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Reviews from February 2015 (24)

Cobwebbed Solar System

Metaplanetary  (Metaplanetary, book 1)

By Tony Daniel  

5 Feb, 2015

Special Requests

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Tony Daniel’s 2001 novel Metaplanetary was the first volume in a trilogy. It was followed in 2004 by Superluminal, which was followed in turn by … nothing. For some reason — not, as far as I can recall, for poor sales — Eos declined to publish the final volume in the series. Having read both novels in the existing series (in the wrong order, an approach I cannot recommend), I can authoritatively report that every strength and weakness in Metaplanetary was present in greater degree in Superluminal. Whether that means you should buy both books depends on how you feel about Daniel’s particular strengths and weaknesses. 

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The Dead Man’s Story

Told by the Death’s Head: A Romantic Tale

  (Translated by S. E. Boggs)

4 Feb, 2015

Translation

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Mór Jókai’s 1879 Told by the Death’s Head: A Romantic Tale was inspired by an encounter the author was kind enough to describe in his preface: 

In Part II, Vol. 2, of the Rhenish Antiquarius, I once came across a skull that is said — see page 612 — to swing, enclosed in a metal casket, from an iron bar in the foundry of Ehrenbreitstein fortress. Distinction of this order does not fall to an ordinary mortal. Yon empty shell of human wisdom once bore the burden of no less than twenty-one mortal sins — the seven originalia trebled. Each crime is noted. The criminal confessed to the entire three-times-seven, and yet the death sentence was not passed upon him because of the twenty-one crimes. His fate was decided by the transgression of a military regulation.
What if this skull could speak? What if it could defend itself? — relate, with all the grim humor of one on the rack, the many pranks played — the mad follies committed, from the banks of the Weichsel to the delta of the Ganges!
If my highly esteemed readers will promise to give me their credulous attention, I will relate what was told to me by the death’s head. 

And so he does, in a tale that takes us across Europe and beyond, a tale of love, adventure, and casual anti-Semitism. 

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Not quite the Traveller novel I was expecting

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

By Becky Chambers  

1 Feb, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2014’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is Becky Chambers debut novel. 

I picked it up because, over on Livejournal, Heron61 said

It’s basically what you’d get if you took Firefly (minus the unfortunate Civil War metaphors) or an average campaign of the Traveller RPG and focused more on interpersonal dynamics and character’s emotional lives, while substantially reducing the level of violence. 

Traveller was the first table top RPG I played extensively and I still remember it fondly. Yes, this book reminds me of Traveller; it even begins with an event that could very well be someone failing their low passage roll [1]. That said, while I see the similarities that Heron61 mentions, I was more strongly reminded of James Tiptree, Jr.‘s short story And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” … that is, if James Tiptree, Jr. instead of being relentlessly, inexorably depressing, had been a cheerful optimist. The book isn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was a refreshing change of pace.

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