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Mar
08

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate

Published: 2016

Reviewer Rating:  4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Shadows and Teeth Edited by R Perez De Pereda

 

Shadows and Teeth, was edited by R. Perez De Pereda or at least I think it was. It actually is not made clear. But I will not hold this against Darkwater Syndicate because this is an excellent horror anthology. As some people may know, I do not read many anthologies, but I have not gotten many new horror novels lately and needed a strong dose of the scary and luck was with me for Shadows and Teeth delivered.

The tales are a little longer than some and even though this is a full-length book, there are only ten stories. I had no issue with this. It is great for authors to have enough space to insure their complete tale comes across. These stories are not quite up to the ‘I need to leave the light on tonight,’ but some of them left me unnerved. Below is a quick review of stories they present for us.

First up is Water, Ice, and Vice, by Antonio Simon, Jr. Wow, talk about a novel idea for horror—an evil refrigerator which gives you what you want, but maybe not in a way you would like it. Jeremy goes from being a promising young man to a victim who could die from horrid diseases, end up in jail, or worse. I liked how this story set the stage for the anthology. It let me know I could expect anything.

Second up is The Dinner Party by Trevor Boelter. Kaitlin has guests. She is hosting a party, but why does it feel so wrong? Why are so many bad things happening? Part of her dinner party seems normal, but other parts are quickly entering beyond weird and into a realm of dangerous terror. She needs to figure out what is really going on before she ends up added to the growing pile of bodies littering her bedroom. This was well done. It makes the reader work to figure out what might be happening before Kaitlin does.

Broken Glass Face

Routine by Mia Bravo hits us next. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders can develop out of the need to keep ourselves safe. However, if taken too far, they can plunge a man into madness or worse start to make his life unsafe, the very opposite of what it set out to do.

Mark Meier brings us The Final Spell. I read this while sitting in my car on the outskirts of a high desert town and as the wind blew dust over the unfamiliar streets and faces, I have to admit the story made me feel a little uneasy. A student in the school of Magick finds a mysterious trainer. Perhaps he should have been more wary, but each step he takes leads him that much further from any hope of salvation.

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Back Through the Mists is by J.S. Watts. This is about time traveling hosts who continue to reenact the gruesome sacrifices of their time. I liked the main character, but I felt to many things were left undone and this one did not leave me loving it.

Paige Reiring wrote Spawn. This short could be made into a book series with some effort. More urban fantasy than horror here, although what this female assassin has to battle is horrible indeed. In a world where some talented folks are given familiars, one should always consider there could be a bigger and badder familiars out there and if it comes for you, only the best will be able to survive.

 

Madness

 

 

The Pied Piper’s Appetite by, Rich Phelan comes next. This is a more low  fantasy number. What starts out as a reasonable guy quickly becomes a vicious and plotting serial killer. He does not just kill his victims but likes to play with them first. Not a situation I would want to be in. After all the supernatural in this anthology, it was a little hard to shift gears for me. I am not too into torture style horror as much.

Viktoria Faust presents Riana in the Gray Dusk. The shortest story in the compilation, in this a photographer makes a study of a girl who lives to be on film. But what if the film is also robbing her? Like a junky seeking a high which leads to doom, could the same thing have happened to this girl?

The Autobiography of an Unsuccessful Author was written by Brittany Gonzalez.  Maxwell is writing a horror story. Have his characters come alive or has he snapped and who is really trying to kill his wife? This one became brutal. I suppose there are many brands of horror, but the ‘oh crap I’m in a living hell and beating up my wife,’ is not as much my thing.

Crying by Darren Worrow could be considered a novella and is very nicely done. A well told tale about a man having issues in his life and wondering how his past may be affecting his choices. When he uncovers a curse might be involved with his family, he starts to research the issue but discovers more about himself then he might have liked.

A few of the stories did not move me as much, but overall this is a great horror anthology. I would recommend it to all lovers of horror and look forward to receiving more from Darkwater Syndicate.

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Mar
05

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Freedom Fox Press

Published: 2017

Reviewer Rating: 3

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

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Hero Lost, is a Fantasy Anthology edited by Alex J Cavanaugh. This anthology has 12 short stories which all revolve around mostly traditional fantasy themes. This book comes out of a Facebook group called the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Seven people reviewed and voted on who got to be in this anthology. I am not sure what went wrong, but the stories were not of the highest caliber. Perhaps it was a closed group thing, picking favorites, or a limited supply, but with so many superb anthologies out there, this one seemed a little lack luster to me. I will go over the stories and let you make up your own mind.

