The Constellation of Alarion and Other Stories by John Houlihan - Book Review

Write on: Thu, 24 Jun 2021 by  in Assaph's Reviews Read 876

I previously read and loved Houlihan's d'Bois novels, so was interested to explore his other writing.

What to Expect

A collection of ten short stories (the last a novelette), covering the breadth of speculative-fiction: science-fiction, fantasy, and touches of horror. Themes range from light top dark, from geopolitical to intimately emotional.

What I liked

I like Houlihan's ideas and execution. His writing style changes to accommodate the theme and tone of each story. Most importantly, this anthology contains some shorts that capture the quintessential quality of good stories -- they make you think and stay with you far after finishing the book.

What to be aware of

As with all anthologies, these are short stories. When you find a particularly juicy one you'd love to explore more, it's time to switch brain-gears into the next.

Felix's Review

Felix loved especially the story mixing chariot-racing and gladiatorial combat (He'd try to set it up at home, if only he had the money). As for all the zombies and other-worldly / ancient mysteries -- well, you get what you get when you tamper with these. Be prepared.


Highly recommended for those who love anthologies of speculative fiction to make you think.

Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He's the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.


Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy - he whinged horribly when they dragged him to "yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling", yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and - this being Australia - assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he's writing - he seems to do his best writing after midnight.



Twitter: @assaphmehr