Posted in arc, reviews

Ables by Jeremy scott

Ables by Jeremy Scott

I received this work from the author, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Recently, diversity has become a key word, and concept, within any discussion of; writing, publishing, reviewing or reading. Concerned individuals have lamented the absence of; women, members of other cultures/countries, and members of the quiltbag communities, from our books and stories. There have been calls, and active moves, for these groups to get more attention from; publishers, editors, reviewers, and readers. But, one group remains in the shadows of these debates, continually delegated to the end of that list of oppressions/inequalities. Disabled people, people with disabilities, have been underrepresented within discussions of underrepresentation. However, this situation is gradually changing. Publishers, such as Twelfth Planet Press are beginning to produce works that incorporate disabled characters. Ables is another of those works that have actively brought disabled characters to the forefront of the story.

Like most superheroes, the protagonist of this story has super powers. But, unlike most of those heroes he also has a disability/impairment. He is blind. One of the main storylines of this work concerns his attempts to prove himself, and his friends, worthy to be included within his new school. We see him on his first day at his new school. We see his excitement at being at a school especially designed for kids with superpowers. We share his confusion at trying to navigate a new world that he cannot see. We see his disappointment when he finds out that he has been placed within a segregated unit for people with disabilities. We see his trepidation about being with other disabled individuals. But, we, also, see him forming friendships with his class. Then we follow their united struggle to justify their place within this unique environment. This ultimately leads them to fight the school authorities for the right to compete in a school contest, from which they have been excluded. They win and they begin to learn how to combine their special skills to beat, both; their disabilities, and the tasks set for them as part of the competition.

If that had been the entire story, and if the author had let the characters focus on the competition and continue growing into their special powers, then this book would have been almost perfect. However, the author diverts the characters, as well as the readers, attention into a rather over dramatic fight against a cartoon villain for the Future of the world. This turned what could have been a new take on the superhero story into; a well written, but overly busy, and somewhat clichéd tale of the chosen one. This, and the lack of really strong female characters, limits the work.

But, having said that, this, with its band of disabled characters, is still an interesting, exciting, and important work. It is an exciting adventure story that would be a very pleasant summer read. Check out the publisher’s website

Posted in arc, reviews

Fable Review

Please note that the publisher sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book is slightly different to those that I usually review on this site. In that, the publishers are releasing it to their subscribers in a serialised format. I think that this is an interesting idea. Since, it mirrors the way that authors like Dickens brought out their manuscripts. The publisher describe their method in the following manner;

“We publish books serially to give you space to absorb and discuss the books with The Pigeonhole community. Our belief is that reading should be thrilling, communal and an event not to be missed.

Why the word stave?

When Charles Dickens published his beloved classic A Christmas Carol, he called the individual instalments ‘staves’ – a musical term which encapsulated the idea that the whole novel was more than the sum of its parts. We are bringing back this great word as a tribute to the father of serial publishing.” https://thepigeonhole.com/about

As I said earlier, the publishers were kind enough to send me the complete work in exchange for an honest review. Therefore, I was able to see the way that these chunks (or staves) worked as a whole. This was quite interesting.
As the title suggests the stories in this work are either; fables, works based on these stories, or works influenced by their tropes. The work includes a variety of takes on the fable. There are stories that are in the form of traditional fairy tales. There are tales that, while still inspired by Fable, subvert the; structure, setting and era of the form. These stories; urbanise and modernise the world of the fable. The publisher tells us that ;

“Talking badgers and salacious pixies. Impossible promises and broken hope. Exploring the fairy-tale evolution, Fable brings new tales formed from old skin with original inventions to boot. Spanning across three continents, Fable draws together some of the most beloved, or even feared, fairy tales while bringing to light those lesser known.” https://thepigeonhole.com/books/fable”

It begins with two original fairy tales by the Brothers Grim and Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid and Ashenputtel. The two stories, which follow on from the two originals, penned by Kate Forsythe, are traditional fables. They follow closely to the original form, and worlds, of the fairy tale, while playing with some of the tropes.

The next story written by Lucy Balmer Hooft, probably one of my favourites, takes us to, what seems like, an African tribe and focuses on a pregnant woman. The story is a very poignant tale of motherhood and a mother’s sadness/joy as their children grow into men.

The following stories take us further and further into the modern era. These tales look at; the modern family, childhood, adolescence capitalism, exploitation, and redemption. One story The Farmer and the Badger by J.L. Baldock, , a good example of how these works seek to modernise the fable, is from the point of view of a child who opposes the way that her father, who is actively involved in the badger culls that are taking place within her community, earns his living. The story explores the rights and wrongs of the practice, and other solutions, but, also, explores; love and loyalty, revolution and rebellion, experience and inexperience, and family love and obligation.
Another story, The Organiser by Gareth Brierley, is set in a small town quite literally ruled by their local business owners. This couple shape; the inhabitant’s lives and deaths, where they work, the colour of their house, who can speak and what they can say;

“They could decide what school you would go to, what job you could have and even what colour your house would be.” P.125

The couple take on an almost godlike significance in the community and they demand that their child receive the same godlike devotion from the town’s inhabitants. The story follows their much loved, and much despised child, and her attempts to atone for the cruelty of her parents. This story movingly, and funnily, explores the issues of; power, corruption, love and redemption.

Many people, including this writer, are calling for the diversification of the story. We call for stories; that are by and about women (and other underrepresented groups), and for stories set in a plurality of settings. This book meets that call with stories that are written by women and that represent young women who have agency. In addition, there are stories set in a variety of cultures. Although, it might have been nice to see a few more stories that show non-heterosexual relationships.
These stories call themselves fables but they are more than that. They use the familiar form of the fable to explore the issues that face us today, whether those issues be; capitalism, exploitation, family or children fighting to understand and improve their world. I really liked this book. I highly recommend that you look at the publisher’s website’ (https://thepigeonhole.com/books/fable)