THE THIRD ALTERNATIVE #42

Reviewed by Tracy Sherrin-Miller

I always feel that it is the first few seconds of your eyes alighting onto a book or magazine cover that determines how you choose one over another. In this issue of TTA I felt that I would have located Camille Kuo's enigmatic front cover art work in a pile of many; in fact it captured me with the sad but masochistic image she so beautifully created and led me on a voyeuristic journey through the issue that did not disappoint.

Probably the most important thing to mention is the imminent name change; the next issue will be titled Black Static, though in the editor's foreword he assures us the standard and content will remain the same. There will probably be some readers who don't understand the need to do this but most change, however small, is usually for the better and I look forward to indulging in it on its release. It is worth mentioning that it will come with a free book by Dan Bennett and nine stories by a new author has got to be a bargain.

Vincent Chong's eerie fanged figures are a perfect complement to Paul Meloy's tale of monstrous aliens feeding on human misery and despair in Dying in the arms of Jean Harlow. Although a little confusing at first, I quickly got into the swing of this monster kill fest and enjoyed every gory victory. Darkly comic moments littered the tale and these only added to the enjoyment of an unusually put together piece.

In The Word “Mermaid” Written on an Index Card by Douglas Lain, the psychologically disturbed main character of John encounters many emotional difficulties on his discharge from the navy and after teaming up with the equally strange Annie things just keep becoming increasingly bizarre. Kookily written in an almost edgy style it kept me captured until the final paragraph and, all in all, was a sleek piece of writing.

My next outing was far and away the most enjoyable of all the stories. In The Vegetable Lamb Matthew Francis creates the mood of an isolated colonial life in the fictional Xanadu. Our heroine Selena has ended up married to the Consul after a rather adventurous and shady past and her main ambition is to sample and record the rare dish vegetable lamb. It is the last unusual dish she needs to complete her cookery book. Well written in an effortless flowing style it conjured the sights and smells of a South American type continent and I could almost picture the late Ava Gardner as Selena, full of life and passionate about all things gastronomic. Complemented throughout by the pop art illustrations of Alfred Klosterman this is a first rate piece of fiction.

House Of The Rising Sun is a great modern day vampiric story by Elizabeth Bear. The two main characters of Sycorax and Tribute had me pulled in from the off and my only complaint is that it ended too soon and left me salivating for more.

I knew from virtually the first paragraph that Darren Speegle's Lago Di Iniquita would be a chilling tale. Gorgeously descriptive writing leads you to just wait for something dark to happen. The story is so well crafted it really keeps you in suspense with lots of lines that make you think that you know what's going on, only to be surprised at the climax. More than that I can't say as it would spoil the plot. It was the one tale that kept me thinking all day.

The final story in what has been a most enjoyable ride through TTA#42 is the excellent Reality Interrupted by Jason Erik Lundberg. A fantasy tale of the highest calibre, at times I thought I was reading the last chapter of a great novel and it has certainly made me want to hear more from this author. A world of magic suddenly springs from a fairly ordinary beginning as Goran soon realises that things are not what they seem, and he quickly plunges into a new and disturbing world that is set to change his life forever.

This brings me to the non-fiction, the first of which is Peter Tennant's book reviews section. This was a thoroughly good round up of some great new fiction. Concisely written with ample information and author background, enabling the reader to make a good choice for their next outing into the literary world. As an avid reader myself I know how heavily I rely on reviews and what a difference they can make.

John Paul Catton's witty take on Japanese life deals with the popular detective novel and how they are thriving by using a mixture of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes etc nicely blended with Japanese life and situations. I found it surprising that the most popular form of transport in contemporary Japanese mysteries is the humble train; not for them the speedy cars or fast planes!

To conclude this summer edition, Allen Ashley's sharp political observations on the usefulness (or not) of the voting system made me realise just how pointless it all seems, even to those of us who vote in good faith hoping to make a difference. As the proud owner of a nearly sixteen year old myself and knowing some of his shall we say interesting views; the thought of him casting his vote made me laugh out loud.

This edition of TTA has been a blast; it's made me think, laugh and caused a few lively conversations and I couldn't have asked for more.

The Third Alternative, edited by Andy Cox and published by TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs CB6 2LB, UK. A4, 68pp, £4/$7US or £21/$42US for 6 issues (for other countries see ordering details on website).

Website: - www.ttapress.com


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