Book Lounge Launch of Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes

Last night was the launch of Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes, and I think it’s quite possible that I was there because of this gorgeous cover:

GL Full

I splurged on the first edition because it’s a stunning piece amidst the generic or boring covers that most books get, and because I’ve slowly been building a collection of favourite and beautiful books in hardcover. For me, the cover can be a major selling point, the reason that I’ll spend extra for the best possible edition instead of waiting for it to hit the bargain bins, opting for a cheaper eBook (if there is one) or borrowing it from the library.

Having bought a first edition, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get it signed, so off I went to the Book Lounge, where some dedicated soul had reproduced the cover on the window:

Gl window display

I wasn’t just there to indulge my book fetish of course; I love hearing authors talk about their work, and Rose-Innes had a great discussion with Hedley Twidle, a lecturer in English Language and Literature at UCT.

GL Launch

You can read Twidle’s review of Green Lion over at Books LIVE. I loved the observation he made at the beginning of the conversation: he referred to Ivan Vladislavić’s quote on the cover, which says that the novel is “as full of life as the Ark”, and noted that the ark is, of course, full of the very last of all types of life.

That grim paradox seems perfect for Green Lion. It’s set in a future where many more wild animals and environments have been lost, and Table Mountain has been fenced off as a kind of ark where surviving species are preserved. Rhodes Memorial has become a research institute where attempts are being made to bring animals back from extinction, like the attempt to bring back the quagga. It’s the home of Sekhmet, the last living black-maned lioness, at least until she mauls someone and escapes. Con, a friend of the man who was mauled, travels up the mountain to track her down.

This was the inciting image, says Rose-Innes – a man travelling up a mountain, finding revelation, and coming back down. What she did then was fill in all the human impulses leading up to that. She described the story as wedge-shaped – it begins with all the chaos of human complexity, then narrows to focus on one moment of disaster and transcendence.

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It’s also a novel about Table Mountain and Cape Town, but she sought to subvert the usual images and approach it from a fresh perspective. The wilderness she depicts is hybrid and corrupt, abutted by human construction. Having destroyed so much, people are now fenced off from nature in an attempt to save it. Rose-Innes describes it as the poignant human impulse to stop death, but emphasises that that cause is fraught with contradiction. We seek to preserve animals not for their own sake but because of the emotional and symbolic meaning they hold for us. Animals are fetishized and idealised, symbolising what is beautiful, meaningful and lost, but these ideas are divorced from the reality of the animals themselves. We need to rethink our ideas of pristine nature, which often exists in isolation from nature. I’m guessing then, that this is how a man gets mauled in the beginning of the novel – because his idea of the lion is a fantasy far-removed from the reality of a dangerous carnivore.

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The term “green lion” comes from a similar sort of mysticism. In alchemy, Rose-Innes explained, green lion (possibly sulphuric acid) is a substance used in the creation of the philosopher’s stone – the ultimate goal of alchemy. The reference to this fruitless quest parallels the implausibility of bringing dead things back to life in the novel.

The novel is a bleak vision of loss, says Rose-Innes, and that makes me a little apprehensive about reading it, because environmental destruction and extinction are issues that I find deeply disturbing. At the same time though, I’m fascinated by the portrayal of our relationship with animals. Our use of animals as tourist attractions has always bothered me. I hate zoos. I’ve never been especially interested in game drives. I love animals, so I’m grateful that these things play a role in conservation, but most people aren’t interested in conservation for its own sake; they just want to protect the animals they like. So it’s always the beautiful or majestic endangered animals that are chosen to represent conservation projects, because no one would care about some dull brown bird or ugly frog, regardless of its role in the ecosystem. And what happens if we lose that emotional connection to animals and environments? There’ll be no respect for life to back it up.

So, death and futile conservation. Not a happy subject, but I’m keen to see how the book tackles it. Perhaps the beauty of the book itself can help me handle whatever lies in its pages.

 

GL Umuzi

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Guest posting at A Dribble of Ink

I was thoroughly chuffed when Aidan from the Hugo-award winning A Dribble of Ink asked me to do a guest post for his blog. My initial ideas were a tad ambitious in the context of my current time constraints, but I ended up writing what I hope is a fitting tribute to South African speculative fiction and its fundamental role in getting me to read local fiction (because, sadly, there was a time when I avoided pretty much all of it). You can read my post here.

