USE ONLY AS DIRECTED, Edited by Simon Petrie & Edwina Harvey

In case you missed it, here’s my latest review for Skiffy & Fanty (that was posted last week) on the collection Use Only As Directed. But an accidental spill on my brand new laptop has put my Internet abilities largely on hold for the last week, delaying my link to it here. Thankfully books help combat such traumatic, and expensive, incidents. Next time I will use my MacBook only as directed, with drinks far, far removed.


“…The latest anthology from Peggy Bright Books, edited by Simon Petrie and Edwina Harvey, Use Only As Directed features Australian and New Zealand authors – of whom over 50% are female – crafting short stories around the titular phrase that one commonly reads on instructions for everything from medicine to the latest gadget.

The anthology’s predominant characteristic is its well-balanced diversity in authors and styles, with an array of female, male, and nonhuman characters and a range across genres from horror to fantasy to science fiction…”

Read my entire review at Skiffy & Fanty!


  • “Dellinger”, by Charlotte Nash
  • “The Blue Djinn’s Wish”, by Leife Shallcross
  • “The Kind Neighbours of Hell”, by Alex Isle
  • “Mister Lucky”, by Ian Nichols
  • “Home Sick”, by M. Darusha Wehm
  • “Always Falling Up”, by Grant Stone
  • “Yard”, by Claire McKenna
  • “Never More”, by Dave Freer
  • “Fetch Me Down My Gun”, by Lyn Mc Conchie
  • “Uncle Darwin’s Bazooka”, by Douglas A. van Belle
  • “The Climbing Tree”, by Michelle Goldsmith
  • “Large Friendly Letters”, by Stephen Dedman
  • “Future Perfect”, by Janeen Webb
  • “The Eighth Day”, by Dirk Flinthart

The Darwin Elevator, by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator, by Jason M. Hough
(Dire Earth Cycle Book 1)
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 0345537122
472 pages, paperback
Published July 2013
Source: Goodreads First-Reads

“The Darwin Elevator” is an entertaining, action-filled read that I enjoyed enough for me to want to find the follow-up volumes to see how the story continues. It has some good qualities going for it, including tight writing and memorable characters given enough complexity to draw them beyond indistinguishable cardboard people who can easily populate this kind of popcorn novel.

I was wary of a plot that sounded like it involved zombies, but was relieved that the zombie-like aspect was kept to a minimal. Nonetheless I didn’t feel like that aspect needed to be present at all, seemingly just there to take a familiar SF scenario and give it a bit of a twist. Indeed the entire novel is like that: familiar, but with a bit of a zesty twist to make things feel new.

A blurb in the press material compares it to Scalzi meets Firefly (Whedon). Sadly I have neither read Scalzi nor watched more than a few minutes of Firefly. (I know, I know…) But the characters and their interactions certainly felt Whedonesque to me, including the trait of being expendable. Yet, I was drawn to this looking for a good piece of science fiction, and I can’t really call it that. It’s a good adventure, set in a SF universe, but the SF is particularly soft and could leave some fans yearning for something deeper. Moreover I would classify it as what some mass paperback’s were labeled as “Men’s Adventures”. The book contains its strong female roles, no doubt, but too often they seem used for the sexual vagrancies of the more degenerate bad guys, described as if they were fantasies of the author.

The ending sets up the next novel perfectly, and suggests that a bit more attention might be kept to the science fiction aspects in future volumes, which at least might be worth a light read even if nothing improves from what’s found here.

Three Stars out of Five