THE TERRALIGHT COLLECTION
One of the reasons I enjoy the short story is that as each tends to be its own enclosed world anything can happen. The joy of that is you can be surprised and that feeling of wrong footed is an art. Some call this the twist and the problem with that is you’re looking for the story to do a sharp 180 degree turn but in reality, the better description is the reveal. The puzzle box shows you its secret, but a good reveal is one you can look back on and say ‘Damn I should have spotted that!’. Pamela Jeffs does this brilliantly many times in The Terralight Collection a very fine set of short stories crossing all the genres and entertained me greatly.
Among the stories I enjoyed were:
Six Gun Reckoning – This weird wild west story is absolutely fascinating and it’s a world and character you just wish you get more of. Abraham Van Helsing is revealed to be a woman hiding to help avenge her murdered family and her years take her to the wilds of America where a small town is suffering murders of young children. It’s a chef’s kiss of writing and when you see all the strands come together it’s magnificent.
Mirrorverse – Humanity and earth are gone, and the last astronaut is trapped in a spaceship filled with recording of our homeworld. Then the spaceship starts to crack open in space. This is a smart tale of acceptance and change. Inventive and the idea of holographic worlds within mirrors is fascinating.
In Opposition to the Foe – Another excellent story of our world being invaded by aliens, changed beyond recognition and a lone survivor and their sibling turned into a griffin are trying to find a way out. It’s an impressive way to deliver an epic SF storyline in miniature and it delivers a fascinating battle for survival and trust.
Three Door Saloon – A demon in the future owns a bar and those desperate for wishes must choose one of three doors to enter. One sends you to hell; one leads to cryofreeze and the last grants a wish. A gunslinger has lost two of his family, so he is desperate for the family plan to identify the right door to work. But can you trust a demon. Loved the futuristic rewriting of such a tale with moments of creepiness and some epic scenes set I hell. One of my favourites.
Terralight – Planets occasionally get armies of ghosts preventing their colonisation so skilled priestesses/warriors are sent through space to stop them. This tale delivers battles against ghosts; hi technology and the realisation you may be on the wrong side into a delicious finale to the collection.
This covers only half of a great short fiction collection. Fun, surprising even to my old eyes and shows a writer who loves the genres and is not afraid to pay with them to make even better stories. I am very impressed, and this is an author to keep an eye out for. Highly recommended!
— Matt - Runalong the Shelves (Reviewer)
THE ZOOKEEPER'S TALES OF INTERSTELLAR ODDITIES
This was a fantastic science fiction book that pulled together a collection of short stories under the umbrella of a larger space opera narrative. The writing in this collection was fantastic. I would certainly love to see this female writing duo collaborate again.
— Rachel - The Shades of Orange (Goodreads Reviewer)
The Zookeeper’s Tales of Interstellar Oddities is world creation on a splendid scale, embracing sentient species from an array of planets, each with substantial cultural histories.
The concept of gathering storytellers over a jug of alcohol is trusty – think The Canterbury Tales for one – and the extent of imaginative detail in this clutch of yarns is
remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable.
The Zookeeper’s Tales of Interstellar Oddities is a showcase for the fecund imagination of two of Australia’s ingenious writers of speculative fiction, Aiki Flinthart and Pamela Jeffs. If this book is your introduction to these two, there are huge treats in store for you.
— Clare Rhoden - Reviewer for Aurealis Magazine #131
FIVE DRAGONS: A DRAGONS OF ERIDAN COLLECTION
'4.0 Stars - Finally a dragon fantasy story with actual dragons in it!
This is a unique collection of interconnected fantasy stories centering around a world where dragons and humans co-exists under a tentative peace accord. Unlike other short story collection, these stories truly felt intertwined. Each story picked up where the last story left off with a new character perspective, often a person (or creature) featured in the previous story. The first story in the collection felt very much like a classic fantasy story, but Jeffs is known to subvert the tropes of the genre. Sure enough, the later stories brought in unique twists with the inclusion of western and science fiction themes. I particularly loved the third and fourth stories because I am always a fan of the western gunslinger themes.
Once again, I am blown away by the quality of Jeffs’ writing. Her style is smart, concise and easy to digest. These stories were all so enjoyable to read with a good balance between character work and an engaging plot. The dragons in this world were the intelligent, magical kind of dragons that we often see in fantasy. Personally, I tend to prefer the monstrous version, but I still very much enjoyed reading about these ones. I would absolutely recommend this collection to anyone looking for a great fantasy story with a healthy dose of dragons.
This book is an excellent place to start for anyone new to the author. Jeffs has written two other fantastic collection and I would personally recommend following up this one her Saloons & Stardust stories, which has more of that scifi western flavour that I particularly love.'
— Rachel - The Shades of Orange (Goodreads Reviewer)
'Jeffs' beautifully-wrought language slides you effortlessly into the strangest of worlds. Another poignant, fascinating collection.'
— Aiki Flintheart (Author of the Kalima Chronicles)
'The spindly limbs of long-drowned trees reach skyward fingers like skeletons...'
