Review: The Female Factory by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter

tffllhasSeries: Twelve Planets #11
Published by:
Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13:
9781922101150 (paperback)
ASIN:
B00SUS9ZDC  (kindle)
Published: 
November 2014
Pages: 
150
Format reviewed:
Paperback
Site: 
Publisher Site
Goodreads: 
Book Page
Stars: 
Five out of Five
Related Reviews:
A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

The Female Factory is the eleventh book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write several short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains four short stories that, as one can expect from our best writing duo in Australia, absolutely blow the reader away. I don’t think I’ve come across a bit of their writing yet that hasn’t been perfect – haunting, leaving an impact, horror-filled and yet still somehow beautiful… this has it all. Hannett and Slatter have it all, and I can’t wait to see and love everything they do in the future.

Vox

A couple, Kate and Nick, go to a fertility clinic – though it has a few differences in their slightly more futuristic world, than our current one today. Though most of their money and months of trying every possible thing they finally conceive, and though there’s dawning happiness, Kate feels niggles of worry that she then feels guilty for.

The advances and plot points of this story make it hard to discuss as the spoilers are what’s most interesting and gripping about this new world, and the issues it brings with it. Pregnancy can be a scary, heartbreaking thing.

Baggage

Robyn thinks of herself as old Robyn and new Robyn – old didn’t wear subtle makeup, she mispronounced things, had bleached hair… New keeps quiet and polite more often than not, charms the clients as she’s been trained, and doesn’t tell her handler to fuck off. New is also a walking talking incubator for the rich and famous – at the time of her next appointment, she currently has six chances of life inside her, and uses carefully controlled pills to keep the opportunities in stasis until the full payment has been rendered for each.

This is utterly creepy with the power and control that’s involved, and how it all seems so possible. Set mostly in rural Victoria we still see that outside Melbourne it’s still dusty and remote, which certainly makes it seem like it’s not overly far into the future. And, like the first piece in the collection, we see human nature is both ruthless and greedy for the same things, still.

All the Other Revivals

Baron is considered weird by everyone around him, except for his ‘mother’ who has now passed on. Baron is from one of the women with an ungodly womb (like how we’ve seen in the previous short stories) but was raised by a lovely woman and an incredibly wealthy man who practically runs the small-ish country town, which doesn’t buy much affection for Baron. Too weird even for boarding school, when home, Baron avoids the other kids who don’t invite him to join in anyway, and wouldn’t be able to even if they did ask.

There’s a billabong. And with it, comes ‘a swimming’. Not very often, and it’s talked of in whispers and gossip the whole town shares within 24 hours. Baron witnesses one occur, and with a little knowledge of them himself he is good at keeping secrets – until he’s not, at least. And then things take a turn for the worse…

What gets me, about Hannett and Slatter’s work, is that things don’t tend to have a happy ending or a explosive ending… they’re just all realistic, fading into black, leaving the real ending up to the imagination of the reader.

The Female Factory

Bridewell Female Factory is a place for criminals and their children, organised by rank which determines what work they’ll do while incarcerated. There’s also a band of children that secretly do the matrons work, which involves digging up the dead and bringing them back in secret to the surgeon, who dissects them – both he and matron have their own goals in mind through this grisly work.

We see multiple points of view and goals in this piece, from the children to the matron herself, and see what drives them all – knowledge, a better life, something they’re all missing…

Being Hannett and Slatter though, this one is more grisly than the rest, being the novella-length piece in the collection beside the previous three short stories. We have a fuller landscape and more attention for all characters, drawing you in for a longer burn as we get to a conclusion I’m not sure I’m ready for. Their writing is powerful and some of the best we have in Australia, so get this collection – you won’t be disappointed.

This collection has the following mentions:

Aurealis Award for Best Collection (2014)

Honourable mention in the Norma K. Hemming Awards

Review: Slipping by Lauren Beukes

slippinglbBy-Line: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing
Published by: Tachyon Publications
ISBN: 1616962402
ISBN 13: 9781616962401
Published: November 2016
Pages: 288
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

This is, as the by-line says, a collection of stories, essays and other writing (such as poems). We start off with a poem titled Muse, about fishhooks in the fingers of gloves that embed themselves a little more with every keystroke, and it’s beautiful.

From there we have the first short story, about a girl who, instead of the lower half of her legs, has neurocircuitry. She’s come to Pakistan as one of the runners (as the taxi driver oh so cleverly works out), in a futuristic version of the Paralympics. It’s hard hitting and interesting, character-driven like Beukes does best, and the perfect start to the collection.

