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Reviews from June 2015 (28)

Not Exactly Queen of the Undead

My Life as a White Trash Zombie  (White Trash Zombie, book 1)

By Diana Rowland

30 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2011’s My Life as a White Trash Zombie begins with a scene with which readers will be familiar from scores of movies and books: protagonist Angel Crawford wakes in a hospital bed with no idea how she got there. The news that she barely survived an OD is believable given her drug habit. What is inexplicable, thanks to the giant hole in Angel’s memory, is why she was found wandering naked on a back road miles from anywhere. More mysteries: is her appearance on that back road related to a murder that had taken place nearby? Which mysterious benefactor left her a supply of unfamiliar tasting but nummy slushies, along with a letter explaining how to conduct herself over the next month in order to avoid jail and inevitable death? 

Angel’s amnesia erased hours from her life [1] but at least (unlike many characters in her position) she knows who she is. What she doesn’t know is what she is.


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Canadian Content

Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril

By Emily Pohl-Weary

29 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2002’s Hugo-nominated Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril is the posthumous autobiography of noted writer/editor Judith Merril. Merril having passed away in 1997, the work of turning Merril’s notes into a book fell to her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary. Better to Have Loved is also a forthright and frank reply to a few sanitized histories of science fiction published in recent years. 


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Together — one and great — apart far less!”

Three Against the Witch World  (Estcarp, book 3)

By Andre Norton

26 Jun, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1965’s Three Against the Witch World returns to Andre Norton’s Witch World, a generation after the events of Witch World and Web of the Witch World. This sequel sees Simon Tregarth and his witchy wife Lady Jaelithe relegated to off-stage status. The novel focuses on their triplets: Kyllan the fighty one, Kemoc the smart one, and Kaththea the witchy one. 

All three children were born to do great things, as predicted by a fell portent, but only Kaththea is of interest to the Women of Power of Estcarp. Only Kaththea is female and therefore a potential witch. When Kaththea reaches a certain age, the witches bear her off to be educated according to their ways. Dread supernatural protections prevent her brothers from rescuing her. Kaththea is lost.

For the moment.


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And now for some hard science fiction

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues  (White Trash Zombie, book 2)

By Diana Rowland

25 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I picked Diana Rowland’s 2012 novel Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues o read after a painstaking selective process: I needed something to read and it was the first book I saw at eye level in the library. Why more authors don’t arrange for their books to be in the sweet zone [1] I don’t know.

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Whatever Happened to Robert Frezza?

A Small Colonial War  (Small Colonial War, book 1)

By Robert Frezza

24 Jun, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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1989’s A Small Colonial War is Robert Frezza’s debut novel [1]. It is also the first volume of Frezza’s short lived Small Colonial War sequence, a military science fiction series that would bookend Frezza’s career as an SF novelist. 

All the world’s problems finally came to a head in the great calamity known as the break up. Four billion corpses later, Japan emerged as the remaining dominant power on Earth. Not especially humanitarian in purpose, the empire seems no better and no worse than the empires that came before it.

By the 22nd Century, Japan’s empire reaches to the stars. But there’s a catch: their ships may be faster than light, but they’re still slow. A combination of time dilation and time spent in hibernation means that travellers return home to Earth to find that decades have passed while they have only aged months or years themselves. As a result, the Japanese Diet has only the vaguest ideas as to what its imperial tendrils are doing, way out in the stars. A second consequence is that interstellar travel is exile, something that those in power avoid if they can. 

Which brings us to Lieutenant-Colonel Anton the Veriag” Vereshchagin and his command, the 1st Battalion, 35th Imperial Infantry. 


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Everything you know is wrong!

H. Beam Piper: A Biography

By John F. Carr

22 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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You may remember that I was recently sent a Big Box of Books. I was elated to discover John F. Carr’s 2008 H. Beam Piper: A Biography in the box. I had been wanting to read the book ever since I discovered it existed. It was inevitable that at some point I would review this book. Even if nobody paid me to do so! I am just that dedicated!

Anyone who (as I did) discovered Piper thanks to the late 1970s reprints learned certain facts about Piper from book introductions, magazine and review articles, and (eventually) online discussions about Piper. We learned that he had killed himself believing his career was over, unaware the check was literally in the mail. We learned that he had been a detective for a train company and that he had been victimized by a selfish ex-wife. We read speculations that the H in his name stood for Horace…

Piper did kill himself, but (as Carr discovered) a surprising amount of what is supposedly known about Piper is flat-out untrue. Not entirely because people got their facts wrong: Piper himself went out of his way to obfuscate the facts. In this short biography, Carr sets out to put the facts right, even when they do not reflect well on Piper.


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She’s a cop! So is he! They fight crime!

The Doppelgänger Gambit  (Brill and Maxwell, book 1)

By Lee Killough

21 Jun, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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1979’s The Doppelgänger Gambit, first book in the Brill and Maxwell series, was Lee Killough’s second novel [1]. A futuristic police procedural, it explores the question how do you get away with murder in a world where the movements of every citizen are tracked?” It’s a cousin to novels like The Demolished Man. Killough isn’t as stylistically innovative as Bester, but her book held my interest. I have a small (and sadly, almost complete) collection of her works.


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Against irrational exuberance the fans themselves contend in vain

The Gods Themselves

By Isaac Asimov

20 Jun, 2015

Special Requests

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Following the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957, Russian-born American author Isaac Asimov turned his energies to educating the American public. By the time of his death he had produced non-fiction books in every category of the Dewey Decimal system save the 100s. This came at the expense of his science fiction. Between 1959 and 1972, he published only one novel (a movie tie-in) and a comparative handful of short stories. 

Asimov’s 1972 novel The Gods Themselves, his first in thirteen years, must therefore have seemed to many science fiction fans as the return of a giant. But not to me, because I was an eleven-year-old still reading through his entire back list to date; from my point of view there was no hiatus at all. Given the context, I can see why Asimov’s fans went gaga over this novel. I am not entirely certain what I was thinking beyond yay, another Asimov!”

Asimov’s return to novel-length SF was an ambitious one.…


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Back to Blake Walker

Quest Crosstime  (Crosstime, book 2)

By Andre Norton

19 Jun, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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Andre Norton’s 1965 novel Quest Crosstime returns to Blake Walker, last seen being adopted by the people of Vroom, a timeline-spanning civilization. Although Vroom’s central timeline depends on contact and trade with alternate Earths, recently a faction calling itself the Limiters, led by demagogue To’Kekrops, have been calling for more stringent restrictions on cross-time travel. To’Kekrops and his followers may claim they are motivated by safety concerns … but of course the truth is darker than that. 

What Walker doesn’t know is how far the Limiters will go to get their way. 


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