'Five Dragons is a highly imaginative, genre-bending collection of interlinked stories whose entirety achieves an ambitious goal. A true personification of a story cycle where texts are held together by collective protagonists, recurring characters and the dominant motif herein of dragons in an ancient war that blasts into the future, the compilation is so well done it reads like a novel.
Pamela Jeffs introduces us to a world of unified stories, each closed and self- sufficient, told in distinct insight from a discrete point of view. The composite is like a sonnet sequence with integral completeness of each individual story, yet coherence as a whole.
Action-packed and multi-narrated, the anthology invites the reader to a mystery whodunnit fantasy of missing dragon eggs; to a scientific fantasy of genetically engineered baby dragons; to a western fantasy of a dragon-eyed, blue-haired metal- armed gunslinger... and more.
It’s a cross-genre book that comes along with pre-dawn shadows, curtains of moss in the deepest darkness, a woman ‘five parts human’, merpeople, silver torpedo flying fish with glistening scales, a dragon boneyard, glamoured dragons, fragility or trust in the relationships between humans and dragons, dragons in humanoid bodies, dragons with supersonic banshee screams—yes, a lot of dragons, and they are uniquely enthralling.
Each story wears a strong sense of place, as Jeffs introduces the worlds of Eridan and the underwater city of Ocerei, from rugged terrain to ruined moors, or places of much beauty where a dawn sun crests over the mountains and you find startle in a garden glade entombed in the moorlands.
This is a collection that casts new light to magic and dragons in the exquisiteness of a world that’s also shadowy and culminates in time travel to the Australian present in Gallipoli.
As a reader, you must teach yourself to read the work like a collection and be content with the conciseness and immediacy of each occurrence, rather than hunt detail to unravel the suspense as you might in a novel.
Five Dragons is a beautifully packaged book whose five stories, strange to say— for a collection, set up the reader for a hankered sequel.'
— Eugen Bacon - Reviewer for Aurealis Magazine #126
SALOONS & STARDUST: A COLLECTION
'This was such a creative collection of speculative short fiction! The author brought together so many interesting ideas into some of the most fun and imaginative science fiction stories that I have ever read.
These speculative stories were predominantly pieces science fiction, although there was also fantastical elements and even a little bit of horror. The writing in the collection was consistently strong. The stories were a good balance of unique ideas, beautiful prose and action. The stories felt cohesive enough to feel like a curated collection while still having enough variety to keep the reading experience fresh. The stories were loosely themed around the concept of courageous woman with each story centered around a strong female protagonist. From vampires to aliens to pirates, From vampires to aliens to pirates, From vampires to aliens to pirates,the stories blended together so many bizarre creatures and concepts in the most natural ways. The stories were just so much fun, yet still so smart.
As with every short story collection, I loved some stories more than others. Yet, I can honestly say that I liked just about every story in this book. When I wasn’t reading, I found myself dying to return back to the collection, which isn’t usually something I experience when reading short stories. I could definitely see myself re-reading these stories in the future.
Here are my thoughts on some of the most notable stories
Cards and Steel Hearts
This was my absolute favourite in the collection. As the first story, this one kicked off the collection strong on a very strong note. This was one of the stories that blended elements of science fiction with a western setting and I loved it. The main character was a brave indingous young woman whom I adored. The ending was absolutely brilliant.
In Salt and By Starlight
This was another favourite in the collection. This story addressed environmental themes without every seeming preachy or heavy handed. The imagery surrounding the dead whales was beautiful and haunting.
Gunfire, Gas & Ruin
This was a fairly classic zombie narrative that was made a little more unique by the inclusion of aliens. The story really highlighted how fear can bring out the worst in humanity.
Saloons & Stardust
This is another story with a western setting, which always work for me. I love the fierce motherly instincts driving this one.
This was one involved a female blacksmith and pirates, which made for a very cool narrative.
Chimeras at High Noon
This one had mechanical horses. So, naturally, I loved it.
This is easily the best werewolf story I have read. It was fantastic to read about an independent woman willing to take justice into her own hands.
I would highly recommend this collection to any speculative fiction reader, even if they don’t normally read a lot of short fiction.'
— Rachel - The Shades of Orange (Goodreads Reviewer)
'Love this collection of short, weird-sci-fi stories. Jeffs has a vivid and strange imagination that takes you easily to far-off worlds and slides you effortlessly into their realm. Her worldbuilding is seamless, her writing style evocative. Anyone who like weird-west sci-fi, or just plain weird sci-fi, or with a touch of horror, will love these stories. Beautiful writing.'
— Aiki Flintheart (Author of the Kalima Chronicles)
‘For I am Memory, and memory is forever. I will kill them.’
‘Creatively brilliant’ was running through my mind while reading “Cards and Steel Hearts,” the first story in this anthology. Pamela Jeffs creates a world, within only a few pages, that feels comfortably curious. As the story unfolds, and the creativity of Jeffs’ world starts to mesh, I couldn’t help but smile. It was all new to me, an avid reader and published writer.
“Cards and Steel Hearts,” was flawless in execution, and leaves the reader in the dust as it ends, while they wait to turn the page and see “Chapter 1” of what only could have been the beginning of an incredible novel.
