Nina Allan

Interzone #254 (Sep/Oct 2014) – A Review


interzone 254

Does TTA Press head honcho Andy Cox read my blog, I wonder? In the case of the reviews of Interzone and Black Static, I’d have to say yes; more than once he has shared them on Facebook and Twitter. So it was pretty clear that he’d read them — at least enough to make sure that I wasn’t slandering his name.

But now I wonder if he might not have been listening a little more carefully; this is because issue #254 contains, for the first time, a pair of columns.

This is a feature which Black Static has boasted for a long while, and which regular readers (Hello to both of you! -Ed) will know that I have long said Interzone needed. And whilst Jonathan McCalmont isn’t a name immediately familiar to me, Nina Allen is exactly the sort of person this job demands.

Read on…

Black Static #34 – A Review


black static 34As with my Interzone review last week, I’m afraid I have missed an issue of Black Static in my reviewing quest. Unforgivable, I know. But I’m back to it this month, and ready to give my thoughts on the stories and non-fiction within.

One thing I will say first, though, is just how striking the artwork is. Black Static usually does showcase some of the very best each and every week,  but to my mind issue #34 is particularly bold. From the electrically chilling cover artwork (by Ben Baldwin), to the images for each if the stories. Joachim Luetke’s deeply chilling KKK-esque image for Sean Logan’s story “The Tower of Babel” is particularly deserving of mention, especially from a name I don’t think I’ve encountered before — and worth checking out.

But anyway, you all came here for the reviews of the stories, didn’t you? So let’s get on with the show!

Read on…

“Spin” by Nina Allan – A Review


spin by nina allan

(TTA Press, 96pp, £6.00)

I love the novella as a form. Actually, I think I just love good fiction as an art form, and in many ways the novella simply encapsulates my own particular tastes. There’s the extra room to manoeuvre of a novel, but still the tight and refined sense of attentive purpose which so draws me to short stories.

But I get ahead of myself.

Nina Allan’s “Spin” is the second of TTA’s new series of novellas — the astute amongst you will remember that I also reviewed the first; “Eyepennies” by Mike O’Driscoll. “Spin” is set in a strange version of Greece, which seems recognisable, but strays in distinct ways into a fantastically strange world.

Layla, the daughter of dye magnate, leaves home to make her own life and find success as a weaver. But, with the death of her mother — executed for “clairvoyancy” crimes — hanging over her, she struggles to escape the uncomfortable touch of destiny.

There are layers of meaning hidden within this story — hidden to a depth that I don’t seriously believe that I have understood them all. One, on the very edge of my periphery, is a heavy influence of the classical myth of Arachne. But as I said, I know very little about that.

I did, however, still enjoy the story in its own rights.

Allan has created a palpable sense of location here. The prose drips with a hot Mediterranean sweat which gives the whole story a sense of slow and exotic weariness, a real palpable sense of both the weather and the lingering sense of oppression. Layla is very much a woman trapped; by her parentage, by the expectations of the people she meets, and by her own gift for embroidery.

So too the characters hum with a vitality of their own. Layla leads the charge, with an achingly sympathetic urge for freedom and independence — ultimately the architect of a peculiar kind of arrogance which forms her downfall. But behind her is a rich and fascinating cast. Bit parts, mostly, but they all feel complete and whole. Like we are simply passing through their stories, and that greater of them remains untold — but that is a different tale.

Of course, the flipside of such an abstract tone is that it requires closer attention. Twisting avenues of plot and description will see the unfocused reader lost and turned around. Several times I had to re-read passages simply because their labyrinthine complexity had confused me.

But to call this anything but excellent would be a lie. I loved it because it excited me, and I found myself so easily consumed by it. With beautiful settings and compelling characters, Allan writes a subtle smudging of real-world lines, blurring fantasy and reality into a heady and intoxicating cocktail.