After reading some dreck this morning about how sff should only be for fun, never political, and always exactly the same as it was in the fifties, it occurs to be that my post might come off as having similarly apolitical sentiments. I sincerely hope not, especially given the novels I recommended, which are all political or progressive to some degree. If anything I feel that pleasure and politics are not mutually exclusive, and that a book can be entertaining or beautiful and still tackle weighty themes. Rather, my gripe with (English) fiction publishing in South Africa was that for a long time there seemed to be some kind of resistance to publishing anything that wasn’t deadly serious and unwaveringly realist. I was almost afraid to read an SA novel because it would no doubt be harrowing. It’s only recently that I’ve seen more variety, and it’s the publication of spec fic that encouraged me, first to give local fiction another chance, and then to read as much of it as I could find 🙂

#DiversityInSFF: Readers and Reviewers

If you weren’t following yesterday, I highly recommend you check out the #DiversityInSFF hashtag that Jim C. Hines started on Twitter yesterday. Twitter can be one hell of a time-waster but it has its moments and following last night’s discussion was undoubtedly time well spent. The problem is a clear one often talked about in sff circles: these genres – or at least their English-language versions – lack diversity, with the major problem being that white male authors and straight, white, predominantly male characters are favoured.

Reading through the hashtag gives a good overall idea of who and what is underrepresented: anyone who is POC, female, gay, transgendered; settings and cultures that aren’t North American or European; non-western folklore and mythology. Saladin Ahmed raised the issue of class (“I want fewer kings and starship captains, more coach drivers and space waitresses.”). There’s also the issue of world sf – most published works in English come from American and British authors or favour those settings.

As several tweeters pointed out, the problem isn’t just with authors and the fiction they produce; the issue is systemic. It exists at the level of publishing – the people hired in the industry, the works they choose to publish, the changes they sometimes require (like removing gay or POC characters), the cover art they produce (objectifying women, whitewashing POCs).

Of course, authors and publishers are influence by readers, so the problem also exists at the level of readers and reviewers. I wanted to talk about this specifically because it’s where I fit in and last night’s discussion had me thinking about my choices as a reader and reviewer. Here are some of my favourite tweets on the subject:

Reading widely is in itself a solution. The paradox of sff is that it can take you to other worlds but still be horribly provincial. A case in point was an indie novel I reviewed this year:  Twin-Bred by Karen A. Wyle. In the story, a human colony settled on another planet, alongside the indigenous aliens, but their lives were little different from suburban America and most of the humans never speak to the aliens or get over their xenopobia. An excellent counterpoint to that novel is the short story: “The Children of Main Street” by A.C. Wise. In Wise’s story, human colonists also replicate suburban America on another planet, except for their children, who have somehow all gained the ability to change sex whenever they feel like it. Many of the parents are disturbed by this, but one mother becomes increasingly disappointed by the adults’ the aversion to difference and their refusal to change. Why travel to other worlds and build new societies only replicate the one you came from?

A lot of sff does that for their readers, transporting us to other worlds that look less like exciting new landscapes and more like small corners of the world we already live in, with lots of people, lifestyles and cultures kept out of view. Vampires in western cities and suburbs, elves and dwarves in some version of medieval Europe, spaceships crewed by straight Americans – these things often aren’t as adventurous or fantastical as they purport to be. Promoting diversity in sff means reading more diversely. And what readers choose to read influences what publishers choose and what authors are encouraged to write; it’s a knock-on  effect.

One of the major lessons I got from the #DiversityInSFF discussion is that this diverse reading really has to be a conscious effort on your part. Because sff suffers from so many biases, simply sticking to preferred subgenres or ignoring the gender, race etc. of the authors you choose means that you’re going to end up reading mostly white male authors who write white male protagonists simply because they are in the vast majority.

I’m pleased to say that, fortunately, my tastes naturally lean towards a measure of inclusivity. I like books that offer me something unusual, and in sff genres, “unusual” often coincides with diversity: POC protagonists, gay and transgendered protagonists, settings that aren’t European or North American, non-European folklore and mythology etc. It also includes female protagonists; they’re easy to find in genres like YA fantasy or paranormal romance but can be harder to find in other sff subgenres.