I want more of this world, a world where the teenage protagonist, a teenage Indian girl seeking vengeance provides the reader with, “...my tomahawk has split his skull. It cracks like a melon, the features of his face lost in a sheet of hot blood.” It was hard to leave this world and jump to the next one, and this was common while reading “Saloons and Stardust,” where each story left the reading fulfilled yet longing for more.
“In Salt and By Starlight” is another beautifully written tale of heroism, but to call it heroism is an insult to the strong women that make the heart of these stories beat. The true word would, and should be heroineism, because the protagonists of these tales remind me of the legacies of Joan of Arc and Amelia Earhart.
I could go on about each short story, how they all carry a textbook introduction, intriguing protagonist, creatively-inspiring setting, and daggering twist. It’s like a MasterClass on how to start a novel.
—And I remind myself these aren’t novels, they’re short stories, but the weight they hold on the reader are as everlasting as the novels I dearly hope many of these stories one day produce.
I urge any reader whose mind longs to explore other worlds to read “Saloons and Stardust.” Pamela Jeffs is just getting started. Buckle up.
— J. Chasteen (Amazon Reviewer)
"In just a few sentences and sometimes mere words, Jeffs can pull you in to a world of her imagination that feels so real and tangible, you wouldn't be surprised to look out your window and see one of her characters racing on top of a mechanical horse, dust flying out behind.
I opened the book and ended up reading the first story Cards and Steel Hearts three times before I could move on, because I simply didn't want to leave the amazing world and characters created.
Every single story in this collection is worth a read. And by the end of some stories I felt my heart pounding with the rush of adventure and soaring with the emotions and strength of characters created.My personal favourites were definitely Cards and Steel Hearts, Saloons and Stardust, Undertaker, Bloodlines and Wolverslinger.
With lines such as:
‘He's haunted looking, like he's seen bad things - things that don't sit too well with the soul.’‘Piles of clustered rubbish, heaving with rats, loiter in the gutters.’
How can you not love Jeffs' writing and feel the magic she is weaving.
There is so much in this collection and I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy"
— N. Coen (Goodreads Reviewer)
'Whether it’s mechanical stallions galloping in fields or alien technology powering native dwellers, there is a story in here for everyone. ‘Gunfire, Guns and Ruin’ stood out for me, telling a fine tale of global infections and alien encounters.
‘Saloons and Stardust’ lets your imagination run wild with
form changing wolves & magical hunters.
‘Revelations’ is filled with steampunked ships of the night, treasure maps, clockwork guards and tales of piracy onboard huge solar powered floating galleon vessels.
Gunslinging creatures that never yield to the blade wander these pages, beware reader, a strong heart is required. You have been warned. Have your colts charged with silver bullets, and make sure your aim is true when the challenge of a duel is called, or you may find yourself immortalised in stone if you’re second to draw.
If your heart ain’t up to the challenge mayhaps a new one can be forged.'
$2.90 well spent.
— G. Cunningham (Goodreads Reviewer)
RED HOUR AND OTHER STRANGE TALES
'Red Hour is a captivating compendium of speculative stories — fantastic tales that embody lurking horrors: unease with the demeanour of the human race, distrust in our environment, fear of our darkest emotions. Stories that are nevertheless imbued with hope: the flash of the exotic, the silhouette of transmogrification, the shadow of revenge, and the phlogiston of an end to unfairness in all its guises.'
— Ion Newcombe (Editor, AntipodeanSF)
'Australia has its own kind of magic.
From witches to spirits of the land, Pamela Jeffs has gathered nineteen magical
stories on transformation for her story collection debut. Red Hour is filled with a strong focus on plot twists and reversals. A fisherman becomes the catch. A hunter the hunted. Time loops change history only for cracks to appear.
The writing is sharp. For time poor readers who want a complete story with a beginning, middle and end on the bus, tram or train trip to work, this is the book for you. Some stories are very short, minor portraits in words. Others flesh out the world and leave a sense that the story might be an opening chapter in a novel. No matter the length, each story contains a good hook, a consequence of actions and a compulsion to turn the page.
Characters drive each story with their personal quest. The backdrop reimaginings of Australia are beautifully described, yet restrained enough to not distract. There's a real sense of karmic justice in the tales. ‘Metamorphosis’, ‘The Fallen’ and ‘Waking Io’ are all standouts. In them Jeffs shows a knack for highlighting human nature, both good and destructive, as well as incorporating strange magic, science and gods.
A book to read in the Red Hour.'
— Aurealis Magazine - (Reviewer: Chris Foster)
'The moment I started reading, I was immediately drawn into the story and it kept me turning the pages. Pamela is definitely a speculative fiction writer to watch out for.'
— A.M. Rycroft (Author of 'Into the Darkness')
'Pamela Jeffs has crafted a gripping set of tales, steeped in mystery and intrigue.
Her stories certainly warrant exploration.'
— R.D Gennari (Author of 'Battle for Skeptron')
" The stories are drawing me on and are gripping in their unknowability."
— T. Buisman (Reader)