Above and Below, written by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek respectively, form halves of a greater whole. Just to be contrary, I read Below first, and I’m writing this part of my review before reading Above. In Below, we are introduced to the world of Dirt, a grotty, industrial zone that is home to those unfortunate souls tasked with mining the Shafts that fuel the cities of Loft in the sky above.
Below is an easy, interesting read that explodes spectacularly into violence toward the end. Its author, Ben Peek, is an accomplished writer and he handles the material with assurance. And while Below concerns an imaginary world, like all good speculative fiction it holds up a mirror to our own planet. At Below‘s end, I am left comparing the situation with the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, with Dirt a rough approximation of the Palestinian territories to Loft’s Israel.
In summary, Above/Below is an admirable, entertaining and successful work that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Its authors, Ben Peek and Stephanie Campisi, have done more than produce excellent novellas in their own right (although they have done that too) – they have produced an elegant composite novel which can, as I think I have shown, be read in any order. Furthermore, the physical production of the book is world class, from the outstanding cover designs by Amanda Rainey (depicting, I believe, Perth’s skyline) to the sharp internals. Writers Peek and Campisi, as well as Twelfth Planet Press and its editor Alisa Krasnostein, can be proud of their efforts here.
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