Each part in the collection after this is totally different, and yet utterly enthralling and manages to keep you reading though the easy way you slip into each narrative. Usually when there’s huge changes in short story to short story I usually need a break, but this collection works perfectly at holding you down to devour the first half easily within an hour – or until dinner interrupts you, at least.

Being Beukes, hard topics are described and explored, and being Beukes one can easily trust in the author to be both sensitive, intelligent and eloquent throughout.

The non-fiction shows us work that Beukes did as a journalist, and it’s amazingly good – I’m picky with my non-fiction and either struggle through each paragraph or can’t put it down, and this was the latter.

In this collection, though it’s sometimes hard to see through the grit and the grime and the grim nature of the narrative, there is still hope and determination and people ready to struggle for what’s right. And that’s what makes this collection so damn powerful.

2016 – October

October sure was a month. Bring on November, and the next Pokémon game please.

Onto the novels read in October!

Hunted (Hunted, #1)

Hunted by Meagan Spooner was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to read more. I love her take on the old fables and making it equally demanding in terms of risk and skills needed by the characters to get where they dream to be. Here we have characters who need to be able to do whatever they need to in order to survive, and things are grim if they don’t have the strength or ability. I can’t recommend her writing enough and will be seeking out more of it, especially as unfortunately I’m one of the few who don’t like her co-written series, or that her co-writer does with Jay – at least I love her own individual writing and I’ve narrowed down what I apparently don’t like about the others. (Still, my loss!)

Secret Lives of Books (Twelve Planets book 10)

Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love was a collection of five short stories that don’t appear to be connected in the first light, however when you’ve read them all there appears to be some faint thread of deeper meaning. Very short, yet decently played out.

My full review can be read here.

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Nightmares edited by Ellen Datlow was  picked up initially because it included some favourite authors, such as Kaaron Warren, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix, along with the knowledge of Datlow’s brilliance, and that I trust Tachyon as a publisher in general. 24 short stories, female editor, 15 contributors assumed to be male, seven female and two unknown, is certainly strange to see from Australia when our horror scene is so female-strong. I would have liked to see more female contributors, but I trust Datlow and Tachyon both

My full review can be read here.

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd was excellent and I hope to slowly collect all of their books. QI and the podcast No Such Thing as a Fish are currently my go to ‘safe’ places because they make me happy with their silly fun and intelligent humour. It’s so easy for the pages to fly by as one usually links on to the next fact, for instance, on page 16 a fact about walnuts leads to one about almonds, and then the cost Britain spends on the Large Hadron Collider in comparison to on peanuts, and the cost of fuel needed to carry peanuts on a plane, and then on page 17 about how a farting sheep caused a freight plane to make an emergency landing, onto how Harper Lee was an airline booking agent… and so on. It’s addictive!

My full review can be read here.

Dark Disciple (Star Wars)

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden was absolutely fantastic and perfectly geeky. A Jedi Master and an ex-Sith must join forces in order to take out Dooku. Even though it’s not usually the Jedi way, they have been forced to weigh up the differences and conclude that his devastation on countless living beings outweighs his own life. The paid tasked with this have to go through their own mind games and reasoning and together it’s a cracking good read. I’d pay a scarily high amount for more in this series following these characters, but sadly it’s not to be.

Swarm (Zeroes, #2)

Swarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti was such an anticipated read and it did not disappoint. I love these characters so damn much, and I love trying to figure out which characters are written by which author, and I love that they weren’t scared to really take parts of this novel into a fairly dark place. LOVE it, and now the wait for the third will be even harder!

hHold Me (Cyclone, #2)

Hold Me by Courtney Milan is the second in the Cyclone series, however can be read as a standalone. The whole series however, starting with Trade Me and peppered with short stories here and there (listed in the back of the book) are all worth reading and impossible to put down. This was such a good read at the right time of the month when I was fed up with everything and just needed exactly this type of book. Hence the next two…

My full review can be read here.