We start with Mysteries of Death and Life written by Jen Chandler. When you find Death and he is trying to die it brings up a few questions and issues. This was a stronger story and a good way to start the Anthology

I also enjoyed The Silvering by Ellen Jacobson. I liked the idea of everyone hiding their hands and hands becoming the erotic zone for people. Mysteries and plotting abound in this one nicely done tale.

Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight, by Renee Cheung comes third. I love the use of the name Cormac. Too bad his luck turns so ill. Pretty good story with a twist—High fantasy with a dragon battle, but for me the battle was too short and easy.

Roland D. Yeomans wrote Sometimes They Come Back. Very High Fantasy here. Loads of bizarre and enjoyable characters. Everything from Goddesses to talking mice get involved in this adventure. This might be a fun one for the Young Adult audience.

The Wheat Witch, by Erika Bebee did not do it for me as much. The story had a backdrop of mystery as a man in trouble returns to his home town. I had a harder time entering this world. It had a nebulous unclear quality and just did not draw me in.

Sarah Foster brought us The Last Dragon. I liked this one. We got a little more action here. Twins with magic powers who have a hero for an uncle, go to see him, because others seek to enslave them and use them for their abilities. Perhaps the slavers so be more careful in who they hunt no matter what their age.

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Mind Body Soul is an interesting tale by Elizabeth Seckman. An insecure King assumes his arranged marriage never led to love and makes the choice to trade his soul with his queen’s dying teenaged crush. He realizes too late she could care less about her childish crush and is madly in love with her king. Intense, but sort of annoying when the king makes such a stupid mistake.

Olga Godin brings us Captain Bulat. This was my favorite story of the bunch. This one contained action, suspense, and mystery. Altenay is a Finder and is hired by a wealthy man to track down a man who has been missing for years. Her employer gives her a dagger to help mystically track the man down. This is good because she quickly realizes she is not the only one hunting. Nice tale, I would read more by this author.

The Witch Bottle by Sean McLachlan was another story that did not move me too much. The main character is married to a witch, but is so whiny about his problems it left me voting for her.

The Art of Remaining Bitter, by Yvonne Ventresca is next. This is a Kurt Vonnegut style of story where everyone is forced to be Blissed at age ten. The issue for our young girl is that she wants to be herself with all her bitterness and not some artificially happy monkey like the rest of the world she sees.  I did enjoy this one.

Tyrean Martinson wrote Of Words and Swords. If you are a hero do you have to remain a hero? Does a person have the right to do what they choose even if they excel in another area? These are issues the dragon slayer turned poet must wrestle with when a new dragon starts to burn the city.

Last, we have Breath Between Words by L. Nahay. This is a somewhat arty tale which unfolds for the reader as a character lays dying. Between the breaths, we paint the picture of what happens around her, but soon it will make little difference. I found this a strange choice for the last story and it did not thrill me overmuch.

This is a complete and strong anthology. It was nice to see it follow a fantasy theme and not bounce all over the place. Still, with so many anthologies just power hitting it out of the park, this one fell a little short for me. It was not bad, just not great.

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Feb
23

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Published: 2012

Reviewer Rating: 2.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

My Vacation in Hell by Gene Twaronite is a young adult version of Dante’s Inferno. I had managed to avoid reading YA literature for a while now, but I enjoy visions of Hell so I thought I would check this one out. Niven’s Inferno is one of the only books I have ever read twice and the geography and trails of Hell have always been something which has interested me.

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The novel follows John, a 15-year-old misfit, as he and his guide travel down through the different layers of Hell. His guide is Virgil another kid from his school, who, for whatever reason, has already been to hell a few times. He also meets a girl from his high school who he has a crush on and she also helps insure John is not trapped in some foul region of Hell.

They follow through some of the layers of Hell, but it seems a bit haphazard and they do not follow Dante accurately and skip through many of the sections/layers. More of a horrors of Hell cherry pick as opposed to a complete journey.

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Not too far into the novel, we discover John has been sexually abused. The journey becomes not so much a test of his morals and fortitude, but a chance for him to use Hell to work through the lingering damage of his personal inner Hell.

John is a likeable character and you want him to succeed. Despite his two allies, he is tested and in the end, must work out the riddles of Hell alone.

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Things about this book which did not appeal to me would include the randomness of the encounters. At times, they could walk right by demons without a worry, but in other areas they almost lose their lives and freedom. I did not like how I felt regions of Hell were skipped over. John also tended to get saved in such a manner we really did not feel too much concern over his safety.

