2Q 2012 Small Press Book Reivews

Marooned

by P.J. Druce

Gryffynperch Books

Marooned is a tightly-plotted dystopian future science fiction fantasy about a girl who fights . . . oh wait, you’re thinking The Hunger Games, right? Not quite. Alyssa Jordan, a.k.a. “Punk”  is a vicious cage-match sort of street fighter. She is also the daughter of wealthy, ultra-high-status parents who are immortal. You can become immortal in Marooned‘s  world if you have enough money. Punk has those sort of abysmal parents many rich youngsters have. There’s her self-absorbed mom and it’s refreshing in a sad way that the cutter is the mother, not teen for a change (plus there is actually an excellent reason she cuts herself, believe it or not). And then there’s her dad: a charming Machiavellian and controlling bastard. Her rebellion is to fight in these public matches, right up until her 16th birthday – the last moment she can still become immortal by taking  the nano-cocktail called “communion”.

When Punk’s near-relations and friends are outed as part of an anti-government conspiracy, she drops out of sight and spends the last two weeks of her mortality trying to right some rather cosmic wrongs. If she cannot take “communion” and be Elevated she will be Marooned, unable to live forever. But with the shocking revelations that have been turning her world upside down, would she even want to ingest the nanomachines and be a part of a world that is no longer what she thought it was?

This is an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Don’t start the book as bedtime reading, as you’ll be up until you finish it. There are more books in this world coming. Can’t wait.

RECOMMENDED

 

Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Bards and Sages Publishing

Gentle readers, I have not the skill to write as short a review as Dorothy Parker’s famous reaction to Welcome to Pooh Corner.  As “The Constant Reader,” she summed up Pooh in a pithy sentence: “Tonstant Weader fwowed up.”  Alas, I am not Ms. Parker. So my review of Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things will be slightly longer.

This book is what happens when someone writes “literature” and not stories. The so-called flash fiction pieces are often not so much short stories as scenes that highlight eccentric personalities or make social commentary – often in the form of talking animals acting in a human fashion. Some of these scenes—specifically the ones about the chimera—might be sewn together to make a decent story, but alas they are not specifically sewn together. Most of them suffer from inappropriately purple prose. I was repeatedly thrown out of the story to look up the $90 words, or parse them out via context. The opening sentences, from the opening piece, “Illusionary is the Hedgehog’s Strength: An Allegory”:

Miriam was an Erinacceus albiventris, an African Pygmy Hedgehog. Although she was gazed upon as one of the fiercest warriors in her hibernaculum, being that she was all spikes from her snout to her equally portly hindquarters, she was also little more than 200 millimeters long. Untroubled by such constraints, Miriam regularly defended kith and kin from shrews, from baby sloths, and from other similar marauders. That bravery served her well until the day she encountered the lop.

“Gazed upon?” “Being that?” And the story that follows would perhaps  make an amusing Simon’s Cat cartoon, if for no other reason than the cartoon medium’s lack of intimidating written words.

There are also impossible actions by characters that threw me out of the stories. An example would be the psychoanalytical doctor who is so into studying personality disorders that he ignores the fact that his pet chimera has just dismembered his son.

A great writer once said that good writing makes the reader think the reader (not the writer), is being clever –  by letting them figure things out. Not so here.

Sweaty Things is a damp cardboard megaphone through which the writer is smugly shouting how very clever she is.

Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies

by James Marshall

ChiZine Publications

With a title like that it was either going to be a great parody or incomprehensibly awful.

It was the latter, and the fact that it was intentionally bad does nothing to retrieve the last couple of hours of my life.

Briefly, while the zombies are real the pirate is not really a pirate, and the ninja is not exactly a ninja. They are high-schoolers in a world where you have to take a ZAT—Zombie Achievement Test—to decide if you are going to become zombie or prey: self-absorbed, amoral high-schoolers who are able to act out their fantasies of wealth, power and sexuality. And they are convinced they look cool doing it.

Add a star if you liked the movie Dogma, and another half-star if your idea of fun is to read something that will get you either suspended from your local école (it starts with guns brought to school, and ends with blowing up the school and killing the principal) or a nice long bout of psychological counseling. Or both.

To say I was not their target audience is the understatement of the century.

 

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