Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Paper Boy: new poem in STRANGE HORIZONS

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Strange Horizons today released an all-poetry issue, complete with an extensive two part podcast, and I’m honored that my new poem “The Paper Boy” — the only new poem I produced last year — gets to be part of it. (You can read it here.)
Prompted by my buddy Dominik Parisien, this is a poem distilled from years covering the crime beat. I’ll share a secret: the epigraph is my own invention, and it has connections to a short story I’ve written that’s yet to be published and a new novel I’ve started. You can hear me read the poem in part two of the podcast.
The issue also contains a review of Mythic Delirium 30, the final bow of my zine in its old school print format. (The new school electronic version has been up and running for almost a year now.) It’s not a flattering review, though a few of the poems, especially those by Sonya Taaffe, Amal El-Mohtar and Jennifer Crow, receive high praise.
Obviously, I’m disappointed to see our joyful retrospective met with a sour note. (Anita’s response: “Phhtthb! We rock!” And we do.) However, there’s a really important, perhaps too-easily-missed silver lining to this that I want to shine a little light on (paraphrasing my own Facebook comment):

One of the biggest problems the speculative poetry field has is a dearth of real feedback. Either reviewers just ignore poems, or the reviews that appear, usually written by poets, are soft underhand pitches, because everybody knows everyone else. I’ve said more than once that sf poetry needs a Lois Tilton; someone willing to open fire with a critic’s full force. Well, here’s an example of what that would look like — and Strange Horizons thought Mythic Delirium‘s final bow worthy of that level of scrutiny. So if a step in the right direction means taking one for the team, then I can live with it.


New poetry sale, new novel review, and a little more

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I’m pleased to report that Strange Horizons is buying my new poem “The Paper Boy,” a grim meditation on a crime’s aftermath. Thanks go to Romie Stott for accepting it and to Dominik Parisien for motivating me to write it. #SFWApro
I’m also pleased to report another nice review for The Black Fire Concerto, this time from blogger Grace Troxal at Books Without Any Pictures. She writes:

The magical apocalypse envisioned in The Black Fire Concerto is unlike anything I’ve ever read. … Mike Allen’s imagery is incredible. He creates great machines fueled by rotting corpses, the friendly fox-like Vulpines, and villains that will give you nightmares and make you feel sympathetic at the same time. A blend of fantasy and horror, The Black Fire Concerto will leave you begging for more.

There’s a couple more Black Fire Concerto-related links I want to share:


Just Book Reading reviews THE BLACK FIRE CONCERTO

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

black_fire_concerto_front_coverThe reviewer behind the Just Book Reading blog just came out with a review of The Black Fire Concerto. Not all reviews are like surprise presents, but this one is.

I listened to the first part of this book when it was featured on Tales to Terrify. It was wonderfully creepy and I had a picture of this world in my head so when the book arrived I was anxious to get started. The world of Erzelle and Olyssa held true and I found myself rushing through this story full of ghouls, flesh eaters, magically driven harvesters of the dead … The Black Fire Concerto packs a lot into its few pages. I was satisfied by the end but I wanted more. It was just that good …

Earlier, Amy at Just Book Reading reviewed C.S.E. Cooney’s reading of the first part of my novel, “The Red Empress,” at Tales to Terrify.

The narrator, C.S.E. Cooney stuck the perfect tone. Her voice a perfect fit for the story … The first part sets the stage for more to come and I want more of this broken and deranged world.


Locus reviews SOLARIS RISING 2

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Locus Magazine short fiction review Rich Horton has some really cool things to say about my short story “Still Life With Skull” in his just-published review of Solaris Rising 2.

Mike Allen’s “Still Life With Skull”, set in the same very strange world as his “Twa Sisters” from last year, is about the most adventurous story here. As with the previous story, it’s not always easy to get what’s going on, which is part of the point, I think. It involves strangely sculpted people — the main character is a box with eight arms and two legs — but one thing is illegal, changing your core DNA. And so when the main character is asked to perform this service for a visitor — well, all heck breaks out. Neatly wild ideas, and a creepy ending.

