Reviews

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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Blessed With Beauty And Rage

Armageddon—2419 A.D. — Philip Francis Nowlan

Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon — 2419 A.D. was first published in 1928. In 1929, it was followed by a sequel, The Airlords of Han. This background was reworked for the comic strip “Buck Rogers,” which has been adopted into radio, movies, television and roleplaying games. The edition I first read (the cover featured here) was the combined edition Ace created in the 1960s. Since I no longer own that, I’ve resorted to reading the Project Gutenberg editions.

Anthony Rogers was just another radioactive-gas entrepreneur when a surveying foray into a promising mine ended in tragedy. Trapped by the tunnel collapse that killed his companions, Rogers was overcome by the very radioactive gases he hoped to mine. Death seemed certain.

Four hundred years later, Rogers wakes to find America transformed.

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All the rest are dead or in retreat/ Or with the enemy

Heirs of the Blade — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt, book 7

2011’s Heirs of the Blade is the seventh volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.

None of Tynisa’s closest friends have seen Tynisa since she fled after mortally wounding her foster-sister’s lover. She was not really responsible, as she was mesmerized by an enemy spellcaster at the time. Still, the guilt haunts her. So does the memory of Salma, Prince-Minor Salme Dien, whom she loved but lost to another and then to death on the battlefield.

Tynisa ventures to Leose, princely seat of Salma’s family the Salmae. There she meets his aristocratic family. She meets also meets Salma’s brother Alain, who might almost be Salma’s twin. Small wonder if she allows herself to fall for the silver-tongued aristocrat.

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Ages and Ages Hence

The Calculating Stars — Mary Robinette Kowal
Lady Astronaut, book 1

The Calculating Stars is the first novel in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series1.

President Dewey’s Take That! to Communist Russia took the form of not one but three successful space launches. Dewey scarcely has time to revel in America’s success before a space rock obliterates Dewey, Washington DC, and everyone else within hundreds of miles of the impact point.

Five hundred miles away, Elma York and her husband Nathaniel survive the impact and the immediate aftermath. Once the implications of the impact become clear, they realize that their survival — and the survival of the biosphere — may be strictly temporary.

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Dragons Live Forever

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters — Gen Urobuchi, Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita

2017’s anime film Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is the first in a trilogy of animated films about the big galoot. It was written by Gen Urobuchi and co-directed by Kōbun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita. Voice actors include Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji. Mamoru Miyano, Daisuke Ono, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, and Junichi Suwabe.

Humanity was seemingly helpless in the face of the kaiju, in particular Godzilla itself. Timely first contact with not one but two highly advanced aliens — the pious Exif and the technologically sophisticated Bilusaludo — proved humanity’s salvation. Not because the Exif and Bilusaludo were any more adept at fighting giant, indestructible monsters than the humans. They weren’t. But with alien help, a handful of humans was able to board starship Aratrum and flee towards the possible haven of Tau Ceti e.

Twenty years later….


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Stars Shining Bright Above You

Before Mars — Emma Newman
Planetfall, book 3

2018’s Before Mars is the third book in Emma Newman’s Planetfall series.

Anna Kubrin is offered a chance too good to refuse: a chance to go to GaborCorps’ Mars base as the resident geologist/artist. This is her only chance: GaborCorps has a monopoly on Mars exploration. But … if she accepts the post, Anna will spend two years away from her husband George and child Mia.

This weighs on Anna — as does her awareness that two years away from her family does not bother her nearly as much as convention demands. Despite this, there was never any doubt that she would accept; by the time the novel begins she has made the journey.

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Goodbye, Blue Sky

One in Three Hundred — J. T. McIntosh

1953’s One in Three Hundred is the first installment of a J. T. McIntosh trilogy (also called One in Three Hundred).

Nobody on Earth needs to worry about anything bad that might happen after September 18th, because on that date (as predicted by scientists) the Sun is going to become brighter. Not a lot, but enough to boil the Earth’s oceans and kill every living thing on the planet.

Humanity does not intend to give up and accept inevitable death.

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Caught Up in Circles

A Tale of Time City — Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’ 1987 A Tale of Time City is a standalone young-adult SF novel.

1939: a year after World War Two has broken out, young Vivian Smith is sent off to the country, to live with her cousin Marty for the duration. She is not met by her cousin; she is met by Jonathan Lee Walker, who kidnaps Vivian and whisks her off to a destination outside of time itself.

In Jonathan’s defense, he means well.

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Hands Up And Touch The Sky

M-Space — Clarence Redd

Clarence Redd’s 2016 M-Space is an SF table-top role-playing game. It uses the D100-derived Mythras Imperative game engine, which is to say it is a close relative of RPGs like Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, and Future World. M-Space is published by Frostbyte Books, headquartered in Sweden. It is also the specific game that inspired me to do the BRP series of SFRPG reviews.

Onward to the stars!

