Book Review: Uncommon Bodies (Anthology)

UCB-Cover-188x300I’ve been through a number of anthologies lately and wasn’t sure what to expect from Uncommon Bodies, but I had read some of the author’s works previously so I was confident that I was in for an interesting experience. Beginning with the jolting tale of sideshow freaks Mary and Millie, Michael Harris Cohen kicks proceedings off nicely, and it quickly becomes apparent that this collection is something special indeed.
Uncommon Bodies is a vivid and diverse collection of weird and wonderful tales of the body, each author lending a unique voice, never afraid to shock the reader, yet still managing to draw them in and see the beauty within the madness, each tale as twisted as it’s character’s, yet strangely familiar, as we stare like uncomfortable voyeurs at those who would find us equally strange. The beauty of Uncommon Bodies is that it forces the reader to question both morality and reality, and every story without exception provokes thought and emotion in the reader.
While every story is exceptional in this collection, my personal favourites were contributions from Laxmi Hariharan, whose gorgeous prose floats from the page in UnTamed, Daniel Arthur Smith’s intriguing tale of a unique tattoo artist From The Inside, with Robb Grindstaff’s short and sweet Rudy And Deidre, and Kim Wells’ Undead Cyborg Girl also worth a mention, as is P.K. Tyler’s compelling tale Daedalus’ Daughter.
A hugely enjoyable anthology for those with open minds who like their fiction left of centre, who travel on the outskirts, those who need no box to think outside of, and if every now and again you like to take a dip in the darkness, this is exactly the pool you need.

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Book Review: Tails Of The Apocalypse (Anthology)

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Short stories are the new rock n’ roll, and anthologies are the new mix tapes. A huge number of new scifi anthologies are now appearing regularly on Amazon bestseller lists, and while the more popular feature the same old faces from the exclusive Trad Pub Club, authors from the indie community have begun to publish their own anthologies with great success. The key of course, is quality, originality and decent production values.

The latest, compiled and edited by author Chris Pourteau, is Tails Of The Apocalypse, an interesting take on the apocalyptic genre which features animals as the protagonists, and humans as secondary characters. While some may consider this a somewhat silly idea, (I have to admit, this even warranted a raised eyebrow from me at first)  a taster of the first “tail” from David Bruns quickly lays the foundation for a stellar line up of varied and well-crafted short stories from an impressive list of some of the most talented authors on the indie scene.

As the collection unfolds, it’s hard not to be impressed by the standard here. It would have been very easy for these stories to be overly schmaltzy, and rely on the “Old Yeller” school of sentimental overload, but where Tails Of The Apocalypse stands out is by doing the exact opposite. The animal characters are portrayed with immense respect, but hurled into horrifying situations that test them to the extreme, and as with many animals, the unconditional loyalty of some is their greatest trait, despite how they might have been treated by others, and despite all the authors involved being animal lovers, they are first and foremost post-apocalyptic writers and are not afraid to take both their characters and readers to the darkest of places.

Standouts include contributions from Nick Cole, who makes a welcome return to the world of his post-apocalyptic masterpiece The Wasteland Saga, as well as those from Chris Pourteau himself, E.E. Giorgi, Todd Barselow, Jennifer Ellis and Michael Bunker, but to be honest this is just down to my personal taste. It’s hard to pick favourites from this collection, as the standard really is that high.

More importantly, when you purchase a copy of Tails From The Apocalypse, $1 from every copy sold until the end of 2015 will be donated to Pets For Vets, which matches shelter dogs with military veterans. Personnel train the animals as special companions for veterans suffering from emotional trauma, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it provides a valuable service for veterans, as well as finding homes for needy shelter animals who would otherwise be euthanised, so it’s a win-win for everybody involved.

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