Reviews: Miscellaneous Reviews

Let’s Pretend We Are Not Slaves to Anything

The Dark Intercept — Julia Keller

Julia Keller’s 2017 The Dark Intercept is a standalone young-adult SF dystopia.

High above the Earth’s surface, the six floating cities that comprise New Earth offer everything that the war-torn ground level cannot: prosperity, security, and peace. The Intercept is the primary weapon used to keep the chaos of the old world at bay. It reduces any miscreant to a whimpering heap, using the miscreant’s own weaponized emotions.

Sixteen year old Violet Crowley accepts the new world order without question. After all, her father Ogden created it.

Her world is about to fall apart.

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Fashioned in the Flesh and Bone

Where The Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy — Lucas K. Law & Derwin Mak

2017’s Where The Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy is an anthology edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak1.

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The Cat Came Back

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat! — Kate Leth & Brittney Williams

Hooked on a Feline, Don’t Stop Me-ow, and Careless Whisker(s) collect all seventeen issues of Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ comic Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat!

Granted an open-ended, unpaid leave from her duties as an investigator, unwilling to go back to life as a costumed adventurer, Patsy “Hellcat” Walker boldly embraces a new career:

Temping!

With a side-order of retail.

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Within the Sound of Silence

Children of the Divide — Patrick S. Tomlinson
Children of a Dead Earth, book 3

2017’s Children of the Divide is the third but probably not final volume in Patrick S. Tomlinson’s Children of a Dead Earth series.

A generation after their ark parked in orbit around Gaea (one of Tau Ceti’s life-bearing worlds), the refugees are well on their way to building a new civilization to replace the one they lost. There are just two problems:

  1. Tensions between humans and Gaean natives could result in civil war.

  2. The aliens who destroyed Earth may have once lived in the Tau Ceti system — and may return.


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Stand a Little Taller

Prime Meridian — Silvia Moreno-Garcia

2017’s Prime Meridian is a standalone science fiction novella by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

In the glorious world of tomorrow, anyone with enough money can buy a ticket to the Martian settlements. Anyone with the right credentials can indenture themself to buy that precious ticket.

Thanks to her decision to drop out of college to care for her dying mother, Amelia doesn’t have money or credentials. Instead, she is one of Mexico City’s precariate. A new life on Mars can only be a dream.

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Ain’t the Kind of Place to Raise Your Kids

Places in the Darkness — Chris Brookmyre

2017’s Places in the Darkness is a standalone near-future police procedural thriller by Chris Brookmyre.

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is supposed to be the shining city on the hill, a utopia where the technology needed to reach the stars will be developed. It should be filled with pristine rooms and corridors filled with hard-working, well behaved idealists, a glorious celebration of humanity’s loftiest goals.

In actual fact, some fool staffed CdC with actual humans, not flawless paragons. Almost every vice known to humanity exists and is catered to by someone within the great space city. Not murder, however. That’s one failing not found in space.

Until now.

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Freedom, Freedom, We Will Not Obey

Artificial Condition — Martha Wells
The Murderbot Diaries, book 2

2018’s Artificial Condition is the second volume in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries. A review of the first volume, All Systems Red, is here.

Rather than trust its fate to humans, no matter how well intentioned, the freethinking construct calling itself Murderbot decides to evade its protectors and find freedom. But first, a few loose ends to be cleared. Such as what role Murderbot might have played in the deaths of dozens of people on planet RaviHyral.

Step one is getting to aforesaid obscure world without being exposed as a rogue SecUnit and forcibly returned to factory settings.

Bored AIs piloting interstellar transport ships turn out to be very observant.

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Like Moses Before

An Oath of Dogs — Wendy N. Wagner

2017’s An Oath of Dogs is a standalone SF novel by Wendy N. Wagner.

A near-fatal accident has left Kate Standish traumatized, paralyzed by acrophobia. Thanks to her therapeutic dog Hattie, Standish is able to function well enough to work again. Thanks to the selfless benevolence of the Songheuser company, she has a job wherein she can demonstrate her hard-won stability.

Poor Standish.

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Marching As To War

Four Roads Cross — Max Gladstone
Craft Sequence, book 5

Four Roads Cross is the fifth book published in Max Gladstone’s Craft sequence. It is the fourth book by internal chronology.

Many in Alt Coulumb believe that Seril the Moon Goddess betrayed them when she left the city to fight and die in the God Wars. Seril has revived and returned, sans publicity. She helps her people where she can do so without revealing herself. The city’s priests know, but are still considering how best to handle Seril’s reappearance.

When Seril dispatches one of her gargoyles to save a woman from muggers, the victim turns out to be one of Alt Coulumb’s Criers, the local equivalent of a plucky reporter. Being saved from a brutal death is one thing, but a story is a story. The world will learn the goddess walks again.

Journalistic diligence may have doomed a city.

