Monday, December 28, 2015

Fiction River #15 Recycled Pulp

As I write this it is January 1, 2016 but I will post it in 2015.  My challenge to read 100 short stories in 2015 was ignored for much of the year but it was in the last two months that I made an effort to accomplish it.

I've been reading a few collections in those months and have been reviewing the stories individually, in draft form, with the plan to publish them once I completed the collections.  So, in the effort to track my reading in 2015, below is a review of the stories read from the collections I have not completed.  As I finish the collections I will count the remaining storeis towards my 2016 goal.



* * *

I've been a long-time fan of Kristine Kathryn Rush's work, while on her website I found that she's been busy starting up her own publishing business.  From that I discovered the anthology magazine Fiction River where each issue focuses on on particular genre.  Being a fan of pulp I thought I'd buy this issue and give it a spin.

From the introduction I learned that this may not be exactly what I thought I was getting into.  There were some very special and interesting rules the editors put on the authors.  This I found intriguing and thought it would be a nice way to get some exposure to genres I would not usually buy.

That's the real reason to read anthologies; to be introduced to the new.

The Revolt of the Philosophers of Fomalhaut - by Phaedra Weldon.

91/100 - Angles are sent to Earth to kill.  Yup to kill.  This rubs our angelic narrator the wrong way and we discover with him what is going on and how to deal with it.

You know what?  This was quite a compelling story.  I enjoyed it and could see it on an episode of the Twilight Zone.  Not the old one but a new 21st century version of the show.  Putting this story to a visual medium would be interesting.

Marvelous Contrivances of the Heart - by Cat Rambo.

92/100 - Another quiet, elegant story about two people who have their own problems. An obsessive husband and a deeply sad, frustrated wife.

An then something strange happens and the entire story takes on a sinister feeling. 

The Flower of the Tabernacle  - by Annie Reed 

93/100 - This collection is turning into something unexpected.  I was sure it would be a collection of genre stories but it's looking like something much more compelling and heavy.

This on js a straight up police detective story.  I was reminded of Lawrence Block in the telling of the discovery of a dead woman in a church.  Murder? Suicide? Something else?  This was a story very well told.

Lost in the Tarnished Cube - by Thomas K. Carpenter

94/100 - A wizard buys a tower.  His mortgage is backed by a magical bank.  It comes due unexpectedly.  He must handle the penalty in his own way.

Sadly, this story did not work for me.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The 2015 Short Story Advent Calendar editied by Michael Hingston

As I write this it is January 1, 2016 but I will post it in 2015.  My challenge to read 100 short stories in 2015 was ignored for much of the year but it was in the last two months that I made an effort to accomplish it.

I've been reading a few collections in those months and have been reviewing the stories individually, in draft form, with the plan to publish them once I completed the collections.  So, in the effort to track my reading in 2015, below is a review of the stories read from the collections I have not completed.  As I finish the collections I will count them towards my 2016 goal.



* * *

I read about this project a couple of months ago. I found it appealing because of it's limited print run, only 1,000 made, the project was created locally and it simply looked lovely.

1 Flamingo by Jessica Westhead - 
67/100 - This was a sad, touching, dreary story that left me wondering what I just read. 

Stories where nothing truly happens and characters are no different at the end then how they started make me feel like I've wasted my time. 

2 The Princess Doctrine by Chris Bachelder - 
68/100 - Part Princess Bride and partly a comical look at political decision making. 

In the world of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale the king and his lords must decide on a plan of action to protect the newly born princess. 

Very entertaining. 

3 Bison Burgers by Lee Henderson - 
69/100 - Two adult siblings are invited to their father's newly purchased bison ranch.  They miss the turn to the ranch house so they park and decide to walk across the pastures in an attempt to find the house.  

It's during that walk where we learn about the brother and sister, father and mother.  Conversation, speculation and realization come together on the brisk Alberta foothills afternoon.


4 Flex by Naomi K. Lewis - 
70/100 - This was a weird little time travel story about an out a college under-achiever working for his girlfriend's brother.

