I have today ordered the TQF 48 & 49 books (the latter published tomorrow) from Amazon since I intend to ‘gestalt review’ their fiction stories by Charles Wilkinson, John Greenwood, Howard Watts, Stephen Theaker, Tim Jeffreys, Ross Gresham, Michael B. Tager, Antonella Coriander.image

My previous reviews of TQF publications HERE.

NB: I only review the fiction in each TQF, but there are TQF’s own reviews also contained in the books.

My review will take place in the comment stream below as I happen to read the stories in the normal course of my life…

17 thoughts on “ToTqf

  1. TQF #48

    I have read the first story in the free PDF available in advance of receiving the hard copies of these books….

    A Thousand Eyes See All I Do by Charles Wilkinson
    “But you have to remember that there are some things that are far darker than sex.”
    This is Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana made brain-altering, not altering just the contents of the brain but also the physical substance of the brain itself. A 67P comet-philiac, homophiliac, heterophobic alternate world that is the real world, where Queen Elizabeth I is a lady-boy and Raleigh, Dee, Marlowe et al of Elizabethan England are spies or other shenanigans with bling and ‘seven types of goth’ as well as ambiguity that chase each other across town, past a Caliphate et al, complete with a laptop so slender it acts as a dagger blade. Amazing stuff! I can’t do it justice here. Immaculate prose gone mad and back to immaculate again. It is the previous TQF’s zombie Buckingham Palace denizens taken into history and shafted.

  2. … from Charles Wilkinson’s set of a thousand eyes and his Queen’s Wonder to…

    Beatrice et Veronique: Into the Island by Antonella Coriander
    “…the oddest sensation that she was being watched by a thousand tiny eyes.”
    This seems to be the sequel of another Coriander story (the aftermath of the chase by Beatrice of Veronique who had stolen from that Queen), a story that I reviewed here but can be read quite separately, I feel. I am pleased I have not missed reading it by any personal untoward default. And my delight and impressions adumbrated in my previous review continue with this second story, something that I am pleased to report (a report and a feeling, rather than one or the other, as Coriander’s heroines debate). Adventures here ricochet off self-debates regarding their own identity as robots or replicas or downloads, encountering there perhaps their own 67P with a version of Philae, (an unnatural shape on a rock) …and with the owners of those thousand eyes? I’ll leave you to imagine to what these eyes belong, assuming you haven’t read this story yet. But sliced into strips by a crystal beam like Wilkinson’s laptop? Charming story. Something I hope and suspect will continue in future TQFs.

  3. The Collection Agent by John Greenwood
    “It used to be called France.”
    Another chase over years, beyond the channel, a future world where vineyards have become desert and banditry, a tale of ageing and its life expectancy recompense and collateral synergy with those younger and changing identity to avoid – a Heming-Waystation, neatly conjured, where a sort of Faustian bargain is to be settled, but who Faust who the Devil? I enjoyed most of it, in a fearfully pursued, paranoiac way…but did I need to worry? [Notice the ‘self-inflating stretcher’ echoing that concocted by Beatrice for Veronique.]
    “The old were so strange.”

  4. Contractual Obligations by Howard Watts
    A tantalising short short that tellingly echoes the previous Greenwood contract, yet here we learn of more cyclic generations of ageing and symbiotic survival and I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine cosmetics, cosmosethics, transcending conspiracies, I guess, like today’s landing by us upon the 67P alien ship or to divert a spreading disease with an inability to hug each other for comfort as well as the great fire of London, or all the bad lustful things when those in charge hug others without our knowledge, all balanced by selfishness and fear of discovery in this or other things – an ‘Immortalibus Mortuos’ become Null Immortalis? Until all such balanced contracts come crashing down? Brainstorming a review here.

