Reviews: Miscellaneous Reviews

Dreaming My Life Away

Final Girls — Mira Grant

Mira Grant’s 2017 Final Girls is an upcoming standalone work.

Jennifer Webb has invented a new virtual-reality-based therapy and opened an institute to test and develop it. Seeking publicity and credibility, she offers Esther Hoffman, an investigative journalist, a chance to visit the institute and report on the new tech.

This would seem to have been a bad choice. Hoffman is a professional debunker with a strong personal grudge against pseudoscience therapies. But it is that very grudge that makes Hoffman a credible reporter. If Webb can convince Hoffman that the therapy has merit, Webb can convince everyone else.

The question that kickstarts many good plots: what could possibly go wrong?

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Take Up Our Quarrel With the Foe

Kings of Petaling Street — William Tham Wai Liang

William Tham Wai Liang’s Kings of Petaling Street is a standalone crime thriller.

Wong Kah Lok Syndicate’s power is waning, but it is still one of the most powerful gangs in Kuala Lumpur.

Gangster Wong has slowed of late. The heart went out of the aging criminal when his wife and oldest son died in an assassination attempt. Wong’s primary goal is now to see his remaining son, Gavin, settled in a respectable, safe occupation.

He shows poor judgment, then, in allowing the heir apparent to his gang, Crazy Foo, to mentor the impressionable Gavin.

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Don’t Mourn—Organize!

Hunger Makes the Wolf — Alex Wells

Hunger Makes the Wolf is the first volume in Alex Wells’ as yet unnamed series.

Tanegawa’s World is one vast desert; it has very little to offer the other worlds of the Federal Union Moreover, the harsh natural conditions tend to wreck delicate advanced technology far in advance of its expected MTBF. How fortunate for the world’s inhabitants that TransRift, Inc, has taken the planet and its human inhabitants under its wing, providing the able-bodied with full time employment in the mines Without the distractions of decent pay, unions and law beyond that supplied by TransRift’s private army.

All of which will go part way to explain why Hob, Coyote, and Dambala find a dead man desiccating in the desert.

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I’m Not Just One of Your Many Toys

All Systems Red — Martha Wells
The Murderbot Diaries, book 1

2017’s All Systems Red is the first instalment in Martha Well’s The Murderbot Diaries.

The Company cares (<3 <3 <3), which is why every one of their survey teams is required to have at least one Sec Unit. This is a construct: part machine, part organic, a guardian bound by programs stored in supposedly unhackable governor units. Its duty: to protect its squishy human charges. Of course, the Company is also profit-oriented, which means that the Sec Unit has been assembled from the cheapest components available, which in turn means that those governor units are, in fact, easily hacked.

Dr. Mensah’s team is small and it has just the one Sec Unit. That seems sufficient for a world without any significant known hazards. But appearances can be misleading. There is an undocumented giant predator in the team’s assigned territory. And the team’s Sec Unit is a Murderbot. Its governor has been hacked and disabled. Murderbot refrains from murdering its humans mainly because it can see no good reason to kill them. Not as long as it has new entertainment material to amuse it.

There is another, far greater, threat to the team than a soap-opera-obsessed Murderbot in the offing.

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And There’s Footsteps Loud and Strong Coming Down the Hall

Six Wakes — Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty’s 2017 Six Wakes is a standalone science fiction mystery novel.

To have one crew-member murdered may be regarded as a misfortune; to have the entire crew murdered looks like carelessness.

Happily for Maria Arena and the rest of the crew of the interstellar ship Dormire, death is a temporary condition. Maria wakes in a cloning pod, as expected. What is not expected: she is still in the pod. Someone should have released her. Oh, and she can see globules of blood floating in freefall outside her container.

It only gets worse.

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Where The Road is Dark and the Seed is Sowed

Parable of the Sower — Octavia E. Butler
Parable of the Sower, book 1

1993’s Parable of the Sower is the first volume in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower duology. Here Butler explores a very American theme. From Huck Finn to the Joads ,from the Mormon pioneers to the Donners, from On the Road to The Road, nothing expresses the boundless possibilities of America like the road trip.

Lauren Olamina’s 2020s America is one that makes road trips challenging and eventful.

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Left Of West And Coming In A Hurry

The Chaos — Nalo Hopkinson

2012’s The Chaos is a standalone young adult urban fantasy novel by Nalo Hopkinson.

Sixteen-year-old Sojourner Smith leads a far–from- perfect life; she knows it and she knows why. She’s too white to be black, too black to be white, and subject to her parents’ draconian discipline (the same inflexible standards that consigned her older brother to prison). School is something of a refuge: there, she is nicknamed Scotch and admired because she is pretty, flirtatious, and a star performer of the Raw Gyals dance troupe.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and there are a few problems even there. She’s fallen out with Raw Gyals troupe leader and former best friend Gloria. Scotch is convinced that Gloria has her eye on Scotch’s ex-boyfriend Tafari. Not what a real BFF would do.

Oh, and there’s Scotch’s new skin condition and the fact that she’s been seeing floating heads lately….