The brother is working a strange angle with flex-time on a contract job.  What I liked about it was how the author managed to tell the second half of the story backwards.

5 Americas by Jason Lee Norman
71/100 - This was a touching collection of "facts" from Central American countries.  I use quotes because I am not sure of any if these fascinating points, some sound like legends, some like hearsay, are true.  I suspect they are, which I would make me happy, because the world is a strange and beautiful place and it is good to hear about it. 

6 No One Else Really Wants to Listen by Heather Birrell
72/100 - I had to force my way through this one.  Firstly, it was written as a series of posts to a chat room, a venue I cannot tolerate. Then the subject did not capture me, simply because I am male.  Yup, it was a chat room full of pregnant women. In my own defense, I am a father of two girls so I have some experience with the subject but it never happened to ME, you know?

7 Laplanders by Zsuzsi Gartner
73/100 - Here is another literary story where nothing really happens, except kind of.  Two young people meet on a trip to China.  They are very different from each other and her personality deeply affects him. They part after the trip but it is the boy who is changed by the encounter and from it others are also affected.

It was a rather dull story and yet somehow interesting.  Makes me think that even brief interactions can alter perceptions and that every person you meet can be important in your life.

8 When Orphans Glowed in the Dark by Heather O'Neil
74/100 - A heart-wrenching story about orphans returning from the war.  It is filled with tales about how these kids coped with their circumstances.

9 Wrestling by Rosemary Nixon
75/100 - Man I did not like this story.  Crazy, religious fanatics occupy the same room as serial killers in fiction for me.  Crazy people are crazy! There is no understanding them, just run away.  Thank goodness it was a short story; if it was a novel I would have thrown it across the room.

10 Two-Part Invention by Doretta Lau
76/100 - This was a cute story about a single woman who decides she would like to only date dead men.  In it she meets Glenn Gould.  Charming.

11 There Is Good in the World
77/100 - Man, there really is terrible stuff published everywhere.  I hated this one; it made no sense and was just stupid.

12 Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus by Eliza Robertson
78/100 Again, another bullshit story where a man has a nothing life and does nothing with a future that looks like he'll continue to do nothing.  What is the point of this thing?

13 Jobbers by Spencer Gordon
79/100 Finally a decent story.  A sad story of two kids coping with a dysfunctional family situation by pretending to be WWF professional wrestlers.  Touching.

14 Valerie's Bush by Nancy Jo Cullen
80/100 - An interesting story about how a "hair cut" can lead to a life change and a letting go of the past.  I liked it.

15 God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya
81/100 - A touching story of a young Indian boy growing up in the neighbourhood of Millwoods, Edmonton, struggling to fit in and to understand and accept his own sexuality.  Coming of age is confusing and difficult.

16 The Story of Patricia
82/100 - A shepherd boy tells stories to his oxen.  They don't understand what he is saying but they ate very interested.  Seems strange but somehow it works.

17 The Prize Jury by C. P. Boyko
83/100 - What fun.  It really spoke to the world of literary fiction, novelists and literary prizes.  It was, funny, sad, enlightening and infuriating all at once. Very well done.

18 Statistical Abstract for My Hometown, Spokane, Washington/Addendum by Jess Walter
84/100 - A fabulous story. Written in bullet points I could not help but relate to everything the author said.  Spokane is much like Edmonton in so many ways.  The Addendum was the best part of it.

19 Robin by David Whitton
85/100 - A heart-thumping read.  We hear what is going through a young woman's mind as she plunges to her death from a seventh story balcony.

20 A Luckless Santa Claus by F. Scott Fitzgerald
86/100 - First published in 1912 it is still fresh and funny and relevant to today.  It's also the first Christmas story in the collection.

21 Raccoons by Russell Smith
87/100 - Yikes! Men can be so stupid.  Here is a man trying to end an affair while trying to cover it up from his family.  It as very well done. You just know the whole thing will blow up in his face.

22 What Tells by Jacqueline Baker
88/100 -  Yet another navel-gazing, nothing-happens and nothing-changes story about a normal, dysfunctional-feeling family going out for a picnic.   God another waste of my time.