I do not mean to be too harsh, this is a book for teenagers. Perhaps a strange choice for a young adult book, but with Hell being used as a metaphor for a teen’s journey through his own inner torment, I think it worked. This book may also work for that strange nephew of yours, but I think most adults might want to steer clear of this one.

 

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Feb
16

Sometimes a whir like a spinning Top

Because I do not want to Stop

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Accomplish this, head over There

Move with Purpose and Flare

 

I will make these dreams come True

Watch what I can Do

 

Try to stand in my Way

Screw with me and make me Pay

 

I do not care what people try to make my Obstacle

I will freeze them out like a Popsicle

 

From the moment I Wake

Constantly Kicking out the action for betterment’s Sake

 

Work on this, that, and the other into the Night

Knowing my path is Right

 

So Hecate bless my Mission

Never let me fall into Submission

 

And as this day burns into the Next

I will have more done and less of the things which Vex

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Feb
13

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Titan

Published: 2016

Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael Griffiths

the-race-by-nina-allan

The Race, by Nina Allan is a literary novel with just a tinge of Science Fiction. Things are hinted at in this book, like parallel worlds and the ability to talk to animals, as well as biologically developed smart dogs, but these are just side notes to the story of two different girls growing up through hard times. They live outside London, but both England and the outer islands are places not very similar to our world.

The book is broken up into several different sections which focus on the story of a family who gets involved with smart dog racing as well as more nefarious pursuits. The first section (I think) is the main character, Christy’s, fictional account of her own life. This sets the stage for the ‘real’ story which comes next. Other characters are outlined and introduced as we proceed through this epic (470 page) novel.

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Again, the science fiction aspects are only briefly considered and does little to change the plot or affect the characters with a few small exceptions. Instead this is a well written story detailing the hardships, which can befall young women. Not everything is dreary, but the world these characters live in is gloomy and dark throughout most of the tale.

Christy’s life revolves quite a bit around her wild and uncontrollable brother. He brings hardship upon the family again and again, which include making her mother move away forever. Smart dog racing becomes their life, but also leads them toward disaster.

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Downsides of this novel could include a reader being disgruntled if they expected a true science fiction novel. Parts of the novel are a bit confusing and many of the story threads are left unfinished. It is almost like finding a few photo albums of a family and not knowing the beginning or the end of their tale. I am rating it as a literary novel more than science fiction. If I was looking at it as a science fiction novel I would probably drop a whole star.

Allan is a very talented writer and the book is absorbing. If the reader can fall in and enjoy the story for what it is, I think most people will get a lot out of it. This might be a good book to introduce a daughter or girlfriend to science fiction if they have never tried it before and you wanted to ease them into the genre.

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Feb
07

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Quick Books

Published: 2007

Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

how-to-survive-a-horror-movie-by-seth-grahame-smith

 

How to Survive a Horror Movie, by Seth Grahame Smith is a comic, but practical, overview of how a person could survive if they found themselves trapped within the various sub-genres of horror. Seth gives tips to the potential victim which range from useful to humorous, to outright odd. If some of these things did happen to you, this book would help, although most of us will not find ourselves being chased by supernatural serial killers any time soon…we hope.

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After a general introduction, Smith breaks the horror genre into the following sub-sections: Slasher Survival School, Inanimate Evil, Crypt-ography, Fangs of Fury, and The Satanic “Versus.” Each of these chapters outlines how to persevere through these types of deadly threats. Again, comedy is mixed with advice which would aid an individual dealing with such horrid situations.

scarcrow

The read is fun and smooth. This would be a good vacation book. I read the whole thing on a red-eye flight and I think it was a good call. Enjoyable, but not overly taxing. I think all lovers of horror movies would find something they would like here. The author obviously had done his research and put in his time getting ready for this guide. He finds the humor in the movie stereotypes and topples them on their ear, while also poking fun at some of them. He also reviews what you do not see in these movies and how that information could also help you escape the various evils. Things like escaping from the serial killer by using full frontal male nudity (Because there is never such a display in those movies) would bust you out of the film.

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Downsides could include, the book only focuses on film and ignores other expressions of horror. He also makes a few snap judgments or defensive choices with make it seem like anyone who has not thought of such things already is ignorant, including the writers or viewer of movies.

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As a huge horror movie fan (I own hundreds of films) I found this how to book very enjoyable. I believe other horror movies fans would as well. If you are not a big fan of horror, you might look elsewhere for your vacation reading.

