Reviews

I Look Inside Myself

Hooded Swan Hexology — Brian M. Stableford

Brian M. Stableford’s Hooded Swan series consisted of the following short novels:

  1. The Halcyon Drift (1972)

  2. Rhapsody in Black (1973)

  3. Promised Land (1974)

  4. The Paradise Game (1974)

  5. The Fenris Device (1974)

  6. Swan Song (1975)

The story arc begins with a sullen man trapped on a desolate planet.


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When The Blind Remove Their Blinders

The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2017 The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe collects three stories set in her alternate-future Xuya universe.


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A Long, Long Way to Heaven

Lent — Jo Walton


Jo Walton’s 2019 Lent is a standalone historical fantasy.

Dominican prior Girolamo Savonarola of Florence is a man of many gifts. He can see demons. He can cast them back to Hell. He has profound powers of persuasion. He is a man who can shape history.

He is also fated to be hanged and burned in May of 1498.


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Just a Soul That’s Changing Its Shape

The Shattered Stars — Richard S. McEnroe

Richard S. McEnroe’s 1984 The Shattered Stars is a standalone (ish) SF novel which takes place in McEnroe’s Far Stars and Future Times setting.

Moses Callahan is the proud owner of the independent trader Wild Goose, which is another way of saying he is a cash-short, desperate man pushed into an economic corner by larger, richer concerns who can afford ships with up-to-date tech. Just the sort of captain who might be greedy enough that he wouldn’t examine closely a chance to earn some quick cash.

Might.


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So Dependable

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter — Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall’s 2019 The Affair of the Mysterious Letter is a standalone fantasy mystery.

Wounded in the war against the Empress of Nothing, Captain John Wyndham returns not to Ey, the straitlaced home of his youth, but to his college town, the cosmopolitan city of Kelathra-Ven. Despite years spent away at the front, John is at heart still a small-town boy.

He ends up rooming with the flamboyantly decadent sorcerer(ess) Shaharazad Haas. Haas appreciates Wyndham for his placid toleration of Haas’ eccentricities.


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Feeling the Chill

Icerigger — Alan Dean Foster
Icerigger Trilogy, book 1

Alan Dean Foster’s 1974 Icerigger is the first volume in the Icerigger Trilogy. It is set in Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth.

Interstellar salesman Ethan Frome Fortune planned to visit the desolate iceworld Tran-ky-ky just long enough to sell some knickknacks. Instead, he stumbled over a kidnapping in progress. Fortune’s inopportune appearance was only the first thing that went wrong with the kidnappers’ plans.

One shuttle crash later and Fortune and his companions are trapped on Tran-ky-ky. The wrong side of Tran-ky-ky, thousands of kilometers from the only Commonwealth base on the planet…


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Dragonfly Out In The Sun

Fiyah Summer 2019 — Troy L. Wiggins & DaVaun Sanders

Fiyah Summer 2019 is the eleventh issue of the Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. The cover credits Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, but the full masthead is:

Executive Editors: Troy L. Wiggins + DaVaun Sanders + Brandon O’Brien

Acquiring Editors: Brent Lambert + Danny Lore + Kaleb Russell + Eboni J. Dunbar

Art Direction + Layout: LeKesha Lewis

Cover Artwork by Seth Brown

Fiyah often has themed issues. This issue is an exception to that rule.


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Straight On To Morning

To Be Taught, if Fortunate — Becky Chambers


To Be Taught, if Fortunate is a standalone hard-SF novella from Becky Chambers.

Flight engineer Ariadne O’Neill and mission specialists Elena Quesada-Cruz,

Jack Vo, and Chikondi Daka have been dispatched aboard the OCA spacecraft Merian to the red dwarf star Zhenyi (BA-921), just which is a mere fourteen light-years from Sol.

Faster than light drives do not exist and neither does terraforming. Instead, the explorers must depend on somaforming, a technologically induced metamorphosis that will adapt them to the worlds they visit.

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The Ghosts That Haunt Me

Yellow Tanabe
Kekkaishi, book 1

Kekkaishi, Volume 1 includes the first seven chapters of Yellow Tanabe’s manga of the same name.

Young Yoshimori Sumimura is in training to become the 22nd demon-fighting kekkaishi of the Sumimura lineage. His neighbour Tokine Yukimura is also in training to become a kekkaishi for her own family lineage. The two opposed branches of the Hazama clan have lived side by side for 400 years and for most of that time the two families have been bitter rivals, a tradition Yoshimori’s grandfather and Tokine’s grandmother maintain to the modern day. Consequently, Yoshimori and Tokine have kept their friendship secret.

Tokine is two years older, weaker, more studious, and far more skilled than Yoshimori. Yoshimori compensates for his lack of diligence with raw power. Yoshimori’s carelessness allows a demon Ayakashi to gravely injure Tokine, an event that that forever changes the repentant Yoshimori.