23 The Pigeon Cove Festival of Lights by Kevin Wilson
89/100 - I really liked this one.  It had the feeling of being a fable.  All the families of a cul-de-sac decorate their homes with increasing amounts of lights, turning the little street into a tourist attraction.

24- How I Saved Christmas by Richard Van Camp
90/100 - This one was a bit off kilter until I found the voice of the narrator.  A young high-schooler trying to cope with the realities of living in a small community in NWT.  Here we learn how he himself has learned to cope and how he convinces a local to continue being Santa Clause for the yearly festivities.

This is where I ended in the collection.  Christmas was upon me and I had no time to complete it.  I will soon read and review the last story in the box.

25 Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter
Xx/100 -  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars Journey to the Force Awakens: High Noon on Jakku by Landry Q. Walker - A short story review.


What fun!

This was an old-fashioned wild-west stage coach bank heist story.

This time it involves a rogue droid named CZ-1G5 as the primary suspect.  There are chases, shoot-outs and even a stand-off between the good guy and the bad guy.

I loved it.

Even though it was set in the Star Wars universe it could have been played out in any genre.

I don't know if it helped me understand the new movie in any way.  The previous short did that very well by using a setting from the movie in it's narrative.  This one was so generic that it did not matter that it was a Star Wars story.

So, if it's purpose was to fill out the movie, it did not accomplish that.  But as pure entertainment it sure was a fun read.


Landry Q. Walker

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Journey to the Force Awakens: The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku by Landry Q Waker - A short story review


Now this is what I'm talking about.

It's a tough, gritty and funny story set in a strange, dangerous world.

As the title suggests it's an adventure tale of hidden treasure. What makes this so much fun is that it expands things from the new Star Wars VII movie; in the trailer we see a crashed star destroyer on a desert planet.  In this quick read we learn which ship it is, why it crashed and what is supposedly on board.

The author found entertaining ways to introduce characters and ending them in quick succession.

It is not written to be taken too seriously, after all Star Wars does have a sense of humour and the author took the opportunity to tell a fun story without venturing into farce.  By the end you've had a small taste of a very large universe and you've been able to fill in a bit of the story.

Now when you see that crashed ship you won't just think that's a cool background but you'll know how it came to be.  That is the ultimate value of reading it.

Well done.

The author's website is here:

Landry Q Walker

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

AB Negative, An Anthology Of Alberta Crime - Book Report #148

I first heard about this book from The Edmonton Journal.  I am a sucker for local stuff; too much media is set in New York or LA.  It's always refreshing to read something set in places I know.  Plus, I enjoy supporting local efforts whenever I can.

I can say the anthologist, Axel Howerton, who has a gritty entry here, does a terrific job of including a wide verity of genres to this collection.  That said the collection just kept getting better with each story.  I am so happy I bought it.

The book opens with Murder On The Mall by Randy McCharles.  52/100 - A straight up PI story, one of my favourites, our hero, Galloway, is on a case, trying to help a western wear retailer who is being shaken down for protection money.

It was a fine story, I liked that Galloway still has ties to the police department and there was a clever use of taxi cabs that could become a thing.

The only thing that took me out of the story was one bit of slang.  I have never heard a $20 bill referred to in much the same way Americans refer to their money.  That was a minor complaint, otherwise the story was very entertaining, quickly paced and believable.

Freezer Breakdown by Susan Calder - 52/100 - Vincent's mother has just died.  He's in his mid-forties and has spent much of it living with her. Now that she's gone how will he get by?

This was a quick read, a-day-in-the-life type of story.  It lacked a certain menace that I think the author was trying to convey. 

It felt more like a slice of literary fiction rather than crime fiction. 

Devil's Due by Axel Howerton - 53/100 - This was a fascinating story about a drug distributor, Devil, taking the time to give one of his underling-dealers a lesson about following rules. 

What comes is an epiphany of sorts for Devil. It's interesting how paradigm shifts occur. 

The story started out gritty and scary then took an unexpected turn. Well worth reading for anybody who is a fan of straight up crime fiction. 

