Jul 5, 2015

Book Review – The Big Smoke by Jason Nahrung

the-big-smokeI doesn’t seem that long ago that I was reviewing Book 1 of this series, Blood and Dust but it’s been two and a half years.

Blood and Dust was initially released through Xoum digital publishing, both it and The Big Smoke have now been picked up in paperback and digital formats by genre specialist publishers, Clan Destine Press.  I read The Big Smoke in two sittings and although time has dulled the memories of how well paced Blood and Dust was, I have a feeling that Nahrung has got better (which is significant considering I already had a high opinion of his work).

All the stuff that I liked in Blood and Dust is here; a distinct Australian flavour that doesn’t strike the wrong chord and cause me to cringe(culturally), well articulated differences between city and country, there’s even state rivalry.

Relocating the story to the “Big Smoke” (slang for The City) brings with it some challenges, specifically creating a believable culture of vampires living in the capital of the Queensland.  In Blood and Dust it was just a vampire bikie gang versus corporate vampires and Kevin caught in between.  In The Big Smoke, there’s got to be more cultural complexity and those cultures have work together as well as under/ along side mundane society.

Here I think Nahrung has done exceptionally well filling out vampire culture in Brisbane and hinting at the rest of Australia.  If we don’t somehow get another book in the series, it won’t be a stake through the heart but I will be sorely miffed. 

There’s the Von Schiller organisation and a whole host of competing vassal families somewhat reminiscent of the world of the Godfather, where the Don is an ancient Teutonic vampire with access to the vampiric equivalent of elite paratroopers. 

The plot is deceptively simple.  Kevin Matheson has come to Brisbane to kill the vampire that killed his mother and consumed her memories.  As if Kevin being turned himself wasn’t enough, Mira Von Schiller had to desecrate his mother’s memory.  So, all Kevin has to do is storm the near impregnable Thorn, a latter-day fortress of concrete and glass and kill her.  Only it’s never that simple.

Not quite the road trip that Blood and Dust was, The Big Smoke still manages to feel like high octane excitement and Nahrung has been quite content to let some of his darlings die and not rise again. A classic revenge tale combined with internecine Vampire politics, a touch of hard boiled cynicism and a body count to match a Bruce Willis movie.

More of this Mr Nahrung and a movie/television miniseries starring Aaron Pederson as Taipan if you please.

This review copy was provided by Clan Destine Press.

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Jul 3, 2015

Dimension 6 Issue 5 is out now.

Dimension 6 is offered free of charge by Coeur de Lion publishing.  Free to us the public, but the writers still get paid.  Please take advantage of this wonderful service they provide and perhaps discover a new author.

This issue features -D6cover5-219x300

‘Going Home Sideways’ by SG Larner
They say you can never go home. But maybe they’re wrong…


‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ by David McDonald
Could a single human be a match for the hostile environment of the planet Hope?


‘The Pass’ by Jessica May Lin
Grandfather protected the children who lived in the strawberry fields from the monsters. But now he was growing old and weak.



Mobi/Kindle version

Epub version

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Jun 14, 2015

Book Review - How to Haiku by Bruce Ross

howtohaikuI continue to find writing Haiku endlessly fascinating. It’s a form that I can return to again and again and still find something fresh.  So I am always keen to read advice on how to write Haiku.

I don’t tend to favour an overtly spiritual approach to writing the form and so Bruce Ross’ approach, which I feel does stem somewhat from this vein was initially …well not off putting, but presented a small hurdle (this is my baggage I think). The again, perhaps I am simply focussed on improving my technique and any “fluff” so to speak, how ever eloquent, poses an annoyance ( patience Sean-san).

How to Haiku doesn’t knock of its pedestal, Jane Reichhold’s  Writing and Enjoying Haiku - A Hands on Guide, as my number one recommendation for new Haiku writers. I did find it offered additional insight though.  So I think that its worth coming to, after you have had some experience and experimented with techniques outlined in Reichhold’s work.

In general I enjoyed Ross’ inclusion of relatively contemporary American Haiku in addition to traditional Japanese examples.  I felt that this gave me a sense of where tradition has been continued ( albeit slightly altered through the change from Japanese to English) and where contemporary Haiku poets have begun to experiment or diverge.

I also enjoyed the inclusion of other forms of Japanese Poetry ie Haibun, Tanka, and Renga/Renku. 

One of the things that I struggle with in reviewing poetry is the technical language with which to talk/ discuss it.  Ross’ explanation/analysis of the poems he presents was aimed at a broad audience (leading some readers to criticise it as boring) which I think acts to both give the reader some pointers on how to talk about Haiku in addition to providing an explanation of the content and techniques.  Better to over explain I think.

Like Reichhold I do appreciate Ross’ “Guideline” approach to the writing of Haiku.  He presents the tradition, gives you examples of that tradition – contemporary and pre-modern and leaves it up to you.  I think this allows for respect of the form without slavish adherence to rules that I think will ultimately restrict it and result in stagnation.  His discussion on the difference between the qualities of Wabi and Sabi was also helpful.

In each of the other forms mentioned above I gained something from reading Ross’ work.  I have struggled for sometime to attempt Haibun and Ross provided four different approaches and highlighted traditional and contemporary examples.  His identification of the divergent traditions of Tanka were similarly illustrative.  His explanation of the linking in Renga was perhaps the best I have come across.

So, a worthwhile addition to your library?  I think so.  Not a beginning point but certainly worth it for those with some experience/exposure to the form under their belt.

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