Reviews: Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

Love is Our Resistance

Rogue Queen — L. Sprague de Camp

L. Sprague de Camp’s 1951 standalone Rogue Queen takes place in de Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias setting.

Our protagonist, Iroedh, is a member of the worker-caste in the Avtiny community. Her group faces an existential threat: invasion and enslavement by its more aggressive and larger Arsuuni neighbours. Iroedh, as a scholar and antiquarian, seems to be of no use in the struggle. She is looked down on by her fellow Avtiny.

Then comes word of the visitors from the stars.

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When the Darkness Comes

The Black Cloud — Fred Hoyle

1957’s The Black Cloud was Sir Fred Hoyle’s first novel.

A young astronomer working a blink comparator gets a career-making break when he notices that a small black region on two photographic plates grew measurably in the month between exposures. After a hurried consultation, the discoverer and his colleagues conclude:

  • The dark spot is an interstellar cloud.
  • Its apparent growth is because it is headed towards the Solar System.
  • The lack of transverse motion means that it is headed directly at the Solar System.
  • It will arrive in about two years.

Exciting times to be an astronomer! Very exciting, because if the cloud passes between the Earth and the Sun it is dense enough to blot out sunlight entirely 1, dooming us all to a slow lingering death.

Well, the discoverer can enjoy his enhanced career for the two years he has left.

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I’m Goin’ Up a Hill Rollin’ a Boulder

A Different Light — Elizabeth A. Lynn

1978’s standalone novel A Different Light was written by Elizabeth A. Lynn. She is an author I enjoy..

Jimson Alleca has the bad luck (a one in a billion chance) to be an adult cancer patient in a galaxy where cancer is unknown. Modern medicine may have failed him, but it can at least offer him good odds of surviving until his fifties. Provided he is lucky. Provided his doctors can keep finding new treatments faster than the cancer can kill him. Provided he never, ever tries to leave his homeworld; the stress of travel through hyperspace would reduce his remaining years from twenty to one.

Living to be safe may be extending his life but it’s killing his soul. Others may still applaud his art, but he can tell his development has stalled. When Russell, a former lover who left Jimson years ago, sends an enigmatic message, Jimson cannot resist the lure of mystery and escape. Better one year of glory than decades of stagnation.

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Silent, Upon a Peak in Darien

Bakka Books

Reviewing reviews is a bit meta, but … if I were going to review another reviewer in this series, the reviewer would be Spider Robinson, whose columns I devoured as a teenager. His review in the December 1976 issue of the late, lamented Galaxy Magazine (RIP) had an enormous effect on me, because in it he revealed a previously unknown fact: Toronto, then Canada’s second largest city, had a bookstore specializing in science fiction and fantasy. A bookstore called Bakka Books.

There was just one problem. I didn’t live in Toronto. In fact, I didn’t even live in Kitchener-Waterloo. I lived adjacent to KW, on a farm well away from any intercity bus routes. Then as now, I did not drive. While I am an avid walker, 100 km to Toronto and 100 km back seemed a bit far. What to do?

Misappropriate school resources, of course.

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Sometimes Love Is Not Enough

Star Songs of an Old Primate — James Tiptree, Jr.

1978’s Star Songs of an Old Primate was James Tiptree, Jr’s third collection. Three years separated it from Warm Worlds and Otherwise three years and a significant revelation.

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In Liberating Strife

Seven Days in May — Fletcher Knebel & Charles W. Bailey II

Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey’s 1962’s Seven Days in May is a best-selling political thriller set in the early 1970s.

The struggle over Iran brought the Americans and Soviets to the brink of all-out war. Republican President Edgar Frazier’s decision to accept a divided Iran was reasonable under the circumstances (it averted nuclear war) but it was political suicide for him1.

As his Democratic Party replacement Jordan Lyman discovers, sometimes success is just the opportunity to fail on a more epic scale.

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Souvenirs

Change the Sky and Other Stories — Margaret St. Clair

1974’s Change the Sky and Other Stories is a collection by the prolific Margaret St. Clair.

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Underneath the Skull of the Moon

Rocket to the Morgue — Anthony Boucher
Sister Ursula Mysteries, book 2

H. H. Holmes’ 1942 mystery Rocket to the Morgue is a sequel to 1940’s Nine Times Nine . In Nine Times Nine , Detective Inspector Terry Marshall, assisted by Sister Ursula of the Sisters of Martha of Bethany, solved a locked-room mystery. In Rocket, the intrepid duo will confront something far more vexing:

Science fiction authors.