Rich put my story on his Recommended Reading List. He also highlighted stories from the anthology by Eugie Foster and Kim Lakin-Smith. #SFWApro

Little Red Reviewer on THE BLACK FIRE CONCERTO

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The snarky redhead behind the Little Red Reviewer blog takes on my first novel, The Black Fire Concerto, and has some really kind and downright awesome things to say about it:

Exploding with magic, music, and violence, this short novel has the magical feel of an old school suspenseful fantasy adventure as filtered through the eyes of H.R. Giger. …
Allen’s dark imagery includes temples and catacombs made of thousands of bones and body parts, clockwork machines that run on vertebrae and brain matter, and [heroine] Olyssa quickly dispatches anything and everything that gets in her way. This is a woman you do not want to piss off! …
If you’ve got a strong stomach and want a story with a unique magic system, give The Black Fire Concerto a try. Allen is under the radar, but he shouldn’t be.

I’ll be getting new copies of The Black Fire Concerto Concerto soon for those who might want a signed one directly from me, but other than that it’s available in print or on Kindle exclusively at Amazon. #SFWApro

The jewelry pins for the Mythic Delirium Kickstarter in progress

Monday, July 8th, 2013

So a year ago today, more or less, I launched my first Kickstarter, to make Clockwork Phoenix 4. And thanks to amazing support from this community, that ended up going really, really well.

Today, my second and much smaller Kickstarter is less than $300 away from being fully funded. If we reach full funding early I have a couple of fairly simple stretch goals. An additional $750 will cover the cost of a print anthology collecting Mythic Delirium 0.1 through 0.4, and if we get that far, another $750 would cover an anthology of the next year’s issues, putting us at a total of $4,000. #SFWApro

Anita’s been working on a special set of Mythic Delirium pins just for this Kickstarter (only one of the 20 has been claimed so far,) and I can finally give you a sense what they will look like. They’re not finished yet, but if you catch us at ReaderCon this weekend, you’ll likely get to watch her putting them together.






I am speechless

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

This review of Clockwork Phoenix 4 at Strange Horizons pulls no punches.

But here’s how it ends:

… this anthology, and this anthology series, are serious about working on the edge of commercially viable fiction. There is room here for the confusing, intentionally or otherwise; for the unexplained; for the extremely different. When it pays off, it pays off spectacularly. The first three Clockwork Phoenix anthologies were published by Norilana Books, but this one was funded by a Kickstarter campaign run by Allen after Norilana ran into financial difficulties. It’s good to see that a community can come together and support an original endeavor of this kind, and delightful to see how well the results have turned out. Whether Allen continues this particular anthology series or not, this book is in several distinct ways a look into the future: the future of fantasy and science fiction, diverse, strange, and wonderful; the future of these individual writers, many of whom are at or near the beginning of careers which promise to be interesting; and, additionally, the future of publishing, in which a crowd-sourced publication from a very small press can produce, and can present professionally and beautifully, work which is at the height of what is being written in genre. This particular phoenix has risen from its ashes triumphant.



Monday, July 1st, 2013

The anthology Kickstarter built is available for everyone to buy.

CP4_web_small Kindle Price $4.99
Canada $5.07
UK £3.28

Watch Weightless Books for e-book editions in alternate formats.

Trade Paperback $15.95 (Discounted at some stores)
Barnes & Noble

Don’t see it on the shelves at your local store? Ask for it.

If you want to get a signed copy direct from me, go here. #SFWAPro

What reviewers have said:

The tone ranges from dark to heartwarming and simple. The overall quality is high … Several of the pieces are quite challenging. Readers will do well to pick up a copy. — Locus Online

What makes this fourth edition so special is that it belongs to an impassioned community of writers and readers who went above and beyond to make it happen. … All eighteen [stories] have the power to pull the reader out of his own reality and transport or transform them entirely. — Cabinet des Fées

This 4th volume of Clockwork Phoenix contains an excellent diversity of speculative fiction ranging from cold and hopeless to harsh but victorious and warm and fulfilling. It was a pleasure to read. — Tangent Online

