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Reviews from April 2015 (26)

Tesla Versus Fascists!

Silver Bullet  (Order of the Air, volume 3)

By Melissa Scott & Jo Graham  

8 Apr, 2015

Special Requests

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2014’s Silver Bullet is the third novel in Scott and Graham’s Order of the Air series. The Great Depression is three years old and President Roosevelt’s victory over Hoover has taken place just three days before the book opens. As a result, some Americans are filled with hope and others with a grim, fanatical rage. 

Thanks to the events of the previous novel, the gang at Gilchrist Aviation (Alma Gilchrist, Mitch Sorley, Lewis Segura, Jerry Ballard, and recent hire Stasi Rostov) are more financially secure than many Americans. The prize money they won, as well as their alliance with millionaire Harry Kershaw, mean that none of them are wondering where their next meal is coming from … though they do have to budget carefully. 

Harry seems to have given up collecting eldritch artifacts of mystical doom. This time, our gang is threatened only by weird super-science machines and roving gangs of armed fascists.

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Bitter Laughter

I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed

By Kyria Abrahams  

7 Apr, 2015

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I don’t generally do autobiographies1 and I don’t generally do books on religion2, which makes 2010’s I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, an autobiography of a woman raised in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, an odd fit for me. Still, I found this an interesting read. Some of this is specific to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but a lot of this is universal.

The cover tells us right off that Kyria Abrahams became disenchanted with her family’s religion. No suspense there. What one might wonder is how this unfolded. As I see it, there are a few likely ways one might react to religious disillusionment: anger at being duped, sorrow at the loss of faith, or amusement at one’s own folly. Abrahams opts for the third.

Mind you, it’s a bitter amusement.

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Before he was a Psi-cop

Starlight: The Great Short Fiction of Alfred Bester

By Alfred Bester  

6 Apr, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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The fact I own this book shows that my terrible memory, while often a bother, can sometimes work in my favour. I was aware of Bester as the author of two classic novels The Demolished Man, which I had read, and The Stars My Destination, which I had not read. Until I picked up this collection I had never knowingly read his short fiction. The only reason I bought this collection was because I had a vague memory of having read the title story and liking it. I thought there was a chance I would like the rest of his work just as well.

I soon realized that I was actually thinking of another story entirely, Mark Clifton’s Star Bright”. (Clifton, author of the Hugo-award-winning novel They’d Rather Be Right, seems likely to be mentioned a lot in the next few days.) Clifton and Bester sold to some of the same markets, but the two authors were as unlike each other as chalk and cheese a cynical, witty drunk sneering at some kid’s bad taste. Of course, in the good old days of the1970s there wasn’t all that much SF being published. We didn’t abandon a book just because it turned out not to be the sort of book we expected. Fans of the 1970s weren’t delicate flowers who had to retreat to their languishing couches whenever confronted with novelty. 

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This is the Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone… Mayday, Mayday…”

Traveller: Science Fiction Adventure in the Far Future

By Mark Miller  

4 Apr, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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This is the Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone. Mayday, Mayday.”

If roleplaying games had made it out to Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School in the 1970s, nobody told me. My first exposure to RPGs (or rather, the fact that RPGS even existed) was 1979’s [1]“On Tabletop Universes,” an essay by a then twenty-year-old John M. Ford, published in Asimov’s. I thought the whole idea sounded pretty stupid.

Actual exposure to RPGs had to wait until fall 1980 and my first year in university, when I was introduced to Game Designers Workshop’s [2] Traveller. I blame this game for the thirty-plus years I’ve spent playing the damn things, not to mention the twenty-plus years I spent and working in various capacities in the RPG industry.

And the three little black books looked so innocent.…

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Enter Hosteen Storm

The Beast Master  (Beast Master, volume 1)

By Andre Norton  

3 Apr, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1959’s The Beast Master is the first novel in Norton’s Beast Master series.

Hosteen Storm is one of a select group of people, that handful of Terrans who had the luck (good or bad, depending on your point of view) not to be on Earth when the alien Xik bombarded that world in one final desperate attempt to prevent defeat at the hands of the humans. Many of the other survivors have gone mad from grief, but Storm is protected by a promise made to Storm’s Dineh grandfather; Storm cannot rest until he wreaks the vengeance that the old man never could.

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Leigh Brackett’s Mercury

Mercury’s Light  (Leigh Brackett’s Solar System, volume 1)

By Leigh Brackett  

2 Apr, 2015

Leigh Brackett's Solar System

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Brackett’s Mercury is a world sun-baked on its eternally sunward side and frozen on its eternally shadowed side. It is a world isolated from the rest of the Solar System by fierce geomagnetic storms. Most of the planet is uninhabitable, but there are tiny pockets of habitability in the deep valleys of the twilight zone, islands of life where desperate people can hope for riches or at least refuge.

What they will probably find, of course, is death.

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