Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: Haven Kansas by @AletheaKontis

Looking for something spooky for Halloween?

Step into Lora's life-turned-nightmare in young adult horror novel, "Haven, Kansas" by Alethea Kontis, where Lora and Erin's dreams of getting in touch with spirits and magic come true in the worst way. Lora wears black and reads about the occult, but at heart she is only a teenager living an average rural life in Haven, Kansas. Her oldest brother likes to fix tractors. Her younger brother and his friends like to pull pranks on the school. And her best friend Erin shares everything with her, including a years-long promise to keep their hands off their mutual crush. Except, Erin doesn't tell Lora where she's going that fateful night, and this innocent little secret makes solving deaths that much harder.

Also, murderous crows. Murderous crows make everything harder. The best clue Lora has is a foul-smelling, centuries-old book engraved with a single name, and meanwhile, people are dying around her.

In "Haven, Kansas" by Alethea Kontis, Lora confronts the power of hate with the help of her family and friends--not exactly your typical super-powered line-up of exorcists, but it's all they've got. Grab your copy here!


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Review: UFO6 by @AShvartsman

In UFO6 (Unidentified Funny Objects 6), editor Alex Shvartsman once again delivers the high quality comedy we've come to expect from his UFO series. A good portion of UFO6 titles utilize epistolary formats for a non-traditional punchline—these stories are otherwise quite unlike each other. A wonderful collection, expertly arranged.

Stories range from the self-explanatory “Twenty-Nine Responses to Inquiries About my Craigslist Post: Alien Spaceship for Sale. $200, You Haul” by Tina Connolly to the surprisingly touching “A Crawlspace Full of Prizes” by Bill Ferris, which is a bit like if your life were a video game, while being nothing like other stories about video-game lives.

UFO6 includes heavy-hitters Jim C. Hines with parody “A Game of Goblins,” Jack Campbell with “Agent of Chaos,” in which a writer's muse forces her on a trek deep into the mountains where she coincidentally encounters Gothlack, God of Chaos, Alan Dean Foster with a Mad Amos Malone story, “A Mountain Man and a Cat Walk Into a Bar,” and Mike Resnick with a Harry the Book story, “The Great Manhattan Eat-Off,” which is as perfectly ridiculous as it sounds. If you've never read Mad Amos Malone or Harry the Book, you're still in for a treat with these two. And let's not forget Ken Liu, whose “An Open Letter to the Sentient AI Who Has Announced its Intention to Take Over the Earth” drips with sleaze.

On the hard science fiction side of things, “The Breakdown of the Parasite/Host Relationship” by Paul R. Hardy shows how a symbiote and its host can degenerate into petty arguments as fast as your roommate. The Captain reluctantly attempts to intervene as disagreements turn violent and regulations fly out the spaceport. “Display of Affection” by P. K. Sambeaux serves up a healthy dose of creepy in a world where everyone's wired into the net. Guy can't take any more of it when his mother dies, and—well, you'll never look at a museum quite the same afterward. In “Common Scents” by Jody Lynn Nye, symbiote Dr. K't'ank helps host Dena Malone solve a murder mystery with his love of stink. “Alexander Outland: Space Jockey” by Gini Koch may make you wonder if a comedic anthology could, indeed, be complete without space pirates and explosions. “Approved Expense” by David Vierling gives us a chance to live vicariously through dimension-hopping Special Operative Morgan T. Graymael as he explains his itemizations to The Budget and Accounting Administration.

Israel's lost tribe returns on a spaceship in “Lost and Found” by Laura Resnick, in which they are quite shocked to learn what's become of their temple. Esther Friesner introduces readers to the mythical Yiddish town of fools with “From This She Makes a Living?”—along with some interesting phrases, uttered at the discovery of a people-eating dragon come to town. Both Friesner and Resnick's stories treat religion with whimsical irreverence.

Dear Joyce” by Langley Hyde turns all your fantasy tropes on their head with an opinionated advice columnist in this parody reminiscent of LOTR, if Frodo had written to Joyce. “Return to Sender” by Melissa Mead takes us back to folktale classics with letters written by giants of the fe-fi-fo-fum persuasion. “An Evil Opportunity Employer” by Lawrence Wayt-Evans pokes fun at both lawyers and secret identities as our hero tells a henchmen that he should have read the contract. “The Friendly Necromancer” by Rod M. Santos shows us the proper way to deal with those pesky Knights and Knaves riddles—with violence. Santos delivers an excellent blend of characterization, quest-like trickery, and irreverent humor.

Told in first person by the morally-ambiguous scientist who unleashed chaos on the world through humanity's greed and self-loathing, “Impress Me, Then We'll Take About the Money” by Tatiana Ivanova, Translated by Alex Shvartsman, closes out UFO6 with a bang.