What kind of stories will you find in Clockwork Phoenix 4? Only those that are magical, imaginative, heart-wrenching, just plain bizarre, forward-looking, backward-looking, biological, romantic, hopeful, darkly funny and openly frightening. All the words that describe the best speculative fiction you’ve ever read apply. In fact, if this isn’t the epitome of speculative fiction, I don’t know what is. — Little Red Reviewer

Clockwork Phoenix 4 is a collection of 18 stories edited by Mike Allen. Who, I will tell you now, is a master editor. And the authors, all masters as well. This collection is really fantastic. I took my time reading it and was rewarded each time a new story began. You can call it speculative, fantasy, science fiction, but what it is, is good reading. — Just Book Reading

The stories are diverse. Yves Meynard’s “Our Lady of the Thylacines” is a tale of a young woman embracing her adrenalin-filled destiny. Alisa Alering’s “The Wanderer King” depicts a society collapsed into mutual extermination, and Barbara Krasnoff’s “The History of Soul 2065” manages to find a happy face for encroaching mortality. Of particular note is Gemma Files’s “Trap-Weed”; in its way the mirror image of the Meynard, it follows a Selkie determined to reject both the ways of its people and those of the humans it encounters. Publishers Weekly

This volume contains eighteen original stories which can only be classified as speculative; most of them blur or even reject genre lines altogether. The common thread which runs through these stories is a sense of unsettling strangeness. There were several moments when reading that I felt physically altered, only to realize that it was the story and not my body which was causing the queasy feeling in my gut. … That is not to say that these stories are not enjoyable; they are, in a discombobulating, shiver-inducing kind of way. And there were several of the tales which left me thinking on them long after I had finished reading. — Short Story Review

The cover promises “tales of beauty and strangeness” and by god it delivers. This is a collection of stories to boggle the mind and exercise the imagination. A must read for fans of weird speculative fiction. — Goodreads review

You read Clockwork Phoenix books the way you would eat a meal prepared by a master chef: trusting that every ingredient is placed precisely and with a purpose, even if one bite is bitter, it is to allow you to savor the sweetness of the next. In that way, the book absolutely succeeds and is a triumph. — Goodreads review


Table of Contents
“Our Lady of the Thylacines” by Yves Meynard
“The Canal Barge Magician’s Number Nine Daughter” by Ian McHugh
“On the Leitmotif of the Trickster Constellation in Northern Hemispheric Star Charts, Post-Apocalypse” by Nicole Kornher-Stace
“Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl” by Richard Parks
“Trap-Weed” by Gemma Files
“Icicle” by Yukimi Ogawa
“Lesser Creek: A Love Story, A Ghost Story” by A.C. Wise
“What Still Abides” by Marie Brennan
“The Wanderer King” by Alisa Alering
“A Little of the Night” by Tanith Lee
“I Come from the Dark Universe” by Cat Rambo
“Happy Hour at the Tooth and Claw” by Shira Lipkin
“Lilo Is” by Corinne Duyvis
“Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” by Kenneth Schneyer
“Three Times” by Camille Alexa
“The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
“The Old Woman with No Teeth” by Patricia Russo
“The History of Soul 2065″ by Barbara Krasnoff


THE BLACK FIRE CONCERTO is here. For real.

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

See? I write things too!


Pic by Anita, who knows how to make me look less ugly. ;-p #SFWApro

The Black Fire Concerto is not available for sale just yet, unless you buy one from me. But it won’t be long now. (UPDATE: I am told it’s already supposed to be available on Amazon and the publisher is trying to sort out why not. Stay tuned.)

While I’ve distracted you with the shinies, don’t forget, I have a shiny Kickstarter too, for one of those deals where I publish other people. Check it out!

Tours of the Abattoir

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

The latest edition of Tales to Terrify contains a new “Tour of the Abattoir” column from me, in which I discuss why I’m not a Scott Sigler junkie. And I’ve been so swamped these past couple months that I completely neglected in this space to mention the previous column, in which Shalon Hurlbert and I examine Evil Dead. #SFWApro