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Reviews from July 2015 (28)

The last of Aud?

Always  (Aud Torvingen, volume 3)

By Nicola Griffith  

20 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


2007’s Always is the third (and as-of-this-date final) volume in Nicola Griffith’s Aud Torvingen [1] mystery series. The book opens with Aud far from Atlanta (where she makes her home), visiting Seattle to meet her mother’s new husband. She also plans to deal with an investment that isn’t doing as well as it should be.

Aud is a very straightforward person, brusque to the point that she may seem to have a social disability. She does not hesitate to bring the metaphoric hammer down on her local property manager, Karenna Beauchamps Corning, blaming her for the way Aud’s property is under-performing. As Aud soon discovers, there’s more to the story than one lax property manager: someone is going to a lot of trouble to sabotage the businesses that lease Aud’s property

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Swashbuckling Tour Guide

The Hostage of Zir  (Krishna, volume 4)

By L. Sprague de Camp  

19 Jul, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


L. Sprague de Camp’s 1977 novel The Hostage of Zir is part of de Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias series, his attempt to come up with a swords and blasters setting that made sense. 

Relativistic flight gave humans access to the nearer stars, many of which had habitable worlds. Most of the worlds also had native inhabitants. While some of these alien worlds were as technologically sophisticated as Earth, the natives of worlds like Tau Ceti’s Krishna and Epsilon Eridani’s Kukulkan were comparatively primitive. The Interplanetary Council instituted strict limits on the importation of advanced technology to these backward worlds. Given that supposedly civilized peoples, Americans and Russians, had already devastated the Earth’s northern hemisphere, the IC did not want to find out just what primitives might do with such powerful weapons.

Contact and trade are still allowed, within the limits of the law. Many Terrans have ventured out of the port city of Novorecife, on Krishna, to explore that diverse and interesting world. Several of them lived long enough to return. Now Krishna is going to be opened to broader tourism … which may prove unfortunate for Krishnans and tourists alike

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Tenochtitlan Mystery

Servant of the Underworld  (Obsidian and Blood, volume 1)

By Aliette de Bodard  

18 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


Aliette De Bodard’s 2010 novel, Servant of the Underworld, is the first of her Acatl novels. For some reason I had the impression these were straight-up mysteries set in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. There’s definitely a strong mystery element; her protagonist, Acatl, would certainly find much in common with Benny Cooperman, Philip Marlowe, and Hercule Poirot. The main difference would be that none of those famous detectives ever had to deal with a living god. For Acatl, High Priest of Mictlantecuhtli, dealing with the gods is a daily reality. 

A mysterious summons draws Acatl, priest to the god of the dead, out of his own temple and into the House of Tears, a school for girls. There he learns that the priestess Eleuia has been abducted. Her room is splashed with enough blood to cast her survival into doubt. Not only that … it is clear that she has been carried off by some occult means. 

Another thing is clear; the list of possible suspects is very short and the man at the top of that short list is Acatl’s own older brother, the warrior Neutemoc. 

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Never underestimate the natives

Moon of Three Rings  (Moon Singer, volume 1)

By Andre Norton  

17 Jul, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks


1966’s The Moon of Three Rings is the first volume in Norton’s Moon Singer series. 

Yiktor appears to be just another world among millions, a world once home to an advanced civilization now long vanished, just as so many civilizations have flourished, then vanished, across the galaxy. Now Yiktor is a world whose current population is (seemingly) trapped in barbarism. To Free Traders, it is a possible source of valuable trade goods. To a greedy Combine seeking worlds to conquer, Yiktor looks like easy pickings. As they will learn, the great civilization that called Yiktor home is not extinct, but merely evolved beyond recognition.

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Moments in a life

A Bride’s Story, Volume Two  (A Bride’s Story, volume 2)

By Kaoru Mori  

16 Jul, 2015



Ideally one starts an ongoing series with volume one … but sometimes life is not ideal. What I actually have on hand is volume two of Kaoru Mori’s manga series A Bride’s Story, so that’s where I began. First published in 2010 as 乙嫁語りor Otoyomegatari, the English language translated version was released only a year later. 

In the previous volume, Amir, a young woman of a nomadic Turkic tribe roaming somewhere near the Caspian sea, was married to Karluk, whose people are sedentary. As was customary for this time and place, the marriage is not a love match but a political alliance. The marriage forms a bridge between the two communities. Neither the bride nor the groom had much say in the arrangement. Nevertheless, Amir and Karluk seem compatible enough. With time and effort, they should be able to forge a solid family. 

