Reviews

A Dream of Weaving

The Meek — Der-shing Helmer

The Meek is a webcomic by Der-shing Helmer (last seen here as the author of Mare Internum).

Fifteen year old Angora has been dispatched to save her world by the ancient and powerful giant salamander Mocheril, whom Angora calls Grandfather. Angora is energetic, determined, and able to command plants. She is also fearfully ignorant of the world and deficient in many attributes that would facilitate her quest.

Her utter lack of clothing proves unpleasantly attention-getting.

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Goodbye Stranger

Cycle of Fire — Hal Clement

1957’s Cycle of Fire is a young-adult novel by Hal Clement.

Marooned in a vast lava field by a glider crash, Dar Lang Ahn undertakes to march out on foot. It’s only after he has set out that he realizes that the march will be much harder than he expected. He and his precious cargo of books might be lost forever.

An unexpected encounter saves Dar’s life and his books. Immediate consequences: benign. Long-term consequences: wrenching transformation for Dar’s people, the natives of the world Abyormen.

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That Unfinished Goal

Eight Days of Luke — Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’ 1975 Eight Days of Luke is a standalone young-adult fantasy.

Orphan David Allard is a lucky boy, or so his guardians — Uncle Bernard, and Aunt Dot — assure him. After all, they took him in when they could have dumped him in an orphanage. They’d let him live with their family (uncle, aunt, cousins Ronald and Astrid) … intermittently, that is. Most of the time he is packed off to one boarding school or another.

David returns from boarding school a week early, which throws the family’s plans into chaos. The results are life-changing.


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Sole Misfortune

An Unkindness of Ghosts — Rivers Solomon

Rivers Solomon’s 2017 An Unkindness of Ghosts is a generation-ship novel.

The generation ship Matilda set out lifetimes ago to convey a handful of people to a distant promised land1. It carries within it every flaw known to human society. Until the ship arrives at its destination, there is no escape, not for the ship’s rulers (the Sovereignty) and not for the unfortunates relegated to the lower decks.

Aster is brilliant. Her intellectual gifts recommend her to the great surgeon Theo — not as a potential surgeon, but as a surgeon’s assistant. That is all she can ever be, because her skin is brown. That marks her as one of the underclass, as someone who can be oppressed and victimized without consequence.

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Starts With A Goodbye

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 5

Adachitoka’s Noragami Volume 5 collects issues 16 to 19 of the adventures of the stray god Yato.

  • 16. “Hell” (地獄 “Jigoku”)
  • 17. “Yearning for Someone to Trust” (寄る辺を求めて “Yorube o Motomete”)
  • 18. “Naked Sword” (抜き身 “Nuki Mi”)
  • 19. “Prayer” (願 “Negai”)

Of all those who despise Yato, none hate him more than the war god Bishamonten. Bishamonten’s hatred blinds her. She is also blind to the dangers she incurs by her greed to recruit as many ghosts as she can, ghosts who will serve as her shinki, servants1. Both blindnesses are weapons that her enemy will use against her.

Unfortunately for Bishamonten, that enemy is not Yato, but someone she considers her closest ally.

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Telling Stories

Fairy Tales from South Africa — Mrs. E. J. Bourhill & Mrs. J. B. Drake

Mrs. E. J. Bourhill and Mrs. J. B. Drake’s 1908 Fairy Tales From South Africa is exactly what the title says: a collection of fairy tales from the peoples of South Africa. It is illustrated by W. Herbert Holloway.


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Cross the Mighty Ocean

Exiles to Glory — Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle’s 1978 Exiles to Glory is a young-adult SF novel. It is set in the same universe as the Laurie Jo Hansen stories (after “Consort” but well before “Tinker”).

Although born a welfare parasite, Kevin Senecal has resisted the call of drugs and welfare-state-subsidized indolence. His engineering degree is within grasp. With degree in hand, he can stride into the life of desperation that is every decent, clean American’s birthright. That is, if he can convince the Umbridge-like bureaucrats who rule the university to let him graduate.

His academic status becomes… academic when Kevin is ambushed by filthy welfare barbarians determined to burn him alive. Kevin escapes with his life, badly injuring one gang member and killing another in the process. Now the gang is determined to kill Kevin. They do kill both of his cats.

A cop warns Kevin off; it’s no use to appeal to the police. Kevin would only be charged and convicted of assaulting and killing minors. Too white and hard-working to expect a fair trial, Kevin takes the only other option open to him: he heads into space.

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The Wish I Wish Tonight

Nemesis Games — James S. A. Corey
The Expanse, book 5

2015’s Nemesis Games is the fifth volume in James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series.