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Everywhere a Wilderness

Off the Main Sequence: The Other Science Fiction Stories of Robert A. Heinlein — Robert A. Heinlein

Off the Main Sequence: The Other Science Fiction Stories of Robert A. Heinlein was edited by Andrew Wheeler, then of the Science Fiction Book Club. It delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

This book has been out of print since its first and only printing in 2005 [1]. It seems to be surprising available as a used book (which I would not have expected) but I was spared the immense difficulty of ordering and waiting for a copy, as I already owned an early cut of the book, thanks to my then job at the Science Fiction Book Club.


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As Dreamers Do

The Traveler in Black — John Brunner


John Brunner’s 1971 fantasy collection The Traveler in Black was the first book published as an Ace Science Fiction Special. It has since been republished under several titles and with varying contents; nevertheless, like its protagonist, we can say that it has but one nature.

He had many names, but one nature, and this unique nature made him subject to certain laws not binding upon ordinary persons. In a compensatory fashion, he was also free from certain other laws more commonly in force.


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Oh, So Pretty

The Belles — Dhonielle Clayton
The Belles, book 1

2018’s The Belles is the first book in Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles secondary-world fantasy series.

Orléans is a hermit monarchy, isolated from the rest of the world. The autocratic Queen Celeste Elisabeth the Third rules with a heavy hand: harsh penalties for the disobedient and lavish rewards for the faithful.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, gifted with the magical power to change bodies at will. Belles control beauty in appearance-obsessed Orléans and the Queen controls the Belles.

Sixteen-year-old Camellia, fresh out of training, is desperate to be named the Queen’s favourite. But she hasn’t been desperate enough to follow the rules set out for Belles and her sister Amber becomes the new favorite.

Camellia is bitterly disappointed. There are, as Camellia will soon learn, far worse things in Orléans than disappointment.

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Like to Rage

Carry On — Rainbow Rowell
Simon Snow, book 1

Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On is a fanfic of Gemma T. Leslie’s Simon Snow series. It would be an unauthorized fanfic were it not that Gemma T. Leslie and Simon Snow were both created by Rainbow Rowell. They were introduced in Rowell’s novel Fangirl.

Simon Snow returns to wizard school Watford for the final year of his magical education. Summer at the latest foster home in the Normal world has been dreadful as always. Life at Watford isn’t without its challenges, but at least at Watford Simon has his friendship with Penelope and his joyless romance with the beautiful Agatha.


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Come Out and Play

Miki Yoshikawa
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, book 1

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume One collects the first five issues (of 243!) of Miki Yoshikawa’s eponymous manga series. The series ran from 2012 to 2017. The English translation was released in 2015.

Ryu Yamada is an outcast at school, a delinquent whose marks are as unimpressive as his attendance record. He regards Urara Shiraishi as exactly the sort of overachieving student he loathes, so he makes a point of cutting in front on her while ascending the school stairs.

One tumble down the stairs later and he is a delinquent transformed.


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Shadows on the Wall

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant — Drew Hayes
Fred, the Vampire Accountant, book 1

2014’s The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant is the first volume of Drew Hayes’ Fred, the Vampire Accountant series. It is a fix-up urban fantasy novel. Or possibly a collection of linked stories, depending on how you look at it.

Transformed into an undead, Fredrick “Fred” Frankford Fletcher (accountant) has made the minimum necessary adjustments to existence as a vampire. He may work nights now, but he’s still an accountant and as exciting as a ledger. Boring in life, boring in undeath.

At least until the night of his high school reunion.


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A Piece of Fertile Ground

Pennterra — Judith Moffett

Judith Moffett’s 1987 debut Pennterra is a standalone science fiction novel.

The world of Pennterra might have been the safe haven humanity will need once the destruction of Earth is complete, all but for one problem: it has natives.


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Where There’s a Will

Wolfling — Gordon R. Dickson

Gordon R. Dickson’s 1969 Wolfling is a standalone SF novel.

UN starships reached Alpha Centauri only to discover that humans already lived there. They are subjects of an immeasurably advanced hundred-thousand-year-old galactic empire.

The empire believes that Earth must be a lost colony. It might decide to act on that belief.

The UN must learn more about the empire. It sends James Keil off on a ship to the Throne World. He will pose as a bullfighter and entertain the imperial elite with barbaric spectacle. He will also gather intelligence.

His superior is having second thoughts about the plan, and the choice of agent, but it’s too late. Keil is en route.

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Live Until I Die

Gods of Jade and Shadow — Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s 2019 Gods of Jade and Shadow is a standalone fantasy novel.

Bitter old Cirilo Layva is a very big frog in the extremely small pond of Uukumil. The Layvas are the family of consequence in the backwater Yucatan town. Cirilo’s worthless grandson Martin revels in his high status and does nothing to deserve it.

Eighteen-year-old Casiopea Tun is less fortunate. She is a Layva, but her mother married against Cirilo’s wishes. Now Casiopea is poor, orphaned, grudgingly tolerated relative. She’s family enough to live on the family estate, but so low status that she is basically an unpaid servant.

Casiopea tolerates her circumstances because she has been told that Cirilo’s will gives her a bequest of one thousand pesos, which would be enough for to start a good life elsewhere. Cirilo dies and Martin gleefully informs her that the bequest was a lie. She will get nothing.

