted by a madman. But is it merely dementia, or something far more horrifying?

We also have ‘Crossing,’ by Anthony Panegyres, a ghost story with a difference. Poignant, bittersweet and something of a lesson in letting go of the past, it tells of Jane Self, separated by a cruel twist of fate from her husband and desperately seeking closure.

The lines between reality and unreality become very blurred in ‘Narco,’
by Michelle Child. A woman is unable to stay awake on a train through the night. What is real and what is a dream? What happens when awake and asleep blur into one? This is a chilling short story that will make you think twice before travelling alone.

Although still quite brutal, there is dark humour in ‘Street Furniture,’ by Joanne Anderton. Have you ever wondered why furniture gets left out on the street? Well, goblins are real, and they can grant wishes – particularly those requiring unpleasantness – if paid accordingly. Wishes, such as the removal of an unpleasant step-father. But such debts are not to be taken lightly…

‘Call of the Sea’ by Eileen Mueller is beautiful and tragic. Reality and surreality merge in this tale of loss, as a child is snatched away by the ocean. Heart-breaking, haunting and eloquently written.

The odd, but engaging, ‘Responsibility,’ by Octavia Cade is the tale of two sisters – one who brings life and one who brings death. What happens when the life-sister must look after her death-sister’s house and collection of zombie critters? With all the bleakness and tragedy, it’s nice to have something that feels a little lighter, even if there are still shadows of decay creeping around the edges.

This is a well-compiled collection of memorable tales, and well worth the read for anyone who enjoys the many facets of speculative fiction and likes their stories dark and, yes, edgy.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

At the Edge
Edited by Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts
Published by Paper Road Press
ISBN  9780473354152

Book Review: Shortcuts: Track 1, speculative fiction by Paper Road Press

shortcuts-track-1_front_draftbAvailable in selected bookshops nationwide.

From indie publishers, Paper Road Press, we have the first in what will be, hopefully, a series of anthologies: Shortcuts: Track 1. This installment offers up a collection of fine speculative fiction from a selection of New Zealand authors. The tales are diverse and engaging, long enough to immerse and engage the reader, but short enough to devour in a single sitting.

We begin with ‘Landfall’ by Tim Jones, a chilling near-future tale. New Zealand has become a distant haven for refugees escaping a world altered by climate change. However, it is not, truly, a haven, for the beaches are patrolled, and outsiders − and those who aid them − are greeted with guns and hostility. Nasimul is one such refugee, fleeing his homeland of Bangladesh. Donna is a soldier, trained to hunt and kill, but there is compassion amongst the cruelty.

This is followed by the somewhat more fanciful, ‘Bree’s Dinosaur’ by AC Buchanan. Deformed banana cake, a science project, a family secret and a meteorite, all converge into an explosive conclusion.

Grant Stone’s ‘The Last’ is a more haunting, fantastical tale, with folklorish elements. The narrator, Rachel, is a reporter − one of the last true rock reporters − sent into the countryside to interview the enigmatic Katherine St. John, singer and songwriter. But there is more to the woods than meet the eye, as Rachel is soon to find out.

Lee Murray and Piper Mejia have teamed together to bring us ‘Mika’. Mika is from Aotearoa, has set out on a mighty journey in her waka (a far-evolved descendant of the traditional canoes) to New York, seeking the cure for the disease that is ravaging her family. What she finds, instead, is a conspiracy, an unlikely ally and a child with a dark past and an even darker future.

Probably my favourite in this collection is ‘Pocket Wife’ by I K Paterson-Harkness. It introduces strange future-tech: miniature replicas of a person that acts as a sort of surrogate for the person, allowing them to see, hear and feel everything that the doll feels. Our narrator may be away on business, but his wife is watching him, through the eyes of her Tiny. When the replica malfunctions, we are thrown into a darkly humorous comedy of errors.

The final tale, ‘The Ghost of Matter’ by Octavia Cade features Ernest Rutherford − but not entirely as we remember him.

Overall, Shortcuts is a fine and entertaining collection, offering a bit of everything: chilling dystopia, nifty future-tech, a harrowing journey, and much, much more. I look forward to seeing what else the authors, and Paper Road Press, have to offer.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Shortcuts: Track 1
Edited by Marie Hodgkinson
Published by Paper Road Press
ISBN 9780473336486