As a reader and reviewer from South Africa, I’ve also been encouraged to look for ‘world’ sff, simply because the local sff scene is blossoming. What this emphasises is that those genres don’t belong to the American and British authors who dominate the market, and when local authors promote South African and other African speculative fiction, I’m encouraged to look further as well. So when I hear about Nnedi Okorafor’s short story anthology Kabu Kabu for example, or a novel based on the Japanese creation myth of Izanami and Izanaki, my interest is immediately peaked and I request a review copy.

But on the downside I’m not actively seeking to make my reading more diverse. While I do look out for more interesting protagonists and settings, I’m one of those people who doesn’t normally take much notice of the author when looking for books to read and review. Also, I primarily use NetGalley to get review copies and I mostly request books from publishers I trust. What this means, in part, is that I’m basically just waiting to stumble across non-standard fiction, and in the meantime I getting a big dose of the norm. I still come across many female authors and characters this way, but finding POC authors and characters, non-US/European sff, gay protagonists and transgendered protagonists is far more unlikely. Looking over my reading for the year, I’m pleased to see an good gender balance, several Japanese novels and a few books that explore non-traditional sexuality, but it’s hardly as diverse as it could be. I’m not planning to avoid books I really want to read just because their authors and protagonists are white men; I think that’s silly and I’d miss out on some great fiction if I did so. What I’m talking about is finding more varied books to read as well.

Obviously what I read dictates what I review, and reviewing involves discussing and promoting those works, making them more visibile to readers. And visibility is the second major issue that grabbed me last night. The most obvious aspect of this is talking about diverse works of fiction on my blog.

The aspect I hadn’t really thought about much before was making diversity clear within a work of fiction.

Those tweets are directed at authors, particularly because many readers (of any race, gender or sexual orientation) will assume characters are white, straight and male unless told otherwise, and stopping them from doing so is important. Thus, I’d say the idea also replies to reviewers, since describing plots, characters and settings is part of what we do. So, should reviewers make an effort to point out the diversity (or lack thereof) in a work? Should we take care to mention, for example, that the main character is dark-skinned, bisexual and Muslim?

When these factors are central to the plot or whatever is discussed in the review, the answer is an obvious YES. What interests me more, are the cases where that information isn’t needed, when it’s an extra piece of information that doesn’t necessarily fit anywhere.

My instinct thus far has been to leave it out. After all, I don’t provide full character descriptions based on every related scrap of information in novel; I stick to what’s relevant or notable. Skin colour might be as irrelevant as hair colour, and if the story doesn’t include a sexual relationship then it might not be worth mentioning a character’s sexual orientation. Also, I don’t go around pointing out that, by the way, this character is white or straight, so in the spirit of equality I don’t do it for POC or gay characters either unless it’s a major issue. I don’t want to be a twat howling “Look! The main character is a black female scientist! You have to see this!” potentially objectifying them as some kind of exotic artefact on display, instead of viewing them as a (fictional) person. And I kind of feel like I’m doing exactly that if I write something like “Jane is a black scientist on Mars” when Jane’s race isn’t an important plot point. After all, I wouldn’t write “Jane is a white scientist on Mars”.

Then again, there wouldn’t be any need for this discussion if things were equal. These characters are underrepresented. Often when they are present their difference is emphasised, with the fiction making the point of exactly how ‘Other’ they are. While those stories are also necessary to relate individual experiences or the experience of being othered, what we also need are stories that where being POC, gay or transgendered is normalised, where those characters can just get on with the plot without having to explain themselves or function as a representative of a minority. Those are the books for which I wouldn’t need to mention he particulars of the characters diversity, but at the same time that’s the ideal we should be striving for; is it wise to keep silent about it?

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find a smooth approach to this, like integrating it into a character discussion eg. “John can never commit to anything; he keeps changing jobs, boyfriends and the colour of his hair”. Alternatively, I might punt the book as breaking away from the norm, eg. “It’s not often that I get to read a story from the POV of a gay teenager with a disability”. And if all else fails, maybe I should be stating openly that “Jane is a black scientist on Mars” as a way of telling readers that hey, this book has a POC protagonist. It feels a bit weird, but then again this whole issue has the awkwardness of masses of people saying “Excuse me, but why the fuck do you keep ignoring me?” The solutions aren’t easy, but we shouldn’t shy away from them. So for starters, I’m going to take a closer look at my review pile and see what I can change about it.

Readers, bloggers and other reviewers, what do you think? Do you feel the need to assess your tbr piles and maybe make some changes? How do you address diversity in your reviews?

