Reviews

Don’t Ever Play With Guns

Kitty Takes a Holiday — Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville, book 3

2007’s Kitty Takes a Holiday is the third volume in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

Determined to discover her inner writer, werewolf Kitty Norville put her radio show on hiatus and rented an isolated house. Thus far all she has discovered is her inner writer’s block.

Fate is kind to Kitty. Kitty will have distractions galore from her writing issues.


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Everything A Big Bad Wolf Could Want

Red Rider’s Hood — Neal Shusterman
Dark Fusion, book 2

2005’s Red Rider’s Hood is the second volume in Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series. It is a modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Sixteen-year-old Red allows himself to be distracted by the revelation that classmate Marissa Flowers might have a bit of a crush on him. His befuddlement allows Cedric Soames’ Wolf gang to ambush, overpower, and rob Red and his beloved Grandma. Worse, the gang steals Red’s beloved Mustang.

Of course, this means war.

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Sink Me In The River At Dawn

Bloodchild and Other Stories — Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler’s 1995 Bloodchild and Other Stories is a collection. The particular edition I have is the Open Road Media edition; I know there’s an updated version, but I do not know if that edition is different from the one I have in hand.

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Lean On Me

Domino Falls — Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
Devil's Wake, book 2

2013’s Domino Falls is a sequel to Stephen Barnes and Tananarive Due’s 2012 novel, Devil’s Wake.

Freak Day, when the infected turned on their former friends, neighbours, and family members, ended the comfortable old world. Mere weeks after Freak Day, most humans are either dead or infected. The few untainted survivors struggle to survive and to avoid the infection even one bite can transmit.

Kendra lost her family to Freak Day and its aftermath. No person can survive alone for long; luckily for Kendra, she has five reliable allies in Terry, Piranha, Sonia, Dean, and Darius. Even better, the six teens may have found the refuge they need in Domino Falls, one of the few towns to survive Freak Day.

Or they may not.

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933–1940 — George S. Schuyler

George S. Schuyler’s 1931 Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933–1940 is a satire.

Where other inventors have offered temporary hair straightening and skin-lightening methods, Dr. Crookman provides a service that is both thorough and permanent: any American Negro with fifty dollars can walk into one of Crookman’s sanatoria and emerge indistinguishable from the white majority.

The consequences are not long delayed.

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Something Money Can’t Buy

Barrayar — Lois McMaster Bujold
Cordelia Vorkosigan, book 2

Lois McMaster Bujold’s 1991 Barrayar is the second Cordelia Vorkosigan novel. I am going to put off working out how to number it in the grander Vorkosigan Saga and Vorkosigan Universe sequences in the hope that nobody will notice if I am inconsistent1.

The plan: Barrayaran Aral marries Betan Cordelia; Aral retires from active duty and the couple lives on their country estate, there to enjoy long, happy lives.

The outcome: Emperor Ezar Vorbarra is dying and has one last task for Aral. It is a weighty task that will burden Aral and Cordelia for years to come.

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Past the Eyes of My Life

To Raise a Clenched Fist to the Sky — T. Thorn Coyle
The Panther Chronicles, book 1

To Raise a Clenched Fist to the Sky is the first volume in T. Thorn Coyle’s Panther Chronicles.

By 1968 the Summer of Love is a fading memory. Activism has taken centre stage. Nowhere is that more true than in Oakland, where the Black Panthers are working hard to set up community kitchens and raise political consciousness. It’s a heady time for Berkeley freshman Jasmine, who is new to the Bay Area.

Jasmine has a lot to offer the Panthers, not least of which is magic.

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Lady Luck

Redemption in Indigo — Karen Lord

Karen Lord’s 2010 debut Redemption in Indigo is a standalone fantasy novel.

Paama finally has had it with her gluttonous fool of a husband, Ansige, and leaves. Ansige is unwilling to let her go, and hires master tracker Kwame to find her. Kwame cannot convince Paama to return to Ansige. What he does do is draw the attention of the Djombi to Paama.

These great spirits have vast powers, but they still have need of someone like Paama.

