R&R review roundup

After that first wonderful review from Des Lewis in May, there was a vast silence of several months on the Resonance & Revolt review front. To be honest, it had me worried.

But eventually the reviews began to appear, starting with a couple on Amazon and GoodReads.  Clare Bonetree wrote: “Rabinowitz has an incredible imagination, but a really down to earth style… Totally recommending this to speculative fiction fans, and anyone who wants to live in a different, more creative world.”

A certain Steve describes “radical and mysterious journeys” and “stories from London, in the recent past and near future, from medieval and contemporary Europe and from a century or so of America. Music, pictures, sounds, and acts of rebellion resonate across time”.

And just before I packed my bags for Fantasycon I came across this post on Peter Coleborn‘s blog.  Peter brought up the same dipping vs devouring question that I mentioned in relation to Uncertainties III. And so it seems that R&R is one for dipping. Perhaps that’s why it took a  while for the reviews to appear, what with all the dipping and sipping going on! 🙂

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“Rabinowitz is a wonderful stylist who writes compassionately about characters you want to care about. She writes from the heart… I suggest that you dip in and out of Resonance and Revolt and savour the tales along with a glass of wine (or coffee or tea or G&T; your choice, I’m not being prescriptive).”

I personally would recommend whisky myself to accompany an R&R reading session, but I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive either.

panNext up is the Pan Review. Like Deborah Walker in her Goodreads (and Amazon.co.uk) review, editor Mark Andresen singles out “Bells of the Harelle” as a favourite story:

“This collection’s finest, most satisfying tale, deserving of future anthologising. Served mainly by its narrative’s sense of urgency, the opening line alone pulls you in…”

Mark also mentions certain stories as ‘lesser tales’ that didn’t quite do it for him. I found this most interesting in light of my deliberations as I put the collection together. When I was reading through the stories I was thinking that a bunch of back-to-back novelette-length historical tales might be kind of… too much at once. So I concluded it’s best to have something short and snappy and lighter between them. I received some advice suggesting this as as well – and I wrote about the process in a guest post I contributed to the Milford SF blog.

Of course, I discovered again that everyone has their own preferences. Later, comments from Steven Andrew at the Morning Star reflected both on the larger themes and the smaller stories:

DrZ0P7BWkAEJRet“Rabinowitz eschews clumsy agitprop-style didactics and doesn’t offer easy answers. Given to open-ended responses, her interest is largely driven by wonder at people’s continued ability to love, think and rebel against capital, often in the most difficult and unlikely circumstances… Another strength is that Rabinowitz brings to her writing a deeply rooted sense of place and many of the passages are informed and affectionate celebrations of her now-native London.”

Along with ‘insurrectionary insights’ this reviewer also enjoyed the quieter and more personal elements of the stories:

“Lots of the radicals dip in and out of struggle, get drunk, fall into relationships and are often wracked with self-doubt, jaded librarian Richard in Pieces of Ourselves being a prime illustration… Often a quiet, gentle and comedic perspective ensures that not all the contributions are full of frenzied street fighting. The magical realism of Tasting the Clouds is kick-started by a chance tasting of Zapatista coffee and an all too familiar conversation about the merits or otherwise of ethical shopping.”

So I found it very enlightening to read through different reactions. All these stories received multiple critiques before they were first submitted and published but there’s nothing like an overview of a collection from a fresh eye. This is all part of a learning curve and offers food for thought as I plan my second collection.

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Later, Phil Smith wrote about my use of realism in writing the fantastical in his Mythogeography blog. That gave me a glow because I’ve always responded most to works that mingle the concrete and gritty with the strange and numinous. This applies to what I enjoy reading and the effects I try to achieve in my own work.

“There is nothing predictable in Rosanne Rabinowitz’s short story collection Resonance & Revolt. Rabinowitz’s writing is very precisely detailed, drawing realist worlds and then infiltrating them; there are only a few monsters here, but mostly everything is monstrous. The most effective of Rabinowitz’s stories are those in which the realist details are radically possessed by shifting energy: tiny patches of skin that become a double in ‘Pieces of Ourselves’, a naff landscape painting that won’t stay fixed in ‘Keep Them Rollin’, a scruffy cap that passes for a mask in ‘The Peak’, an old bloodsucker in ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ and the spirit of ‘The Pleasure Garden’.”

And in the most recent review, Jaine Fenn makes this observation about how the stories fit together and complement each other.

jaine_green_bkgnd“Overall these tales are vibrant and relevant, displaying exquisite writing, passionate characters and strong sense of place. Although each story stands alone, I took great pleasure in spotting the links – or should I say resonances – between them. They cover themes including quiet but persistent rebellion, love without borders and the malleable nature of time and space as revealed by physics or ritual.”

There are also a few words of thoughtful criticism in Jaine’s review that are appreciated just as much as the praise.

Peter Coleborn’s comments have made me think more about the dipping vs devouring approach to anthologies and collections. Is one better than the other? I imagine that a novelist’s first thought would be: ‘I want to keep the reader reading FFS’. On the other hand, one friend has said that a powerful collection for her usually lends itself to dipping – the best stories are so intense that she needs space between them to think and truly appreciate them.