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A Voiceless Song in an Ageless Night

RuneQuest, Second Edition — Steve Perrin & Ray Turney

My first year at university, I encountered my first roleplaying games; two of those games I still remember fondly. Well, perhaps three, but I’ll explain that in a footnote [1]. The first game was Traveller, which I reviewed here. The second was Chaosium’s RuneQuest, 2nd Edition. Which is now in print again, thank Ghu.

Like Traveller, RuneQuest is a skill-based system. Like Traveller, the skills that count are somewhat mundane. However, unlike Traveller, whose basic rule set was quite unspecific about the setting, RuneQuest was explicitly set in Greg Stafford’s Glorantha.

I should perhaps add that both games, unlike a lot of role-playing games then and now, are designed to put wandering murder hobos at a considerable disadvantage. Just in case you wondered.

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Expectations Are So High

Cloned Lives — Pamela Sargent

1976’s Cloned Lives was Pamela Sargent’s debut novel.

Paul Swenson and his friends see a brief window of opportunity for biomedical experimentation: technology has advanced, antique rules preventing certain lines of research have expired. Assuming that it is better to ask forgiveness than ask permission, they only reveal their project to the world once they have the first successful results to show. Who are:

Edward, James, Michael, Kira and Albert Swenson.

Paul’s clones.

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What Was I Thinking?

A Spell for Chameleon — Piers Anthony
Xanth, book 1

1977’s British Fantasy Award-winning A Spell for Chameleon is the first volume in Piers Anthony’s seemingly endless Xanth series.

Spoiler warning.

Poor Bink! Each human Xanth has their own unique magical gift. Bink appears to be one of the few exceptions, with no discernible magical talent. Not only does this place him at a considerable disadvantage to his fellow humans but it will cost him his place in Xanth. Human law mandates exile for those without magic.

On the slim chance the Good Magician Humfrey’s powers can uncover the talent all previous attempts to discover have failed to spot, Bink set out to offer a year of service to the Magician in exchange for Humfrey’s help.

Humfrey may be Good but he is not Friendly or Easy to Reach.

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And I Think to Myself, What a Wonderful World

Tales of Known Space: The Universe of Larry Niven — Larry Niven

1975’s Tales of Known Space: the Universe of Larry Niven was Larry Niven’s sixth collection (if you don’t count the British-only Inconstant Moon and the Dutch De Stranden van Sirius Vier) or his eighth (if you do.). It is the fourth instalment in an informal series I call “the essential collections of Larry Niven [1], being an irregular review series I may not even get around to finishing or continuing” (or tagging or giving its own formal series name in the sidebar).

An unkind reviewer might call this “the Known Space stories that weren’t good enough to make it into Neutron Star. ” That’s not entirely true … but Niven himself acknowledges that a couple of the stories are not very good. Rather than bury them and try to conceal that they ever existed, he opted for completism (although it took another couple of collections to accomplish that goal).

There’s a very good reason beyond being a Niven fanboy as a teen that I picked this up. I will explain my reasoning at the end of the review.

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There Was Two of Everthing But One of Me

Earthblood — Rosel George Brown & Keith Laumer

The Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown 1966 collaboration Earthblood is a standalone space opera.

Although Roan’s adopted father Raff was only a mutant human, and his adopted mother Bella a lowly Yill. Roan himself was a true-blooded pure-strain Terran—something not seen in the galaxy since the Imperial Terran Navy was swept from the skies by the Niss, five thousand years earlier. Where Roan came from, and how he found his way to a backwater world like Tambool, neither Raff nor Bella can guess. What they do know is they love their adopted son and intend to raise him as best they can.

But in a galaxy populated by mutants and aliens, can there be room for even one true human?

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A Faithful Soldier, Without Fear

Gunner Cade — Cyril Kornbluth & Judith Merril

Gunner Cade is an SF adventure novel 1by Cyril Kornbluth and Judith Merril, originally published under the pen-name Cyril Judd.

Wow, am I slow on the uptake … it’s just now I see how they came up with the pen-name.

It is fitting that the Emperor rules. It is fitting that the Armsmen serve the Emperor through the Power Master and our particular Stars. While this is so all will be well, to the end of time.

Gunner Cade believes this with every atom of his well-conditioned body. If not for the emperor and the unbending rules Cade and his fellow warriors serve, the world might fall back into the clutches of the Beetu-Nine, the Beefai-voh, and Beethrie-Six. Thanks to the selfless sacrifice of the Emperor, the world has been secure for ten thousand years.

Cade is loyal to a fault and nobody can fault his determination to adhere to the rules. His imagination is sadly deficient, which is why it never occurs to him he should distrust the elderly commoner. So he quaffs the drugged drink she offers him.

