Tag Archives: short stories

Review: Fake Geek Girl by Tansy Rayner Roberts

As mentioned in my review of Ruining Miss Wrotham, I’m on a kick of reading only happy books for the month of June, as an antidote to the bleakness of the world and some deeply disturbing and unhappy books I’ve read in the first half of the year.

Along with more of Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series, which I’ll review a bit later, I pounced last weekend on some short fiction by one of my favourite writers, Tansy Rayner Roberts.

Roberts has some fantastically fun short story series going on at present, including the Castle Charming series (Glass Slipper Scandal is the first one of those) and the Belladonna University stories, the first of which is Fake Geek Girl.

The Fake Geek Girl of the story is a rock band, headed by the charismatic Holly, who writes songs inspired by the geeky life of her twin sister Hebe despite the fact Holly doesn’t really get the geek life. The songs are ironic. Possibly. The band’s drummer, Sage, is Hebe’s ex.

They’re all good friends – though cracks are starting to appear as Sage frets that Holly’s about to break up the band to go solo. Fellow bandmember, Juniper, has her own set of issues, Sage and his uni flatmates are looking for a new roomie, Hebe might like a guy she’s met if he’ll stop mistaking her for her sister, and Holly might be hooking up with an awful ex.

The action is set at Belladonna University, which splits its curriclum between the Real (that is, magic studies) and the Unreal (which is mundane stuff like engineering).

The tale unfolds with characteristic energy, sharp wit and cracklingly good characterisation. If it wasn’t enough that I adore the writing, in this book everyone has agency, the narrative boldly tramples over stereotypes and cliche, and it flings a bucketful of glittering fresh narrative confetti everywhere. To put the fruit-and-feather Carmen Miranda bonnet on top of the glory cake, Fake Geek Girl ends with a song lyric that makes want to sing. It speaks to my heart, no lie.

Actually, a while back, as a result of supporting Roberts’ Patreon, I read the second of the Belladonna University stories, Unmagical Boy Story, before I got to this one. It didn’t harm the reading of this book, which contains a reference to the characters who appear in Unmagical Boy Story. I am very thrilled to see, however, that the third Belladonna University story, The Bromancers, is currently being podcast on the Patreon. Soon it shall be released in ebook form and it shall be mine, I tell you, miiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

In conclusion: if you’d like a happy read, for the month of June or at any other time, the Belladonna University series, starting with Fake Geek Girl, is right up there in glitter and song. It’s a positively joyful thing.

By the way, I’m all ears for Happy Reads. If you have any recommendations for books that fit the bill, leave a comment!

New Release: And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales Volume 1

and-then-cover-onlyIn 2015, Clan Destine Press launched an Indiegogo fundraiser to create a fabulous anthology of rollicking adventure stories!

Just over a year later, on 31st December 2016, And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales Volume 1 sprang into the world, arms upraised, TA DAAAAAA! to be at least one good thing in 2016.

Clan Destine invited some of Australia and New Zealand’s best genre writers to be part of the anthology, and I’m very proud to have been one of them. In Volume One, I keep excellent company with so many people whose work I admire: Sulari Gentill,  Jason Nahrung, Alan Baxter, Jason Franks, Lucy Sussex, Amanda Wrangles, Evelyn Tsitas, Peter M Ball, Dan Rabarts, Kat Clay, Sophie Masson, Tor Roxburgh, Emilie Collyer and Tansy Rayner Roberts.

This volume contains 15 stories of adventures: each with two heroes, each with a touch of something Aussie or Kiwi about them – but otherwise set across different times and places, from Goldrush Melbourne to outer space.

And Then… is edited by Ruth Wykes and Kylie Fox, with title page illustrations by Vicky Pratt and cover art by Sarah Pain

My story, ‘Virgin Soil’, teams a young man with magical powers with a shapeshifter, a man-turned-rat (or vice-versa; he doesn’t remember how he started). Some people might think they’re black magicians, and possibly they are, but someone has to do the dirty work, even on the side of the good guys. It’s set in 1851 during Melbourne’s gold rush years and involves virgin sacrifice – but maybe not the type you’re thinking of.

An excerpt from Virgin Soil:

Rain had made a mud creek of Queen Street, and the blighted stuff stuck like tar to boots of toff and toiler alike. All these thousands milling off the ships at the wharf were no ruddy help either. Sooner the fools were all off to Ballarat for the diggings, the better; or it would be, if there weren’t thousands more on their way, just as foolhardy.

Lucius wove in and out of the crowd, as mud-footed as the rest and more threadbare than most. He darted between the shifting bodies, dodging low to look under elbows and past waists, or stood on tiptoe trying to see over shoulders, and much luck to him, little titch that he was. Finally, he caught sight of his quarry. He shouldered between a burly blacksmith with his knapsack and a Chinaman late arrived from California’s Gold Mountain in pursuit.

‘Oi, Cato,’ said Lucius, coming up shoulder-to-shoulder with his wiry mate, ‘Put it away, eh?’

The accosted Cato, as grubby and as threadbare as his friend, raised an eyebrow at him, his clear blue eyes all bemused, until Lucius jerked his head at Cato’s rear endage, and at the long, slender, and slightly scaly tail that hung down low enough to be seen under Cato’s  weathered Dutch pea jacket.

‘Oh, go to,’ Cato cheerily scolded his tail. He wriggled and the tail disappeared, not only from under the jacket but back into his actual flesh, ‘Alas, I forget to reel the whole in, sometimes.’

‘Well, it is a handsome tail,’ Lucius observed. His eyes were also blue, and sometimes he and Cato were mistaken for brothers, though there was no blood and 260 years between them. Yet they were brothers enough.

Cato plucked at Lucius’s sleeve. ‘There’s the fellow.’ He nodded at a strapping young lad of 19 or so standing with his whiskered father, directing the unloading of goods from The Lady Jane, new arrived from the old country, that had something more useful than gold-diggers on board.

‘Aye,’ breathed Lucius, head close to Cato’s, ‘That’s our virgin lad. It’s a shame. He seems a good chap.’

Fourteen people nearly trod them into the mud for standing still, so they lifted their heels and went with the stream a little way, till they could draw aside into the relative stillness of a cart awaiting a load. One of the horses blew a raspberry with its big hairy lips and gave Cato an affronted look, but horses never paid him much mind. Dogs were another matter.

‘If he is a good fellow,’ said Cato, his lips pursed in a way that made his whole face sharp, ‘Then he would not begrudge his sacrifice for the greater good.’

Lucius scowled, unimpressed with the argument. ‘And would you go whistling to your doom for such nobility?’

Cato, who had tried to do so once or twice, pushed his cheek against Lucius’s shoulder and rubbed. ‘There, there, my Luke. The deed must be done.’

‘I know. Don’t have to like it, though.’

Get And Then… (ebook)

Paperback coming soon, as is Volume 2 in due course.