Reviews

And The Stars Above

Finder — Suzanne Palmer

Suzanne Palmer’s 2019 Finder is a science fiction novel.

Humanity has escaped the Earth and the Solar System and has spread across the Milky Way. It’s a grand, romantic era … in the midst of which Fergus Ferguson has an unromantic job. He is a modern-day repo man, tracking down and recovering items that have not been paid for.

The quest for a starship misappropriated by Arum Gilger leads Fergus to Cernekan, a meh system midway between nowhere remarkable and no place special. Cernekan is about to become an interesting place, and the unfortunate Fergus will play a central role in that transformation.


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Read All About Their Schemes and Adventuring

Kim Eun-hee & Kim Seong-hun
Kingdom, book 1

Kingdom is a 2019 South Korean television series. It was written by Kim Eun-hee and directed by Kim Seong-hun. There are six episodes in season one, of which this is the first. The primary cast are (from Wikipedia):

Ju Ji-hoon as Crown Prince Yi Chang

 Supporting

Prince Yi Chang, crown prince of the Kingdom of Great Joseon, would seem to have an enviable lot. Not so. His father’s new bride, Queen Consort Yo, is pregnant with a child who might well take Yi Chang’s place. Queen Consort Yo’s clan, the Haewon Cho, have seized control of the nation’s bureaucracies.

Ten days earlier, the King fell ill. Try as he might, Yi Chang cannot get past the wall of Haewon-paid courtiers clustering around his father. What is the true state of the King’s health? The courtiers lie. He cannot tell.


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That’s My Plan

In Conquest Born — C. S. Friedman
Azean Empire, book 1

1987’s In Conquest Born is the first volume in C. S. Friedman’s Azean Empire series. It was the author’s debut novel.

The Azean Empire has the misfortune to border territory claimed by Braxi. Braxi lives for war and conquest. If it concludes a peace treaty, that’s a temporary measure; they’re preparing for the next attack. There have been many comprehensive peace treaties between Azea and Braxi, each as short-lived as the one before.

The latest treaty collapses when Vinir and K’Siva, high-born Braxin, birth a son. The Braxana feel strongly that it would be inauspicious to name the child in peacetime. Braxin forces descend on an Azean colony world to celebrate Zatar’s birth.

Zatar grows into an ambitious and talented warlord. This would not bode well for Azea were it not that one well-placed family has also produced a capable child. But there is a slight problem.

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You May See a Stranger

Enchantress From the Stars — Sylvia Engdahl
Elana, book 1

Sylvia Engdahl’s 1970 Enchantress From the Stars is the first of the two Elana novels, also the first of five Anthropology Service novels.

The Federation is vast and powerful; it is also a good neighbor. It is not inclined to try to fix other cultures (Special Circumstances, cough cough). The Federation takes non-interference seriously enough that its very existence is a secret from less developed star-faring powers. Protecting pre-industrial worlds like Andrecia from imperialists (like the Empire) would therefore seem to be impossible.

 Seem.


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Ballots Not Bullets

Infomocracy — Malka Older
Centenal Cycle, book 1

Malka Older’s Infomocracy is the first volume in her Centenal Cycle.

Twenty years ago, the people of the world came together in an unprecedented step to form a new international order. Since the first global election, war among participating jurisdictions has been eradicated, and prosperity and trade have spread.

Key to the new status quo: Information, the organization that ensures everyone’s access to reliable information.


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Earth’s Vain Shadows Flee

Tsukumizu
Girls' Last Tour, book 5

Tsukumizu’s Girl’s Last Tour, volume five was first published in 2017. The Yen Press English translation was published in late 2018. It collects chapters 33 to 40 of Tsukumizu’s ongoing tale of two girls, Yuuri and Chito, wandering a desolate, doomed Earth.

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The Long Way Around

Travel Light — Naomi Mitchison

Naomi Mitchison’s 1952 Travel Light is a standalone fantasy.

A widowed king remarries. His new wife may have many virtues, but love for her stepdaughter Halla is not one of them. Eager to please his new bride, the king orders his daughter Halla cast out in the wilderness to die.

This should have been the end for Halla. It wasn’t.


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My Soul To Take

Gutter Prayer — Gareth Hanrahan
Black Iron Legacy

2019’s The Gutter Prayer is the first volume in Gareth Hanrahan’s planned Black Iron Legacy series. It is Hanrahan’s debut novel.

Rat, Carillon, and Spar: the ghoul, the runaway, and the Stone Man. Each have their special talents; together they make a splendid team of thieves. Master thief Heinreil seems to think so; he selected the trio to steal valuable documents from the city of Guerdon’s House of Law.

Some missions are more challenging than others. When we meet our heroes, the House of Law is in flames thanks to the wild success of another team’s alchemical explosives. Guerdon’s protectors are well aware that something untoward is up. Rat escapes capture, but Carillon and Spar do not.