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Just Like Fire

Jade City — Fonda Lee
Green Bone Saga, book 1

2017’s Jade City is the first installment in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga secondary-world kung-fu gangster saga. At 512 pages, it’s significantly longer than either Exo’s 369 pages or Zeroboxer’s 351. It’s also significantly more ambitious.

The island of Kekon is the only known source of jade, which in this world is a miraculous substance that can grant enhanced abilities to those few whom it does not drive mad or kill. The minority who can use it safely are known as Green Bones. Custom grants the Green Bones a role as protectors of Kekon and its merchants (whether the merchants want protection or not). Since the Green Bone clans are constantly feuding, the island is far from peaceful.

Ayt Mada plans to transform a divided island into a unified whole.

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So Limitless and Free

Binti: The Night Masquerade — Nnedi Okorafor
Binti, book 3

2018’s Binti: The Night Masquerade is the third and possibly final instalment in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series.

Still digesting the lessons learned in Binti: Home, young Binti is woken by a dreadful vision: her family trapped in the basement of their burning dwelling. She rushes home. She finds charred ruins and no visible survivors.

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Let The Light In

The Prey of Gods — Nicky Drayden

2017’s The Prey of Gods is Nicky Drayden’s debut novel.

Sydney Mazwai may be passing as a simple beautician now, but she has big plans. She appears to be just another human … but she is a being of power, a being who is scheming to unleash a new age of gods on humanity. The chaos will be delightful! And Sydney intends to be the greatest, meanest god of all.

Mr. Tau’s protégée Nomvula could just possibly derail her plans, but Sydney isn’t worried. Nomvula is, after all, only one little girl. How much trouble could one little girl cause? Even if that little girl is a godling herself?

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I Know At Last The Secret Of It All

Power Ballad — Molly Brooks

Molly Brooks’ 2017 Power Ballad is, in the words of its creator, a “lesbian superhero romcom” webcomic.

Meera Verma is the perfect personal assistant, so keen that it has taken her only two days to realize that her boss, talented musician Carina Peterson, is also Los Angeles’ two-fisted costumed vigilante, the Skeleton. As any respectable personal assistant would, Meera immediately extends her services to the Skeleton as well.

Meera has only one defect as an employee. She’s made the terrible error of falling hard for her boss.

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Run For One And Then Catch None

Lightning in the Blood — Marie Brennan
Books of the Varekai, book 2

2017’s Lightning in the Blood is the second in Marie Brennan’s Books of the Varekai series.

At the end of Cold-Forged Flame, Ree set out to help her new friend Aadet overthrow the tyrant of Solaine. With the tyrant deposed and rightful heir Enkettsivaane in power, that leaves the question of what to do with Ree, who is an archon, a being of great power. A useful ally, yes, but a dangerous next-door neighbour.

Every archon must follow its nature. Providentially for Enkettsivaane, Ree’s nature provides a solution that will keep his hands clean. Ree’s wanderlust compels her towards Solaine’s border, towards new lands and new adventures.

She very nearly makes it out of Solaine.

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Strange Little Girls

The Murders of Molly Southbourne — Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson’s 2017 The Murders Of Molly Southbourne is a standalone novel of SF horror.

Molly’s parents taught her four simple rules:

If you see a girl who looks like you, run and fight.
Don’t bleed.
If you bleed, blot, burn, and bleach.

If you find a hole, find your parents.

Failure to follow any one of these rules could mean death. For Molly, for her parents, for anyone involved.

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The Fight Was My Home

Zeroboxer — Fonda Lee

2015’s standalone futuristic sports story Zeroboxer was Fonda Lee’s debut novel.

Zero gravity boxing — zeroboxing — provided Carr “the Raptor” Luka with his ticket out of Toronto and up into orbit, where the best people live. It’s a brutal sport — but for the handful who claw their way to the top, it can be lucrative. Despite his youth, Carr is a promising boxer, promising enough that respected impresario Gant offers Carr a contract. With luck and the right handler, Carr could become one of the luminaries of the Zero Gravity Fighting Association.

Pity that Carr’s success is based on a lie.

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Little Things That Keep Us Together

White Trash Zombie Unchained — Diana Rowland
White Trash Zombie, book 6

2017’s White Trash Zombie Unchained is the sixth volume in Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series.

After taking a few months off to collect herself after the events of White Trash Zombie Gone Wild, Angel Crawford is very nearly her old brain-eating self. Dividing her time between work at the Saint Edwards Parish Coroner’s Office and college bio classes, she studiously avoids alone time with her ex, Nick, for whom she still carries a torch.

In this instalment, Angel is given an excellent distraction from hunky Nick. Too bad that the distraction is an apocalypse.

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If The Sky Fell

The Stone Sky — N. K. Jemisin
The Broken Earth, book 3

2017’s The Stone Sky is the third and final volume in N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy.

The Moon, long ago torn from its orbit around the Earth, is returning. Two women, Essun and her daughter Nassun, have the power to determine its course: a) past the Earth and back into interplanetary space, b) back into orbit around the Earth, or c) directly into the planet itself.