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A Song Like This

The Ballad of Black Tom — Victor Lavalle

Victor Lavalle’s 2016 novella The Ballad of Black Tom is a standalone tale of cosmic horror. It is a retelling of Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” told from a perspective Lovecraft would never have considered.

Charles Thomas Tester, black and forever denied full membership in American society, supports his aged father by serving as middleman between rich New York clients and the occult community. They want artefacts of power; he can provide. But Tester is careful. He does his best to limit his exposure to dread powers. Let rich white fools dabble in the forbidden; Tester is a sensible man who plans to remain alive and sane.

Tester makes just two mistakes.

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How I’ll Make You Pay

The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas

1844’s The Count of Monte Cristo is a standalone novel of revenge written by Alexandre Dumas. While it is not my usual SF, it has certainly influenced SF. As well, there were (to my surprise) not one but two SFnal moments in the book.

Young Edmond Dantès has it all, from a solid career to a loving fiancée. Alas for Dantès, success engenders jealousy. In short order he is framed for Bonapartist subversion and secretly consigned to life imprisonment in the forbidding Château d’If. His friends and loved ones will never know why he vanished.

At least, that’s the plan.

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Who By Fire

Dragonfly Falling — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt, book 2

2009’s Dragonfly Falling is the second volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt decology.

The city-state of Collegium is the keystone of Lowland resistance to the coming Wasp Empire conquest of the lowlands. The Empire tried — and failed — to remove Collegium from the board with a swift, bold gambit. No matter. When cunning fails, there is always brute force.


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The Nightmare Kind

So I Might Be a Vampire — Rodney V. Smith
Chasing the Sun, book 1

2017’s So I Might Be a Vampire is the first volume in Rodney V. Smith’s Chasing the Sun series.

Vampires! Irresistible and sexy, self-confident aristocrats of the night!

Bob the vampire isn’t any of those things.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Report from Planet Midnight — Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson’s 2012 Report from Planet Midnight is a collection. It is the ninth volume in PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series.

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Peace When You Are Done

Binti — Nnedi Okorafor
Binti, book 1

2016’s Binti is the first volume in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series.

Early one morning, young Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka packs her things and leaves her home. None of her family is awake. None of them would approve if they knew she was leaving. And why she was leaving. Binti is abandoning her Himba community to accept a scholarship at university.

And not just any university. Oomza Uni is on another world. Binti is not just leaving her homeland of Namib behind. She is leaving Earth.

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Strange Language

Babel-17 — Samuel R. Delany

1966’s Babel-17 is an SF novel by Samuel R. Delany. Not his first (he had already published a number of Ace Doubles and one standalone), but the one that made his name. It shared the Nebula with Flowers for Algernon and was nominated for the Hugo as well, losing to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It shares some elements of its setting with an earlier Delany novel, Empire Star.

Victory over the Invaders may depend on understanding a series of indecipherable messages broadcast in an odd code? cipher? language? that the authorities label Babel-17. The Alliance turns to noted linguist Rydra Wong. “Tell us what this is and tell us what it means!”

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Get The Party Started

Deep Secret — Diana Wynne Jones
Magid, book 1

1997’s Deep Secret is the first of two novels in Diana Wynne Jones’ Magid series.

Through no fault of his own, magid Rupert Venables is drawn into two pressing succession problems. The first problem is to find a magid trainee. The former head magid has died (well, he’s dead but not exactly gone; such is the nature of magids). Rupert is now the senior magid and needs an apprentice and future successor. The second problem is finding the true heir to the Koryfonic Empire, hidden away by the previous, rather paranoid, emperor.

It’s no use asking the emperor himself: Timos IX is very sincerely, very thoroughly dead. So are Timos’ friends and confidants, who might have known where the heir had been stashed. The bomb that reduced Timos IX to vapour was very large.

Rupert decides backburner the question of the missing heir and focus on the quest to find an apprentice and head-magid-to-be. That should at least be straightforward.

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The Darkness Inside You

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach — Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson’s 2018 Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is a time-travel story.