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Just a Slob Like One of Us

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 2

Noragami, Volume 2 collects issues four through seven of a series from Adachitoka. It’s the tale of a minor god’s efforts to establish himself in modern-day Japan.

Minor god Yato is not well known, but he has profound effects on those who meet him. Yukini may be dead, but his spirit has been recruited to serve as Yato’s reluctant sidekick and magical weapon. Schoolgirl Hiyori Iki has gained a wonderous ability to astrally project! Even if she cannot control her potentially fatal condition, this is still a profound effect. Right?

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‘Tis The Gift To Be Simple

Record of a Spaceborn Few — Becky Chambers
Galactic Commons, book 3

2018’s Record of a Spaceborn Few is the third volume in Becky Chambers’ Galactic Commons series.

Having ruined the Earth, humans mined the Earth’s cities and turned them into a vast interstellar fleet. The Exodus Fleet’s design proved surprisingly robust; not only did the fleet survive centuries and light-years, the people riding the ships neither went mad nor devolved into cannibalistic barbarians. The Exodus Fleet was an impressive achievement. Even if the technology involved was hilariously backward by galactic standards.

If only humans had encountered the galaxy-spanning Galactic Commons (GC) before the Fleet set out, the whole endeavour might have been unnecessary. As it is, the human race was allowed to join the GC as a very junior member, while the aging Fleet was graciously permitted to park itself in an otherwise useless stellar system.

Where it still orbits.

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Villain By The Devil’s Law

The Bladerunner — Alan E. Nourse

Alan E. Nourse’s 1974 The Bladerunner is a standalone near-future medical SF novel. It is not the novel on which the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner is based. It is the novel on which the title of the film Blade Runner is based. More on that later.

In this novel’s 1994, America faced the perfect storm of population pressure, an aging population, soaring universal health care costs, and studies blaming the increased incidence of antibiotic-resistant diseases and the spread of genetic disorders like diabetes on modern medicine itself. Following the Health Riots the United States hastily adopted the Heinz-Lafferty Eugenics Control program.

Medical treatment is still available to all, but any individual who requires health care services for any reason is sterilized. Children under five are exempt, save for children who have known hereditary disease; the latter are routinely sterilized or euthanized.

Unsurprisingly, a considerable fraction of Americans want medical treatment without mandatory sterilization. Many physicians do not agree that the Heinz-Lafferty program is good public policy. The resistant Americans have provided demand, The resistant physicians have provided supply. The twenty years since the Riots have seen a black market in medical care firmly establish itself in the US. Such a vast black market needs its middlemen and that’s where Billy Gimp comes in.

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Some Men Fight For Silver And Some Men Fight For Gold

Cibola Burn — James S. A. Corey
Expanse, book 4

2014’s Cibola Burn is the fourth volume in James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series1.

The Ring Builder’s protomolecule creates death and damage — just ask the unfortunates on Eros — but it also grants opportunities. Humanity has lost one major asteroid city; it has been forced to share the solar system with a vast, powerful alien artifact that regards humans as potentially useful raw materials. On the plus side, thanks to the protomolecule humanity now has access to the Ring Builder wormhole network and a thousand life-bearing worlds.

With potential living space expanded a thousandfold, one might expect it would take centuries before groups began squabbling over territory. Ha ha. It takes about a year.

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Their Just Reward

Kotono Katō
Altair: A Record of Battles, book 1

Altair: A Record of Battles, Volume One collects the first fasıls (as the author calls her chapters) of Kotono Katō’s manga series.

The continent of Rumelania is dominated by two great powers: the Türkiye stratocracy and the Balt-Rhein empire. Both are limited meritocracies, both are expansionist. Türkiye prefers persuasive annexation; Balt-Rhein has opted for outright conquest.

Mahmut lost his family and entire clan to war when he was a young boy. Determined to prevent another destructive war, he is the stratocracy’s youngest pasha and perhaps its most idealistic. Alas for Mahmut’s pacifism, it only takes one great power (one clearly based on the Holy Roman Empire) to start a war.

In fact, it only takes one faction within Balt-Rhein to bring Balt-Rhein and Türkiye to the brink of war.

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Sounds Like a Whisper

Empire of Sand — Tasha Suri
The Books of Ambha, book 1

Empire of Sand is the first book in Tasha Suri’s new series, The Books of Ambha.

Being the daughter of Governor of Irinah has its benefits, even for illegitimate children, like Mehr. Benefits even though her exiled mother was an Amrithi, a folk despised by the Ambhan ruling class. Mehr appreciates her privileges only when she loses them.

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They Burn In Our Brains

The Gate of Gods — Martha Wells
The Fall of Ile-Rien, book 3

2005’s The Gate of Gods is the third book in Martha Wells’ Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy.

Ile-Rien has fallen to the mysterious, implacable Gardier. Tremaine Valiarde managed to escape. She and her handful of allies — some from Ile-Rien, some from another timeline, and one ambiguously alive sorcerer — have taken refuge in allied Capidara. There they hope come up with a plan for defeating the invaders.

