Tag Archives: Book Smugglers Publishing

NEW REVIEW: “Girl Reporter” (2017)

Tansy Rayner Roberts

Book Smugglers Publishing (December 2017)

ISBN: 9781942302629

I have a few authors whose work leaps to the top of my reading queue whenever they bring out a new book or story. Lois Bujold, Martha Wells and JD Robb are some of them – Tansy Rayner Roberts is another. And the best thing about Roberts, much as I’ve always adored her novels, is that she is writing a lot of shorter work these days, both for her Patreon and self-publishing ventures and for publication in major local and international venues. “Girl Reporter” is the third in her Cookie Cutter Superhero-Verse series, which she started with “Cookie Cutter Superhero” back in 2014’s Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press) and continued in the standalone “Kid Dark Against the Machine” (2016, Book Smugglers Publishing). While clearly part of a connected universe, these three stories do work in isolation and you don’t necessarily have to have read any of the others to enjoy this new work. Well, you don’t HAVE to read them in order, but I would certainly recommend it! Each of the stories has a different protagonist and aspect of the larger world building to work in, but there are multiple crossover characters and definite character arcs in play throughout each title. I have a fond hope that at some point, Roberts will bring all the stories (those existing and the ones I hope are still to come) together into a mosaic collection, because it will be one heck of a book.

So, what about this particular story? From the blurb:

In a world of superheroes, supervillains, and a machine that can create them all, millennial vlogger and girl reporter Friday Valentina has no shortage of material to cover. Every lottery cycle, a new superhero is created and quite literally steps into the shoes of the hero before them–displacing the previous hero. While Fri may not be super-powered herself, she understands the power of legacy: her mother is none other than the infamous reporter Tina Valentina, renowned worldwide for her legendary interviews with the True Blue Aussie Beaut Superheroes and her tendency to go to extraordinary lengths to get her story. 

This time, Tina Valentina may have ventured too far. 

Alongside Australia’s greatest superheroes–including the powerful Astra, dazzling Solar, and The Dark in his full brooding glory–Friday will go to another dimension in the hopes of finding her mother, saving the day, maybe even getting the story of a lifetime out of the adventure. (And possibly a new girlfriend, too.)

Friday is a great character, driven and passionate about her reporting, snarky and yet goodhearted, a tad cynical about media and her mother’s role in the superhero universe, and deeply loyal to those she cares about. I love pretty much everything about this book. The pacing and action is fantastic, the links that are built on from earlier works are wonderful, and the characters are all delightful, even the evil ones. As with the earlier stories, there is also an insightful critique of the genre at play, with strong commentary (beautifully incorporated, of course) on the portrayal of women in comics, among other elements. Roberts not only talks the talk, though, she walks the walk through diverse casting and depictions of her characters, making it roundly obvious that reflecting reality through diversity is not just logical, but pretty damn easy as well.

I’m not going to tell you anything more about the book itself, because it’s not all that long and I’d hate to spoil “Girl Reporter” or its predecessors for any new reader. But if you are enjoying DC’s Supergirl or Marvel’s Runaways TV shows, or thought Catherynne M Valente’s Refrigerator Monologues was brilliant, and want a glorious combination of the teen sass of the former with the dark critique in the latter, then you really need to get your hands on “Girl Reporter”.

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New Review: “Kid Dark Against the Machine” (2016)

cover-image-1Tansy Rayner Roberts

Book Smugglers Publishing (June 2016)

ISBN: 9781942302285

If like me, you love superhero stories but sometimes get a bit frustrated with the way things play out in the superhero universes, and with the lack of representation of women, differently abled people, QUILTBAG people and so on, you need to pick up “Kid Dark Against the Machine”. A sort-of sequel to Roberts’ spectacular story “Cookie Cutter Superhero” (in Kaleidoscope, 2014, Twelfth Planet Press), “Kid Dark” carries on with a new character and a completely different scenario, twelve months after the events of the first story. We meet ‘Griff’, as he’s now known, one-time child sidekick, now volunteering at the same boys’ home he once lived in, trying to put his superhero past behind him and just be a normal person. Which isn’t all that easy when all the boys love superheroes, and the machine was never really through with him.

This is a novelette-length standalone story, and is easy to devour in a single sitting. While I highly recommend “Cookie Cutter Superhero” (because it’s amazing), you don’t actually have to have read that piece to enjoy and appreciate “Kid Dark” in any way. Roberts does an excellent job of seeding the worldbuilding through this story, and expanding on it a little at a time; in fact, one of the things I most appreciate about both the stories is the feel that there is a heck of a lot more to learn about the world they take place in – it means there will almost certainly be more to come!

Roberts cleverly manipulates the reader’s “cultural stash” (her phrase, shared in the informative and interesting essays that make up the second part of the book) of comics and superheroes to help establish the setting – the hero characters are somewhat familiar (without being subject to trademark lawsuits) and I particularly like the little Australia-specific elements scattered throughout.

I have been a fan of Roberts’ writing for more than 15 years, and have published her work myself, so it is probably not surprising that I loved this story. Roberts has a gift for engaging characters and dialogue that makes you grin, but over the years, she has become better and better at unpacking and subverting some of the powerful stereotypes and tropes that can undermine the genre – this story is no exception. Highly recommended.

Thank you to the author (and publisher) for the advance review ebook copy.


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