Reviews

Moments Remaining in a Burned Out Light

The Flight of the Horse — Larry Niven

1973’s The Flight of the Horse is a collection of Larry Niven stories. It is almost but not quite a collection of stories about hapless time-traveller Svetz, whose career is blighted by the fact that Niven thinks time travel, unlike FTL drives and telepathy, is ludicrous.

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I’ve Just Seen a Face

Komarr — Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles Vorkosigan, book 9

1998’s Komarr is the ninth volume in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series.

Barrayaran-conquered Komarr depends on its soletta array, which concentrates the feeble output of its sun, for marginal habitability and slowly progressing terraforming. When half the array is wrecked by a colliding spacecraft, it’s up to Imperial Auditor Georg Vorthys to determine whether this was a tragic mishap or deliberate sabotage.

Accompanying Vorthys is the most junior Imperial Auditor, Miles Vorkosigan.

Ahoy! Spoilers ahead!

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Uprising

Return of the Breakneck Boys — Geary Gravel
The Fading Worlds, book 2

1991’s Return Of The Breakneck Boys is the second (and most recent) instalment in Geary Gravel’s Fading Worlds series.

Former fix-it man Howard Bell went looking for a washroom and found a pathway to another world. It’s a dangerous world, but he has survived, even thriven. He has attracted followers, warriors of many species. Together, they form a band known as the Breakneck Boys.

The Breakneck Boys are not just warriors. They are rebels against their former masters, the mysterious Keyholders.

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Down to the Bottom

Akihito Tsukushi
Made in Abyss, book 1

Made in Abyss, Volume One collects issues one through eight of Akihito Tsukushi’s SF manga.

Riko’s world is thoroughly explored, save for one location. On an island in the middle of the Beoluska Sea there is a tremendous vertical cave structure known as the Abyss. Scattered here and there throughout the Abyss are marvellous artifacts of a long-vanished civilization. Bold Cave Raiders, as Riko’s mother Lyza was and Riko hopes to be, delve deep into the Abyss in search of wonders.

There are a few problems.

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Life Ain’t What It Seems

Cat in the Mirror — Mary Stolz

Mary Stolz’s 1975 Cat in the Mirror is a standalone young-adult novel.

Erin Gandy is a grave disappointment to her mother Belle; she is deficient in the feminine virtues appropriate for women of her class. Neither pretty nor popular, Erin might well one day end up an academic or worse yet, a feminist. At least Erin can turn to her schoolmates for solace. Or she could if they did not despise Erin even more than her mother does.

Spoilers for a book more than forty years out of print.

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Honest Pay and Fair Treatment

Four-Day Planet — H. Beam Piper

1961’s Four-Day Planet is a standalone young-adult novel set in the Federation period of H. Beam Piper’s Terra-Human future history.

Teen journalist Walt has lived his whole life on Fenris. He’s one of the ten thousand people who call that odd world home. They are isolated and poor; they languish under a corrupt government. Life can only get worse … or so it seems.

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A Little Wicked

The Air War — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt, book 8

2012’s The Air War is the eighth book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.

The Treaty of Gold guarantees unending peace. Should the Wasp Empire attack the Alliance, Solarno, the Spiderlands, or any one of the Lowland cities, the others are treaty-bound to come to the victim’s defense. This measure has stood the test of time, defined as “that short period in which the Empire was more interested in suppressing uprisings within the Empire than adding new territory.”

Her empire is now secure. But the Empress suffered too many years under the thumb of her brother (the late Emperor) to tolerate potential threats, within or without the empire. Every kingdom, city-state, and commonwealth outside the empire might someday menace her rule. Therefore they must be conquered. QED.

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Wash Me Clean

Hikaru Nakamura
Arakawa Under The Bridge, book 1

Arakawa Under The Bridge 1 collects volumes 1 & 2 of Hikaru Nakamura’s manga Arakawa Andā za Burijji. The 2017 translation is by Andrew Cunningham.

Brilliant, hard-working, driven, and wealthy, Kou Ichinomiya has striven his whole life to prove himself worthy of one day inheriting the Inchinomiya Corporation. Key to this quest is Kou’s steadfast adherence to the family motto: never owe anyone.

Calamity strikes when Kou tries to recover his trousers from the bridge where they have been hung by teenaged hooligans. Bad enough to fall into the river below. Much worse to be saved from drowning by a homeless stranger. Now Kou owes Nino and he will do anything to pay back the debt to her before his judgemental father finds out.

All stoic Nino wants is love.

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Beat Down Like a Waterfall

Sleepless Domain — Mary Cagle

Sleepless Domain is an ongoing webcomic by Mary Cagle.

The time is now 10 PM. All citizens should be indoors, and all magical girls transformed.

The unnamed city is perpetually under siege; monsters have overrun the world. During the day, the monsters are kept at bay by a magical barrier. At night, the monsters are able to make their way into the city. At night, it is up to the city’s magical girls to protect the city and its mundane inhabitants.

