In this collection of very short stories, Gimba blends fantastical elements, odd premises, and humorous situations.
Most of the tales in this book are no more than a few pages in length, but they show the author’s knack for finding unorthodox angles on familiar subjects. In “Beginning,” for instance, two cosmic mechanics craft universes in a workshop. Another tale, “Fifteen Percent,” shows the powers of Light and Dark singing the world into existence only to be interrupted by a talent scout who promises to make them big stars. In “Inspiration,” an accomplished writer reveals to a former classmate the dark secret behind his success only to receive a much-deserved comeuppance. A barfly turns out to be a hero of a fantasy realm in “Tall Tales.” In another story, a young man named Max Zane tries to learn the family business of villainy, and the story becomes more interesting as readers’ sympathies align with Zane and his fellow bad guys rather than with the sanctimonious, dimwitted heroes. “I Have a Cunning…” tackles similar themes, as the main character acts as a consultant for an unusual clientele: “He was the man that evil masterminds went to once they found out that they couldn’t quite live up to the second half of the job description.” Although Gimba’s stories can lack emotional heft and don’t create much sense of consequence, they’re often pleasant diversions. Many act as showcases for their author’s voracious imagination, which metabolizes tropes of fantasy, fable, and film to create enjoyable vignettes. The collection’s title is a bit of a misnomer; although the stories display a biting sense of humor, they also have an air of hopefulness, showing great affection for their characters and offbeat worlds. At times, reader may crave a story that isn’t so intent on reinventing existing genres, but at best, the results are charming, as if one is reading a script for a fantasy-based sketch-comedy show.
Ambitious and energetic flash fiction.
Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2019
Page count: 286pp
Review Posted Online: May 10, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021
A princess and her long-suffering assistant explore the galaxy in this SF novel.
Elaine Durowich is a handmaiden to Princess Anastasia, the pampered, only daughter of the Greater Galactic Emperor and Empress. When Anastasia gets her heart set on seeing what’s outside the palace, Elaine has little choice but to tag along with her. The timing is hardly ideal, as the newly divorced Emperor and Empress are waging war against each other, and antiroyalist rumblings among the populace are getting louder every day. Nevertheless, after Anastasia falsely claims that her dad approved of the trip, she and Elaine set off on a journey to alien planets, including glitzy Paartay, which is effectively one giant rave, and Dump, a colony of rebellious teens who stage ridiculous, gladiator-style fights. The royals’ unpopularity puts a target on Anastasia’s back, so she and Elaine try to keep low profiles via aliases and disguises with varying success. After meeting a dashing revolutionary, Anastasia and Elaine stow away with a crew of geeky space pirates and even meet an intergalactic mob boss on planet Vegas. Things get more complicated when the Emperor and Empress disappear, leading the Empire’s top general to label the princess’s trip a kidnapping. By now, Elaine and Anastasia are also being tracked by alien assassin Mirret and her bloodthirsty “teddy bear”accomplice. Gimba, the author of Not So Heartwarming Stories(2019),has written a refreshingly zany work that has the potential to become a cult classic. The witty, third-person narration takes aim at everything from fandom culture to materialism and inequality, but it never takes a tone that feels preachy. Instead, Gimba delivers refreshingly funny dialogue and fresh worldbuilding. The leads are genuinely likable and don’t feel focus-grouped: Princess Anastasia is hilariously flighty and spoiled but ultimately kindhearted, and Elaine, the older and more levelheaded of the two, is as blunt as her bob haircut, but softhearted enough to pursue a possible love interest.
An offbeat and enchanting space adventure.
Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2019
Page count: 392pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020
Glued to her TV screen, a little girl misses fantastical events happening around her in this picture book.
Wild and silly things occur right outside a girl’s window, but she is oblivious. Lounging on her couch, she is “so consumed” by her favorite TV show that she’s not aware of Cupid’s unfortunate, painful encounter with a tree in February; a leprechaun chase in March; and skateboarding grannies in September. Month after month, the girl chooses her TV show over family and friends, ignoring Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; missing the Easter Bunny, fireworks in July, and Santa’s emergency sleigh repair; and even disappearing from her own birthday bash. (“The little girl didn’t mean to flake / But got distracted by the TV when she came in / for a bathroom break.”) Some young readers may question why Mom and Dad don’t pull the plug, but comical exaggeration with a light touch gets the point across about the downside of passive screen watching as the world outside passes by. This work is the third installment of a picture-book series by prolific SF and short story author Gimba. Illustrator Olsen depicts the tale’s characters as round, big-eyed, and diverse (the biracial protagonist has a Black mom and White dad) and tickles funny bones with whimsical details complementing Gimba’s rhyming text.
A child-savvy message about limiting screen time delivered with humor and charm.
Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2019
Page count: 55pp
Review Posted Online: March 29, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021
ELAINE AND ANASTASIA: AN INTERGALACTIC SPACE ROMP: Amazon Breakthrough Novel, 2016
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