Friday, 14 October 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Points of Possibility, by Norman Turrell, and Outliers of Speculative Fiction anthology


Points of Possibility, by Norman Turrell

Anyone who knows me by now knows I love a well-crafted short story.
I grew up on tales by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Stephen King, or the kinds of tales that filled all kinds of sci fi and fantasy magazines, stories that sparked the imagination in just a handful of pages.
Norman Turrell isn't a name I'd come across until recently. I wish I'd found him earlier.
From the story of the arrogant noble upgrading himself physically and hunting human prey until he goes too far, to the exploration of a fully immersive online world and the controls placed on it from outside, Turrell writes with a thoughtfulness and manages a pace that lets the stories breathe despite the short length.
He can make the skin crawl too, such as in the disturbing Little Angel, or the building horror of The Muse (even if the Irishman in me smiles at an error or two in the setting, but no harm there!).
There's an odd story that doesn't work for me - From The Grave To The Grave is an interesting experiment but didn't quite pan out, and Court, a fantasy story, just didn't catch me. That's to be expected, though, in a short story collection.
I like Turrell's style - he makes you think, and sometimes makes you fear, and that's a talent to be commended.

AI rating: 4/5

Learn more about Norman Turrell at his website, http://normanturrell.com/.


Outliers of Speculative Fiction, edited by LA Little

Outliers of Speculative Fiction is a new anthology, something that's to be encouraged in the publishing landscape.
This debut has attracted some strong names, too, such as Cat Rambo, the SFWA president, and Dark Lane anthologies editor Tim Jeffreys.
There's no strong, abiding theme to the collection, which is both a blessing and a curse. It encourages diversity - in both content and representation - but leaves a lack of focus at times.
That said, there's some brilliant work in here, such as by the aforementioned Tim Jeffreys, whose No Other is a hard look at post-apocalyptic life, or Kelly Dwyer's Liminal Hill, a sci fi in a seedy future world of cigarettes and spies, bullets and lies.
Kama Post's intriguing and otherworldly When We Go Flying unnerves, while The Boomtown Clurry Snatch, by Kristin Jacques is a fine caper.
That said, there are others that don't sit as well. Cat Rambo's story, for example, has no plot or indeed any named lead character, and reads as a rant by a blogger in a superhero world - a member of the League of Extraordinary Superbloggers, perhaps, all about how superhero names ain't what they used to be. Fine enough for a bit of fun, but too slight as a story. The editor's own Somnambulant strays too lightly into territory well trod by Neil Gaiman and is overshadowed as a result. A couple of stories feel like they're just getting going when they come to an end too - such as PE Bolivar's The Forest Realm, where online gaming turns obsessive and deadly, or Heather Harris McFarlane's Pandora's Toybox, which chills but feels like it needs more weight.
There's experimentation in form by Jetse de Vries, in Random Acts of Cosmic Whimsy, which I found almost unfollowable, and S Kay writes an entire story in Twitter format, which is an achievement technically but as a story focusing on someone not understanding bots and talking about Kim Kardashian is a feed I actually would unfollow. Technical challenge over artistic achievement in that case, I think.
Throw in some bumpy editing and odd formating in the version I received to review and this works out as a middling collection. But middling ain't bad for a first pitch, and I hope it proves a firm stepping stone for future anthologies.
One last special word for a story that's lingered in my head since I read it. Eric Landreneau manages to combine rock and roll, a dead end Virginia town, parental abuse and urban myth to spin together a very affecting tale. Well played, sir, this lingers like the effects of a good moonshine whiskey, and burns all the way down.

AI rating: 3/5

Outliers of Speculative Fiction is available on Amazon here.

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