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Me, Myself and I

Farthest Star — Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson
Cuckoo, book 1

Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson’s 1975 Farthest Star is the first novel in the Cuckoo duology, which was a fixup of the 1973 novella Doomship (1973) and the 1974 serial The Org’s Egg,

Farthest Star is an example of the Big Dumb Object school of science fiction. This makes it cousin to such classics as Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama , and Orbitsville, as well as to books like The Wanderer .

By the late 21 st century, humans have made contact with a loose association of alien civilizations. These civilizations are linked, not by physical spacecraft, but by near-instantaneous tachyon communication. Tachyon beams carry information; they cannot transmit matter, but material objects can be scanned., That information can then be transmitted by the tachyon transporter, to be duplicated at a distant location 1. This tech has allowed humans to join the association and travel, as copies, to other worlds.

What if the traveller dies? Run off another copy. Or another dozen copies. Just ask the ill-fated Ben Pertin.

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A Good Day to Run

Fritz Leiber


To steal a description I posted on actor Amal Al’s Facebook wall a few days ago, Fritz Leiber’s 1964 The Wanderer is about “hollow planets filled with catgirls who want to steal the moon.” Many of you may think that sounds awesome or at least intriguing. Certainly a sufficient number of fans [1] thought so; the novel won a Best Novel Hugo in 1965.

The reality of the novel falls well short of its potential.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow AD: the Americans have a moon base, and the Soviets have a manned Mars expedition. The Cold War simmers, threatening to go Hot. That would be the only threat to the planet as a whole … or so they thought.

Four photographs of distorted star-fields foreshadow a grim reality. There are aliens and they are on their way to Earth. What do they have planned for us?

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So Thick Beset Wi Thorns and Briers

Shon’jir — C. J. Cherryh
Faded Sun, book 2

1978’s Shon’jir is the middle volume in SF Grandmaster C. J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun trilogy.

The Regul attempted to exterminate the mri, in order to prevent the alien mercenaries from selling their services to the human Alliance. Perhaps a prudent action, but ultimately unsuccessful. Two mri survive, prisoners of the Alliance forces occupying Kesrith. Only two, but Niun and Melein alone are sufficient to threaten the delicate peace between Regul and the humans.

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You’re My Obsession

Nova — Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany’s 1968 Nova is a standalone science fiction novel.

Draco, an Earth-led alliance, and its youthful rival, the Pleiades Federation, dominate the human portion of the galaxy. Both powers dabble in the affairs of the recently settled Outer Colonies. Those hostile young planets harbor traces of the ultra-heavy element illyrion, an element essential to tech as diverse as faster-than-light drives and terraforming.

Until the Outer Colonies were settled, no natural sources of illyrion were known. Illyrion could only be produced by an expensive transmutation process. Cheaper illyrion has shifted the balance of power.

Lorq Von Ray has a bold scheme to alter the galactic political landscape yet again. He will double the aggregate stores of Illyrion in one daring voyage! All he and his crew need do is race into the heart of a star. An exploding star.

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Every Diamond Dream

Leo and Diane Dillon’s art — Leo Dillon & Diane Dillon

I would love to review “the complete collection of book covers illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon” but as far as I can tell, such a volume does not exist. What do exist: The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon (1981) and To Every Thing There Is a Season: Verses from Ecclesiastes (1998). Collections I cannot review because 1) I don’t own either and 2) I’ve never seen either. I do not mind all that much, because the first collection does not seem to have been well-received and the second looks too, um, religious for my taste.

But the Dillons do have a special place in my heart and I would love to direct some attention their way. So I am going to talk about my favourite Dillon covers.

My enjoyment of their work began with this specific set of covers.

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Burnt the Fire of Thine Eyes

Blacula — William Crain
Blacula, book 1

Director William Crain’s 1972’s Blaxploitation horror film Blacula was the first (and most successful) of the two Blacula films. To quote Wikipedia, Blaxploitation

or blacksploitation is an ethnic subgenre of the exploitation film, emerging in the United States during the early 1970s. Blaxploitation films were originally made specifically for an urban black audience, but the genre’s audience appeal soon broadened across racial and ethnic lines.

Of course, films aimed at black audiences appeared almost immediately after the invention of film. What made Blaxploitation different is it was also marketed to white people. That meant Canadian television stations desperate for content bought the rights. Which in turn means I got to see an edited for TV in grainy black-and-white broadcast version of Blacula.

Determined to end the scourge of slavery, Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) appeals to a European aristocrat in the hopes the aristocrat will use his influence in the cause of anti-slavery. The African Prince is apparently quite poorly informed about European politics in the year 1780 because he has pinned his hopes on the benevolence of Count Dracula.