The World of the End by Ofir Touché Gafla

The World of the EndTitle: The World of the End
Author: Ofir Touché Gafla
Translation: from Hebrew by Mitch Ginsburg
Published:  First published 2004, Tor edition published 25 June 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: mystery, fantasy
Rating: 7/10

Ben Mendelsshon is a righter. In intellectual circles he’s known as an epilogist. What he does is ‘right’ other writers’ work by write endings for them. But the one ending Ben cannot handle is the death of his wife Marian in a freak accident. The couple were deeply in love and had what seemed like the perfect marriage. Unwilling to give up on it, Ben commits suicide in the hope of being reunited with Marian.

The afterlife he finds himself in is neither heaven nor hell. It’s just another world – the Other World – where all the dead keep on living in something similar to a standard, westernised city life, with a few decidedly odd differences, like the fact that there are no clothes so everyone walks around naked. Each individual is given an apartment based on the date and time they died, but when Ben goes to Marian’s apartment, he learns that if was left abandoned.

Desperate to find his wife but clueless as to how to do it, Ben enlists the help of Mad Hop, a passionate detective (whose nickname is based on his favourite fictional detectives – Marple, Dalgliesh, Holmes and Poirot). While they track down Marian, interlinking narratives play out in the world of the living. A famous artist who was once asked to paint Marian’s portrait has a stroke and ends up in a coma. His wife Bessie remains hopeful that he will wake up, while a socially dysfunctional nurse tries to convince Bessie to switch off the life support, as she does with all patients in that condition. The nurse, Anne, has fallen deeply in love with Ben, after seeing him in the gym on her daily walk home from work, and his unexplained absence upsets her.

In a more romantic love story, a man and woman begin an online romance based on their shared love of Salman Rushdie’s writing. Inexplicably, the woman is named Marian and recently divorced her bastard of a husband. Her presence is just as perplexing for the reader as her absence is for Ben. Is Marian dead or alive? Nothing quite makes sense.

It’s a convoluted mystery with loads of characters (I’ve mentioned fewer than half of them), but the story is actually fairly easy to follow. Gafla starts out with a bunch of seemingly disparate narrative threads and slowly begins to weave them together into a story that’s much bigger than it seemed at first. Ben’s search for Marian is still at the heart of it, but other characters’ lives and actions play into it in myriad ways that only the reader – who sees all the POVs – has the scope to appreciate.

It avoids being confusing at least partly because Gafla writes vivid, memorable characters. It’s clearly one of the things he loves most about writing fiction, and one of his greatest skills in the craft. His characters all have their own stories and quirks that are interesting in themselves, full of love, loathing, humour, horror, weirdness and wonder. So, when a character suddenly pops up several chapters after they were first introduced, they tend to be easily recognisable even if you’ve forgotten their names.

Gafla’s not quite so good when it comes to world-building though. Compared to our world, The Other World is a utopia of peace, technological advancement and immortality but it wouldn’t stand up to much scrutiny. The enforced nudity supposedly makes people “infinitely more trusting, developing a reputable, honest society where costumes, masks, and other props are unnecessary”, but it seems impractical. I’d want shoes and sports bras at the very least. And since people still put on plays and other forms of entertainment, what’s wrong with costumes? Also, it’s very fucking odd, but it seems like everyone adjusts to it far too easily after living in a world that requires clothing.

Another world-building issue is the godget – a remote control that each person carries on a strap around their neck. The godget has six buttons, each of which is used to control some aspect of your existence – making it your favourite time of day, effecting your preferred mode of sleep (dreams, no dreams, number of hours), providing updates on the previous world. The way it works is really stupid. For example, button two controls your personal climate, so you click the button once for snowy, twice for cold but not rainy, three times for cold and rainy, and so on with the final option at twelve clicks. How does anyone remember how all these options? A technologically advanced world like this one would have come up with a much more user-friendly device. And if they can give you recordings of your ENTIRE life to watch, how can they still be using video tapes? It’s clearly stated that the Other World advances with the world of the living, so there’s absolutely no excuse for tapes.

However, I would say that you shouldn’t worry too much about the world-building. The World of the End is the kind of novel where that particular lapse in logic can be frowned at and then shrugged off because it’s not the focus of the book. The Other World is there to allow a certain story to play out, rather than as a serious speculation of how the afterlife might function (although it’s an infinitely better idea than heaven or hell).