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zombies-old

Jan
03

I sit for a moment in the airport. Big beer/Small Salad. Pausing, I try to think on what the New Year will bring. What will it mean for me and the rest of the people and animals wiping around the universe on this giant glowing ball of life.

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Sitting within such a crowded place teeming with people tends to make a person humanocentric. I think most of us tend to be this way more often than not. Whether for good or for ill, our lives circle around the importance of our own species. I suppose we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for this, since I’m sure bobcats mostly think about bobcat things, and sharks do their own dance through the depths.

Yet this type of thinking gets us into trouble. On the money-making side of the street…what do the homes of field mice and birds matter if I can convert this stretch of forest into an apartment complex and make 500 grand. “Hey, don’t come down on Mark Moneybags, he’s creating jobs too.”

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I also don’t intend to let liberals of the hook. They make layers and layers of rules and regulations in the hope of perfection through litigation. “Oh, we need to stop bullying and there was that extreme example of Blah so let’s rake everyone through system who does 5% of Blah. We created all these jobs to monitor Blah and even though it isn’t a problem most of the time and is happening less than ever through the entire history of humankind, they have to justify their salary somehow. Guess what, whether those kids were bullied in fourth grade or not, won’t really matter in sixty years when they’re rotting away.

Why search for perfection in a social environment? Because the population is growing so large we’ll all soon be sharing a bed? Why be so selfish your needs trump the needs of the environment and animals. I suppose we all do it, the animals do it too, they just aren’t as good a destroying the world as we are.

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Are you expecting an answer from me? There are a hundred, maybe a thousand answers. There is an issue though. We are all bombarded with all the things we can do to help ourselves and the world. Usually we pick the easiest thing for us and then harp over how big a difference we’re making.

I’m a vegan, so it is okay for me to commute 50 miles five days a week. I’m a bike commuter, so it’s okay for me to eat steak. My new 500,000$ home has an energy efficient dish washer. Well guess what, fuck you, if you even bother mentioning that to me. You can commute by bike to work, be a vegetarian and have a compost pile and still have a negative Earth Balance.

Hey wait, what, did MDG just make up his first new term of 2017? Well yes, I did.

Earth Balance: The balance between the positive impact and the negative damage one commits against the True Environment.

The chances are…you, everyone you know, and possibility everyone you will ever meet will have a negative Earth Balance. It might be possible to have a positive Earth Balance, but even that could be nebulous. How many whales would you have to save to cancel out 10,000 miles of car exhaust? Such things might be a subjective and difficult thing to measure. Perhaps and activist who saves 200,000 acres of forest in Alaska could sit on their laurels and make it to the grave in the positives, but let’s face it, the vast majority of all people in every country take far more than they give.

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An interesting side note, on an individual basis, usually the less money you have the less you pollute.

  1. More vehicles = more CO2
  2. Buying more food (And Meat) = more waste.
  3. More vacations = larger carbon footprint.
  4. Better jobs/better housing = Longer Commute
  5. More machines = less things done by person/animal power.

Face it, those folks washing their clothes in the stream are kicking your ass.

So how can you increase you positive Earth Balance in the New Year? Is it even really possible? Well first off, of course it is. You could sell everything and start growing crops. You could donate money to the nature conservatory. I’m not telling you to do that, but if you aren’t bed ridden, we all CAN make changes, but if you have a good job and three kids, we need to be realistic, right? No…Yes. Do we?

Remember I’m not trying to tell you I’m perfect, but I am willing to think outside of the death machine. Together it is possible. What we think is impossible can be the possible. What will be your first step to help our wild?

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For a while I’ll remain a very hard man to track down.

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Light at the end

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Dec
30

I sit alone within a darkened house. Outside the rain washes over the deep green moss which appears to cover most of the exposed stone one sees in Seattle. I am back from a city hike. I return damp and revived. Like a forest within a city, I sit for a moment alone and dry within a city of unknowns.

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Fitting I should end the year exploring and enjoying a city new to me as I live one more week of WildernessPunk, urban style, in 2016.

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I could review the concepts I brought up over the last four months or I could wax on about the promise of a new year, but I don’t feel the need to trail down tired roads. Besides as far as I’m concerned, the New Year started on the Solstice and we’re already a good week into 2017.

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One thing I will bring up is a few numerological aspects of this New Year. 2017. For me it will be the only year ending in 17 which is the day of the month both me and my lovely daughter were born on. 2 + 0 + 1 + 7 = 10, which it the number of Hecate the Goddess of the Crossroads, Choice. She is also the Goddess of Law, Will, Economic Plotting, Magick, Royalty, Witches, and Charisma.

