Review: Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex

tolSussexSeries: Twelve Planets #3
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 9780980827477 (ebook)
ISBN 13: 9780980827453 (paperback)
Published: July 2011
Pages: 120
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Related Reviews: A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Thief of Lives is the third book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write 4 short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains four unconnected stories, one historical fantasy, one crime, one of the relationship between woman and man, and one urban fantasy. With a wry and elegant sense of humour, Sussex tells us stories that we’re unlikely to read elsewhere. Being Twelfth Planet Press these are excellent for feminist fiction, and there’s much chatter about ‘The Story of O‘ especially, as many don’t know what to make of it. More of that below.

Alchemy

In Babylon, three women are walking home late one night after a hard day of gathering sweet rushes for their work, when one catches the attention of a demon; Azubel. He follows her through the course of her work, seeing what others don’t in her, wanting to protect her and retaliate from those who harm her. It takes time, letting her become used to his presence, but eventually he tells her that one day, the perfumes she makes will be wanted by the king himself.

This was my favourite of the four. Historical fantasy, this shows the very first inklings of the progression of what would become chemisty and the intelligence behind it, as well as the always satisfying tale of a woman who, instead of doing her ‘duty’ of marrying whichever man (or men) her family insist, manages to use her intelligence and ability to secure a satisfying life. And that there’s still more to have even once you’re old, and nearly gone.

Fountain of Justice

Meg, a solicitor, is kept busy by the easy-going scum of the earth, those being for done for drugs or  minor traffic infringement (being drunk and trying to sleep in the middle of the road type of thing), which is made interesting by the fact a close friend has a hopeless 15 year old son who keeps getting himself in trouble. When the friend is in hospital recovering from a domestic violence episode it means Meg now has a 15yo to wrangle, if not for public peace then at least for her friend.

This was of interest to me, basically because some close friends are solicitors who have to deal with this, and working in HR it’s sometimes a requirement to go to court to note down what a (soon to be) ex-employee has been brought in for. I was a little disappointed with the ending though – I was hoping for something a little more finalised.

The Story of O

The shortest piece of them all at only 11ish pages, we have here some college guys snickering about what they think the female side of an orgasim is like – all thanks to how good they are in the sack, of course. Petra is pissed for a whole variety of reasons, and eloquently, explains it best throughout the piece.

This is the one that has confused many people somehow. Other reviews say it’s possibly for a difference audience, it’s tedious, etc BUT… friend Alex says it best:

On one level it is quite a funny story about students and their conversations, and plays into the common theme that university students are all rather busy with sex and drugs. But the reality is that underneath is a genuine questioning of why discussion of women’s sexuality and experience of sex is more often than not hidden, or spoken of only hazily, or left to blokes leering and imagining them as God’s gift to womankind. It’s frank and honest, refreshingly spiked with wry humour. But don’t read it on public transport if you are the blushing type.

Thief of Lives

Set in Bristol, this piece captures the Britishness quite perfectly. We have Ally, research assistant to an author, who is there for work and out at night on arrival thanks to jetlag, proud of her ability to blend in anywhere and not fear the dangers of midnight out on the streets as a single woman.

The book scene of England is a strange mix. You have the Oxbridge side and you have those who aren’t, and they all come with their range of opinions and expectations. When Ally attends a book night dressed as what she calls a Vampire ambassador, she causes a stir – certainly getting everyone’s attention.

From here it says a lot about authors and the work they do, the liberties they can take at times, and how this is reflected both in characters of other worldly means and the city of Bristol itself. It ends with an uplifted mood, and it’s then you realise you demolished this collection of shorts much faster than you planned for!

This collection has the following mentions when it comes to awards:

Shortlisted for the 2012 Chronos Awards

One thought on “Review: Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex

  1. Pingback: Thief of Lives: Review Roundup | A Journey Through the Twelve Planets

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