Team Alchemical — Undine Wells, Gwen Morita, Sylvia Skylark, Tessa Quinn, and Sally Fintan, or, as they are known by the city, Alchemical Water, Alchemical Earth, Alchemical Air, Alchemical Aether, and Alchemical Fire — spend their days in school and their nights fighting monsters. Now they’ve found a new enemy to fight.

Each other.

(spoilers)

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I’ll Be On My Way

A Key For The Nonesuch — Geary Gravel
Fading Worlds, book 1

1990’s A Key for the Nonesuch is the first book in Geary Gravel’s Fading Worlds duology.

A small inheritance has allowed Howard Bell to leave his unrewarding job for the life of a novelist. Years later, he has produced an unfinished novel and used up his funds. Nothing left but to parley his handyman skills into a job with Foster’s Fix-It.

Determined to find a working bathroom in the unfinished building he’s been assigned to repair, Howard appropriates a set of keys. The doorway he enters takes him to a different world.

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Dance Fever

House of Stairs — William Sleator

1974’s House of Stairs is a standalone young adult novel by William Sleator.

In a not-too-distant future, five children — timid Peter, unruly Lola, confident Oliver, accommodating Abigail, and cunning Blossom — are consigned by the authorities to the House of Stairs. Although they have very different backgrounds and personalities, all five of them share one characteristic: they are all wards of the state.

Make that two things: Nobody will ever miss any of them.

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Nebulous Bright

Dogsbody — Diana Wynne Jones

1975’s Dogsbody is a stand-alone fantasy novel by Dianna Wynne Jones.

Accused of a murder he did not commit, Sirius must prove his innocence before a court of his fellow stars or face a terrible punishment.

Matters do not proceed entirely to Sirius’ benefit. By the time the novel begins he has already been found guilty, damned by the testimony of his beloved Companion and his own reluctance to explain what really happened. The only question remaining is which particular dismal punishment awaits Sirius.

(cruelty to animals warning)


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Nothing’s Gonna Change Our World

Flight — Yoshiki Tanaka
Legend of the Galactic Heroes, book 6

First published under the title Ginga Eiyu Densetsu volume 6, 1985’s Flight is the sixth volume in Yoshiki Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes1. Tyran Grillo’s translation was published by Haikasoru in 2018.

Reinhard von Lohengramm finally outmanoeuvred his rival Yang Wen-li. The Galactic Empire finally reabsorbed the Free Planets Alliance. A man more vindictive than Reinhard might have had Yang executed. Reinhard allowed Yang to retire.

All that is necessary for this peaceful state of affairs to continue is for high ranking persons to do nothing to rock the boat. Of course, patience is such a difficult virtue to cultivate.


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See the Crystal Raindrops Fall

What’s Left of Me — Kat Zhang
Hybrid Chronicles, book 1

2012’s What’s Left of Me is the first volume in Kat Zhang’s Hybrid Chronicles.

Alone of all the world’s regions, only the Americas have chosen to eliminate the two-minded adult hybrids, to seal themselves off from the chaos that hybrids cause. The rest of the world can have its Great Wars, but North and South America are secure, peaceful, and steadfastly conventional.

Like all human children everywhere, Eva and Addie were born as hybrids, two minds sharing a single body. Most New World children settle, a process in which the weaker of the two minds fades away, leaving only a single, stable, intellect. Although clearly fated to vanish, Eva lingered on, unable to control the shared body, but still present. Despite the best treatments modern medicine could offer, it seemed the child was doomed to be one of those unfortunates safely sequestered away from decent folk.

Eva_and_Addie eluded institutionalization by embracing the one technique that would keep the adults satisfied. They lied.

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Silent in the Trees

Changer’s Moon — Jo Clayton
Duel of Sorcery, book 3

1985’s Changer’s Moon is the third and final novel in Jo Clayton’s Duel of Sorcery trilogy.

Ser Noris, bored and powerful beyond reason, is nearing the end of his game with the Goddess. At stake is an entire world. Noris has succeeded in bending all but a few of the world’s mages to his will, and subjecting most of the world to his cruel, misogynistic theocracy. True, the Biserica Valley (refuge of the Goddess followers) is still holding out … but surely its fall is only a matter of time.

Standing between the Goddess and the jaded wizard is a mortal woman, a green-skinned mutant sorceress named Serroi.

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I’ve Got Money Now

Gateway — Frederik Pohl
Heechee, book 1

1977’s Gateway is the first novel in Frederik Pohl’s Heechee series.

Robinette Broadhead has wealth and status, so why is he so miserable? The answer lies in the past, in the source of Broadhead’s money: the alien starport humans call Gateway.

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A Debt to the Devil, Willie Must Pay

Kitty’s House of Horrors — Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville, book 7

2010’s Kitty’s House of Horrors is the seventh installment in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

Thanks to her late night radio show, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Norville has become the voice of America’s eldritch community. Hollywood hotshots Joey Provost and Ron Valenti want to turn her into the face of the weird as well — or at least one of the faces. Kitty is the most recent supernatural figure to be invited onto Provost and Valenti’s proposed reality show.

Provost and Valenti’s previous shows have been low-common-denominator schlock like Jailbird Moms, Cheerleader Sorority House, and Stripper Idol. This show, they promise, will be totally classy, featuring name celebrities. Despite her misgivings, Kitty agrees to appear on the show.