But it turns out that the Gardier have infiltrated Capidara. The supposed refuge is in no way safe.

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Killing Time

The Rains of Eridan — H. M. Hoover

1977’s The Rains of Eridan is a standalone young-adult hard SF novel by H. M. Hoover.

The Aurora Corporation thought the life-bearing world Eridan promising enough that it funded three bases:

  • Base One, the administration and living colony research centre;

  • Base Two, the agricultural research base;

  • Base Three, the science base.

The bases are separated by hundreds of kilometres, far enough that even if one base were to fall to calamity, the other two would be spared. It seems that the spread was not great enough; bizarre collective madness has attacked all three bases.

Theodora “Theo” Leslie, who has spent the last month out in the field gathering data on the Eridan lifeforms, has no idea how bad matters have become. Not until she witnesses a double murder.

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Why Does The Sun Go On Shining

Bannerless — Carrie Vaughn
Bannerless Saga, book 1

2017’s Bannerless is the first volume of Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless Saga.

Plague and natural disasters brought down civilization as we know it. Where once there were vast cities, the Fall left only small hamlets trying to preserve what technology they can. Humans being the social animals they are, they still form communities, still have customs and laws to guide them.

Humans being humans, customs and laws require enforcement. For this, the Coast Road communities rely on investigators like Enid and Tomas. From banner violations — illicit childbirth — to murder, from hoarding to domestic violence, it is up to the investigators to determine if a crime has been committed and deliver judgment.

Sometimes, as in the Pasadan case, whether or not a crime was committed is not at all clear.

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We All Want To Change The World

The Erinys Incident — Tani Kōshū

The 1983 novel The Erinys Incident is part of a future history series by Tani Kōshū. The 2018 Korudahan Press edition was translated by Simon Varnam.

The 2099 Outer Planet Revolt was as bold as it was unsuccessful. Tactical success failed to compensate for strategic errors. A year after it began, the Revolt was crushed by TerraLune’s AeroSpaceForce. Occupation of the rebel planetary systems followed, then status as quasi-independent states under the eye of the ASF.

A generation after the Revolt, the diehards of the Outer Planet Alliance are ready to try again.

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Behind The Curtain

Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant — Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett
Astreiant, book 2

2001’s Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant is the second volume in Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s Astreiant series.

Pointsman (city guard) Nicolas Rathe and his lover (ex-soldier Philip Eslingen) face a truly terrifying challenge:

Theatre folk.

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Dancing on a High Wire

Exit Strategy — Martha Wells
The Murderbot Diaries, book 4

2018’s Exit Strategy is the fourth volume in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series of novellas.

Returning from its field trip to Milu, Murderbot covertly accesses local security networks and discovers that there is a security detail waiting for the ship on which it has stowed away. Further probing verifies that, yes, the detail is waiting for Murderbot.

It’s not the worst news Murderbot has ever heard. In fact, it’s not even the worst news Murderbot has heard that day.

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Friend Only To The Undertaker

Study War No More — Joe Haldeman

1977’s Study War No More was edited by Joe Haldeman. It is what might be termed an anti-Military SF anthology, one that asks contributors “if not war, then what else?”

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Fools To Make War

Brothers in Arms — Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles Vorkosigan, book 4

1989’s Brothers in Arms is the fourth book in the Miles Vorkosigan series.

Admiral Miles Naismith’s Dendarii Mercenaries have a secret advantage; they are subsidized by the planet Barrayar. Naismith is also Miles Vorkosigan, son of Barrayar’s Lord Regent.

Miles and the Dendarii put in at Earth to collect desperately needed funds. The funds should be waiting for them. They are not.

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Please Don’t Insist

Masamune Shirow
Ghost in the Shell, book 1

Masamune Shirow’s 1991 Ghost in the Shell, volume 1, collects the first eleven chapters of the serial post-cyberpunk manga. The 1995 English translation is courtesy of Frederik Schodt and Toren Smith.

The 2030s! A wonderful era of realistic robotic servants, cybernetic brain enhancement, and advanced prosthetic augmentation. All are valuable tools in the endless struggle between nation-states. As well as the battle to contain terrorists/freedom fighters/mafias. (Which label to apply depends on your POV.)

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Children of Empire

Cross Fire — Fonda Lee
Exo, book 2

2018’s Cross Fire is the second volume in Fonda Lee’s Exo series.

While the crisis in the previous novel was successfully handled, that did not bring Donovan Reyes’s father back to life, nor did it resolve the fundamental problem of how to reconcile the Commonwealth’s strategic goals with Earth’s defensive needs. Earth is, after all, merely one of a great many worlds in the Mur Erzen Commonwealth and not a particular rich one. Defending it from the Rii could prove expensive.

The zhree who invaded Earth have a simple, economically justifiable plan: abandon the Earth to their rapacious cousins.

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