Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: Epilogue


I just finished Epilogue (from Fablecroft Publishing), a collection of short stories around the idea of hope in the wake of the apocalypse.


What a wonderful anthology — one of those impulse buys that really paid off. The range of variations on a theme demonstrated the brilliance of the book’s subject matter as well as the wealth of talent out there at the moment. If you’re expecting 12 Zombie stories, nothing could be further from what I discovered in here…


David McDonald’s “Cold Comfort” took me back to the kinds of scifi adventure I read in my youth and my 20s; the kind of brave (and tough) new world tale that captured my imagination and got me hooked on scifi for life. It’s an against-the-elements story in which our world has been completely reshaped (and reinvented) by cataclysm.


Dirk Flinthart’s “The Fletcher Test” melds human angst, questions of existence (and what life actually is) and gripping projections of where AI tech might take us in the future. All of this creates a story which went where I least expected. Sheer brilliance.


“Sleeping Beauty” was one of the most original stories I’ve ever read, and a truly novel take on the apocalypse.


“Mornington Ride” had a pleasantly authentic Aussie flavour without reverting to Mad Max-isms. It’s compelling if crude in many places (not to be read if you don’t like bad language, for example), BUT it aptly captures the kind of dog-eat-dog world we can expect after the bombs have finished ruining our civilisations.


And the book closes with two stories that are entirely “left field” in terms of reimagining the apocalypse.


Wonderful wonderful collection that I will no doubt read again.



Interview with Peter Cooper

I’m partway through an amazing book by Australian author, Peter Cooper. Five chapters into The Ghost of Ping-Ling I find myself hooked on this riveting adventure set in a rich fantasy world. I thought I’d catch up with Peter and see what makes him tick and how this wonderful novel came about…




What did you mostly read, growing up?

I wasn’t a “wide” reader when I was growing up. My main staples were Tolkien and the Willard Price adventure series. I also read and enjoyed Nicholas Fisk’s Startstormers series and the Mad Scientist Adventure Club books, both of which are not very widely known today but were/are brilliant books.


What single book (or series of books) had the “profoundest” effect on you?

Definitely the Hobbit. It was the first fantasy I ever read and it changed my life forever. Up to that point I don’t remember another book so totally drawing me into its world. It was also the first book to give me a love for fantasy maps. I can remember opening that book as a 12 year old and seeing that map and thinking “wow, I want to go there”. And Tolkien took me there, and I never left.


What do you feel was your breakthrough moment as a writer?

Interesting question. I think I’d have to say (and this is an unsponsored comment) it was when I first signed up to Online Writers Workshop and opened up my writing to a wide range of people of various backgrounds and levels of experience. It was terrifying when I did it, but it pushed me to a point where I don’t think I could have gone otherwise.Some of those people are still my crit-partners, though we’re not on OWW anymore, and several are now published authors.


What’s your family think about your writing obsession (is it ok to include that word?)?

It is an obsession. There is no other word to describe it! My wife has been very supportive and encouraging all the way along, though she’s not a fantasy fan by any means. My five year old twin sons are huge fans, to the extent that their whole reception class knows Daddy is an author and have seen the books and are probably completely bored with hearing about it all by now. I hope in a few years they’ll all buy the series.


Tell us about your current trilogy (…it’s a trilogy, isn’t it??). And about its genesis.

It was originally going to be 5 books, but my publisher told me a little while ago that I should seriously think about making it 3. I was reluctant, especially this late in the piece, but in the end I went with it, so now it’s a trilogy. The book actually started as a satirical take on Lord of the Rings, but over the following 7 or 8 years it slowly transformed into something that was less satirical and less Lord of the Rings. Eventually it morphed into its modern form, an Asian inspired fantasy. I think part of the reason I set it in an Asian world is that I adored the TV series Monkey when I was growing up, and I felt there was so much Chinese and Japanese mythology to draw on, rather than the usual European fare.


Monkey? That show rocked. Peter, you’ve had quite a few short stories published. What do you enjoy writing more, shorts or novels?

I think I enjoy both just as much. I’m probably more of a “natural” novel writer than short-story writer (perhaps because I have a tendency to waffle?) so writing short-stories is even more of a challenge for me. Because of that I’ve worked really hard to get better, and after many thousands of words of pure tosh I’ve started to see some publishing success. I think that’s probably one thing I do like more about short-stories — you don’t have to work at something for quite so long before you can send it out into the world.


How did you manage to write and be published, all while holding down a real job?

With great difficulty. Finding time to write is a huge challenge for me, and inevitably it happens late at night when I’m not in my best mindset. The frustrating thing for me is that during the day, while I’m toiling away as a software engineer, my writing brain is fully engaged, but I can’t do anything about it. Still, I’ve managed to write 2 and a half novels that way so I think in the end it all just works out. I’m hoping it will continue to work out for book 3. Somehow I feel even more pressed for time now than I did last year.


When is the 3rd book out? 

Book 3 is due out May next year, provided I can meet the mid-November timeline. That’s not a given because I’m behind in where I should be with the drafts, but I’ll be giving it my best shot.


Do you see that work/write balance working in the next few years? Is there anything you’ll change?

Possibly as my children get a bit older there’ll be more evening time to write, but I suspect there may be even less. What I am hoping is that I can streamline the process a bit more, perhaps by not writing detailed manuscripts at early stages when the story flow hasn’t been settled, I’ve been burned wasting time like that a few times now.


Peter, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for giving us insights into the world of the writer. We wish you godspeed with your next novel and all the best for the future of your family and career.


Peter’s books The Ghost of Ping-Ling and The Mapmakers Apprentice can be ordered at your local bookstore. His website is


Review: The Long Way Home

Like many of my favourite reads over the years, I discovered PD Blake’s The Long Way Home by accident. And I’m so glad I did. Armed with my new Kindle, I waded into the kind of book that took me back to the adventures I’d lapped up as a teenager.


Blake’s epic fantasy reads like sword and sorcery, in the sense that it’s full of close-in camera views and beautifully executed character arcs. But the overall story is told through multiple strands which begin to combine about 60% of the way through. These strands are each facinating and fun. And none less than the central strand of Alwyn and his dwarven possessor Thorgrim Ironarm. Ironarm is one of those characters who isn’t laboured and doesn’t need to be, expertly drawn and fun to read about. Each time a hint of danger was in the air, I got my hopes up that Ironarm would reappear to swing that axe and laugh maniacally.


Apart from the occasional punctuation error (which seems a common feature of eBooks), The Long Way Home is a flawless novel, one of the few I’d award 5 stars out of 5. His richly drawn characters made me smile and his world building was fresh. If you liked the Wheel of Time novels, you’ll like this more! It’s available on Smashwords in pretty much any format you desire.

Looking forward to the next in the series.