M.T. McGuire

The Wrong Stuff

Wrong Stuff, The
The Pan has rescued Ruth. To make it stick, the two of them must find the Candidate. But with the security forces of two realities on their tail, it's a challenge. The Pan of Hamgee is not a natural knight in shining armour. Yet he has escaped from police custody in K’Barth, switched realities and foiled Lord Vernon’s attempt to kidnap Ruth, the Chosen One from the Festival Hall. Pretty good, he thinks. However, Ruth thinks otherwise. Being pursued by Lord Vernon is bad enough. Now, thanks to The Pan, she’s on the run. They are both alive, of course, but with Lord Vernon on their tail neither of them can be sure how long for.  To save her life The Pan must introduce Ruth, the woman of his dreams, to the person prophesied to be the man of hers. And he knows he must do it fast – before Lord Vernon finds her. But, the gentleman in question is in hiding and no-one knows where. Only The Pan can find him, if he can bring himself to unite them.  

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland

January 7, 2013

This is the second book in the Pan of Hamgee series. I loved the first one and this is even better. The author has created a bunch of truly loveable – and in one case, truly scary  – characters that I just love to hang out with. They come from an alternative reality, the same earth but populated with a variety of different sized and coloured creatures, some more human looking than others. The Pan  – basically human –  enters our reality with the help of a portal in a thimble to rescue the one chosen by the Candidate for the role of spiritual and temporal leader of his country, but the arch bad guy follows him. A destructive chase through London in flying cars starts off the action and it just keeps moving.

The Pan of Hamgee is one  of my favourite characters of all time, the best getaway ever because he’s a coward – or so he says; it makes him good at running away. But the Pan is much more than just the getaway man he thinks he is; he’s funny, smart, noble, humble and, best of all, is just a really a good bloke. He always does what’s right even when he’d rather be running in the opposite direction. However in this, the second of the Pan of Hamgee series, his negative opinion of himself is holding him back from realising his true potential.

Ruth is another wonderful character, one we didn’t have the chance to get to know in the first book, but in this one, she plays a major role, and her feisty interactions with the Pan are just delightful. Their relationship grows as the story progresses. First, he rescues her from a couple of Grongles who want to take her to the very nasty Lord Vernon. She has never met the Pan before and is, quite rightly, suspicious, but they end up spending a lot of time together because they’re on the run, and he’s not only the best getaway man in the business, he’s also pretty adorable.

 

Big Merv, the bright orange Swamp Thing also deserves a mention, as another delightful character, and Lord Vernon deserves an award for one of the creepiest bad guys ever.

The story is tight and unpredictable and the pacing excellent. The characterisation is superb and the humour delightful. I don’t like the use of the word alright instead of the more correct, all right, but since this is becoming an acceptable usage in dialogue, I’ll have to pass it. The copy editing could be better; it’s not bad, just the occasional lack of punctuation where it would have been helpful, certainly not enough of a problem to stop you enjoying this delightful story.

 

 

Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen
Charming outlaw with own transport and limited social skills seeks lucrative, employment at minimal risk.  When you're running from a murderous government and work for an equally murderous gangster, accidentally torching his apartment is a bad move.  The Pan of Hamgee just wants a quiet life but destiny has other plans.   The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him. Unfortunately, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, and his existence is treason. To survive he does the only thing he can – getaway driving. As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it. This can only mean trouble and sure enough, it does. By doing so, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler. Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs. It’s a challenge, since previously he had no beliefs he was aware of. But faced with a stark moral dilemma, he realises his new found integrity might even stick… if he can stop running.

Reviewed by DL Morrese

February 7, 2013

5 stars

This is a cross-genre story that feels like it should be classified somewhere between Doctor Who and Discworld. I’m calling it science fiction rather than fantasy because at one point the ‘magic’ is described as the clever application of the strange effects of quantum mechanics. This is no more outlandish than the Doctor’s TARDIS, although instead of the unlikely time travel of Doctor Who, this story includes travel between our reality and an unlikely alternate dimension.

It’s an interesting place.