Provost and Valenti (and co-producer Eli Cabe) definitely deliver a show quite unlike their previous offerings.

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No Guilt To Haunt Me

We Could Be Villains — Missy Meyer
Valentine & Hart, book 1

2014’s We Could Be Villains is the first volume in Missy Meyer’s Valentine & Hart series.

Sarah Valentine has an unrewarding job working for Seattle software company WonderPop. Her social life isn’t too hot either. Small wonder that when she meets personable mail room employee Nathan Anderson, she embraces the opportunity for a dalliance. She is rather disgruntled when Nathan suddenly vanishes without so much as a goodbye.

Next: Sarah finds herself collateral damage when Seattle’s own super-hero team, the Ultimate Faction, takes an interest in WonderPop.

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The Pain That You Drive Into The Heart Of Me

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 3

Noragami Book 3 collects issues 8 to 11 of Adachitoka’s on-going series. Although just how long it will be on-going is open to question in these issues.

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Everybody Knows The Good Guys Lost

The Armageddon Crazy — Mick Farren

1989’s The Armageddon Crazy is a standalone near-future novel by Mick Farren.

The Crash of 1998 was deliberately engineered by banks who hoped to unseat the Democrats. The Panic of 1999 was an unintended consequence. A surprisingly fragile economy imploded. The consequence of that: President Faithful’s victory in 2000. No longer do Americans have to languish under a two party system! Now they can enjoy living under a brutal theocracy.

A brutal, incompetent theocracy.

Spoilers for a book well out of print.


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Angels in the Wilderness

Five Against Venus — Philip Latham
Winston Science Fiction, book 3

Philip Latham’s 1952 Five Against Venus was the third novel published in Winston’s SF line.

Although a member of his high school’s Space Club, sixteen-year-old Bruce Robinson has never been to space himself. His father, Mr. Robinson, is cheerful, endlessly optimistic, and consistently unsuccessful. His family lives in genteel poverty on Pico street. An expensive trip to the Moon … not gonna happen.

This changes when Mr. Robinson is hired as Tycho City’s new public relations manager. Tycho City as in Tycho Crater as in ON THE MOON. The family will become comparatively well-to-do and they will get to live on the Moon!

That’s the plan, anyway. The reality is different.

 (spoilers)


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Put Your Hands Up High

Heroine’s Journey — Sarah Kuhn
Heroine Complex, book 3

2018’s Heroine’s Journey is the third instalment in Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex series.

Like her sister Evie and her sister’s best friend, Aveda Jupiter, Beatrice “Bea” Tanaka has bona-fide superpowers. However …

The ten-year age difference between Evie and Bea means that Evie sees Bea as a kid sister. Not only that, she’s the kid sister whom Evie raised after the death of their mother. Evie cannot see Bea as anything but a child and relegates her sister to support roles.

Evie is also suspicious of Bea’s superpowers. Bea can control other people’s emotions, which is a super-villainous sort of power. (It doesn’t help that Bea once sided with a black hat.) True, Bea can also scream loudly enough to shatter solid objects, but it’s not at all clear that she can use this superpower in an emergency or that it will even be useful when used.

Bea is afraid that Evie will never accept her as an equal; she is less and less interested in helping Evie and Aveda.

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The Blackest Day

Memory — Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles Vorkosigan, book 8

Memory is the eighth1 book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series.

Killed by an enemy grenade in a previous book, Miles turned out to be only mostly dead. After an extended recovery (and some complications) he returned to his role as Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii Mercenaries. But there were lingering health effects from his injuries. Simple prudence should have kept Miles off battlefields. It didn’t.

One day Miles wakes from a seizure to discover that he had inadvertently lopped off the legs of the man his team was trying to rescue. Unwilling to admit to error or damaged health, Miles compounds his error by writing a false report on the incident and sending it to his boss, spymaster and ImpSec Chief Simon Illyan.

The consequences are immediate and dire.

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Two Suns in the Sunset

Vestiges — Laurence Suhner
QuanTika, book 1

Vestiges is the first volume in Laurence Suhner’s QuanTika trilogy. Although Suhner writes in French, I was able to find an English translation of at least this first volume.

Having failed to terraform Mars, humanity transfers its colonizing enthusiasm to the nearby AltaMira system. Only six and a half light years from the Solar System, AltaMira is within reach of sub-light starships. Like the Solar System, it has an Earth-like world with a breathable atmosphere in the double star’s habitable zone. More or less. The “or less” is thanks to an eccentric orbit that dooms the world to snowball status for most of its year.

It is also the site of humanity’s first contact with an alien civilization — or rather, the relics of one. A structure dubbed the Great Arch orbits Gemma and is clearly artificial. It is also seemingly inert and impenetrable. Its secrets have been well hidden. That is about to change.

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Let The Ants Try

Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right — Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer’s 2017 Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right is a discursive ramble through the brambles of modern day fascism. Not an enjoyable ramble; it’s more like a tour of the Cairo garbage dumps. But it’s informative.

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