A night out with her older brother Rich sounds like a welcome respite from parents and school. Pity the Smith siblings picked the night all hell broke loose in Toronto 1 Welcome to the Chaos!

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The Things I Do in Rage

Devil’s Wake — Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
Devil's Wake, book 1

2012’s Devil’s Wake is the first volume in Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s Devil’s Wake series.

It didn’t take long for the plague of angry ghouls to sweep across America, because to be bitten by one of the infected is to become one of the infected. There is no cure and there is no vaccine. The only reliable prophylaxis is preparedness or simple dumb luck.

Given enough time, even the prepared run into something unexpected. Given time, the best luck in the world runs out.

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See All The Colours In Disguise

The Broken Kingdoms — N. K. Jemisin
The Inheritance Trilogy, book 2

2010’s The Broken Kingdoms is the second volume in N. K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy.

Ten years after the world changed, blind artist Oree makes a living in the city of Shadow, once called Sky. Although enforcement of the god Intempas’ laws is far laxer for reasons those in charge decline to explain in detail, it would be very bad for Oree Shoth if she were to come to the attention of the Order-Keepers.

Bad enough she found a murdered godling. Much worse that the Order-Keepers know she found Role’s corpse.

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Darkness! No Parents!

Batman: Blink — Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie’s 2015 volume, Batman: Blink, collects Legends of the Dark Knight issues #156-158 and #164-167, which were first published in 2002–2003. To put it another way, he has put together two related story lines: Blink and its sequel, Don’t Blink.

Blink

Women are being killed in horrific ways. But aside from the ugly nature of their deaths, there seems to be nothing that explains why these women were targeted or who has been targeting them. At least nothing that the police or Batman can see. Lee Hyland is the only surviving witness and the cops don’t expect he will be a useful one. Not because Lee is a career criminal—he has been careful to keep that a secret—but because Lee is blind.

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Listen, To The Sound From Deep Within

Dark Matter — Sheree R. Thomas
Dark Matter, book 1

Sheree R. Thomas’ 2000 anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora delivers what it promises. One clarification, however: it is not a Resnickian collection of works about members of the African Diaspora but works by members of the African Diaspora.

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Life Unfurls

Binti: Home — Nnedi Okorafor
Binti, book 2

2017’s Binti: Home is the sequel to Nnedi Okorafor’s Nebula and Hugo-winning Binti.

Binti has been a student at Oomza University for a year. It’s a year that has transformed her, both physically and mentally. Some of those changes were beneficial. Others, like her post-traumatic stress disorder, are not. Seeking an end to the nightmares, Binti returns to her home on Earth, in Africa, to participate in a healing pilgrimage.

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A Pretty Face Can Hide an Evil Mind

Buffalo Soldier — Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus’ 2017 Buffalo Soldier is a steam-punk western. It will be published in April.

Desmond Coke and Lij Tafari appear to be father and son, just a pair of migrant workers making their way across the Tejas Free Republic in search of employment. Jamaica and Albion’s agents know the truth: Lij is a treasure their master are determined to possess and Desmond is an impediment to be removed.

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Time and Mercy Is Out Of Your Reach

Racing the Dark — Alaya Dawn Johnson
Spirit Binders, book 1

Alaya Dawn Johnson’s 2007 debut novel Racing the Dark is the first of the Spirit Binders secondary world fantasy series.

The great elemental spirits leave chaos in their wake. Centuries before, the islanders dealt with them by binding the great spirits, death, fire, water and air, into forms abhorrent to the spirits but tolerable to the humans.

Born on a backwater island, Lana would have been content to be just another diver among many, talented but not remarkable. Instead, her rite of passage into adulthood marked her as extraordinary. She will be no mere diver. She will be a harbinger of doom.

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Just One Touch From Your Hands

A Taste of Honey — Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson’s 2016 A Taste of Honey is a stand-alone story set in the same universe as Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps.

Aqib’s life has been charted out for him. For his family to regain the status they lost when Aqib’s father was tempted by love to marry far beneath him, Aqib must marry well. This is a sacrifice his family is more than willing for Aqib to make.

Man plans, gods laugh.

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Where the Desolate Places Meet the Oasis

Dustland — Virginia Hamilton
Justice Cycle, book 2

1980’s Dustland is the second book in Virginia Hamilton’s Justice Trilogy.

Tom, Levi and Dorian’s psionic abilities are impressive but it took Justice to weld them together into the Unit, able to span time and space at will. There are limits.Although they can project their minds out of their home space-time, the Unit aways manifests in the same distant location. And what an odd location it is.

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And I Hear Something Scratching Through The Wall

The Lottery and Other Stories — Shirley Jackson

1949’s The Lottery and Other Stories is a collection of short pieces by Shirley Jackson. Aside from The Haunting of Hill House, there’s a giant Jackson-sized hole in my reading. When I saw how inexpensive The Lottery ebook was, I snapped it up. Time spent in various waiting rooms allowed me the leisure to actually read it.

There are twenty-five pieces in this book. I am not going to do my usual story by story approach; cue sighs of relief all round.

