Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at www.JamieMarriage.com.

gibson_trigger-warningTrigger Warning; it’s a phrase that carries with it a freight-train of emotional baggage. A physical manifestation of the term would not be dissimilar to a road-sign, glimpsed in the dark of a stormy night, reading “Treacherous Roads Ahead”. And in this newest collection of short stories by renowned British author, Neil Gaiman, the title is all too apt.

Gaiman’s collection is many things: it’s stories of bite-sized lengths that conjure brief glimpses of other times or worlds; continuations of long held narratives that deserve one last visit; standalone tales of truth and fantasy; and, as the title warns, deep and darker elements.

As a tome,Trigger Warning is a strange yet poignant collection of works by a man who has made it his life to get under the reader’s skin. And while every piece is distinct from every other, somehow, with true Gaiman style, the pieces fit together as one wondrous whole of lyrical poetry, vast sadness, and shy beauty.

The introduction itself is a lengthy and evocative description on the notion of Triggers, of those things that set off long buried fears, and serve as an unspoken agreement that to continue reading is with knowledge that the road you travel is risky, and that you have been warned.

Gaiman goes on to break down the backstory of each piece, describing the trigger that set the author to write each story and poem. These are worth reading either before or after the work itself.

A few of the stories that stand out the most must include The Thing About Cassandra–a twisted tale highlighting the dangers of imagination, and how the things we create can be more real than we could imagine.

A Calendar of Tales is a collection of flash fiction told under the headings of months. No story here is longer than a couple of pages but each has depth and hints at worlds fleetingly glimpsed through windows.

Nothing O’Clock is an episode of Doctor Who that never was to be. A humorous, if dark, incident in which the human race is being wiped from existence by its own greed.

And finally Black Dog, a title that fills those who have gone through depression, or those who have known those who do, with chills. This final tale continues the legacy of Shadow from Gaiman’s earlier novel American Gods. Shadow is waylaid in a quiet English town that is haunted by a dark spectre that is both an illness and a myth.

Trigger Warning is honest with its title; there is much to be cautious about in this book. There are some happy endings, some not so happy, and a few that are bound to induce fear, sadness, or revulsion.

All great literature strives to evoke reaction; Neil Gaiman has just done the gentlemanly thing by being honest about what you are getting yourself into when you turn the page.

 

Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen is a Brisbane-based writer, reviewer, bookseller and bird expert.

slatter-bitterwoodA group of girls study at a school for assassins, preparing for their wedding nights when they will kill their grooms. A lonely coffin maker finds company with the dead when she cannot have the living. Travelling holy women hunt down and capture all of the knowledge and stories in the world. These are just a few tales in the The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings.

Set in the same world as that of Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible is a prequel comprised of thirteen short stories. Not all of them correlate to each other, but many of them have intersecting places, characters, or objects. As each piece of the story comes together, it creates a rich, vibrant world as compelling as any novel.

It’s going to be difficult to write a review that does justice to this wonderful book. Trying to explain the depth of world-building and the poetry of the writing style doesn’t do enough to convey the pull of The Bitterwood Bible.

Drawing on themes of fairytale lore and mythology, The Bitterwood Bible is explored almost solely through the eyes of women. Not all of these women are good, kind, or smart. And not all of them get their happily ever after. They are, however, fully realised and completely developed characters with strengths and flaws in equal measure. Every one of them is distinct and compelling, making the stories flash by.

While these are short stories, a plot arc emerges as the book progresses, culminating in a climax. Like most stories in the book, the ending leaves some things to the imagination and keeps some of its secrets, but is satisfying for all of that.

My favourite story in the collection, Now, All Pirates Are Gone, doesn’t tie in to the overall plot arc as closely as the others. Though it’s as ruthless as many of the stories in The Bitterwood Bible, it is hopeful. The main character, Maude, is also one of the best characters in the collection. She’s practical and resourceful without being too hard.

With its poetic writing style and gorgeous illustrations throughout, The Bitterwood Bible is a book that would have stayed with me anyway. The fact that it depicts a world that feels true, is a bonus. Now I’m going to have to find the sequel, Sourdough and Other Stories.