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I have a few ideas and projects I’m ready to evoke during this upcoming year as well as a ‘To Do List as long as the arm of Titan.

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Funny how we can’t help but conceptualize the New Year as a new chapter. A fresh chance to make changes or different choices about our lives. Things we want to do and habits we no longer wish to indulge in occupy our minds. A time to start and yet a time to finish. Often, they quickly become empty words, but many of us try again and again.

Does the Maid, Matron, and Crone offer any guidance for you? Can you hear the words of the eternal Goddess or is that your cell phone beeping?

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How about WildernessPunk? What aspects of l

iving closer to the earth can you embrace this upcoming year? How close to True Environment can you get? What could you do to help the Earth or at least minimize your part of tipping her into oblivion. Is creating 60% as much trash as the average person instead of 80% really going to cut it? Is that good enough for me? Is that good enough for you?

Are you wondering what my goals could be? I guess this is my blog and you managed to get through a page of this action…

I have a 1000 goals. This is a bit foolish, but exciting as well. Turn in to see which 100 I’m able to pull off.

And what are you going to do?

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For a while I’ll remain a very hard man to track down.

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teminator

Dec
26

Published by Titan in 2012

Genre: Science Fiction

Stars: 5

martianwarbykevinjanderson

 

Martian War, by Kevin J. Anderson proved to be a great way to end my year in reading. Okay, I might sneak in another book or two, but this was a fine climax to a wonderful year of books for me. Again, Titan has picked a novelist who exceeds the genre and Anderson does a wonderful job giving his novel an old Victorian feel, both in subject and style as well as setting the scenes for the reader.

 

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Alright, I might as well just come out and say this. The book has the astronomer Lowell in it. I live in Flagstaff where Lowell set up his observatory. This was where he viewed the ‘canals’ on Mars. I have been to the observatory several times and to have this character, or should I say historic figure, be part of the novel was just plane awesome for me. Also, not to ruin the story, but they show up in Flagstaff later. Yeah, I was a little giddy.

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Lowell is teamed with…wait for it…Doctor Monroe as in The Island of Dr. Monroe. Monroe is an evil but logical fellow and most of their team comes from his POV.

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HG Wells is a character, as is his famous professor Huxley and the woman, Jane, HG Wells fell in love with. Just delightful to see these real people come to life. Such extensive research and so nicely done.

 

Both teams learn Mars is about to invade Earth in a manner which could see our planet losing the war. Both teams struggle to learn what they can and proceed to take a more active role in making sure this does not come to pass.

 

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I must stop here because this novel is just so good, I would not want to ruin any of the surprises for you because you should read this book.

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Downsides? Unless you just do not like classic and steampunk style fiction then not much mud to throw here. Some of their acts are pretty extraordinary, but not overly so.

 

So, if you like the classics, science fiction, and/or steampunk, this book is just a must read. Check it out.

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Dec
08

Published by ChiZine Publications in 2012

Genre: Fantasy

Stars: 3.5

 

The Inner City by Karen Heular is a short story anthology covering an exploration into the odd and fantastic. It might be heard to pin down these tales and place them in any standard category. I had not read a Chi-Zine Publication for a long while and they have always been one of my favorite contemporary publishers.

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I had been saving this and read a few stories over the recent holiday. I bounced around between two books and came back to this one. Upon returning to Arizona. I started in on the rest of the anthology. I found the stories inventive and unique. If you could place the stories in a theme, it could be they tended toward internal tales dealing with more mind than body. Self-inspection over acting out eternally.

 

The first tale grabbing me was The Inner City in which Lena looks for a job by following hunches and leads instead the typical paths. As she moved deeper into the cooperation, she will discover they could give her an offer she can’t refuse.

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The Large People proved to be quite strange. Patricia finds a group tall office workers growing in the earth. Once they are fully grown, they march into town with interesting results.

 

Another I liked was Creating Cow. This is a Horror story with a bit of misplaced comedy as well. More action in this one and some twists. A young vegetarian tries to create a cow with slabs of steak and hamburger. When it works, she finds it an almost impossible task to keep it hidden. When it begins to kill, she does not how to proceed.

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Heuler put a lot of thought into her short creations. Possible issues with this might be how odd these stories are. If you are looking for more action packed traditional fantasy or urban fantasy, this is not your standard fair. In a few places, I lost the thread of the story, but could be drawn back in.

 

If you like original stories that help you question reality, you will get some kicks out of this one. This mind candy worked well on my vacation and is a nice addition to my Chi-Zine collection.

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