Even with eleven years of staffing fandom conventions under my belt, I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of steampunk. I like it on the most casual of introductory levels. I get why other people like it. There is absolutely no reason behind my slight indifference to this massive subgenre (really, I feel like we can probably give steampunk its own section at this point). It’s just one of those things that hasn’t grabbed me.
Then I get around to reading something like Grig Larson’s witty, inventive novel Trolley. Then I begin to think that maybe, I’m missing out on something really cool. If Larson’s steampunk fantasy is any indication of what this genre has to offer, then apparently, I’m missing out on a lot.
Trolley is very clearly the product of steampunk and fantasy. Larson knows as much about these things as much as just about anyone. Yet Trolley, in which a young woman named Heather clashes with the traditions of her world, specifically the one that forbids women from working with the machines that define, protect, and dictate her universe, is not a derivative work. I know enough about both steampunk and fantasy to remember that these are crowded arenas. Standing out from the throngs of old and recent releases is hard enough. Cracking open a truly original work, one in which millions of winning, compelling details wash over you, is rapidly becoming impossible. Larson succeeds so consistently in taking us through Heather’s unpredictable, often surreal journey into the deepest, darkest chapters of her society’s history, he may as well invent a perpetual motion machine next.
Honestly, when you write something this good, a book that deserves a considerably larger audience, compared to the one it has acquired since its release in 2011, where else can you go? Grig Larson has been a writer for a long time. His essays and similar pieces are as engaging as his stories. Trolley is one of his most impressive achievements as a writer. It sets out to tell an elaborate, complex mystery that celebrates and expands on such subjects as steampunk, feminism, and fantasy. It is a world champion on all three of those fronts. Larson creates a world that you are not going to want to leave. He fills it with vibrant detail and striking, remarkable characters. Everything amounts to a work that deserves every ounce of your attention. This is a good place to discover one of the great unrecognized voices of genre fiction.
Dani Neiley reviews Deer Michigan, a collection of flash fiction from Jack C. Buck.
Dani Neiley reviews Maya Sokolovski's debut collection, Double-Click Flash Fic.
Kolleen Carney reviews a poetry collection from Karla Cordero, Grasshoppers Before Gods.
Wait, why am I talking about myself when this is a book review? Oh, that’s right. ‘Setting the scene.’ Because you see, Mr. Brian Collins has also been reviewing movies. But unlike my lazy self, he reviewed a horror movie every day for SIX YEARS, missing only one single day early in the run.
After reading Brian Fanelli’s third poetry collection, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, I was immediately drawn to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and, in particular, a scene where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, ‘“Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat replies, “That depends on where you want to end up.” Like Alice, Fanelli experiences life events in which convince him that adaptability is necessary for success. He grows into adulthood by keeping a level head as he struggles to live in a world that has been turned upside down.
Even if Gina Tron’s short story collection Eggolio and Other Fables turned out to be an uninspired, sweaty piece of literary garbage, we’d still have that cover. I have been reviewing books for a little over a decade. Eggolio and Other Fables may feature one of the best covers I have ever seen. Illustrated by the stunning, clearly underrated Cora Foxx (I’m guessing, but I will also venture to say that whatever Cora is currently making as an illustrator, it’s not enough).
Ron Kolm writes with a remarkable eye for detail and personality. He also often writes with the tone of a man who can’t quite believe he’s still alive. Certainly, his latest book Night Shift strongly implies that he is a man who can tell you where to find the best taco trucks beyond the gates of hell. Few writers working today can combine dry, almost weary observational wit with steady, charming wisdom.
George Wallace, former Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island, is a permanent fixture on the New York poetry scene. His thirtieth collection of poetry, A Simple Blues With A Few Intangibles, is plush with hallucinatory imagery and skillful language. His musical dialect is indicative to a drumbeat, or the lonely whine of a Fender Stratocaster, yet the melody here exclusively stands on its own. From the first line to the last, readers are catapulted into an abstract world bursting with lyrical wizardry.
Gabriel Ricard reviews Grig Larson's 2011 book Trolley, a steampunk fantasy.
Bradley Sides reviews Devil in a Sleeping Bag, the debut novel from Texas filmmaker Scott Honea.