Nassun, having had a good look at the evil humans do, is firmly convinced the third option is the correct one.

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The Way We Used to Be

The Beautiful Ones — Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s soon-to-be-released The Beautiful Ones is a standalone SF novel. (SF in my estimation; see the discussion below.)

Hector Auvray rose from humble origins because he is an extremely powerful, skilled, and artistic telekinetic. He may not be an aristocrat but at least he is famous and rich.

Valérie Beaulieu is famous, rich, beautiful, and an aristocrat. None of this truly makes her happy, since women of her class have nothing they can really call their own. Her background and beauty have only made her a valuable commodity on the marriage mart. She knows that her impoverished family’s future depends on her. A dutiful daughter, she abandoned her one true love so that she could marry the wealthy Gaetan instead.

Hector was that one true love. Ten years after being spurned by Valérie, Hector has returned to the city of Loisail.

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The Me Inside of Me

Five by JY Yang — JY Yang

I would love to review a single author collection of JY Yang’s short stories, but as far as I can tell, no publisher has yet seen fit to publish one. Happily, the author has selected five short pieces they are particularly fond of and made them available on their site.

Each title is a link to the story in question.

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I Think You’ll Like It Out In Space

Traveller Core Rulebook — Matthew Sprange

Just over forty years ago, Game Designer’s Workshop released the first version of their SF roleplaying game, Traveller (reviewed here ). Over the years, there have been many editions of Traveller, released to varying degrees of enthusiasm.

In 2016, Mongoose Publishing released the second edition of their version of Traveller. How does author Matthew Sprange’s version stand up?

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Nobody Knows What We Saw Inside There

Weaver’s Lament — Emma Newman
Industrial Magic, book 2

2017’s Weaver’s Lament is the second volume in Emma Newman’s Industrial Magic series. The first instalment, Brother’s Ruin, was reviewed here.

Responding to a mysterious summons from her brother Ben, Charlotte Gunn ventures north to Manchester. Does he need magical assistance? After all, he passed the academy entrance exam with flying colours only because Charlotte used her considerably superior levels of magic to cheat for him. He made it through the course, but now he must be facing real life challenges.

Charlotte finds Ben wrestling with what he insists must be a den of trade unionists and socialists infesting the textile factory where he has been assigned to provide magical support. Unless Charlotte and Ben can expose the rascals, Ben’s advancement up the ranks of the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts may come to an abrupt halt.

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The Bond Between the Hopeful and the Damned

Heroine Worship — Sarah Kuhn
Heroine Complex, book 2

2017’s Heroine Worship is the second instalment in Sarah Kuhn’s comedic superhero Heroine Complex  series.

In Heroine Complex ( reviewed here ) superheroes Annie “Aveda Jupiter” Chang and Evie “No Cool Superhero Name” Tanaka vanquished the Demon Queen and closed a gate to the Otherworld. Since the Demon Queen’s shenanigans were the primary source of superhero-level threats to San Francisco, life has been pretty quiet since that battle.

That is a big problem for Aveda, because her self-image is tied up in being San Francisco’s premier saviour. She cannot save that which is not being threatened. Even if a threat did materialize, she’d have to share the spotlight with Evie, and Evie’s recently revealed pyrokinesis is much flashier than Aveda’s acrobatic martial arts. Not that Aveda is jealous of Evie, exactly; she’s just used to having the spotlight.

Many superheroes in Aveda’s position would resort to creating a robotic villain only they can defeat 1. Happily for Aveda, fate is going to hand her a challenge worthy of her talents.

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Through Night and Day

The Red Threads of Fortune — JY Yang
Tensorate, book 2

JY Yang’s The Red Threads of Fortune is the second of two upcoming novellas set in Yang’s Tensorate setting.

Four years ago, tragedy drove Mokoya away from friends and family and out into the Gusai Desert. Now she uses her Tensor skills to hunt rogue nagas. She has lost her ability to look into the future. She is depressed and often lashes out at those around her 1. She had hoped that time and distance would heal her wounds, but they still fester.

An emergency jolts her out of her wretched rut. There is something new and terrible out in the desert.

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Mommy Dearest

The Black Tides of Heaven — JY Yang
Tensorate, book 1

The Black Tides of Heaven is the first of two Tensorate novellas by JY Yang.

The Protectorate rules because it commands the magic of Slack1—or rather, the Tensors who can bend Slack to their will. Tensors are ruled in turn by the Protector, who in this generation is a woman of power, intellect, and ruthless determination. Previous generations lost much of their empire; this Protector, Sanao Hekate, has reconquered most of it.

Drought leads to civil disorder, disorder that the Protector’s Tensors cannot put down unassisted. Sanao turns to the great monastery, where pugilists (read martial artists) train. She promises Head Abbot Sung one of her children in exchange for his help. The Abbot expects to get the youngest child, a promising daughter. The Protector, determined not to lose that child, finds a way out of the promise. A new pregnancy. Twins.

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