 

Bitterwood Bible – Angela Slatter

Tartarus Press (September 1, 2014)

ISBN: 9781905784653

 

A. V Mather

A. V. Mather is a Brisbane-based speculative fiction writer. You can follow her on Twitter @AVMather

atwood-stone mattress‘In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood ventures into the shadowland…’ states the dust jacket for Stone Mattress, her latest collection of short stories. Let me start by saying that they are not kidding around…

In this collection, Atwood presents a cautionary assortment of lives lived and loves lost. They are tales of the doomed, both virtuous and unredeemable, of nasty scheming and back stabbing, of people whose lives have been shattered through carelessness or animosity. They are catalogues of hurts, small and large, and examples of the character that might be built from such events.

Three of the nine tales are interlinked, offering different perspectives on a shared chapter in the lives of the same group of people. The events of their time together have affected the course of each life and preoccupy their thoughts in the present day.

The six remaining works range in subject matter from the macabre to the melancholic. The fourth presents the case of a young woman who is a medical anomaly, living in a small village amongst people who view her as a monster. In the fifth, a recently divorced and opportunistic man seeks adventure.  The sixth tells of a trio of friends who believe that a violent and charismatic woman from their past has reincarnated as one of the group’s pet dog. The seventh is a Poe-like tale of an impulsive contract between student housemates which restricts the success of one. And in the final tale, a group of senior citizens living in an aged care home become the focus of a terrorist group. As can be clearly seen here, dark subject matter and dark humour abound.

As a group, these stories deal with themes of ageing, frailty, social stigmas, isolation – chosen and imposed – and small worlds. A common thread lies in the motif of imminent or sudden death. All of the characters are facing death in some form: their own mortality, the death of a friend or loved one, the end of love, putting to death old grievances, or even murder.

Another theme underpinning the action lies in the character’s motivation. They have all reached some sort of crisis point –either inevitable or beyond their control. For some, this is due to an imposed condition like disease, impairment, or the effects of time, which then affects their actions. For others, their own characters have led them to a moment of action which defines the framework of their lives. Some view their situation with self-pity, while others are stoic in the extreme, but all are very self-focussed and inward-looking.

Each tale has that atmosphere of danger, the slightly skewed vision and fatalistic creepiness that makes for a true dark tale. Surprisingly, there are also moments of bright optimism and the sort of ‘blinkers-off’ humour that develops when life is stripped of all its romantic trappings. A sense of seeing things as they really are, through the illusions that people conjure. Examples of this may be found in the characters’ observations of life and their own situation, or of the foibles and actions of others.

So, why has Atwood chosen to call them ‘tales’ rather than ‘stories’? In her Acknowledgements, she refers to this collection as evoking ‘the world of the folk tale’ as opposed to a story, which implies that the events take place ‘within the boundaries of social realism.’ To me, her delineation between the two terms best describes the overall allegorical flavour of these dark sagas, peopled by narcissists, braggarts, and plotters of nefarious deeds.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first of Margaret Atwood’s books that I have read, and I feel horribly unqualified to review it. So look no further than the praise on the back cover from Germaine Greer, Michael Ondaatje, and John Updike for an idea of her milieu.

But if, like me, you are coming to this book from purely a punter’s perspective, what I can say with certainty is this: Margaret Atwood writes exceptionally well. Her prose is economical and yet it reads like the most intricate lace. How she manages to weave in so many details and still make it seem uncluttered was both a mystery and a joy to me. The wonderful and varied atmosphere of tension throughout showcases her deft control of the pacing.

I would place Stone Mattress as being accessible to any reader with the exception of younger teens, for whom the subject matter may be beyond their experience of life.

As parables of age and loss, these tales work extremely well. They force you to consider the ‘stuffing’ of life – the petty, often pointless views and opinions that fill up lives and amount to nothing in the end. Stone Mattress confronts the reader with the sad truth that by the time most people realise this it is usually too late. Most wisdom is learned in hindsight, which can be either blessing or curse.

 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

Categories

Archives

Search

Follow

Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on Pinterest
  • Follow on Google+
  • Follow on GoodReads
  • Follow on Tumblr
  • Follow on Flickr
  • Follow on YouTube