I’d be interested to hear what other writers and readers think on this score. And I’d also like to thank all the reviewers for taking the time to read and write about Resonance & Revolt. If anyone else reading this post would like to review R&R then get in touch with Eibonvale Press, or you can contact me if that’s easier. Or feel free to scribble a line or stick up a rating at Goodreads or Amazon or any review site of your choice.

Last, I’ll mention that not all the reviews were strictly literary. Jason Whittle speaks well of the rugelach that accompanied my reading of “The Matter of Meroz” at Fantasycon; he described my first attempt at concocting the Jewish pastries (with almond, sour cherry and apricot fillings) as “delicious”. So thank you too, Jason.

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Helen’s Story to be published in the US

I’m very pleased to announce the first US publication of Helen’s Story by feminist SF publisher Aqueduct Press. So I’ll be joining a roster of authors that includes Nnedi Okorafor, Karen Joy Fowler, Rachel Swirsky, Lisa Tuttle, Gwyneth Jones, Ursula K LeGuin, Vandana Singh… well, loads of great people. Helen’s Story will also be released as an ebook, so it’ll be available to a wider audience.

Watch this space for more information!

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Reviews, reprint news and a new free fiction page!

Helen's Story coverHere’s a quick shout-out that Helen’s Story has received another late review, this time from Peter Coleborn. He writes:

Helen’s Story is so well written the novella flows effortlessly through the reader’s mind, subsuming him or her into this exotic and very erotic tale… Helen’s Story is a tour de force of one woman’s fight to understand her nature – and is quite simply a masterpiece. I’d place it in the same class, the way it mixes the real and the myth, as Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce and Among Others by Jo Walton.”

Thanks for your kind words, Peter!

In addition, Helen gets a mention on a Spanish website. I’m not sure exactly what they’re saying, but I think it’s good.

Meanwhile, Something Remains has been given one of Des Lewis’ legendary real time reviews. He describes my contribution “The Pleasure Garden”:

“Rosanne’s evolved fragment becomes an evocative summoning of the cranes as the girders of a cat’s cradle genius-loci of South London, now and then.”

Anthony Watson has also selected Something Remains as the year’s best anthology on his Dark Musings blog:

“The stories within are inspired by, and based on, notes left by Joel and each individual author has done a remarkable job in creating them in such a way that you would believe Joel had written them himself. It’s a superbly produced book and I can think of no better way to honour his memory.”

jva1And now for some more downbeat news… non-profit independent publisher Jurassic London has wound up its operations. We’re very sorry to see them go. However, we can take some small comfort that a new home has been found for Jews vs Aliens and Jews vs Zombies  at Ben Yehuda Press. The proceeds will continue to benefit Mosac, a charity that provides support to non-abusing parents, carers and families of children who have been sexually abused.

6a00d8345295c269e201b8d12175b2970c-200wiMoving on to another story published by Jurassic London, I’ve decided to put “Keep Them Rollin'” on my new free fiction page. This story first appeared in the 2015 Jurassic anthology We Need to Talk. While ghost stories are usually the tradition for this time of year, I’m going for some SF: quantum computing meets Universal Credit. It’s the first time I’ve put my own fiction on line, and I enjoyed illustrating it with some appropriate bits and pieces.

I’ll close this post with the song that gave “Keep Them Rollin'” its title – the theme from Rawhide. Below you’ll find my favourite version by The Men They Couldn’t Hang.

On the story page itself I’ve included another cover by US ska punk band Sublime. While it doesn’t have the best sound quality, the clip from Sublime does evoke that late 1980s/early 1990s festival atmosphere.

Brixton BookJam on 8 July

Brixton BookJam

“The Brixton BookJam is an eclectic gathering for people who are passionate about books and the written word. It’s a mix of readings, talks and panels, chatting and socialising.”

If you think that sounds good, come along this Monday, 8 July! I’ll be joining the fun, doing a reading stint along with 10-12 other writers. MC for the evening will be comedian Ivor Dembina.

The Hootananny pub is at 95 Effra Road in Brixton,
London SW2 1DF. Doors open at 7.30, readings start at 8. Keep in mind that this is all free!

I’ve been going to this pub for many years, back to its previous incarnations as the George Canning and the Hobgoblin. It’s been a site of  diverse musical interludes, adventures and misadventures. So it’ll be a thrill to do a little turn there at last.

Meanwhile, I want to thank everyone who came to our launch last Thursday at the Review Bookshop in Peckham. The place was packed out, and it was standing room only. Many had traveled from far-flung places including Portsmouth, Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford and Norwich (not to mention Hackney and Wood Green).

I think it was a good idea to launch several (well, five) books together, which turned it into a major event. Our able MC Allen Ashley joked that a bomb falling on the Review Bookshop that night would obliterate most of the slipstream and indie publishing world.

However, I’m pleased to say that the evening went ahead without any untoward incidents.  I’m only sorry I didn’t get a chance to chat with everyone.

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If you didn’t make it the launch, you might be interested in this special deal from PS, featuring a reduced price if you order Helen’s Story and Nina Allan’s new book Stardust together. This applies to unsigned and signed editions. It’s still up on the PS website, but it will be available for a limited time only.