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Reviews from November 2014 (26)

Special Double Review! Part Two! 

Black God’s Kiss

By C L Moore  

15 Nov, 2014

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I would like to say that Jirel would never wear a battle-bikini. She wears a full set of armour, enough that it’s not clear if she is a man or a woman. 

Two thousand years before Northwest Smith wandered between the planets, Jirel used her impressive capacity for violence to rule and protect the fiefdom of Joiry, somewhere in France. Proud, easy to offend, and very, very stabby, Jirel is not stupid but she never over-thinks situations, preferring direct solutions. 

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Special Double Review! Part One! 

Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith

By C L Moore  

15 Nov, 2014

Miscellaneous Reviews

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And now, a very special double review! 

C.L. Moore was one of the comparatively few1 women active in pulp-era fantasy and science fiction. Whether on her own or with husband Henry Kuttner (whom she met when he sent her fan mail), she was one of the big names of the period. Moore won both the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and the Gandalf Grand Master Award; she would have been the first woman Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America had her second husband not intervened to prevent this2 on the grounds it would confuse Moore, now suffering from Alzheimers . 

Among her many works were two series linked by a common setting. Her two protagonists, Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry, were born two thousand years apart in a solar system that was old before humans ever conquered it:

Man has conquered space before. You may be sure of that. Somewhere beyond the Egyptians, in that dimness out of which come echoes of half-mythical names — Atlantis, Mu — somewhere back of history’s first beginnings there must have been an age when mankind, like us today, built cities of steel to house its star-roving ships and knew the names of the planets in their own native tongues — heard Venus’ people call their wet world Sha-ardol” in that soft, sweet slurring speech and mimicked Mars’ guttural Lakkdiz” from the harsh tongues of Mars’ dryland dwellers. You may be sure of it. Man has conquered Space before, and out of that conquest faint, faint echoes run still through a world that has forgotten the very fact of a civilization which must have been as mighty as our own.

Humans are not the only ones who have left relics across the many habitable worlds of the Solar System. Visitors from other stars and other universes have also laid claim the worlds orbiting the sun. Some of those visitors are long since gone. Others.…

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James and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Heinlein Juvenile

Podkayne of Mars

By Robert A. Heinlein  

14 Nov, 2014

The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) Reread

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1963’s Podkayne of Mars was, if Heinlein’s comments in Grumbles from the Grave can be believed, not intended as a juvenile:

March 10, 1962: Robert A. Heinlein to Lurton Blassingame

Is Poddy a juvenile? I didn’t think of it as such and I suggest that it violates numerous taboos for the juvenile market. It seems to me that it is what the Swedes call a cadet” book — upper teenage, plus such adults and juveniles as may enjoy it — and the American trade book market does not recognize such a category.

Despite that, some people, including me, lump it in with his juveniles because the lead is a fifteen-year-old girl, with her eleven-year-old brother in an important supporting role. 

Remember how in my review for Have Space Suit — Will Travel, I said: 

As I closed the cover of the last true Heinlein juvenile, I really wonder what this book would have looked like if in 1958 Heinlein had been able to envision and publish a juvenile with a female lead.

?

We will never know the answer to that. We do have the answer to the question what would such a novel look like if Heinlein wrote it five years later and the answer is horrible”.

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An Emo Police Procedural

Faceless Killers  (Kurt Wallander, volume 1)

By Henning Mankell  (Translated by Steven T. Murray)

12 Nov, 2014

Translation

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First published in 1991 under the title Mördare utan ansikte, and translated in 1997 by Stephen T. Murray, Faceless Killers introduces Kurt Wallander, a morose Swedish policeman. Wallander is painfully aware that middle age is transforming him into a doughy old man; he is worried about his hostile and increasing senile father; he is alienated from his daughter; and his wife of many years just left him because living with Wallander was killing her soul. Wallander’s disposition is in no way aided by the human depravity his job forces him to confront every day, depravity like the brutal attack on Johannes and Maria Lövgren that left the old farmer noseless and beaten to death. Maria is barely clinging to life after the attack.

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Dream of a Better Life

Becoming Alien  (Becoming Alien, volume 1)

By Rebecca Ore  

11 Nov, 2014

Rediscovery Tuesday

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Tell me if you’ve heard this one: 

A teenager in a rustic, backward community happens to be in the right place at the right time to encounter a distressed space craft. His attempt to help entangles him with a vast interstellar government, one that sits in judgment of humans. His actions could affect the course of human history.

Except this isn’t squeaky-clean Kip Russell, but Tom Gentry — who, when we first meet him, is the unwilling witness to his brother Warren’s ambitious drug dealings. Warren is trapped by mental illness and a criminal record; manufacturing drugs is the only way he can imagine to pay the mortgage on the family farm and keep the family fed. Tom doesn’t have Warren’s mental issues but he might as well have the criminal record, because the local authorities, all too familiar with the Gentrys, have marked him as a future criminal. Tom might dream of a better life but his odds of escaping to one are slim. 

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Intrigue, sorcery, intrigue, swashbuckling adventure and intrigue”

The Phoenix Guards  (The Khaavren Romances, volume 1)

By Steven Brust  

10 Nov, 2014

Special Requests

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1991’s The Phoenix Guards seems to have intended as a one-off, as far as I can tell from the two about the author” pieces. Nostalgic for works in the style of Sabatini and Dumas, Brust set out to create a new work reminiscent of the French Romantics, one set in the distant past of his on-going Vlad Taltos series.

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One of the gentler voices of the Golden Age

The Best of Eric Frank Russell

By Eric Frank Russell  

9 Nov, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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This is intended, not just as a tribute to an author whose work I remember fondly, but also as a tribute to a line of single author collections that had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager. Under various series names, Ballantine’s Classic Library of Science Fiction collected the short works of various pulp-age notables, authors of whom I might otherwise have remained ignorant. I very quickly learned to snap up anything from Ballantine (and later, Del Rey) whose title was of the form The Best of [Unfamiliar Author Name Here]”. This Eric Frank Russell collection was one of those books, and one of the better purchases I made in 1978.

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A fantasy of political agency

The Goblin Emperor

By Katherine Addison  

8 Nov, 2014

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Addison’s 2014 novel The Goblin Emperor was a pleasant change of pace from so much of my current reading at the time (grimdark fantasies and War-On-the-Enlightenment SF). The world of her novel is deeply flawed; her protagonist, the goblin emperor of the title, is an abused, despised half-breed, hemmed in on all sides by the customs and laws of his land. It would have been comprehensible if he had spent his reign sticking the heads of those who had abused him on spikes. That is not the choice Maia makes. A protagonist who does his best to leave the world a better place than he found it really shouldn’t be something so rare that it catches my attention … but, alas, it is.

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Into the Abyss

Starship Troopers

By Robert A. Heinlein  

7 Nov, 2014

The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) Reread

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In the spirit of Social Credit leader Camil Samson’s wonderful phrase, Ladies and gentlemen, the Union Nationale has brought you to the edge of the abyss. With Social Credit, you will take one step forward,” follow me over the edge and into the abyss that is Heinlein’s post-Scribners work. 

Scribners rejected 1959’s Starship Troopers, marking the end of what had been a fruitful relationship between the touchy Heinlein and that particular publisher. It also foreshadowed the end of his career as an author of books deliberately aimed at young adults. Rereading it, I was reminded of something I was told in Economics 101 way back in 1980: don’t try to apply any of this to real life.”

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