  5. I Couldn’t See Past The Spider by Stephen Theaker
    A title that ironically reminded me of an elephant in a room…
    “No one would give me information unless they thought I had something to offer in return.”
    …which reminds me of the balance of contracts just discussed, amid a high fantasy that gradually accrues knowledge of place and self, with words that seem to live as creatures themselves, and I cannot cover all ‘the fripperies and dandies’ in this world, where the Queen is a unicorn that somehow reminds me of Wilkinson’s ‘horny’ Queen earlier. Meanwhile, we have the accruing ‘slow communication’ of a message as tale in the form of a rite of passage from identity-seeking (cf Coriander) as a prisoner in an unknown room with a spider as company toward later becoming a sort of king … plus a Dryad in a fountain, a gigantic salacious grub, and a form of quadrophagy of couples in marriage as the story itself has four parts like a puckishly involuting symphony. As with the spider itself, this story has an acquired aftertaste.

  6. The Riches by Tim Jeffreys
    “…tell me about your journey.”
    A Crowner of a perfect Fable, this is a smoothly Moral Coda to the sometimes atonal symphonic gestalt journey of this half of my review … echoing the Faustian contract with the devil (a devil here called Rowernac) and blending other attempts at balancing contracts above. It is the journey that counts (each journey above), not what you get at the end of each of them, a journey of journeys. You never Ran nor did you Cower.

    My previous review of a Tim Jeffreys collection here.

  7. Ut in Fumum! by Ross Gresham
    Pages 13 – 30
    “One moment Marmite was just an asshole, and now suddenly he was to be a Major Asshole. From Jagoff to a Major Jagoff. Puke to a Major Puke. / The military is like that, in that they adopt words that already mean something else.”
    Another wonderful Milo and Marmite adventure (see my past TQF reviews of this series) – and you either love Marmite or you hate it, no half measures. I have evidence that the excellent TQF book cover artist has a thing about Marmite, and in this first section of the new Milo and Marmite novella, we have the optimum of Friendly Fire Fiction: “Best friends put grenades down the back of each other’s shirts, like a prank with an ice cube.”
    This starts with a prologue that has gravity and shifting grass, and I thought of that earlier TQF book cover for the first Antonella Coriander story, and I continue thinking about it. But this is probably a premature prologue to the later meat of the story, as we now go back in time after the prologue and learn more about this far future backstory hilarity in gritty space opera terms, with brilliant Bon Mots and memorable words and expositions and jaw breaking laughs and hard stomachs proof against drugs, except when they’re real real hard drugs leading more to religion than dozing, amid the many mates and crazy enemies…
    Now back, I sense, to the next mission, the earlier prologue’s planet with naked women tempting your looking downward so as to get gone your concentration…? And remember, in relation to beating Isis, I guess, that beach-heading a world’s surface is only half the battle … smoke them out, I say!
    Plenty more pages’ surface to cover…

  8. Pages 31 – 47
    “Her followers didn’t crowd her, but they moved in relation to her. They watched her even when they weren’t watching her. She was their leader.”
    …just like this novella; simply let it flow over you, it will lead you to some literary heaven or hell. The crash-landing reminded me of recent news events that hadn’t even taken place when these words were first set upon their surface. HI LEAP for mankind, I say, three small bounces for PHILAE. This planet a form of 67P where 6 and 7 are the Product of 42… Bots, stevedore robots, robot haulers, and a pre-emptive world where property rights are paramount, salvage contracts like those contracts in TQF #48, now all a bit like a hard-nosed version of ‘House on the Prairie’ (remember it?) where running through the sharing grass now are ‘fox girls’, all part of some civil war that our heroes have stumbled upon in their role as luckless or, more likely, lucky space ambassadors….all with the uncertainty of gravity and battery loss.

  9. Pages 47 – 61
    “She smiled a human smile, but it was sad.”
    Luckless or lucky, what one can say for certain is that gravity is always what it is. This novella’s final section of reading has a conflux of poignant love-interest, sexual lust and betrayal, catatonic mechanical items of weird war kit, a time-out sin-bin or cooling-off oubliette away from the heat of plot… And Marmite’s infelicitous accidents of pick-up or chat-up line made obliquely felicitous, and what I said about gravity is tantamount to destiny, I say. You will love this novella’s ending. It’s like having been or still being in a war of potentially deadly friendly-fire, not a virtual war, but a damn real one. Somehow threaded through with sadness as well as laughter.
    Ut in Fumum! Have a pipe?

