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Agog!Agog!

Terrific Tales

New Australian Speculative Fiction

Edited by Cat Sparks

Agog! Press, 2003

ISBN: 0-9580567-2-2

To purchase this book, go to Australian Online Bookshop.

Visit the Agog! Press home page.

Agog! Terrific Tales is a smaller scale project that I came to with few expectations and was ultimately quite delighted with. A follow-on from editor Sparks's inaugural effort Agog! Fantastic Fiction, this second volume in a new annual anthology series collects 21 stories (two reprints) from both new and established Australian writers, delivering a broad variety of solid fiction.

The highlight is Brendan Duffy's novelette "Louder Echo", which seems very much a piece with the New Weird movement that has sprung up around writers like Jeff VanderMeer and China Mieville. Told from the viewpoint of Ecce Homine -- an asexual homunculus created from a single sperm to prove the dominance of the masculine principle in human evolution and the irrelevance of the female principle -- it details his attempts to survive and dominate after he fails the Turin Test which was destined to prove he had a soul. Duffy fills the story with crackpot experiments, steampunk technologies, and all sorts of oddball darkness that give the story a wonderful feet of alchemical strangeness. "Louder Echo" isn't completely successful -- one or two small false notes are struck and it all could have added up to a little more -- but there is some fine work here and it definitely suggests that Duffy is an antipodean writer to watch.

Almost as good, and very different, is Kyla Ward's "Kijin Tea". A Japanese woman whose mother-in-law is certain she is not good enough to have married her son looks to rescue herself and her daughter from an uncertain fate by coming to an understanding with fox spirits. Deft, delicate, and yet uncompromising, it's a quite lovely fantasy. Deborah Biancotti, who's won several Australian awards for her short fiction, delivers a strange surreal piece of science fiction in "The Singular Life of Eddie Dovewater" which relates the story of somebody who is running from the moment he leaves the womb until the moment he leaves human ken altogether. Marianne de Pierres sets her "Moonflowers and the Ritz" in a "Vermilion Sands"-style resort town where the indolent rich indulge themselves at terrible cost, while Simon Brown looks to the cost of faith in "Waiting at Golgotha", a moving tale of love almost found.

Of the rest, I have a particular fondness for Martin J. Livings's "Sigmund Freud and the Feral Freeway" which, despite the title, is an amusing recast of "The Roads Must Roll", where a simulacra of Sigmund Freud is brought in to psycboanalyse a road. It's journeyman work, but good journeyman work. And that might well describe Agog! Terrific Tales itself. It's a strong anthology from an Australian small press that has few pretensions. If you're interested, as I was, in an overview of what's happening in science fiction in Australia today you're unlikely to find better.

--Jonathan Strahan, Locus
  • Kijin Tea, by Kyla Ward
  • Waiting at Golgotha, by Simon Brown
  • Runaway, by Lucy Sussex
  • Moonflowers at the Ritz, by Marianne de Pierres
  • Louder Echo, by Brendan Duffy
  • Lacey's Fingerprints, by Chris Lawson
  • In the Days of the Red Animals, by Kate Orman
  • JAM Jars, by Robert Hood
  • Bone Dog, by Kaaron Warren
  • Sigmund Freud & the Feral Freeway, by Martin Livings
  • Uncharted, by Leigh Blackmore
  • Exterminator rex, by Adam Browne
  • Storm in a Chandelier, by Tracey Rolfe
  • Witness of Blood, by Sue Isle
  • The Big One, by Dirk Flinthart
  • Tigershow, by Janeen Webb
  • Butterfly Merchant, by Sean Williams
  • That Which Does Not Kill Us, by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Singular Life of Eddy Dovewater, by Deborah Biancotti
  • Making Two Fists, by Lee Battersby
  • Eden, by Jack Dann
 

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