What you do get then, are ideas on what kind of life you might lead in the Other World, because it’s really just another kind of life. Without currency or any need to work, people tend to do things because they’re passionate about them, like Mad Hop who has “always investigated for the right reasons, unadulterated curiosity. Nothing satisfies me more than the clean annihilation of question marks.” Famous artists, writers and musicians continue to produce new work, often using the technology of later centuries. People can carry their obsessions from one world to the next, they can change with the times (the technology of the present is available to all the dead of the past, for example), they can opt for eternal sleep if they can’t handle eternity. And face with eternity, people’s relationships have changed. Ben has to face up to the possibility that Marian might not want to be with him anymore, since death nullified their marriage vows. And if he finds her, they will eventually part ways anyway.

Admittedly, these ideas aren’t explored in great depth because it would detract from the main story and there just isn’t enough room. As you might have noticed, there’s a lot going on here, and later in the novel there’s also a lot of musing on Ben’s predicament. There’s a metafictional touch when Mad Hop suggests that Ben’s anguish comes not from the fact that he hasn’t found Marian but from the possibility that he might not find her – he’s a man who crafted endings for a living, and he assumed his suicide would either lead him to Marian (a happy ending) or oblivion (the end to all his stories). He did not imagine that Marian could go missing while life went on in new ways. I quite liked this and some of the other little musings by various characters, but this is also where the books takes a turn for the worse.

At the start, it’s a tightly-written, clever story. After the halfway mark, it starts to unravel. It gets a bit long-winded, the living-world narratives keep expanding, and the search for Marian is too unstructured. Mad Hop doesn’t seem like a particularly good detective. He doesn’t do much investigating himself; most of the time he shows Ben investigative paths, like sending him to speak to dead relatives that Marian may have contacted. Then, there are times when Ben happens to mention key information that he didn’t know would be useful. Each time, Mad Hop gets angry at Ben for holding back, but Ben doesn’t hold back; he just doesn’t know what’s important because he doesn’t know how the Other World works. It should be Mad Hop’s responsibility to ask the right questions.

I was starting to worry that this initially wonderful book would leave me disappointed, but I was happy with the way it ended. It’s not exactly a nice, neat ending, but by this point in the book you should know not to expect one. What Gafla does throughout the novel is give us a sense of human life with all its complications, absurdities, joys and disappointments, and the ending is no different. He never descends into dreary realism – on the contrary, so much of this novel is totally bizarre – but he tends to balance happy resolutions with bad ones and non-existent ones. I quite like it and I’m glad I read this one. It’s something very different for both mystery and spec fic readers.

Up for Review: Strange Bodies

The cover’s shit, but the plot summary made me curious. And hey, it’s written by Louis Theroux’s brother! I know that doesn’t mean the book will be good, but it made me read a bit more about Marcel Theroux. He has an interesting and varied biography, which is always promising for fiction.

Strange Bodies by Marcel TherouxStrange Bodies by Marcel Theroux (Faber and Faber)

NetGalley Blurb:

Nicholas Slopen has been dead for months. So when a man claiming to be Nicholas turns up to visit an old girlfriend, deception seems the only possible motive.Yet nothing can make him change his story. From the secure unit of a notorious psychiatric hospital, he begins to tell his tale: an account of attempted forgery that draws the reader towards an extraordinary truth – a metaphysical conspiracy that lies on the other side of madness and death.

Strange Bodies takes the reader on a dizzying speculative journey that poses questions about identity, authenticity, and what it means to be truly human.

Strange Bodies will be published on 2 May 2013 by Faber and Faber.

Links:
Goodreads
Faber and Faber
Buy a copy: The Book Depository | Amazon | Amazon.uk

About the Author
Marcel Theroux is a screenwriter, a broadcaster, and an award-winning novelist.

He was born in Kampala, Uganda, in 1968. He grew up in England, was awarded a first-class degree in English Literature at Cambridge University and then won a fellowship to Yale where he took an MA in International Relations with a specialization in Soviet and East European Studies.

He has published four novels to critical acclaim. His second novel,The Paperchase, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His most recent novel, Far North (2009) was a finalist for the U.S. National Book Award, the Arthur C Clarke Award, and was awarded the Prix de l’Inaperçu in 2011.