Casiopea decides to take matters into her own hands. She breaks into her grandfather’s locked chest, hoping to find something she can use or sell. No luck there. She does, however, find an imprisoned god.


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Keep On Playing

Automatic Eve — Rokuro Inui

Rokuro Inui’s 2014 Automatic Eve is a standalone steampunk novel. The 2019 English translation is by Matt Treyvaud.

A generation ago, tragedy struck when the Empress died in childbirth. Fortunately for the strictly matrilineal imperial family, her infant daughter survived. Better an infant empress and a regent than no empress at all!

Struck by a mysterious malady as a teen, the Empress is a recluse. The Shogunate is not displeased by this, as her seclusion leaves the administration of the nation up to the Shogun and his subordinates. They have no reason to fear that the Empress might actually attempt to rule. As far as the common folk know, the nation is ticking along just as it should.

Behind the scenes, however…


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Another Day in Paradise

Deep Roots — Ruthanna Emrys
Innsmouth Legacy, book 2

2018’s Deep Roots is the second volume in Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy series.

Aphra Marsh survived an American concentration camp. She is one of very few land-dwelling Deep Ones still alive. Despite their much reduced numbers, she hopes to rebuild her shattered community. To do this, she needs the US government’s cooperation — or at least an end to active attempts to exterminate the Deep Ones.

But nuclear war threatens. Were it to happen, it would render her efforts pointless. Toleration of land-dwelling Deep Ones would mean nothing if the humans were to make the land temporarily uninhabitable. The ocean-dwelling Deep Ones would live on, but once their land-kin vanished, there would be no way to re-establish them.

The Deep Ones are not the only beings worried about humanity’s future.


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Voices in My Head

Children of Ruin — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Children of Time, book 2

2019’s Children of Ruin is the second book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time series.

Before it annihilated itself, Earth’s first great technological civilization dispatched starships to nearby star systems, there to terraform promising worlds. Millennia later, Earth’s second great technological civilization also dispatched starships. The purpose was not to reshape worlds according to humanity’s whim, but to escape the deadly trap Earth had become.

Nobody expected to find a planet full of portiids, genetically engineered intelligent spiders, but humans were convinced… compelled, really, to come to terms with the unintended products of Avrana Kern’s bold uplifting efforts. The starship Voyager is the product of the unexpected partnership, crewed by humans, portiids, and an emulation of the long-dead Kern, dispatched to explore a neighbouring star system. Who knows what wonders await them?


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Terrible Things

The Starlost — Cordwainer Bird

The TV series The Starlost ran from late September 1973 to early January 1974, about three and a half months and sixteen episodes too long. Originally created by Harlan Ellison, the writers were Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird), George Ghent, Norman Klenman, and Martin Lager, while the episodes were directed by Harvey Hart, Martin Lager, George McCowan, Leo Orenstein, Ed Richardson, and Joseph L. Scanlan. The series starred Keir Dullea, Gay Rowan, and Robin Ward.

The series is a credit to none of them.

Devon (Keir Dullea) is blindly in love with Rachel (Gay Rowan), whom the elders of Cyprus Corners have decreed must marry surly blacksmith Garth (Robin Ward). The elders do not tolerate dissent. Devon is forced to flee the only world he has ever known through a door on other side of which may lie certain doom.

To Devon’s enormous surprise, Cyprus Corners is not the whole of the world. It is merely one of a great number of habitats. The revelations do not stop there.


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Bury a Friend

The Ascent to Godhood — JY Yang
Tensorate, book 4

2019’s The Ascent to Godhood is the fourth entry in JY Yang’s Tensorate series.

Lady Han was the Protector’s greatest enemy. Once she was the Protector’s firmest ally Now that the Protector Hekate is finally dead after a half-century of tyranny, Lady Han tells the story of her transformation.

It begins in a small village.


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Let the Sun Fade Out to a Dark Sky

Escaping Exodus — Nicky Drayden

Nicky Drayden’s 2019 Escaping Exodus is a standalone SF novel.

Seske Kaleigh was born to become the leader of her spacefaring community. Becoming a leader involves onerous education and personal sacrifice. Seske would far rather spend her time having adventures with her lower-class crush, Adalla.

Seske’s culture is trapped on the edge of survival. Allowing Seske to follow her heart is not in the cards.


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Inciting and Inviting Me

Medusa Uploaded — Emily Devenport
Medusa Cycle, book 1

Emily Devenport’s Medusa Uploaded is the first volume in her generation ship series, the Medusa Cycle.

Olympia and Titania are two vast generation ships, dispatched on a long, slow journey to another star system. This was lifetimes ago. Olympia is still functioning, but poor Titania is lifeless wreckage tumbling across the stars, the victim of an act of sabotage. Oichi was born on Titania but was fortunate enough to emigrate to Olympia before Titania’s destruction. The rest of her family was not so lucky.

Oichi isn’t one of the ruling Executives; she’s a so-called worm. Her lot is to work hard for her whole life, hoping that no Executive will order her tossed out an airlock. Oichi’s fortune turns sour. Suspected as a potential dissident, she is cast out into the interstellar cold.

This is not the end of her story.


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