Large-scale ecological remediation used to be a booming field. Then TERN developed time travel and remediation faltered. Bankers were convinced that access to the past would allow immediate remediation of past insults to the environment. Funds for the slow, laborious process of rebuilding the Earth’s ravaged surface have dried up. Like too many rivers.

Minh, one of the ecological remediators whose projects have been sidelined, must face the inevitable: survival means joining the enemy.

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Look Out Kid, It’s Something You Did

Blood Binds The Pack — Alex Wells
Hob Raveni, book 2

Blood Binds the Pack is the second volume in Alex Wells’ Hob Raveni series.

In the previous volume, Hob Raveni and the Ghost Wolves achieved the near-impossible: they assassinated Mr. Green, one of TransRift’s psionic-adept Weathermen. But that was not the end of the story. TransRift is determined to crush the resistance and take total control of Tanegawa’s World. They have sent a new enforcer: Mr. Yellow. Hob and the Wolves were lucky to kill one Weatherman. Can they kill two?

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We Pray For One Last Landing/ On The Globe That Gave Us Birth

Winds of Gath — E. C. Tubb
Dumarest Saga, book 1

1967’s The Winds of Gath is the first novel of thirty-three in E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest Saga.

The life of an itinerant stellar traveler is hard and dangerous. Earl Dumarest accepts the hazards; traveling is his only hope of finding his lost homeworld, Earth. He does try to minimize risk with due diligence and planning. His latest trip, for example, involves the usual 15% chance he won’t wake from cold sleep (or Low, as it is called in the argot of the starfarer) but if he does wake up, it will be on Broome. He should easily find employment there.

The best-laid plans, etc. Gloria, the Matriarch of Kund, hires the starship on which he was traveling, already in cold sleep. He cannot object when the ship is diverted to the planet Gath. Dumarest’s contract with the ship specified that he was to debark at the next world it touched. Was Broome, now Gath.

Gath has no economy to speak off. No jobs. But unless Dumarest can somehow accumulate enough cash for a trip out, he is trapped on the planet.

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A Complicated Animal Desire

Kitty Goes to Washington — Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville, book 2

2006’s Kitty Goes to Washington is the second volume in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

DJ Kitty Norville receives a subpoena to appear in front of the American senate. The government has taken note of the supernatural. Lucky Kitty wins a starring role in the hearings to come. She is, after all, the best-known werewolf in America.

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School’s Out For Summer

Hiromu Arakawa & Yoshiki Tanaka
The Heroic Legend of Arslan, book 3

The Heroic Legend of Arslan book 3 collects issues 11 to 19 of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka’s Heroic Legend of Arslan light novel series.

Pars has fallen and its king has been imprisoned, but Prince Arslan is still free. Traitor Kharlan is determined to prove his worth by capturing Arslan. Kharlan has a small army at his command, whereas Arslan counts but four people in his force — and that only if he counts himself.

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Into a Land of Enchantment

Every Heart a Doorway — Seanan McGuire
Wayward Children, book 1

2016’s Nebula and Hugo-winning Every Heart a Doorway is the first volume in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series.

Children through the ages have stepped through doors to other lands. Some, like Nancy, return — only to find themselves rejected by families unable to accept what their children have become. A lucky few, like Nancy, find their way to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

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The Black Wind Still Moans

The Poppy War — R. F. Kuang
Poppy Wars, book 1

R. F. Kuang’s 2018 debut The Poppy War is the first volume in her secondary world Poppy Wars fantasy trilogy.

Faced with an arranged marriage to an odious merchant (plan A), Fang “Rin” Runin opts for plan B: pass the arduous Keju test, which will give her a place at the prestigious academy in Sinegard. The odds that a war orphan fostered to a family of no particular rank will pass the exam are poor, but nevertheless, she persists. The highly motivated Rin places first for the entire Rooster province.

She soon discovers that winning entrance at Sinegard is not at all the same thing being accepted there.

Spoilers.

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Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down

Hammer’s Slammers — David Drake

1979’s Hammer’s Slammers was the first collection of David Drake’s long-running Hammer’s Slammers stories. The Slammers are a mercenary company formed by Alois Hammer.

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