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By Kaaron Warren, IFWG Publishing Australia, 2016

A Review by Kyla Lee Ward

"Each monster has only one way to die. There are no rules. You need to know the monster to kill it…"

At age twenty-four, Theresa was a social worker, helping women to escape abuse. She was described as "a born counsellor", "Saint Theresa". But then she made the decision that landed her in hospital and a client in the morgue. Guilt chases her from her task, because like the protagonist of Warren's first novel, Slights (Angry Robot, 2009), Theresa is haunted, but not by the ghosts of the dead. Cruelly, she sees the ghosts of those who are not yet dead, whom she may be able to save.

The burden of talent is a strong theme throughout this book. The way the Sight manifests amongst the women of Theresa's family has fractured it, erecting walls where understanding and acceptance were required. But her cousin Amber was an artistic genius, able to express the inner soul of a subject in her paintings. When Theresa goes to work for her uncle, seeking a way to heal, she discovers that the talent that should have brought Amber fame instead brought her to the attention of a predator, a collector with a ghastly gift of his own.

Warren's talent as a writer involves twists of perception. She evokes the utterly familiar and ordinary, even the pleasant, then reveals the horror which was always there, only you could not see it. Or refused to, like the people on the street outside the shelter, as Theresa was stabbed and bashed. Theresa's refusal to look away is driven by an older, worse guilt and possibly by something else--the something that sees her brooding over news clippings of accidents and hideous crimes. If she goes up against this monster, does she risk becoming another victim or something worse?

"They need help and you are the best monster to help them...

To read the full review, please go here.
 

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by Cat Sparks, Talos Press 2017
a review by Kyla Lee Ward

cover art Lotus Blue Cat Sparks

Dear legislators, bioengineers, and the team who built that robot leopard;

Please, please don't make the mistakes your counterparts did in Lotus Blue. Although a solid read, evoking wonder and excitement, it presents an appalling future where all our ingenuity has run amok in the name of war.

In Lotus Blue, most of the world has been reduced to toxic ruin, inhabited only by such plants and animals as were genetically modified for use as guards, and semi-sentient tankers, preying upon each other for spare parts. Few still comprehend what brought humanity to this pass—all has become myth, dictating the ritual use of unreliable technological relics. Such as Quarrel.

I'm certain that creating cyborg soldiers with superhuman strength and endurance may seem a wonderful idea. But consider them lingering on, centuries after the conflict they were designed for. Quarrel makes for a brilliant character, as prickly as he is driven, but the pathos of his situation is well-nigh unbearable. Above all else, never, ever create an "Old Blue"--a Lotus General.

If left to themselves, the remnants of humanity may indeed adapt to this situation. They may become warlords, carving out their petty fiefdoms along the Great Sand Road or they may become traders, driving caravans along its length. Healers and shamans may come to fill the needs formerly addressed by doctors and priests. But "Old Blue" filled a different kind of need, and leaving humanity to itself is not part of the plan...

To read the full review, please go here.

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