Ardent followers of this fine ongoing series of ever more obscure ramblings of the paranoid conglomerate of emotional baggage that collectively refers to itself as Mark Hayes, will be aware I have a regular feature on a Friday where I do a few quick reviews of several books all in one go. If your definition of regular is once in a blue moon, probably twice a year at best, and frankly not always on a Friday.
I am nothing if not consistent…
Regular readers will also be aware that my normal style with reviews is somewhat long winded, wanders a merry path, and eventually gets to the point and starts actually talking about whatever it is I have felt compelled to review after something in the region of five hundred to a thousand words of vague and occasionally mildly vulgar waffling on. However, as I have three reviews of four books to get through, I shall decline to waffle to my usual degree. Regular reader’s please accept this apology for the lack of popularist interpretations of Physics, references to obscure goth bands, wild wittering’s on subjects such as narrative structure and general waffle, but you know the kind of thing I mutter on about by now. Instead, I will do the whittering mid reviews. Such wittering should not be taken too seriously…
Moonsleep and Other Stories By Liz Tuckwell
Liz is a fellow Harvey Duckman writer, but one who has spread her short story wings far wider than I. As a member of the British Fantasy Society (who refused my membership on account of me never applying) she has also written for their monthly publications (which I was unaware existed) As well as a number of other publications, (which I have also never heard of), Elizabeth is therefore quite successful at getting people to publish her short stories. There is a reason for this…
The reason can be found bound within this book, which is regather collection of her short stories from all the various publications they first appeared in. The reason she is so successful is because her stories are witty, intelligent and brilliantly written, they also process a certain charm to them that many short stories writers fail to put into their work.
So, if you want to know how to write great short stores reading this book would be a great start. Or, if you just like stories, as I do.
Salam Switch by Jessica Lucci
One of the wonderful things about the modern world is the internet. I mean clearly it is also terrible and responsible for a lot of crap in the world. But it is good at one thing, bringing people into each other orbit who would otherwise never meet, figuratively speaking. Jessica Lucci is one such person I would never have heard of and her work but for the internet. Life would be poorer without coming into contact with such people I suspect as Jessica is one of those utterly adorable enthusiasts for life who seem determined to jolly up the world by sheer force of personality alone. (Oddly she reminds me of Henretta Clarkhurst, except Jessica isn’t fictional, or currently hurtling towards the moon with Elonis Musk)
Admittedly she is also American, which is cheating as they don’t have to cope with inbreed cynicism and sense of inferiority due to the class system that is the bane of the British. Damn treacherous colonials with their upbeat optimist view of the world…
Her novella Salem Switch is an extremely fast paced read and one I enjoyed for exactly what it is a rapid roller-coaster of a story not meant to be taken any more seriously than it was written but meant to be enjoyed for everything it is. It is just lots of fun. Well not lots, but plenty.
If there is a flaw, it’s that I felt there was a novel in this novella, but occasionally a tale is best told with exuberance, pace and this certainly works just as it is written. A joyous romp of magic, steampunk and the odd sapphic interlude.
Boston Metaphysical Society Volume 1 and 2 by Holly Rosing et al
One of the wonderful things about the modern world is the internet. I mean clearly it is…. Arh, yes, I said all that in the last bit didn’t I, sorry. But anyway, another of those people I would never have interacted with and who’s work I would have probably never come across but for the internet is Madeleine Holly-Rosing. Who has written the odd guest post for this blog (and made my wittering’s seem pointless in comparison to her insightful post) Who’s prose novel A Storm of Secrets I reviewed way back in 2019. That novel is a prequal to her graphic novel series Boston Metaphysical Society, which I have been meaning to read ever since… Then Madeleine did a Kickstarter for volume two of the series in trade paperback, which was actually a collection of four shortish sequels to the original series published in volume one.
I hate Kickstarters, they hide on the edge of Facebook groups and twitter posts until I am feeling vulnerable but slightly flush with cash, then leap out at me and corner me when my will is weakest… This one was particularly sly, it told me I could get both volumes of a graphic novel series I have wanted to read for ages and some fridge magnets. I have no idea why anyone would think I needed fridge magnets. (The magnets are now on my fridge)
As for my signed copies of Boston Met, they have been a joyous read, Hollys writing and the collection of talented artists, colourists, letterer and other people needed to make a graphic novel have done an enviable job (what do I know, I do prose, so I don’t generally collaborate…) The art of all the artiest is fabulous. The story engaging, brilliantly written and constantly intriguing… I was not disappointed even after nearly four years of waiting to get my hands on these books…
There is a lot more to Holly-Rosing’s BMS universe, including an audio drama I mean to listen to at some point. She’ll probably have another Kickstarter lurking around to leap out at me at some point if I aren’t careful, I am sure. But sometimes being pounced on by great fiction is worth it… And always if Madeleine is involved as I love her writing.
Anyway, that’s all I have time for in this edition of the Friday reviews. Tune in next Friday, when I will forget to do them but hope springs eternal. To sum up, read these books, read more books in general is always my advice but these are a good start… Or, mine too I guess, they are rather good as well, so people tell me.
Now links to the books reviewed here with amazon preview things