    This photo of 67P reminds me of the various coastal rocks I have photographed for my blog in recent years, whence faces can be made. This one is like the head of an old man with a pipe?

    This photo of 67P reminds me of the various coastal rocks I have photographed for my blog in recent years, whence faces can be made. This one is like the head of an old man with a pipe?

  10. Nebuchadnezzar by Michael B. Tager
    Pages 63 – 76
    “The water is purple, the dirt is purple, the sky is purple.”
    …which draws me back to the ‘Three Days in Purple’ of this review’s ‘I Couldn’t See Past The Spider’ story, but there may yet be nothing other than just that remarkable connection of Triune colour. This Tager novella, though, is indeed threaded through with missionary Christian sects (a purple Holy Trinity?), post-cryo, post space colonisation from Earth of planet TSX-59, a new moralistic House on the Prairie in contrast with the version of that scenario by Gresham, and now where the original residents of the colonised planet are seen by the Earth Christians as possibly no better than rats together with the human sense of sex and procreative seeding presented as ambivalent but pervading. A nicely drawn scenario by Tager, believable, compelling, although the prose style is too down-to-earth, so to speak, for my taste

  11. Pages 76 – 91
    “Catamites are always welcome out here.”
    One of the most famous opening lines of any novel mentions an archbishop and a catamite, a book called ‘Earthly Powers’… And I sense I should also be considering the story of Nebuchadnezzar…(He was indirectly instrumental in the colonising of a new community on the banks of the River Tagus I believe) …But I am trying to read this Tager novella cold, and I continue to be very impressed with it: the subtle innuendos of characterisation have now transcended my worries about any mundane style, the conspiracies and relationships are intriguing, the paranoia about sexual labelling, too, and the ‘Soldiers of God’ who wear masks that can be turned into half masks like the sudden revelation of the face like the opening of a grille in a walking ‘confessional’, I feel.

  12. Pages 91 – 103
    “When I was little, my sisters and I would ride around our neighbourhood on bikes.”
    And this novella’s eponym turns out to be one of those original residents of this new world, more like the wonderful Oy from my earlier review of the whole ‘Dark Tower’ series than anything else I can put my finger on. Yet, the real Nebuchadnezzar was indeed involved with a New Jerusalem, I guess, upon a River, the rapid and falls of which serve as the setting of a filmic Hitchcockian ending, where the Crimson of King, shown variously as red, raspberry, rose, burgundy, crimson, scarlet meet the Dark Tower’s version of White (masks)… Or should I say Gresham’s TQF ‘weird war’ involving, in this Tager, explicit zapping and tasering…. A mighty read, this Tager.

  13. Beatrice et Veronique: Tunnel Panic! by Antonella Coriander
    “Yes, a tower would be good.”
    I am not sure whether this next direct sequel to the one reviewed above works as well as the previous Corianders I have read. Yet, after the curative meeting with the Whovian lady and her malleable screwdriver, I quite enjoyed the travels into the tunnel of the two girls (or robots?) [slightly reminding me, with some inadvertence, of my own Sudra and Amy in the hawling-tunnel…] And I loved the three devilishly snatched-away cliffhangers at the end!
    And the feel of these Corianders continues to underpin my type of book reviewing, as if a meaningfully random concertina of connections works in a beautifully preternatural way, just as all the unmissable TQFs that I have read and reviewed over the years have also shown such an art, whether deliberate or not, in choosing equally unmissable fictions in streams of such preternaturally ordered connections. All with great front covers, normally by Howard Watts. (Do read TQF’s own reviews, too, as printed in these books.)


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