Dracula amuses himself by turning Mamuwalde into a vampire before sealing him in a coffin to starve undying for centuries. Mamuwalde’s unfortunate wife Luva is sealed in the same locked room with Mamuwalde’s locked coffin, starving to death as her helpless husband listens.

By 1972, Dracula is only a legend and nobody has any idea what’s in that sealed coffin.

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Stand By Me

The Three Musketeers — Alexandre Dumas
D'Artagnan Romances, book 1

Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 The Three Musketeers, originally published in French as Les Trois Mousquetaires, is the first of three D’Artagnan Romances.

The young Gascon aristocrat D’Artagnan sets out to find his fortune, armed with an elderly horse, his sword, a small sum of money, a letter of introduction to the Musketeers and some comprehensively bad advice from his father.

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Game of Therns

The Gods of Xuma or Barsoom Revisited — David J. Lake
Breakout, book 4

[due to a technical issue, this is unedited]

1978’s The Gods of Xuma or Barsoom Revisited is the fourth book in David J. Lake’s Breakout series1. Readers intrigued by my review need not worry if they have not read the first three books; not only does Gods function as a standalone, good luck finding a copy. Many authors benefited from the golden age of ebook reprints but the late Mr. Lake does not appear to have been one of them.

The stars are ours! Well, the Moon is ours (albeit at the cost of World Wars Three and Four largely depopulating the Earth but eggs and omelettes), not that the Russians, Americans and Chinese like sharing that world with each other. The stalwarts of the Euro-American moon base have every hope Operation Breakout will plant Euro-Americans on the worlds of 82 Eridani, Epsilon Eridani and Delta Pavonis.

The unfortunates sent to Epsilon Eridani found only airless rocks and the Delta Pavonis ship has yet to report its findings but in 2143, starship Riverhorse hits the jackpot. 82 Eridani 3 is small but habitable, the Mars ours solar system never had. Linguist Tom Carson favours the name “Barsoom”, after Edgar Rice Burroughs but humourless Captain Mannheim insists on Ares. Whatever the planet is called, it is clearly life-bearing, a potential home for humanity.

Pity about the natives.

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Born to Die

Judgment Night — C.L. Moore

C. L. Moore’s short novel Judgment Night was serialized in two issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding back in 1943. Judgment Night is also the title of a collection published by Dell back in the Disco Era (which is how I encountered the story) .. but the edition I have in hand is Diversion Books’ 2015 ebook. They’ve presented the novel as a standalone—which it is. Not only are there no sequels of which I am aware, it’s not clear to me how there could be.

The race that holds Ericon holds the galaxy, because the race that holds Ericon can draw on the wisdom of the Ancients. Access to the Ancients does not mean that one will be able to put their wisdom to effective use. In fact, dynasty after dynasty have interpreted the advice they were given in ways that led to their doom. All human governments are as mortal (if not so short-lived) as their members.

Our protagonist, Juille, believes that she can defy fate.

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The Art of Letting Go

The Tombs of Atuan — Ursula K. Le Guin
Earthsea, book 2

1970’s The Tombs of Atuan is the second volume in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle.

The influence of the Nameless Ones has dwindled over the long ages, but they still have power in the Tombs of Atuan. There they still are worshipped. There they are served by their immortal Priestess.

The little girl once named Tenar is the latest incarnation of the Priestess. The bodies of the One Priestess of the Tombs of Atuan die, but the Priestess lives on, reborn in a newborn body at the time of the Priestess’ death. Stripped of her birth family and her name, the girl who was Tenar becomes Arha, “the eaten one,” paramount human servant of the ancient and fearsome Nameless Ones.

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Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft

Mindbridge — Joe Haldeman

Haldeman’s first novel under his own name1, a fix-up titled The Forever War, won a Hugo, a Nebula, a Ditmar, and a Locus. There’s something to said for not winning that many awards the first time out, because it’s hard to go anywhere but down from such initial success. After that, a single Hugo nomination (something that would normally seem a boast-worthy success—assuming, of course, that this did not result from inclusion on a Puppy slate) will seem like a comparative failure.

Which brings us to Joe Haldeman’s 1976 standalone Mindbridge, his second novel as Haldeman.

By the mid-21 century, Earth is a garden world, an artificial Eden for eleven billion humans. This idyll is dependent on complex technology, and on the solar power that drives that technology. If anything were to disrupt the system, billions would die.

The Levant-Meyer Translation (LMT) providentially offers humanity an off-site back-up. But there’s a catch. Several catches, in fact.

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