Book Reviews

Review of the Novel Fox’s Anthology I

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The Novel Fox is a small press, founded in 2014, that specializes in bridging the divide between talented authors and the new world of digital publishing. They have three branches, and Anthology I is the first collection released under their Shorts imprint.

The description in the press release sounded interesting to me, so I agreed to review the book (Obligatory disclaimer: It was provided for free). The release reads, “With stories ranging from ‘Paying Old Debts,’ about a thoughtful sex robot assassin, to ‘A Wand’s Tale,’ chronicling the short life of a sentient magic wand, to ‘Subsidence,’ which includes a horrific golf hazard, the stories of Anthology I are riveting from beginning to end.” Those concepts sounded entertaining enough for this speculative short fiction author! I’m an easy sell.

Although the Novel Fox has a digital focus, I was pleased to receive a print copy of the book. And I was even more pleased by its high production values!


The cover artwork is smart graphic design. The size is squarer than a standard paperback, which felt easier to handle. The nicely spaced, easily readable font also pleased me, and I loved the simple artwork at the beginning of each story — it set the mood quite well. I did worry the cover’s thick, black ink would rub off on my fingers as it felt oversaturated, but I have no smudges to report on.

Aesthetics are important in publishing, but content even more so. The anthology contains eight short stories, equally divided between science fiction and the fantastic. Interestingly, the short stories mentioned in the press release aren’t the ones I enjoyed most, though they all have redeeming qualities. Of them, “Subsidence” by Peter White is the most intriguing, employing the Lilliputian concept in a more horrific manner than I’ve seen in a while. Neil Marshall is a typical, middle-aged, wealthy male whose friend goes missing on a golf course. Moral of the story? Don’t chase after that delicious barbecue smell!

Attractive Unattractive Americans: How the World Sees America

I was contacted to do a review for Attractive Unattractive Americans: How the World Sees America, a book written by René Zografos, an award-winning Norwegian-Greek journalist. It is published under his own imprint, Renessanse Publishing.


I don’t do many book reviews, but this one’s subject matter caught my eye. “Almost every human being on the planet today knows something – and feels something – about America…But what does a world that contains seven billion people really think about the most talked about – and controversial – nation on earth?” reads the press materials, and frankly, I’m a sucker for every article I come across that tries to answer that question. Even in our modern connected world, we live such a myopic experience in the USA, tangled up in our own affairs in part because of how large of a country we are geographically and in part because rugged individualism is in the American DNA. We think we know how foreigners see America—the use of ‘Murrica! is now common parlance as is the notion we’re supposed to be world saviors yet are viewed as world manipulators. But are these conundrums what most people outside the USA ponder about us on the whole?

Zografos tackled that question through seven years of collecting anecdotes from and interviewing travelers and locals throughout the world, from Malaysia to the United Arab Emirates to Costa Rica. He has a direct, honest, and contemplative writing style.

René Zografos, photo provided by Smith Publicity.

René Zografos, photo provided by Smith Publicity.

The book is organized as a series of essays, some by Zografos and others by invited writers, on different topics related to the American identity. Interspersed with the essays are short quotes from interviewees in different geographical locales. Through this structural backbone, common themes arise that sometimes seem in direct conflict with each other. For instance, an admiration for American manners and our optimistic, you-can-do-it! attitudes comes through just as strongly as a disdain for American superficiality and lack of authenticity in our friendships. I found the comments about superficiality especially intriguing being as I come from the region of the USA that Americans themselves have deemed the most superficial: Southern California. So it was especially interesting to see so many travelers say Americans in general don’t have genuine friendships or make real connections with other people. I’m still chewing the cud on that one. Do people in other countries use that expression?