BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower Volume One’ (ed by Isobelle Carmody & Nan McNab, A&U)

Fairytales never die, they just get facelifts. Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab’s collection of revamped traditional tales is the first in a two-part project exploring the genre’s deep, rich underbelly through novella form. Here, six Australian fantasy writers each choose a particularly needling tale, teasing out the universal truths and nightmares along with some more personal ones. The result is sublime, with each tale landing a punch squarely between the old and the new, bewitching and terrifying, topped off with an individual twist. Dishing up gritty modern nightmares are Rosie Borella’s ‘The Snow Queen’—now a tale of drug addiction—and Margo Lanagan’s examination of class warfare in ‘The Tinderbox’. In Martine Murray’s hands, ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’ becomes a haunting existential treatise, while Margaret Mahy recasts ‘Babes in the Woods’ as a triumphant coming-of-age tale. My favourites, though, were Richard Harland’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and Carmody’s ‘Rumplestiltskin’, which bring out the savagery of the originals to highlight the resourcefulness of their heroines, each beating the odds in a battle of male wagers versus female wits. Though aimed at teens, this gothic treasure trove’s reach will extend to anyone seeking to rediscover the lost fantasies of
their childhood.

Meredith Tate is a freelance writer, editor and reviewer who has worked for a children’s publisher. This review first appeared in the Junior supplement of the March issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

BOOK REVIEW: The Infinity Gate (Sara Douglass, Voyager)

After the cliffhanger ending of 2008’s The Twisted Citadel, Douglass’ fans will race through this action-packed final volume in the ‘Darkglass Mountain’ trilogy. Axis, Maximilian and their allies lie besieged in the magical tower of Elcho Falling with enemies gathering on all sides; the treacherous winged Lealfast from the frozen north, the ravenous, bloodthirsty Skraelings approaching from the south and the powerful evil being, known simply as the One, drawing forth the magic of Infinity through the corrupt power of the Darkglass Pyramid. Revelations, betrayals and desperate stratagems abound amid a series of escalating confrontations. The secret heritage of the Skraelings is revealed in a surprise plot twist, whilst the cursed marsh witch Ravenna may hold the key to the very survival of the world. But can anyone truly trust her? Douglass certainly knows how to spin a thoroughly compelling, emotion-charged tale. Her characters develop and grow with the story, engaging the reader’s sympathy. The sheer narrative momentum of the storyline helps overcome the occasional unwieldy sentence or clunky piece of writing. This is a dark, powerful novel that will appeal to devotees of the character-driven fantasies of such authors as Robin Hobb and Robert Jordan.

James Francis is a bookseller at Reader’s Feast, Melbourne. This review first appeared in the April 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

Books at Supanova

Scott Sigler author of 'Ancestor' (Hachette)

Supanova, the ‘pop culture expo’ held in Melbourne over the weekend, drew thousands of science-fiction, fantasy and comic fans, and featured many books and authors alongside stars of television, film and comics.

Booksellers at Supanova included Borders, selling many of its sci-fi/fantasy books to fans dressed as their favourite characters. Other booksellers included Alternate Worlds and Kings Comics, who stocked large collections of graphic novels.

The Borders stall also featured several authors, including Scott Sigler, Jennifer Fallon and Marianne de Pierres. Scott Sigler, American author and one of the original fiction podcasters, ran a question and answer session to a crowd of fans about his new horror book Ancestor (Hachette) and explained all there is to know about zombies. Australian Jennifer Fallon, whose work includes the ‘Hythrun Chronicles’, the ‘Second Sons’ series and the ‘Immortal Prince’ series, as well as writing for the television series Stargate SG-1, ran a World Building Master Class on the Sunday afternoon for budding authors and screenwriters. Jennifer Fallon will also feature in the upcoming short story anthology Legends of Australian Fantasy (June, HarperCollins). Marianne de Pierres creator of the ‘Parish Parrish Plessis’ and ‘Sentients of Orion’ was also autographing books at the Borders stall. Continue reading

The ones to watch

Another year, another slew of films based on books nominated at the Academy Awards (including Precious, left, which this year took out best adapted screenplay). We love a good movie adaptation, so here are a few more book-to-screen projects to look out for.

First up, if you haven’t already heard, Stieg Larsson’s bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Quercus) has been adapted to screen as a Swedish-language film and is showing in Australian cinemas from 25 March 2010.

Then there are all the Australian bestsellers being adapted for the screen: Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief (Pan Macmillan) is due to be released by Fox this year; Christos Tsiolkas’ bestseller The Slap (A&U) is to be made into a television series by Matchbox Pictures; and the film adaptation of John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When The War Began (Pan) is set to be released in cinemas on 2 September 2010. (The latter drew a bit of controversial attention last year when Marsden appeared on ABC’s Q&A and said the nationality of the invading country in the book will not be identified, to avoid fuelling racist sentiment.)

Books by Tim Winton are looking like they might come to the screen too. Simon Baker, star of The Mentalist, teamed up with producer Mark Johnson to acquire feature rights to Tim Winton’s novel Breath (Penguin), and Matthew Saville, who directed Noise and several episodes of We Can Be Heroes and Secret Life of Us, will turn Winton’s Cloudstreet (Penguin) into a six-hour miniseries on pay-TV channel Showcase.

If all goes to plan, several international books set to become movies in the future, including Headhunters (Berkley Publishing) by Jules Bass. Selena Gomez will play one of the three lead roles with Nicole Kidman producing and possibly playing a supporting role. Sascha Rothchild will adapt her own book How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage (Penguin) as a romantic comedy and will also be executive producer. Robert De Niro will star opposite Bradley Cooper in the film adaptation of The Dark Fields (Alan Glynn, Little, Brown). Anthony Hopkins will star in The Rite, a supernatural thriller adapted from Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (Simon & Schuster) and French producers Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam have secured the rights to make a 3D animated film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

Continue reading