Honeybones, Georgina Bruce (TTA Press 978- 1-9163629-1-8, £7.00, 90pp, tp) May 2020.
Honeybones, the sixth in TTA Press’s novella series, deals with ugly subjects in beautifully written prose. Georgina Bruce immediately plunges the reader into young teen Anna Carew’s befuddled mind and places us in a ”house of mirrors… entangled with its selves, a pattern looping inwards, up stairs and through doorways and round corners…” haunted by ”endless girls, faces shining with rain and blood…” and Rose, a shark-headed woman who swims through the hallways. Anna’s mother gives her nothing, and the child’s ”love for her had worn away to a stub of desperation.” Her peers at school taunt and bully her. Anna feels she is worthless: fat, ugly, stupid. Tom, her predatory stepfather, looms over it all, manipulative and malign, convincing Anna he loves her and that she should do as he wishes. This particular form of abuse nor parental neglect is Bruce’s only theme. As she does in ”The Queen of Knives” (from her collection This House of Wounds and referenced here), Bruce explores mother-daughter dysfunction and self-/ social concepts of feminine beauty and personal worth. Madness (or is it the supernatural?) also tempts the girl to succumb. Is young Anna strong enough to overcome all this? A horrific tale one hopes will end with triumph.
Engines Beneath Us, Malcolm Devlin (TTA Press 978-1-9163629-0-1, £7.00, 88pp, tp) May 2020.
In Malcolm Devlin’s Engines Beneath Us, 13-year-old Rob grew up and lives in The Crescent, ”one of those parts of the city that people were wary of.” But they shouldn’t be. There’s little crime there. It was not ”all sunshine and light, but The Crescent had its own way of maintaining the law…. Everyone in The Crescent was employed by The Works to some capacity… and you didn’t mess with The Works, you didn’t mess with Mr. Olhouser.” What exactly The Works does is not clear, but the wellbeing of the entire city depends on it. Lee Wrexler, another young teenager, moves in. Lee comes from outside The Crescent and brings a bad reputation with him. Rob is warned against the lad, but pals about with him anyway. One night, Lee’s curiosity and lack of orientation to the ways of The Crescent lead him into a frightening situation. He flees to Rob’s house, but something there frightens him even more. After the boy commits an unlawful act, it is determined that he must see Mr. Olhouser. After reading Devlin’s well-written chiller, you may never look at cities in exactly the same way, but reading Engines Beneath Us is something you definitely should do.
Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron, Ohio, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.
This review and more like it in the June 2020 issue of Locus.
While you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.