He has written and presented more than a dozen documentaries on subjects ranging from climate change to the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi. – from the author’s website
Website
Goodreads
Twitter
Wikipedia

Hungry for You by A.M. Harte

Title: Hungry For You
Author: A.M. Harte
Publisher: 1889 Labs
Publication date: 5 February 2011
My Rating: 7/10
Source: ARC provided by author

Buy Hungry For You

if there’s anything a zombie understands
it’s desire
–  Gabriel Gadfly

Who would have thought zombies could be so… tender? To me zombies are gross and scary, sometimes funny, but not much else. Then webfiction author A.M. Harte surprised me with Hungry For You, her collection of short zombie fiction which transcends the typical zombie mythos and uses the hungry, decaying monsters as metaphors for love and obsession. It makes zombies less scary, more revolting, but also morbidly fascinating.

The premise for this collection is that

Love is horrible. It’s ruthless, messy, mind-altering, and raw. It takes no prisoners. It chews you up and spits you out and leaves you for dead. Love is, you could say, very much like a zombie.

In Hungry For You couples are faced with the dilemma of what to do when the zombie apocalypse comes – do you part at death or stay together forever in decay and dismemberment? One lucid zombie takes the latter option, biting his wife so that he doesn’t lose the love of his life: What was it we had promised? For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health….Together forever. I’d made sure of it.

In one of the quirkier stories – “A Prayer to Garlic” – a very mortal zombie is faced with the existential angst of losing love to decay, as well as the amusingly mundane problem of what to serve a conservative mother-in-law for dinner:

Mog had known about my alternative eating habits for months. But it was something we’d hidden from his mother, who was a traditional zombie to the core. She scoffed at the mere suggestion of pork. Not to mention how she’d react whenever she met the chicken-eaters down the road.

“Vegetarians, the lot of them,” she’d say. “I survive on human and marrow pie, and if it’s good enough for me then it’s good enough for them!”

Then there are obsessed-lover zombies, ready to kill (and sometimes feed) for love:

She’d been chasing them with typical zombie hardheadedness for days, her previous lust and love transformed to hunger.

Zombies also act as apt metaphors for depression, loneliness and addiction. A lonely girl living a dead-end life lets infection consume her, perhaps because her existence is already zombie-like. A grieving musician shuts himself in his apartment, writing lyrics, missing his dead girlfriend and getting addicted to some rather dodgy tea.

These imaginative tales take place in a variety of contexts, from isolated incidents, to apocalyptic plague outbreaks, and post-apocalyptic scenarios where zombies rule. Because these scenarios are so familiar now – the outbreak of infection, the dwindling human resistance – that Harte is able to toy with convention and manipulate your assumptions about zombies and human beings. In addition, she is able to focus on her characters without being held back by explanatory details.

With the freedom to explore character, Harte has several different takes on the zombie. Among the classic mindless, flesh-eating creatures, are zombies who think, love and lust, a zombie who manifests as a monstrous rose, even killer zombie swans. In fact, symbols and concepts typically associated with love and romance – roses, swans, promises, hearts, kisses, sex – all get twisted, mutilated, devoured.

Because of the theme, the gross-out factor is pretty high, although in a manner different from normal zombies. There isn’t that much gore, but there’s a lot of intimacy – zombies kissing, implied sex, sexualised descriptions of zombie bodies. But then again zombies are supposed to be really disgusting. Plus, I think the ick-rating of kissing someone with a rotting tongue prevents these stories from degenerating into romance. When I read the blurb of Hungry For You I was worried it would be a bunch Twilight stories with zombies instead of vampires. It’s anything but. Instead it’s smart and spunky, bringing together horror, tragedy, romance and dark humour.

It’s a lot to pack into this very short collection (a mere 84 pages) of short short fiction, but Harte does it admirably and playfully. I enjoyed all the stories, except the last – “Arkady, Kain and Zombies”. It’s a more conventional zombie story and feels underdeveloped; perhaps more like the seed for a novel than a complete story in itself. But other than that I was happy. The stories are so short and punchy you devour them quickly, decide to read just one more, and before you know it you’ve read the whole book.

Hungry For You is recommended snacking for zombie fans, especially thrifty ones – you can buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 on Amazon, £0.71 on Amazon.co.uk, or choose from a selection of digital formats for only $0.99 on Smashwords. And if you’re spending every cent on preparations for the zombie apocalypse, or you just want a good quick read, check out Harte’s fiction for free on her blog.