Edited by Keith Stevenson and Claire McKenna

Agog! Press / 286 pages / June 2002

ISBN: 0958056706

Every time you’re browsing in a bookstore you see the searchers: people desparate to find somebody “new” to read. Well, if for some unfathomable reason you aren’t familiar with our Australian contingent in the genre, here is your chance to correct that mortifying oversight and score 29 “new” authors to get excited about. Agog! just might be your best chance yet to sample the best that Australia serves up in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction realms. A veritable smorgasbord!

Your first clue that you have come to the right place is the introduction by none other than Sean Williams (Metal Fatigue, Resurrected Man). If he’s willing to put his name on something, you know it’s going to be good.

Next, you’ll notice that Tansy Rayner Roberts, the vastly underappreciated author of Liquid Gold and Splashdance Silver, has a story in the collection. And, “Delta Void and the Clockwork Man” is as sharp and darkly hilarious as her novels. Add to that the sly wit underlying Tony Plank’s hard-boiled detective story, “It’s A Gas!” and the wry satire of “The Imperfect Instantaneous People Mover,” by Geoffrey Malone and you’ve got just a glimmer of the humour inside.

But, if you’re in the mood for something more chilling, you might take a look at Rick Kennett’s “Chinese Whispers,” a genuine ghost story. Or Kate Orman’s “Ticket to Backwards” that takes you to a place you’ll never survive. Or “Sakoku” might be more in your line — a quick jab of dark fantasy with a nasty twist. Something more traditional? Leigh Blackmore’s “Dr. Nadurnian’s Golem” just might be what you’re after.

Now, not every story is going to take your breath away; there are some that don’t quite make it. With so little room to discuss Agog! though, let me concentrate on the touches of brilliance. Starting with Deborah Biancotti’s “King of All and the Metal Sentinel.” There is something unbearably tragic about machines who outlive their owners and lose their purpose. Perhaps it’s the same touching devotion that makes Greyfriar’s Bobby such a sorrowful memorial. Or the sage-like resignation of “The Endling,” with its taste of mortality and that same quiet dread that resonates in David Carroll’s “Barren Earth.” We all know how such things will end, but it may be we just can’t bear to face the truth.

That leaves many stories unmentioned, with just too many authors to cram into one review. But that is the point, after all. I can only give you a fleeting taste; you will get the full pleasure for yourself when you pick up a copy of Agog!. Where are all the great, new authors hiding? In plain sight — we just haven’t been looking that far under.