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Agog! Smashing Stories
edited by Cat Sparks
Agog! Press, 291 pages

Agog! Smashing Stories
Cat Sparks
Cat Sparks is the Manager and Senior Editor of Agog! Press, which has to date produced four anthologies of new Australian speculative fiction. She is also a writer, graphic designer, photographer and desktop publisher, with stories and artwork appearing in a selection of Australian magazines and anthologies. In 1994, she was a graduate of the inaugural Clarion South Writers' Workshop in Queensland, Australia, and won 3rd prize in the first round of the Writers of the Future competition. Cat lives with her partner, author Robert Hood, and their two cats, Smersh and Roswell.

Cat Sparks Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Agog! Terrific Tales
SF Site Review: Agog! Fantastic Fiction
Agog! Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

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In this fourth volume of the Agog! series of anthologies, editor Cat Sparks has trumped herself again with a collection of the very best in speculative fiction from Down Under. As always, the anthology offers the perfect introductory course to the geographically locked-in, with familiar names, such as Deborah Biancotti, Sean McMullen, and Simon Brown, and "new" authors, ready to be "discovered" by the rest of the world. The stories range from science fiction to fantasy to the darkest of horror -- all in every mood imaginable and every approach never imagined.

To put it simply: bad work does not make it into Sparks' books. That's not to say, however, that some stories don't shine even more brightly than the rest. There is the haunting imagery of a world lost in Trent Jamieson's mournful "Endure." The echoes of loss and fear in "Water Babies," a murder mystery lyrically unwound by Simon Brown, in his own blend of grit and fantasy that never fails to snare the reader. And Biancotti does not disappoint, either, with her perplexing and pain-filled story of hope and the loss of hope, in "Number 3 Raw Place." Each work carries its own, distinctive resonance that lifts it to another level against some stiff competition.

Consider the somber mood of the Moon's last hope in "Regolith." One last shot to establish something, anything, on the barren landscape -- an attempt that may have failed or succeeded beyond the engineers wildest dreams. Such stories make you look at that cold rock shining down on us with more than the usual curiosity. It is one chance to grab a foothold on far-away Mars that motivates the "terrorists" in McMullen's "The Cascade." The images he creates sparkle as brightly as the space particles of his story.

It may be that the world as we see it is not meant to last. Ask the undetected sentients working to build a new and better world in the short-short "Porn Again." Before we decide anything final on the cloning issue, we might all want to read Bryn Sparks thought-provoking "Seven Wives." There may be some aspects we haven't taken into account. Genetic material may save us in "Humosity," but is it a trade-off we are willing to make simply to survive? At what point is it better for everyone if we just vanish from the Earth? Is life really worth fighting for in the future nightmare of "Warchalking"?

Will technology be our salvation or our undoing? What does it mean to be "human"? Are we, any of us, every anything but alone in this world? Many writers have posed the same questions, but seldom as entertainingly as the talent displayed in Smashing Stories. Too paraphrase "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol"... Ah,Sparks! You've done it again!

Copyright © 2004 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction, horror, dark realism, and humour. DARKERS, her first novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She is a contributing editor at SF Site and for BLACK GATE magazine. Lisa has also written for BOOKPAGE, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Science Fiction Weekly, and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.


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