1938’s Ralestone Luck was the first novel Andre Norton wrote (although it was the second she had published) and it is one that is completely new to me. It’s actually a good thing I only just discovered this because, if this had been the first Norton novel I read, there probably would not have been a second.
On November 22, I vowed that “I swear, the next new book I get sent that’s about the doleful world after EVERYTHING FELL DOWN AND EVERY ONE WAS SAD AND ALSO THE SUN CRIES BITTER TEARS, the review after that is going to be a manga by Morinaga Miruku.” Hoping for recent F&SF that isn’t a variation on EVERYTHING FELL DOWN AND EVERY ONE WAS SAD AND ALSO THE SUN CRIES BITTER TEARS was stupid of me1 but at least having to live up to the vow gave me a pleasant change of pace.
Doing the requisite background research also drew my attention to an aspect of this work that made me sit back and go “huh”. More on that after we visit the land of schoolgirl romances.
1985’s Five-Twelfths of Heaven was Scott’s second published novel after 1984’s The Game Beyond. It is the first volume of the Silence Leigh trilogy. The other volumes are 1986’s Silence in Solitude and 1987’s The Empress of Earth. I enjoyed this back in the 1980s (which is why I picked this particular Scott to review) and I enjoyed rereading it.
(Note: 1985 is almost thirty years ago. Baen Books was a very different brand then, so people who stumble over an old copy of this will not find the book they may expect given Baen Books’ current output.)
Whereas Vinge’s Psion was written in Andre Norton mode, and her Snow Queen was a Space Opera retelling of a fairy tale, Heaven Chronicles contains three works — a novel and two novellas that have been merged into one longer novella — that are all pure, hard SF. However, this volume contains features such as plot and characters not normally (well, not necessarily) found within slide-rule SF. The result is a solid collection of stories I would strongly recommend you purchase if only any of them were actually in print.
I have a habit of focusing on older works because there are so very many of them. Here’s a more recent — forthcoming, in fact — work from a new author that I think is worth your time: Carrie Patel’s March 2015 novel, The Buried Life.
When I picked up Andre Norton’s 1951 novel, Huon of the Horn, I was expecting a standard fantasy. What I got has a lot more in common with Poul Anderson’s Hrolf Kraki’s Saga,which is also a modern presentation of a centuries-old work. This discovery casts a lot of light on some of the peculiarities of the Witch World series now that I know one of the sources that inspired that series.
1981’s The Venus Belt came out the year after The Probability Broach. The astute reader can tell that Smith is now more comfortable thinking of himself as an author of overtly ideological fiction1. The lectures on libertarian right-thinkery are more frequent and more heavy-handed2, and the plot more perfunctory. The villains, on the other hand, are very villainous. Plausibility was never a goal but the result in this case is not all that interesting.
As one might guess from the title, 1994’s Five Hundred Years After picks up with Khaavren and friends half a millennium after the events of The Phoenix Guard. Dragaerans are very long lived and so rather than having been dust for four centuries, Khaavren has merely matured into a comfortable middle-age as the respected commander of the Phoenix Guard. All of his old companions, Tazendra, Pel, and Aerich, have also found lives suitable to their characters.
The Dark Colony is Richard F. Penn’s debut novel, published in 2014. It turns out if you want a positive review from me, it really helps to write a hard SF novel that addresses my frequent lamentation: too few authors have seen the plot possibilities in Jerry Pournelle’s 1974 essay “Those Pesky Belters and Their Torchships.” Penn appears to have written out of a parallel interest in the same subjects rather than because he was specifically trying to please me. Well done, at any rate.
1980’s The Probability Broach launched Smith into what turned into a twenty-one-year-long career with such major publishers as Del Rey, Baen, and Tor1. It was the second novel to win the Prometheus Award, which Smith himself founded. He was a frequent nominee for that award and pretty much only that award. Smith would go on to win the Prometheus three more times2. The Probability Broach is the book that began it all. Follow me into a land of commodity-based currency, talking gorillas, and grade-schoolers with guns as big as they are!