The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5)

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan was an excellent read even though it’s only about a hundred pages. The characters are so developed so easily and it’s hard to let them go – you almost wish the next novel contained these characters more instead, until they capture your attention just as much. Milan is lucky she’s a dang good writer otherwise I’d be more upset about having to move on so constantly…

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan was connected to the above, however they branch out into characters you catch a glimpse of in the previous book. This was just as excellent (and longer, as a full novel rather than novella), and so showed more anguish and to-ing and fro-ing between what our characters are torn between. Really love that some of the characters appear to be utterly different than what one expects or previously thought, and really love how it’s carried out. I also love that the author self publishes and releases a full collection of every novel/short story/novella in this series and all for under $10US. Almost half a million words for that price!

~

October sure was a month. The best that can be said of it is I ripped apart my living quarters and have made it much, much more lovely after putting off things I should have changed years ago. A new bed, paint and a full clean out really does wonders.

Review: 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Anne Miller

1342qiPublished by: Faber and Faber Ltd
ISBN: 0571332463
ISBN 13: 9780571332465
Published: November 2016
Pages: 356
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Publisher Site
Site: qi.com/1342
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

I got so much joy from this book. Some of the facts I knew already, either through life or because I’m addicted to their wit and delivery. I watch QI and No Such Thing as the News, and listen to the podcast No Such Thing as a Fish. Several of the QI elves (James Harkin, Dan Schreiber, Andrew Hunter Murray and Anna Ptaszynski…) are responsible for the last two (with guest appearances from other elves at times, such as Alex Bell or Stevyn Colgan) and it’s easily my absolute favourite podcast in the world (and I listen to quite a few), so it was already pretty clear I’d love this book.

Fangirling aside, in addition they have part of their website dedicated to providing more information – if you go to qi.com/1342 (once published, as the link currently isn’t working) and put in the page number, it then gives you a link to where they sourced the fact so you can read more about it. Such as, the fact ‘The wake-up call on the Mir space station made the same sound as the emergency alarm’, is backed up by a link from The Guardian (here), and sure enough…

This was a more rudimentary space age. The crew travelled in a Soyuz craft designed in the 60s. Once there, contact with Earth was limited to a few hours a day. Most disconcertingly, perhaps, the morning alarm was the same as the emergency siren.

“You’d wake up unsure if it was time to get up or if you were leaking oxygen,” says Sharman. “It got us out of our sleeping bags pretty quick.”

The book of facts sparks your interest and makes it easy for you to find out more. It’s also easy for the pages to fly by as one usually links on to the next fact, for instance, on page 16 a fact about walnuts leads to one about almonds, and then the cost Britain spends on the Large Hadron Collider in comparison to on peanuts, and the cost of fuel needed to carry peanuts on a plane, and then on page 17 about how a farting sheep caused a freight plane to make an emergency landing, onto how Harper Lee was an airline booking agent… and so on. It’s addictive!

This would make an excellent kris-kringle gift, or for any relative you’re not sure about – there’s something for everyone in here, and it’s an excellent book to hopefully spark someone’s interest in trying out their other books, or perhaps their very excellent podcast.

Review: Hold Me by Courtney Milan

holdmemilanSeries: Cyclone #2
Published by: Victory
ASIN: B01M5BVLAN
ISBN 13: 9781937248499
Published: October 2016
Pages: 303
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

This is the second in the Cyclone series, however can be read as a standalone. The whole series however, starting with Trade Me and peppered with short stories here and there (listed in the back of the book) are all worth reading and impossible to put down.

In the first book, Tina and Blake are the main characters. We see snippets of Tina’s best friend and roommate, Maria. This book is all about Maria and Jay, who meet through Maria’s brother. Jay is driven and determined to not be distracted from his mountain of accomplishments and commitments, and Maria has enough problems of her own to deal with her brother’s grouchy and rude friend.

What makes this series spectacular is that, without making too much of a deal of it, (and what you’ll already know if you’ve started the series with Trade Me), is that Maria is trans, and together they are of different backgrounds. Milan also bucks social norms (having Jay’s mother be outspoken and sweary, etc) in the most excellent of ways.

Through Milan’s on point characterisation and ability to connect seemingly innocent things through background lie plot references, we have a book that can’t be put down as you can’t wait to see the dawning realisation on the characters at certain intervals. You realise certain things before the characters do, though not in an annoying way. It’s engaging and leaves you wanting more, as always, which is why Milan finishes off with links to short stories set in the same world, a suggestion of which series to read next, or a list of other authors and series she recommends if you’re already read through her own backlist.

I can’t wait for any new parts to come out in the series – I’m desperate. I can’t wait to see more of each character (which is such a rare thing!) and I’m slowly starting to trust anything Milan offers – time to get into one of her other series, I think!