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book review


Experimental Film

By Gemma Files, ChiZine, 305 pages, $19.99

When film reviewer Lois Cairns discovers a series of early silent films may have been by Canada's first female filmmaker, she thinks she's hit the motherlode: a historically significant find with a mysterious backstory about an abandoned manor to boot. But as Lois digs deeper, she discovers there's something sinister about the films and what's in them – and waiting to get out. A classic antihero, Lois is generally disagreeable. A combination of family, work and health stress has her on a downward spiral she copes with using sarcasm and a dangerous mix of medications. You can't help but stick with her, though, because like her, you can't turn away from what she's uncovered. That, and she knows some things about storytelling. There's a transgressive quality to the way Lois claims her story and insists on telling it her own way. Chilling horror that will appeal to genre and literary readers alike.

Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond

Edited by Madeline Ashby and David Nickle, ChiDunnit, 291 pages, $19.99

As you may remember, James Bond, the literary version at least, entered the public domain in Canada last year. In Canada, a work's copyright term is 20 years fewer than in the United States, Britain or Australia, which is why this collection interrogating, remixing and riffing on Ian Fleming's 007 markets itself as "only in Canada." It's an entertaining selection, about a third of which is especially memorable. My one complaint is I wish Licence Expired did more of what it does well, which is looking at Bond through diverse lenses (gender and race, particularly). The editors wish they could have had even wider diversity, too, but felt pressed by looming potential copyright changes: If the Trans-Pacific Partnership had been in place, we wouldn't have a book like this – not for another 20 years. That would be a great loss. Neither Bond nor readers should have to wait so long.

Frankie Styne and the Silver Man

By Kathy Page, Biblioasis, 251 pages, $19.95

What I kept returning to when reading this early novel by Kathy Page was one of The X-Files' best monster-of-the-week episodes, 1997's The Post-Modern Prometheus, about a misunderstood monster who means no harm, except that he drugs and rapes two women – a point conveniently forgiven by the end. Aesthetically, it's beautiful; morally, the episode's a mess. Five years before The Post-Modern Prometheus aired, Page published her own twist on the Frankenstein story in her native Britain (Page moved to B.C's Salt Spring Island in 2001), now published in Canada for the first time. In her novel, Page draws on similar pulp material – monsters; aliens; an unhappy, childless marriage – and takes her characters to equally dark places. What's different is how Page's monsters display a more complex relationship between inner and outer ugliness and find redemption in responsibility. While understandably not as polished as later work, Frankie Styne still holds up almost 25 years later.