Every Monday, I'll be doing bite-sized book/magazine reviews.
Disclosure: The publisher sent a review copy for the purposes of this review.
Don't judge a book by its cover? Or better yet, do judge a book by its cover. This book is so retro I originally mistook it for one of our local romance paperbacks instead of an Australian import. And of course, it piqued my curiosity. How could you not read such a book?
This is, in fact, a back-to-back novelette from Twelfth Planet Press. Peculiar and risky, I'm sure, but you have to admit it, it reeks both of cheesiness and awesomeness. In terms of design, the book is divided into two parts, each novelette on the reverse side of the other. Robert Shearman gets a lengthy introduction while Tansy Rayner Roberts the copyright page. Both are labeled as urban fantasy although each one tackles a different facet of the sub-genre.
Roadkill has a literary quality to it as most of the conflict stems from the relationship of the two protagonists. In fact, the fantasy aspect is negligible and could be interpreted as a metaphor. The strength of this piece however is Shearman's handle on dialogue: not only is it authentic and upbeat, it conveys so much action without the author needing to directly narrate the events that transpire. Another commendable aspect is how the entire story switches between the present and the past, both events parallels of each other and contributing to the overall theme. Even Shearman's introduction is clever. Because of the second to the last paragraph, your attention is diverted and focused on the other character, when that shouldn't be the case. This is a very powerful piece, layered with complexity and depth. Roadkill breaks the stereotype of the urban fantasy genre, and delivers a story with gravity.
If Roadkill is the deviant of the urban fantasy label, Siren Beat feels right at home with the paranormal romance genre it's usually mistaken for. Roberts follows the tropes of the sub-genre: the angsty heroine, seemingly unbeatable odds, and tantalizing sex. Siren Beat is all about kicking ass and teasing you with sensuality, make no mistake about that. What makes this piece unique is its length--other writers might need a novel to draw out their entire story but Roberts accomplish everything and much more in the span of a novelette. Is this a groundbreaking piece? Hell no. But it accomplishes what it sets out to do, without milking readers for all their time and money.
Roadkill/Siren Beat makes me wonder why the publisher paired up these two. Is it to cast a wide a net as possible because of its polarized demographic? Or is it a sly attempt to subvert the urban fantasy genre, getting Roadkill readers to read Siren Beat and vice versa? Either way, this is a very tempting book, and it's not everyday that you witness a publisher risk their reputation on, of all things, a pair of novelettes (ha!). Depth and compression--these are the assets of the stories, and it doesn't hurt that the book has a gimmicky but ingenious book design.