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Reviews from December 2014 (25)

Obsessive love in the Jazz Age

Silver Wings of the Campanula

By Yuka Nakazato  

31 Dec, 2014

Translation

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Apparently this is the week for novels about obsessive love and survival past death. Which I guess is appropriate for the final week of the year.

Yuka Nakazato’s Silver Wings of the Campanula takes us to 1928 Oxford, where Andrew Borden is a diligent, if reclusive, student who plans make the best of the access to higher learning that a family fortune makes possible. In Paris, Andrew Borden is also a hopelessly addicted degenerate who, thanks to the same family fortune, is conducting an informal scientific experiment: will the ample supply of illegal drugs to be obtained in Paris kill him before syphilis does? Hmmm. 

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A rare utopian future America

Imperial Earth

By Arthur C. Clarke  

28 Dec, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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1976’s Imperial Earth was published the year of the United State’s bicentennial. This wasn’t one of the USA’s better periods; oil shocks, stagflation, and political scandal had marred the first half of the decade. Other SF authors might have decided to revel in the doom and gloom of the era — and they did—but Clarke instead chose to take the reader on a tour of what is likely as close to a utopian US as any SF writer has ever imagined.

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Introducing the Solar Queen

Sargasso of Space  (Solar Queen, book 1)

By Andre Norton  

27 Dec, 2014

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1955’s Sargasso of Space, which Norton originally published under the pen name Andrew North, is memorable because it is the first of the Solar Queen novels. These form a seven-book series1 about Dale Thorson and his fellow Free Traders, who ply their trade between the stars and scrabble for a living despite the fact the game is rigged against them. 

The book is notable for me because it just so happens that I caused the text of the 2003 omnibus to be very slightly amended, a story I will tell later on. 

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Interstellar Raconteur

Trafalgar

By Angélica Gorodischer  

24 Dec, 2014

Translation

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Translated by Amalia Gladhart.

Angélica Gorodischer’s Trafalgar: A Novel was first published in 1979 but in Argentina and in Spanish, which is why I missed it. The subtitle is a lie; this isn’t a novel but a collection of short stories. That the subtitle is a lie is foreshadowing; Medrano Trafalgar is a charming raconteur who entertains his friends with amusing tales of his adventures trading on alien worlds, rambling accounts told over endless cups of coffee, and he does not come across as a man much inhibited by the truth. 

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In a galaxy not so far away

The Price of the Stars  (Mageworld, book 1)

By James D. MacDonald  

23 Dec, 2014

Special Requests

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Back when I had my store, 1992’s The Price of Stars was pitched to me as the sort of book people who like Star Wars would like. It happens I don’t particularly care for Star Wars myself, although I am not hostile to the source material Lucas was — inspired by” won’t attract lawsuits, right? Let’s say inspired by” — but since my personal preferences have played almost no role in what I’ve read in the last thirteen and a half years, I have read many Star Wars novels. So. Very. Many. Stars Wars novels. Against my will, I am something of an expert in this field and so I can say with some authority that this should appeal to fans of Star Wars. Early Star Wars, that is. Not the current stuff.

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The Ur-Space Colony Popularization

Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids

By Donald W Cox  

21 Dec, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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In memoriam: Roy Scarfo, whose art appears in this work, died of pancreatic cancer on December 8th of this year.

1964’s Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids, by Dandridge M. Cole and Donald W. Cox, does not seem to have had many editions; I can only find references to two. However, even if you never saw a copy of Islands, if you were ever a space colonization fan you are very likely to have read books by people who were strongly influenced by Cole and Cox’s work. 

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Suddenly Aaronovitch

Rivers of London  (Rivers of London, book 1)

By Ben Aaronovitch  

20 Dec, 2014

Special Requests

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2011’s Rivers of London lives at the intersection of two popular British genres, fantasy and the police procedural. This is my first Aaronovitch; I would have read it sooner, but it turns out that getting the British edition of the book in Canada wasn’t as straightforward as I expected1. I did finally get my copy and I was not disappointed. 

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