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You Get To Meet All Sorts In This Line Of Work

Hammers on Bone — Cassandra Khaw
Persons Non Grata, book 1

2016’s Hammers on Bone is the first work in Cassandra Khaw’s Persons Non Grata series.

The sign on his door says “John Persons, PI”. It doesn’t say “John Persons, Killer for Hire.” Abel, the kid currently on the other side of Persons desk, wants a killer, someone who will deal with his stepdad McKinsey before the stepdad can kill Abel and his brother James.

Persons has killed, but only in self-defence. Just like any other completely normal person. Persons is trying very hard to be a normal person. Abel is convinced that there’s more to Persons than meets the eye and he’s a very persuasive kid. Persons agrees to take a look at the stepdad and proceed as seems … ethical.

A faint mewling voice in the back of Persons’ head thinks that this is the right choice.

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Quit Hollering at Me

Crosstalk — Connie Willis

Connie Willis’ 2016 Crosstalk is a standalone near-future SF novel. I regret to inform my readers that this review may not be as enjoyably vitriolic as previous Willis reviews. (I may revisit that decision once Crosstalk gets its inevitable, inexplicable Hugo nomination.) As Willis novels go, I didn’t hate it all that much.

In the exciting world of Tomorrow CE, couples are not limited to intrusive social media and ever-present electronic communications. Now there’s the option of the EED, a device that creates an empathic link between lovebirds. Or at least, it’s supposed to.

Pressured into submitting to elective brain surgery by her loving fiancé Trent, Briddey Flannigan gets an EED. Alas! there is no sign of the empathic link that should have formed between Briddey and Trent. What Briddey got was…

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Dance Me Through The Panic Till I’m Gathered Safely In

Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse — Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s 2014 anthology Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse delivers exactly what it promises: post-apocalyptic tales told from Canadian perspectives.

The moral here seems to be that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Also, it’s not going to get better.

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Turn Around and You’re a Young Girl Going Out of My Door

Martians Abroad — Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn’s 2017 Martians Abroad is a standalone young-adult SF novel, written in the manner of a very famous series of juvenile SF novels. In fact, it seems to be a response to a specific juvenile SF novel, about which more anon.

Young Polly Newton has a bold plan for her life, one that involves pilot school and helming humanity’s first starship. Polly’s mother also has bold plans for Polly and her brother Charles. Those plans involve an unwanted sojourn at the prestigious Galileo Academy on Earth. Polly’s plans are irrelevant. Mother knows best.

Martha Newton didn’t become Director of the Mars Colony by being easy to out-manoeuvre. By the time Polly learns what her mother has planned, it is too late for either Polly or her brother to do anything about it except pack their bags and give in to the inevitable.

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An East Wind Coming

Ninefox Gambit — Yoon Ha Lee
The Machineries of Empire, book 1

2016’s Ninefox Gambit is the first volume in Yoon Ha Lee’s projected trilogy, The Machineries of Empire.

Success is often punished harshly. Consider the case of Captain Kel Cheris of Heron Company, 109-229th Battalion. She has excelled on the battlefield due to her skill and ingenuity. Those are exactly the qualities her superiors need if they are to retake the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the rebels who currently hold it.

Well, skill, ingenuity, and expendability.

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Freedom land will be my last location

Survival Rout — Ana Mardoll
Earthside, book 2

2016’s Survival Rout is the second book in Ana Mardoll’s Earthside series.

College roommates Aniyah and Miyuki expect a summer vacation rich in opportunities for hanging out and having intense discussions about gender and orientation. Thanks to their ever-so-helpful chums Timothy and Craig, what they actually get is kidnapped, mindwiped, and sold to the faerie lord Master of Masques.

Keoki is in the wrong place at the wrong time; his good Samaritan instincts get him abducted and sold as well.

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A Shining Artifact of the Past

After Atlas — Emma Newman
Planetfall, book 2

Emma Newman’s 2016 After Atlas is a sequel to her 2015 novel Planetfall.

The Pathfinder, Lee Suh-Mi, led her people to a glorious destiny among the stars. The Pathfinder’s starship only had room for the chosen few. Carlos Moreno’s mother made the cut, but Carlos and his father did not. His father then joined a community of starship rejectees, one led by a Lee deputy named Alejandro Casales, dragging an unhappy young Carlos in his wake. It took years for Carlos to escape.

Decades later, Carlos is a prized asset of the Noropean Ministry of Justice. He is a talented investigator whose indentured status ensures that his efforts on the MOJ’s behalf will not be sabotaged by nonsense like so-called human rights.

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Seven Times I Pierce My Heart

The Stars Are Legion — Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley’s 2017’s The Star Are Legion is a standalone space opera.

In a distant future, a flock of huge world-ships orbit an unnamed star. Within the ships, there are life forms of all kinds, including humans. But every living thing has its allotted span and the world-ships are no exception. They are dying and when they do die, so too will all the humans who live within them.

Zan and Jayd have a cunning plan to escape the coming mass extinction. The cost of the plan will be much greater than they expect.

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