This alternate Earth is run as a police state, and our reluctant hero, The Pan of Hamgee, is a Goverment Blacklisted Indivdual. His existence is therefore illegal, and the fact that he has survived as a GBI for five years, which is about four and a half years longer than normal, proves that he is very good at not being caught. This talent comes to the attention of Big Merv, a major crime boss, who recruits him as his new getaway driver.  For the Pan of Hamgee, this is good news for two reasons. As a GBI, no legitimate employer will hire him, and Merv’s other option was dumping him in the river – with cement overshoes – but these are details we don’t need to go into here.

This story has flying car chases, a bad guy you love to loath, likable gangsters, and a hero you can really identify with since, like most of us, he’s not terribly heroic – at least not intentionally. He reminds me a bit of Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He’s a professional coward whose talent for getting into unintended trouble is only exceeded by his talent for escaping from it. All he wants is a simple, normal life, but the universe seems to have another fate planned for him. The book also has a few laughs, a lot of smiles, and even a bit of political and religious satire. There are far too few books like this. Great characters, interesting setting, humor, and cultural satire, with a genuinely good plot providing a framework holding them together is a hard blend to achieve and an even more difficult one to do well. This book does.

The prose is well executed with just enough description for the reader to visualize the scenes. Backstory, where needed, is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Dialog is believable and suitable to the characters and to the situation. Grammar, spelling, formatting, and other of technical requirements of the storyteller’s trade that sometimes pose a problem for the independent writer are executed professionally in this book.

It passes my personal 5-star test. In addition to all the basics needed for a well-told tale, it has that something extra that would prompt me to read it again. I enjoyed following the misadventures of The Pan of Hamgee, a likeable sod thrown into an uncomfortable situation in an imaginative world that has certain parallels to our own. I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.

 

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 stars

This is a good comic fantasy title off the same sort of humorous planet as writers like Tom Holt, Ben Elton, and Terry Prachett. There is satire and certainly parody, and as with those listed she has the gift of dramatic timing. In other words, MT McGuire is in great, Great British, comic company. The fact that she used to do stand-up comedy doesn’t surprise me a bit.
I’m sure it helps to be a Brit to catch all the clever turns of phrase in this book, but those from once were distant outposts of Britannia will get just as much out of this read; even The ‘us’ should be able to catch the crest of her comic wave.
Of course, if you are not into Peter Cook, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig, or MT McGuire Authorholic then you probably won’t like K’Barthan books either. Get a life!

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways
This superbly written short story anthology showcases talented Awesome Indie authors from around the globe. Though from a variety of genres, the stories are all entertaining, contemporary and thought-provoking.   Indulge your taste for good fiction with this short story anthology by authors with bold new voices. Though from diverse genres, the stories share a contemporary and contemplative feel that will linger long after the reader has read the last one. Awesome Allshorts showcases talented authors from around the globe, many whose novels have received multiple honors, including Awesome Indies approved status. Stories selected by Tahlia Newland, Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning.

Reviewed by Bill Kirton

First, a disclaimer. This volume contains a flash fiction story of mine but the review relates to the other 26 contributions. It’s entirely objective. If it weren’t, I’d be undermining my credibility as a reviewer.

The enigmatic subtitle of the collection, Last Days, Lost Ways, hints at disjunction, reflection, scenes in which a variety of voices recount departures, frustrations, lost or decaying loves. In fact, as you read from story to story, the variation in styles and subjects, the movement from striking characters to bleak or funny situations, the range of emotions provoked – all combine to make this a rich experience.

The authors all know how to grab the reader and draw him/her very quickly into the specifics of their settings and the mysteries of the characters and their obsessions. The mood swings from anxious to loving, sinister to funny, despairing to whimsical, futuristic to domestic, romantic to dystopian. Some stories are firmly set in an apparently mundane everyday world, but one unpicked by a character’s reactions to its pressures and interpretations of its moments. Others move straight into the paranormal or historical. But all touch on aspects of life, fears, relationships which will have echoes in readers’ own experience.

The anthology exemplifies the flexibility and continuing relevance of a form which is nowadays enjoying an overdue revival.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

Full disclosure: One of my short stories appears in this anthology. This review is about the others.