Movable Type by S. G. Wong - 54/100 - There sure was a lot packed into this one. Nothing quite so satisfying than reading a story about corruption and it's uncovering. 

Plus it's set in a newspaper in the 1930's so it had some nostalgic charm. But the twist was the best. 

A Dead Reckoning  by Robert Bose - 55/100 - My goodness this was a fun story. It has very strong similarities to The Dresden Files and thankfully also had a good dose of humour. 

Tagged Boon is a fixer, of sorts, who is helping a woman to release a spirit from an artefact.  So there is a bit of occult here which is usually not my thing. But when it's done well, like this story, it can be a breath of fresh air. 

It was fun and I hope there is more from Bose out there. 

The Workman's Friend by Janice MacDonald - 56/100 - MacDonald's domestic flair is back in this quick cozy. 

Although the cozy is not my preferred genre of crime fiction, the author can create scenes that are vibrant in the imagination. 

A good addition to this volume. 

The Coelacanth Samba by Al Onia - 57/100 - Corporate shenanigans with an unusual murder. 

Darren McLean is an ex-RCMP officer gone private.  He is hired to find a missing executive from a small oil company. 

I found it very well written. Onia has a real grasp of who this character is and his confidence comes through in his writing. 

Cappy's Smart Monkey by Sharon Wildwind - 58/100 - What a cool, Calgary based Western this was.  I'm certain the recent flooding inspired this story of a planned heist upset by a storm. 

The characters were fully formed, believable and interesting. I felt like I was reading a classic pulp magazine story. I mean that in the best possible way.  Often short stories feel like they come from a larger work or stilted and rushed due to a short word count. This tale worked extremely well in it's space. 

Well done, indeed.

Silicone Hearts by Brent Nichols - 59/100 - A human PI is hired by a robot to find a missing robot. What follows is a violent and often funny exploration of the world of artificial humans.  Some are victims while others are heroes.

It reminds me of The Plutonium Blonde series of books (by John Zakour) blended with a bit of the Blade Runner movie. 

Very well done.

A Little Bit Easy by Therese Greenwood - 60/100 - A retired southern Alberta dairy farmer rents out a house on his property to a young woman from New Orleans.

She is very private and is doing some interesting improvements to the old house.  People being people it's hard not to get to know each other.

The story was vivid and well paced.

Butch's Last Lesson by R. Overwater - 61/100 - Oh my god. This one made my heart race. Not for fans of the "cozy."  This is hard neo-noir.


Hell Hath No Fury by Dwayne E. Clayden - 62/100 - This was probably my favourite of the bunch.  It starts off with our narrator getting a beating from three brothers of a woman he is involved with.  We find out later that he is a PI with a half brother on the police force.  Our guy takes a "domestic" case that quickly spirals from one suspect to another. 

Throughout the case he is stalked by the brothers and he is having difficulties getting a grip on the circumstances. 

The whole story delivered all the satisfaction of a novel and even left a plot points unresolved setting up a possible follow up.

Sudden Death by Jayne Barnard - 63/100 - Nope.  I think this one is my favourite.  It is pretty much a crime comedy of errors, written much like an Elmore Leonard novel.  There are lots of not very smart characters, all trying their hands a different crimes during a storm and the NHL playoffs.


The Mystery of the Missing Heir by Kevin P. Thorton - 64/100 - What fun, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set in 19th century Ft. McMurray.  It also had a fun nod to the TV show Due South.

The real treat was in the merging of Holmes and northern Alberta.

This province has a lot of talent.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brisk Money by Adam Christopher - A Short Story Review


I love detective stories.  Science fiction detective stories are a special treat.

This one was quite clever; it's 1962 and our hero is a robot with a limited amount of data storage.  He must return to his office every night to have his memories downloaded to the mainframe.  Her name is Ada by the way.

Things start to get interesting when our robot PI's tapes are not wiped perfectly.  He has fragments of memories still on the tapes.  This is enough for him to become suspicious about the work he does so he investigates what he can.

I thought the premise and the story itself were just terrific.

There is a novel out with these very characters that I'm dying to read.


You can read the story here:

The author's website is here:

Adam Christopher