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Fly Me To The Moon

Operation Columbus — Hugh Walters
Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A. series, book 3

1960’s Operation Columbus (AKA First on the Moon) is the third volume in the Hugh Walters series ’ Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A.

The mysterious Domes of Pico have been smashed with atomic weapons, ending the immediate threat to the Earth. The next obvious step is to send a manned mission to the Moon to examine the remains and, it is hoped, determine what sort of being built the Domes.

The end of the lunar threat brought with it the end of human unity. Instead of cooperating on the mission, the West and the Soviets are in a race to the Moon. Chris Godfrey hopes to be the West’s man on the moon. Who his Soviet rival be? Nobody in the West can say.

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Do You Want To Know A Secret?

Four Hundred Billion Stars — Paul McAuley
Four Hundred Billion Stars, book 1

1988’s Four Hundred Billion Stars was Paul J. McAuley’s debut novel. It was followed by 1989’s Of the Fall (US title: Secret Harmonies), a prequel set some centuries earlier than Four Hundred Billion Stars. In 1991 McAuley published Eternal Light, a direct sequel to this novel.

The invention of the phase graffle re-opened contact between the Earth and its abandoned colonies. A few decades later, the Federation for Co-Prosperity of Worlds stumbled across an alien civilization living on and among the asteroids orbiting the red dwarf BD+20o 2465. The aliens are unrelentingly hostile; they are known as the enemy. Ever since contact was made, the Federation and the enemy have been locked in war.

Astronomer Dorthy Yoshida has no interest in matters military, but her telepathic gift makes her an intelligence asset too precious to the Navy to squander on pure research. The asocial scientist is drafted into the war effort.


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Set Fire to the Rain

Fate of Flames — Sarah Raughley
Effigies, book 1

2016’s Fate of Flames is the first volume in Sarah Raughley’s Effigies series.

Maia is an Effigy, imbued with powers beyond mortal ken. On the plus side, awesome powers yay. On the minus side, Maia only gained her new fire-based powers because the previous fire Effigy, Natalya, died. The lifespan of an Effigy is measured in years … if they are lucky.

Maia can expect to spend the rest of her short life fighting monsters.


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I Know You Can Hear Me

Dark Orbit — Carolyn Ives Gilman

Carolyn Ives Gilman’s 2015 Dark Orbit is a standalone SF novel set in her Twenty Worlds universe.

Researcher Saraswati Callicot transmits home to Capella Two only to find that during the years she spent in transit, she was sued for and lost the intellectual property from which she had expected riches. The same light-speed delay involved in matter transmission means that by the time she is reconstituted into a living human, the period during which she could have appealed is long over. Not to worry! Director Gossup wants to recruit Sara for a very important mission.

The known worlds (linked to each other by superluminal communication and light-speed matter transmission) were founded by sub-light probes sent out in the era of the great diaspora. They’re all human-friendly, thanks to terraforming. One of the ancient probes, long since written off, has called home unexpectedly. It has found something quite new.


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Tailor Made

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 10

Adachitoka’s Noragami Volume 10 collects issues 35 to 39 of the adventures of the stray god Yato. The manga was first published in 2014; the English translation was published in 2016. Included in the volume are

  • 36. “Binding Curse” (呪縛 “Jubaku”)

  • 37. “The Sound of You Calling My Name” (君の呼ぶ声 “Kimi no Yobu Koe”)

  • 38. “Because I Promised” (約束したから “Yakusoku Shitakara”)

  • 39. “Until Now and From Now On” (コレマデとコレカラ “Koremade to Korekara”)


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Eve of Destruction

The Rosewater Insurrection — Tade Thompson
Wormwood Trilogy, book 2

Tade Thompson’s 2019 The Rosewater Insurrection is the second volume in his Wormwood trilogy.

Researcher Aminat Arigbede and her psychic husband Kaaro have a happy marriage. Their domestic bliss is ephemeral … they live on a planet that is slowly but inexorably being taken from the human species by alien invaders.

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Lookin’ For Love

After Doomsday — Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s 1962 After Doomsday is a standalone science fiction novel.

Twenty years after first contact with galactic civilization, humanity has assimilated much off-world technology. The Americans send a mission of exploration, the USS Benjamin Franklin, to the core of the galaxy and back. The Franklin returns to an Earth scoured clean of life, orbited by alien missiles.

At least three hundred humans have survived the apocalypse: the three hundred on board the Franklin. Thanks to American views on staffing potentially dangerous missions, all three hundred are men.

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Somewhere Only We Know

Dreamrider — Sandra Miesel

Sandra Miesel’s 1982 Dreamrider is a standalone science fiction novel.

