Reviews

Life’s Little Day

Tsukumizu
Girls' Last Tour, book 6

Tsukumizu’s Girl’s Last Tour, volume six was first published in 2017. The Yen Press translation into English was published in 2019. It collects chapters 41 to 47 of Tsukumizu’s ongoing tale of two girls, Yuuri and Chito, wandering a desolate, doomed Earth. It is the final volume.


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Not Ready To Make Nice

The Element of Fire — Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ 1993 debut novel The Element of Fire is a standalone secondary-universe fantasy. It is the first of Wells’ Ile-Rien books. It was followed by The Death of the Necromancer, The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy (The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods) and various short pieces.

A daring night-time raid on a sorcerer’s lair, a victim recovered, a mansion left aflame: enough of an adventure in itself. For Captain Thomas Boniface, this was just the beginning of a longer, more perilous campaign.


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By The Last Breath Of The Four Winds That Blow

The Stars My Destination — Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester’s 1956 The Stars My Destination is a standalone tale of REVENGE! And a change of heart.

Psychic teleportation transformed society. The economic effects triggered war between the Inner Planets and the Outer Satellites.

Gulliver Foyle survived the destruction of the interplanetary space craft Nomad only to spend six months trapped on the hulk. When finally another ship, the Vorga, came within rescue range, Foyle was quick to fire off distress signals. Inexplicably, the Vorga ignored the flares and continued on its way.

Until this moment, Foyle had been an entirely unremarkable prole, uneducated, unmotivated, and destined to live and die in obscurity. Vorga’s act gave Foyle the motivation he had previously lacked. Now he has goals: survive and make the crew of Vorga pay for leaving him in deep space.


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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The Smoke-Scented Girl — Melissa McShane
Dalanine, book 1

2015’s The Smoke-Scented Girl is the first volume in Melissa McShane’s Dalanine secondary-universe fantasy series.

The kingdom of Dalanine is under attack. The Despot is marching steadily, unstoppably, towards the capital. Dalanine is also dealing with a rash of deadly arson attacks.

Research magician Evon Lorantis is working desperately to work out who or what agency is causing the fires.

What he discovers: a young woman who can’t control her new powers.


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What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Monstress, book 1

Monstress, Book One1 collects the first eighteen issues of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s epic secondary-universe fantasy manga.

The semi-magical Arcanics are descended from godlike beings. When properly processed, their body parts can be transformed into the extremely useful substance Lilium. The humans, in particular the witches of the Cumaea, see the Arcanics as beasts fit only for slavery or for slow, painful conversion into Lilium. The Arcanics disagree. Hence the seemingly endless wars between the Arcanics and the Federation of Man.

The most recent war ended when the entire city of Constantine and all within it were burned from the face of the planet. Believing this was a work of a new Arcanic weapon, the Federation agreed to peace … for the moment.

Which gets us to one-armed Maika, an Arcanic who when we first meet her is about to sold into slavery or worse.


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Have You Seen the Way?

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 11

Adachitoka’s Noragami Volume 11 collects issues 40 to 43 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

  • 40. “We Not-So-Humbly Pray” (恐み恐みも白さず “Kashikomi mo Mōsazu”)

  • 41. “A Picture Together” (一緒に写真を “Issho ni Shashin wo”)

  • 42. “Causes Nothing but Disaster” (厄災しか起こせない “Yakusai Shika Okosenai”)

  • 43. “Secrets” (秘め事 “Himegoto”)


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And Drop Them in a Teacup

Carpe Diem — Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Liaden, book 3

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s 1989 Carpe Diem is the third novel published in their long-running Liaden series.

Set upon by the predatory Yxtrang, Val Con yos’Phelium makes a desperate bid to escape into faster-than-light drive. It’s successful in the sense that Val Con and his companion Miri Robertson escape horrific deaths at the hands of the Yxtrang. It’s unsuccessful in that their badly damaged ship ends up in the back of beyond, orbiting the interdicted world of Vandar.

Briefly orbiting. A forced descent follows.


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Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt

Trouble on Titan — Alan E. Nourse

1954’s Trouble on Titan was Alan E. Nourse’s debut novel1. It is standalone juvenile SF. It has recently been reprinted and issued in e-book form by Prologue Books.

Tuck Benedict is disappointed to learn that his hoped-for reunion with his father must be postponed. Colonel Benedict has spent years troubleshooting on Mars and Venus for the Security Commission. His leave has been cancelled. He’s been dispatched to Titan, home to unruly rubidium miners.