Back in the Solar System after dealing with an extrasolar diplomatic crisis, James Holden bows to the inevitable. His much battered ship Rocinante is in desperate need of repairs. With Rocinante in dry dock, what better time to give his loyal crew shore leave?

Holden is ignoring the first rule of adventuring: never split the party1.

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Near Beyond the Moon

Mare Internum — Der-shing Helmer

Der-shing Helmer’s Mare Internum is an ongoing hard-SF webcomic.

Doctor Mike Fisher is one of the elite few chosen to explore Mars, now in the initial stages of colonization. Or rather, he was. Bitter, alarmingly hostile, and socially isolated, he was fired after the loss of his artificially intelligent LEVi robot in the mysterious catacombs under the Martian surface. As soon as transportation is available, he will be sent back to Earth.

Before he goes, however, newly arrived Doctor Rebekah “Bex” Egunsola would like to take advantage of Mike’s EVA skills. Initially reluctant to venture back into the Martian caves, Mike allows himself to be talked around. It’s just one quick foray into the labyrinth. What could go wrong?

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That Sacred Core That Burns Inside Of Me

Huang Jin Zhou & Hiromu Arakawa
Hero Tales, book 1

Hero Tales, volume 1 collects the first three issues of Huang Jin Zhou and Hiromu Arakawa’s Jūshin Enbu.

Taitou hates the Empire. Reforming the corrupt state seems impossible. At least it is for a hot-headed young man living out in the sticks. He settles for beating up imperial functionaries whenever they pass by his home town.

Taitou has potential of which he is utterly unaware. His grandfather knows full well what power Taitou has within him and how to enable Taitou to draw on it. Step one: orchestrate Taitou’s humiliating loss to another martial artist.

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I’m Gonna See Ya’

I am Princess X — Cherie Priest

2016’s I Am Princess X is a standalone young-adult thriller by Cherie Priest. It features illustrations by Kali Ciesemier.

Once upon a time there were two schoolgirls, artist Libby and writer May. Together, they created a shared fantasy world, ruled over by Princess X. Their partnership came to an abrupt, violent end when the car containing Libby and her mother went through a bridge guard rail and into the waters below.

May did her best to convince herself that Libby somehow survived. By the time May was sixteen, she had to accept what everyone around her believed to be true: Libby was dead.

Then the stickers start appearing in Seattle windows.

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Whole World’s Upside Down

The Other Side of the Sky — Arthur C. Clarke

1958’s The Other Side of the Sky1 is a collection by Arthur C. Clarke. The Signet MMPB is only 160 pages long, but there are two dozen stories in this book. Most are rather short.

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Don’t Care About the Cold

Kitty Goes to War — Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville, book 8

2010’s Kitty Goes to War is the eighth book in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

Having survived an amateur remake of The Most Dangerous Game1, Kitty returns to Denver. Because life is like that, she finds herself wrestling with not just one but two crises.


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A Secret Just Between You And Me

The Other Side of the Moon — Meriol Trevor

Meriol Trevor’s 1957 The Other Side of the Moon is a standalone juvenile SF novel.

The Kingville Lunar Expedition did not intend to take an untrained boy on their mission to the Moon. Nor did Gil Pentfoyle intend to stow away. Having snuck on board to play spaceman, Gil fell asleep. The busy crew overlooked the boy until the expedition was well on its way to Earth’s satellite.

Although displeased to discover the stowaway, Captain Raider doesn’t airlock Gil. Perhaps this is because Gil’s brother, the expedition botanist1, might object. Perhaps this is because the captain is decent guy. Besides … the expedition already has a useless member, the expedition sponsor’s son Tracy. Gil makes two of them. (Perhaps three; see1.)

Turns out that the Moon is a surprising place.

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If Your Wings Are Broken

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 4

Noragami, Volume Four collects issues 12 to 15 of Adachitoka’s on-going series about the stray god Yato and his peers:

  • To Kill, or Not To Kill” (きる、きらない “Kiru, Kiranai”),

  • Omen” (兆し “Kizashi”),

  • Her Memories” (彼女の思い出 “Kanojo no Omoide”),

  • That Which Withers” (枯れゆくもの “Kare Yuku Mono”).

Having survived his servant Yukini’s flirtation with corruption, Yato must now figure out how to help his human friend Hiyori.

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I Don’t Know Where I’ll Go

The Other Side of Tomorrow — Roger Elwood

1973’s The Other Side of Tomorrow is a theme anthology edited by Roger Elwood. It’s a reasonable example of Elwood’s efforts at this point in his career.

In what sort of world will the young people of tomorrow live? Nine authors imagine futures.

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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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