Ria Legarde lives in a world shaped by a great disaster in 1985 and the anti-tech backlash that followed. After years of chaos, Earth was unified under the Federation, an oppressive nanny state that subjects its citizens to peace, happiness, and art by people who aren’t white. Worst of all, the mental health authority PSI has sweeping powers to detect, detain, and treat the unhappy, perplexed, and nonconformist.

Ria is all three, thanks to her bizarre dreams.

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Unstoppable

Kozue Amano
Amanchu!, book 1

2009’s Amanchu!, Volume One, collects the first six issues of Kozue Amano’s eponymous manga. Unlike Amano’s Aria, Amanchu! does not appear to be SF. Like Aria, it focuses on the friendship between two teens.

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Do You Wanna Touch?

The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton — Larry Niven

Larry Niven’s 1976 The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton collects the three then-extant Gil Hamilton stories1. All three are police procedurals and all three feature Gil Hamilton, a retired asteroid miner turned Amalgamated Regional Militia [ARM] officer.


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Looking For the Burning Truth

Breaking Strain — Paul Preuss
Arthur C. Clarke's Venus Prime, book 1

Paul Preuss’ 1987’s Breaking Strain is the first volume of six in the Arthur C. Clark’s Venus Prime series.

Taking pity on the amnesiac woman in his care, a guilt-ridden doctor restores her memories. This act costs the doctor his life, but allows the young cyborg, code-named Sparta, to escape the secret medical facility in which she is being held prisoner.

Reinventing herself as Ellen Troy, Sparta joins the Space Board as an investigator. Her cutting-edge education and advanced implants make her an exemplary recruit. First assignment: Port Hesperus, Venus!


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It Looks Like Rain

An Excess Male — Maggie Shen King

Maggie Shen King’s 2017’s An Excess Male is a standalone near-future SF novel.

Lee Wei-guo is one of forty million men who make up China’s so-called Bounty, the number of men in excess of the number of women. It’s a legacy of China’s one child policy that has been complicated by misogynistic choices to favor male children and abort or abandon females. Managing the Bounty is a pressing public policy challenge. Responses have included legalizing polyandry and assigning sex workers to the superfluous men.

Wei-guo is forty; his chances of finding a bride are waning. But there’s a glimmer of hope. He has enough money saved for a dowry1; he and his fathers can afford to pay a matchmaker for a few lunch meetings with prospective brides. One such has agreed to meet with Wei-guo and his fathers.

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Nobody’s Business But The Turks

Xia Da
Choukakou, book 2

Choukakou, which is also known as Chang Ge Xing, Chang Ge’s Journey, or Song of the Long March, is an ongoing manhua (Chinese comic) series by Xia Da. Volume two collects issues five through eleven.

Princess Li Chang Ge fled her uncle’s (Tang emperor Taizong) ruthless purge of Li Chang Ge’s immediate family. Posing as a young man of noble birth, she has wormed her way into the inner circle of Gong Sun Heng, Governor of Shuo.

Chang Ge’s plans to kill the Emperor are on hold for the moment. She and the whole of Shou have far more immediate problems:

Turks.

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Cry, Little Sister

The Fog Maiden — Jane Toombs

Jane Toombs’ 1976 The Fog Maiden is a standalone fantasy novel. If it were published today, I suspect it would be classified as urban fantasy/paranormal romance.

After the death of her father, Janella Maki was raised by her well-meaning but distant stepmother. Janella has no memories of her early past and knows even less about her biological parents. It’s a surprise when an uncle shows up to renew family ties.

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For Beautiful, For Spacious Skies

Black Star Rising — Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl’s 1985 Black Star Rising is a standalone science fiction novel.

The world is divided into two spheres, one dominated by India, one by China, These two powers were the only slightly damaged by an apocalyptic nuclear war that ravaged the United States and the Soviet Union. North America falls under China’s benevolent umbrella. Its aboriginal population is monitored by Chinese supervisors.

Castor is an Anglo farmer with pretensions above his class. Denied entry into university, he is an autodidact, hoovering up knowledge of no relevance to his duties to the Heavenly Grain Rice Collective. Elevation from this humble but necessary role comes courtesy of two unrelated events: a brutal murder and what seems to be a First Contact event.

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So Far Away

Dragon Pearl — Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee’s 2019 Dragon Pearl is a standalone science fantasy novel.

Thirteen-year-old Min is a magical fox girl. Other supernatural races may be respected throughout the Thousand Worlds, but not foxes. Foxes are seen as untrustworthy and murderous. Min is brought up to conceal her fox nature from neighbours on Jinju.

Min is biding her time, waiting to turn fifteen, when she will be eligible to join the Thousand Worlds’ space force. That’s one way off backwater Jinju. She knows even a fox can do this, because her older brother Jun managed it.

One day an investigator appears, with bad news about Jun.


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