The colonel invites Tuck to join him on his mission to Titan, but Tuck fears delay in reporting to college could cost him his scholarship. Then … luck puts Tuck in a position to save his father from a mail bomb. Afraid that the assassin might succeed if Tuck is not there to protect his father, Tuck changes his mind. School must wait until Tuck returns from the mining colony.

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All Kinds of Kinds

This Alien Shore — C. S. Friedman

C. S. Friedman’s This Alien Shore is a standalone space-opera/cyberpunk novel.

The Hausman drive gave humanity the stars. It also induced mutations in crew, passengers, and colonists. The mutations thrived in the new colonies, which became known as Variants. A bigoted, xenophobic Earth abandoned its colonies. Two centuries later, the Guerans developed an entirely new method of faster-than-light travel, via ainniq, points that give access to an alien realm governed by unfamiliar laws. The Gueran Guild reached out to all of humanity’s worlds, including standoffish Earth, and rebuilt the interstellar community Earth had cast aside.

Now someone is trying to destroy that community.


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Hunt The Haunted

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 — P. Djèlí Clark

P. Djèlí Clark’s 2019 novella, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, is a supernatural police procedural. It shares its setting with A Dead Djinn in Cairo.

Agent Hamed Nasr of Egypt’s Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities has learned many odd things over the course of his career, but he’s never learned to lay ghosts. Nevertheless, Nasr and new partner Onsi Youssef are summoned to Ramses Station to deal with what’s said to be a haunted tram car. Could this finally be a true haunting?

No. Whatever the entity is, it is not a ghost. It is, however, real. It is definitely hostile.


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Ain’t Gonna Drown in the Water

Mi-kyung Yun
Bride of the Water God, book 1

Bride of the Water God, Volume One collects the first seven issues of Mi-kyung Yun’s manhwa (manga, comic).

Faced with a long, punishing drought, Soah’s fellow villagers do the only thing they think will work. They send a bride to Habaek the Water God in the hope that the god will be pleased and send rain again.

By “bride”, they mean “human sacrifice.” Soah is cast adrift in a small boat to face a watery doom.

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Whisper Whisper

City of Bones — Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ 1995 City of Bones is a standalone secondary-world fantasy.

The relic trade is chancy enough, but for krismen like Khat in a city like Charisat, it is especially risky. Even if Khat can avoid violating Charisat’s trade laws, he could still be murdered by greedy criminals … or off-handedly killed by the city guard or their masters. He is, after all, a despised non-human.

Too bad that there are so few jobs open to Khat. This is the best of the few; as a krisman, he has some advantages.


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Songs That May No Longer Please Us

Destinies, November–December 1978 — Jim Baen

Destinies, November–December 1978 was the debut issue of Jim Baen’s bookazine Destinies. Destinies ran from late 1978 to summer of 1981. There were eleven issues, each the size of a mass market paperback; there was a Best-of anthology as well1. Back in the day, I was an avid magazine reader and this was one of my favourite magazines.

Odd that until I reread this volume I did not remember it at all.


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Nobody Calls You Honey When You’re Sitting On a Throne

Shadow Magic — Patricia C. Wrede
Lyra, book 1

Patricia C. Wrede’s 1982 debut novel Shadow Magic was the first novel published in what became her Lyra series. ISFDB lists it as the third Lyra novel, presumably on the basis of internal chronology. But the omnibus on my Kobo lists Shadow Magic as first book in the series. Lyra book order may be a problem like Narnia book order; one can wile away many a pleasant afternoon discussing which is the correct way to order the books and which way is obviously incorrect. (I vote for the correct way, as I am sure you do too.)

Merchant Maurin Atuval has just been invited into the home of his new chum, aristocrat Har of the Noble House of Brenn, when he makes a sudden discovery. He is not the protagonist of this story. Har’s sister Alethia is.

This becomes apparent as soon as Alethia is kidnapped by Lithmern.

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Don’t Pay No Union Dues

Stan Sakai
Usagi Yojimbo Saga, book 8

The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, Volume Eight is an omnibus that collects books 29 through 31 of Stan Sakai’s eponymous series. At its centre is the masterless lapin samurai Miyamoto Usagi, who wanders through a slightly skewed version of Edo-era Japan.

Because I got this as an e-arc, I failed to grasp how much of a tome Volume Eight is. On paper, it’s probably weighty enough to cause serious back pain when lifting the volume.


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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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