If only Karluk weren’t twelve to Amir’s twenty… 

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The cat lives

The Lives of Tao  (Tao, volume 1)

By Wesley Chu  

15 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


Wesley Chu’s 2013 debut novel The Lives of Tao appears to be warmly regarded, if one can judge by its 3.77 stars on Goodreads and 4 stars on Amazon. Once again I find myself out of step with the majority of readers. Welcome to yet another installment in Nobody Cares Why You Hate Shakespeare, Leo,” with me playing the starring role of Leo Tolstoy. 

Betrayed by a fellow agent, Edward Blair does what he can to salvage the situation by leaping from the top of an office building to certain death below. This is rather hard on Blair, but it frees Tao, Blair’s alien symbiont, to seek a new host who isn’t about to be captured by the enemy. Tao must find that host quickly, before Earth’s hostile atmosphere kills him. Alas for Tao, the only possible human host close enough is an out of shape, self-loathing programmer named Roan Tan. 

It was mere luck that Tan was close to where Blair went splut. Bad luck, because thanks to it Tan finds himself drafted into a covert civil war raging across the Earth.

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In Honour of Today’s Encounter with Pluto

The Secret of the Ninth Planet  (Winston Science Fiction, volume 32)

By Donald A. Wollheim  

14 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


I could have decided to reread and review Donald Wollheim’s 1959 novel The Secret of the Ninth Planetas part of an epic reread of the entire SF series published by Winston … but I didn’t. I decided to reread and review this book because it happens to be one of the few books which fall in the intersection of the following sets: 1) books in which Pluto plays a significant role, and 2) books of which I actually have a copy [1]. Today is, of course, the day when the American space probe New Horizons had its close encounter with Pluto, turning what was a dot on a photgraphic plate into this:

Go, applied science! And now, back to Pluto as it was imagined in 1959.

The years since Sputnik have seen great strides in manned [2] rocket travel to near space and the Moon, and in unmanned space travel to other worlds. As far as young Burl Denning knows, manned flight to other planets will have to wait until something better than the current primitive rockets comes along. What Burl doesn’t know is that the necessary advances in propulsion have already been made. Just not by humans. 

Humans are not the first or most advanced civilization to develop space travel. One of humanity’s neighbors is working on a scheme that will doom life across the Solar System!

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Thank Greece’s Alexis Tsipras for this

The Green Ripper  (Travis McGee, volume 18)

By John D. MacDonald  

12 Jul, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


John D. MacDonald’s 1979 novel The Green Ripper will always be a special book to me. In some respects, this book has not aged well and my review is going to face that fact head on. But it is the very first Travis McGee novel that I ever read and that counts for something.

(I know where I bought this but for the life of me I cannot recall why I bought it; I didn’t get into mysteries in a big way until a few years after 1980. My suspicion is that the decision to pick up this novel was one part eye-catching green cover and one part laudatory references to MacDonald by reviewers like Spider Robinson.)

McGee is an aging adventurer, a man with a bewildering list of odd skills picked up from friends, acquaintances, and lovers (so many lovers) over the course of a long, colourful career as a problem-solver and salvage expert. 

At the beginning of The Green Ripper, McGee’s career as a two-fisted man of action seems fated to come to a well-earned end. In the course of the seventeenth book in the series, The Empty Copper Sea, McGee encountered something he hadn’t thought possible: a lover (Gretel Howard) with whom he could imagine spending the rest of his life.

McGee isn’t going to spend the rest of his life with Gretel. Gretel is, however, going to spend the remainder of her life with him. 

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Not quite a jolly romp

Let The Right One In

By John Ajvide Lindqvist  (Translated by Ebba Segerberg)

11 Jul, 2015



I needed something to review for Saturday (all the remaining commissioned reviews are waiting on books yet to arrive). John Ajvide Lindqvist 2004’s novel Låt den rätte komma in (published in English as Let The Right One In) seemed like just the right book for a quiet Thursday evening: young protagonist, exotic location [1], a hint of the supernatural. I’ve read Swedish juvenile fiction so I have a pretty clear idea where this would lead: one part Pippi Longstocking to one part Kalli Blomqvist, am I right? 

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