What happens when a closeted jock, a scrawny nerd, and a pair of bratty cheerleaders develop superpowers in a small-town high school? can they stop a pair of super-powered classmates hellbent on reshaping the student body in a darker image? Or will teen angst, jealousy, and ill-timed romance doom them all?
Steven Bereznai is a former magazine editor, recreational water polo player, fan of science fiction, avid TV viewer, and author of a wide range of books - several of which have been reviewed here at ThePageisPrinted.
I'd wanted to read "Queeroes" for some time - having loved both "I Want Superpowers" and "How a Loser like me survived the Zombie Apocalypse", I was really keen to read the author's earlier work - especially as I'm such a big fan of the superhero genre in general. Luckily, Steven was kind enough to send me copies of both "Queeroes" and the sequel "Queeroes 2", and I spent a happy weekend transported to yet another clever, funny and moving world that Steven Bereznai has created.
This is a man who knows his pop culture - and Queeroes is set in a high school, meaning that Bereznai is free to explore the various tropes, cliques and groups that come with such a setting. He does so with great care - peppering his pages with knowing references and nods to existing works, but always keeping things fresh - he's not an author who relies on tropes but instead utilises them when needed to great effect. His character voices are spot on too - reminding me of my teenage years, but also bringing to mind witty, quippy high school environments such as those in which beloved pieces of pop culture like Buffy and Clueless were set. All in all, "Queeroes" blend the everyday with the fantastical in a way that's both original and hugely readable. Bereznai is a skilled author who constantly produces work that combines heart, wit and plot to make for brilliant reads. His love for pop culture blended with sheer skill for writing mean he's an author who I always enjoy - and the Queeroes series will take you head first into a brilliantly realised world full of high school drama, earthshaking battles, and high school drama.
Pages of a weathered original sonata manuscript - the gift of a Czech immigrant living in Queens - come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. The gift comes with the request that Meta find the manuscript's true owner -a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart - and make the three-part Sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorak and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn't the only one seeking the music's secrets.
Bradford Morrow is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and editor of literary journal Conjunctions. He teaches at Bard College - a private college based in the state of New York. In "The Prague Sonata" he's written an epic, continent spanning book that's as evocative as it is moving - a book that's been years in the making but is absolutely worth your time.
My lack of knowledge regarding the history of the Czech Republic is shamefully limited, and it's not a country I'd ever visited - so had little idea of the events that would form the backdrop of "The Prague Sonata". Morrow not only informs the reader, but brings Prague to life in such vivid fashion that it becomes an important character in the book - as living and breathing as the two women who take most of the plot. As someone with a background that featured music heavily, I loved quite how integral music is to the plot too - and it helps to make this book a sensory experience in terms of time, place and sound. The characters are excellent, and the plot gripping - although slightly meandering at times. My only slight grumble is that it can be hard to initially grasp what time period a chapter is set in, leading to some initial confusion - but once the reader gets to know the characters better it becomes far easier to sense in whose company your spending a chapter. Apparently it took the author over ten years to research and write this - and it really shows, with words carefully chosen and technical terms with what is clearly a high level of expertise. At its heart though, "The Prague Sonata" is a tale about humanity - both the good and the bad, and takes the readers on a journey that's as well written as it is memorable. Here's hoping we don't have to wait a decade for Morrow's next book!
Mysteries. Ideas uncovered. Strange creatures. Forbidden words, used anyway. Ideas that scare us, make us angry, wistful, ashamed. The importance of a tiny, electric moment. All this pulled into the light, revealed by the imagination and bravery of these writers. They bring to life the sound of an act of charity; the delicious strut of a woman the day after taking a new lover; the one person in university halls who notices the stealth details of a cheating couple.
The stories and poetry here - some long and unfolding, others short like heart glugs of vodka - honour these unsung moments. They also showcase the voices of the habitually unseen - writing of fear translated into bigotry; tribalism and the violnce it causes; the patient suffering of a drag queen, watching his mother deny him to her death bed; the racist imprint of a father on a daughter's love life. The importance of finding the right voice and language. The colloquial, the vernacular, the dialect, the accents. The 'bad' language.
Welcome to "The Unseen". We hope it illuminates you
I have an odd relationship with short stories and articles - I've read huge amounts that I've massively enjoyed, but when in a bookshop it's unlikely that I'll pick any up - my mind always more drawn to engrossing myself in a long-form novel, or delving deep into the pages of a weighty history book. However, Fincham Press - the publishing house part of the University of Roehampton were kind enough to send me a copy of "The Unseen" - their latest collection of short stories, flash fiction, poetry and non-fiction, and settling down to read I found myself blown away by the staggering amount of content and talent on display in this collection.
I'd underestimated just how transportive a collection of short writings like this could be - but the volume of content means that the reader is rapidly transported from place to place - be it the American Desert or University Halls. The tone rapidly differs from piece to piece, with stories ranging from dark and macabre through to light and funny - ensuring that the reader is kept on their toes and engaged at every turn of the page. However the main thing I was impressed by was the sheer quality of these stories - the writing is at a level that's consistently high - and impressed me far more than many collections of writing I've read by established authors. It's clear that the University of Roehampton has a remarkable creative writing department, and Fincham Press is well placed to promote and share their work. It's always exciting to read genuinely new and original writing, and I have little doubt that some of the authors featured in this collection of "The Unseen" will go on to remarkable things in the years to come.