I did not expect these stories to move me as deeply as they did. Short works often struggle to pack a significant punch in their diminished wordcount, but the pieces contained in this collection rise to the occasion. Some had me on the edge of my seat in suspense. Some brought tears to my eyes with their emotional depth. And some utilized unique writing styles so artfully that they should be studied in literature classes.

Like with any anthology, not everything in this book will appeal to every reader. But the breadth and depth of the writing styles, storylines, and people explored make it deserving of a spot on any avid reader’s shelf.

Reviewed by

Ignite

 

This is a collection of stories subtitled Last Days and Lost Ways. I received an Advanced Review Copy. It is not the final version. I don’t know if the stories will appear in this order but I found I didn’t really get on with most of those in the first half. The second half of the book picked up for me, but if I hadn’t been reading to review, I might easily have lost interest and abandoned it.

The writing was good. It was the definition of ‘story’ which didn’t click with me in some cases. To me, and I suspect, to many readers, a short story is a complete tale. Some of these read as, or maybe even were, excerpts from some longer work and I didn’t like that. I wanted closure.

The stories I liked best were Pearls, Home late, The Creator, Recipe for a Dinner Party, Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin; for the Devil to Show and A Matter of Trust. I enjoyed these stories and the feeling of having savoured a complete experience with them.

Reviewed by

Justin Spahn

As the husband of one of the authors in this anthology, I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. So, here it is!

I’ve read a few short story anthologies, and this one is definitely the most interesting. The collection is richly diverse in terms of subject matter, national origin and setting, narrative tone, length, and literary style. As I read, I found myself jumping from fantasy to vignette to full plots inspired by true events, and the transition somehow is fluid and seamless rather than jarring or distracting. Awesome Indies has managed to build an enjoyable whole out of various and disparate components!

Among my favorites in the lineup were ‘Clearing the Shed’, ‘Quarantine’, ‘I, Zombie’, ‘Chasing Dreams in the Time Left Over’, ‘Traffic’, ‘Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin’ for the Devil to Show’, ‘Home Late’, ‘A Matter of Trust’, ‘Pearls’, and what is likely the stylistic jewel of this collection, ‘Recipe for a Dinner Party’.

This anthology asked me interesting questions, presented me with some of my greatest fears in life, introduced me to new ideas not common in conventionally published shorts, and fed an interest in diverse snippets of literature that I didn’t even know I had.

To sum it up best, I’ll paraphrase one of the author’s descriptions regarding the virtues of the short stories collected in this anthology: The short form gives authors the opportunity to write in ways that couldn’t be sustained for an entire novel.

I recommend reading these shorts–open yourself up to unique experiences from authors all around the world who love writing so much that they publish themselves.

Reviewed by

Sandra Padgett

This collection of wonderful stories covers a variety of themes. From satire to thriller to contemporary life and much more. Each story gets your attention and keeps it from start to finish. They are thought provoking, with characters, dialogue and themes that are believable, but sometimes out in the twilight zone, which is what I like. I will be looking for more works by the various authors and follow them in the future. I received this free from Simon Townley for an honest review. Outstanding! Recommend to any and all.

Reviewed by

Annie Evett

Both emerging and established writers from Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand present a peek into the spectacular moments everyday life holds, but with a twist.

The collection opens with a bang with a story by Tahlia Newland. Intriguing to the last paragraph, I was surprised to find it was an excerpt from her newest project. It sits perfectly as a short story and a wonderful teaser into what looks to be an exciting premise.

Each story has an incredible depth and texture to them, that, although is specific to its own style, melds beautifully as a collection. The human condition is explored where the reader is challenged to reassess their perspectives on stereotypes and events. Post apocalyptic tales sit comfortably with personalised stories like fragmented memories; separate, but with a golden thread holding them together. Heart-wrenching, whimsical, tear-jerking and lighthearted there is a story to suit all moods and readers tastes.

It is difficult to chose a favourite story, with a wrestling loving gran meeting her idol, to emotional trials of marriages breaking apart or forming, futuristic zombies and maids from a gentler time.

Authors are recognised in their own right with multiple honours and prizes and although the anthology is an eclectic mixture of genre, reading one after the other only highlights the complexity and intrigue each story brings.

A great book to stash into someones Christmas stocking for some fireside holiday reading, Awesome Allshorts is set to be a winner in your readers life.