Angel body and other magic for the soul Review and Opinion


Angel Body And Other Magic For The Soul
editors: Chris Reed, David Memmott
BBR paperback £9.95 / $16.95

review by Steven Hampton

Combining #24 of Back Brain Recluse, and volume 26 in Wordcraft's speculative writers series, this paperback offers free-range varieties of classy speculative fiction by several hard-to-pigeonhole writers from both sides of the Atlantic.
   Thomas E. Kennedy's Angel Body has a thought-provoking but often witty mood and establishes the book's eclectic cross-genre content. What do you do with a dead angel? And, and more to the point, how do you know he's dead? Afterward by Don Webb delivers a brilliant satire on intolerance and prejudice, awash with sexual/ office politics and a modern day witch-hunt. Andrew Darlington's extraordinary Metamorphosis At The End Of Time is a haunted time-travellers' dystopia where the fate of seemingly doomed explorers and researchers may simply be episodic mass infotainment fodder. Time travel for a more particular, if wholly unexpected, reason is the secret behind Scott Edelman's Choosing Time, an intriguingly formatted story about freewill. Lupe Varga, Deceased by Brian Evenson is a short yet wildly hilarious piece about grotesque art and romanticised tragedy in a lunatic republic where anything seems possible. In Frida Kahlo, Pierced By Time Lorraine Schein combines witchcraft and the world of artists, and has a wonderful line about an empty studio: "It leaves more room for my dreams this way."
   W. Gregory Stewart's Sufferer is a moving allegory of psychic numbing in a grim post-holocaust future, while Stained Glass by Denise Dumars explores insanity and ecstatic visions in a contemporary setting. Mark Rich finds a spooky window on the afterlife in Festival Of The River. Ernest Hogan, the author of Smoking Mirror Blues, concocts a wildly imaginative ethnocentric, comic-fantasy about Hispanic plans to conquer America in Burrito Meltdown. It's certainly the most amusing and lively story here. In between all this fiction of varying lengths there are prose items by Thomas Wiloch, and Misha Nogha, and some very fine poetry by Lee Ballentine, Nathan Whiting, the great Steve Sneyd, Dan Raphael, Sandra J. Lindow, and John Noto. Breaking up the text a bit, Andi and Lance Olsen, and artist Mark Bilokur furnish a couple of effectively disconcerting graphic poems, and Richard A. Schindler provides illustrations for three of the stories.
   As there's so much humour to be found in the earlier stories, it makes perfect sense to end the book on a sombre yet exigent note. The Man Who Adopted Dead Children by Conger Beasley, Jr is an unsettling tale of necrophilia in 19th century Carolina, while award-winning poet Bruce Boston rails passionately against the distressing confusion and sheer madness of long-term warfare in By The Dawn's Early Light.
   If you accept that the small press community has a vital role to play in determining any future developments in the world of fantastic literature, but you remain somewhat wary of buying the irregular little magazines due to the inconsistent quality of their contents, then Angel Body And Other Magic For The Soul is a truly outstanding sampler of established talent from the dynamic independent publishing scene.

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