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Reviews from August 2015 (28)

War of Ghosts

Touch

By Claire North

31 Aug, 2015

Special Requests

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When 2015’s Touch begins, things are not going well for protagonist Kepler, who has just been shot twice by a complete stranger. Things are worse for Kepler’s host, Josephine Cebula, She is trapped in her own dying body; Kepler can escape into any living body within arm’s reach.

Kepler has no idea why the stranger attacked. The body-hopper does know that, for some reason, killing Josephine appeared to be as or more important than killing Kepler. Possessing the killer is easy enough, which gives Kepler the killer’s effects to rummage through for clues but that turns out to be just the first and least step on the way to finding Kepler’s real enemy.

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Outside Space and Outside Time

The Big Time  (Change War, book 1)

By Fritz Leiber

30 Aug, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Fritz Leiber's 1958 Hugo winner The Big Time fits a very large setting into a very small package. The context of the novel is the Change War, which is being fought to reshape history across the universe. Narrator Greta, doppelganger of a slain American woman, has a very minor role in the war; she is an entertainer in the Place, an R&R facility tucked away in a pocket universe. Unfortunately for Greta's life of routine, the War is about to intrude into the Place.

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A Malaysian Cornucopia

Cyberpunk: Malaysia

Edited by Zen Cho

29 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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It may seem a little odd to publish a cyberpunk anthology a quarter century after American cyberpunk devolved into an aggregation of simplistic conventions 1. But sub-genres may die in some cultural environments and thrive in others. American 2 cyberpunk may be a shambling zombie (even post-cyberpunk is pretty wheezy), but as 2015’s Cyberpunk: Malaysia proves, in Malaysian hands cyberpunk is alive and well. 

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Return to Janus 

Victory on Janus  (Janus, book 2)

By Andre Norton

28 Aug, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1965's The Year of the Unicorn takes us back to the Witch World, across the ocean to High Hallack

Andre Norton’s 19661 Victory on Janus returns to the bleak world of 1963’s Judgment on Janus . Victory isn’t as grim a book as Judgment, but it is still nothing like upbeat. 

The Ift, reborn in commandeered and transformed human bodies after millennia of extinction, are still a mere handful. Lacking numbers, their survival is due only to the fact the human colonists on Janus are largely unaware of and consequently indifferent to the alien revenants. 

Or rather, were. Now the colonists are burning the vast forests around their settlements. If the Ift cannot find out why the humans are doing this, and convince them to stop, then it is only a matter of time before the Ift are cast back into unending darkness. 

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Found amongst the rushes

Skye-Object 3270a  (Deception Well, book 3)

By Linda Nagata

26 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2010’s Skye-Object 3270a is a late addition to Nagata’s Nanotech Chronicles1. While it shares a setting with 1998’s Deception Well, this book can be read as a standalone. It is explicitly intended for a younger audience than Vast. 

Despite the object” in her name, Skye-Object isn’t a what but a who, a young woman. 

Her odd name is a reminder of her history; she was found, as a toddler, in suspended animation in a starship’s lifeboat. The astronomer who first noticed it had tagged it as Sky Object 3270a. Skye’s rescuers were never able to determine the lifeboat’s origin or Skye’s original name. They were kind enough to give Skye a new home in the city of Silk. 

The rescuers can make an educated guess as to why Skye’s parents cast her into the deeps of space. Unfortunately, that guess is … incomplete. 

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A gardener’s tale

Bryony and Roses

By T. Kingfisher

25 Aug, 2015

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The author lurking behind the pen name T. Kingfisher is perhaps best known for routinely kicking me out of the #2 position on Livejournal. She is also a Hugo-winning author whose books are well worth sampling. Case in point: 2015’s Bryony and Roses.

When we first meet Bryony, she’s finally found something that distracts her from a recent avalanche of catastrophe: 

  • her mother died;
  • her father indulged in ill-conceived schemes to marry off his three daughters, showing total indifference to their feelings in the matter; 
  • he fell into debt;
  • he was murdered; 
  • the sisters fled from the city into impoverished rustic seclusion. 

Bryony’s current predicament is the ultimate distraction: she is freezing to death in an unexpected spring blizzard. 

She is saved when she finds a manor house where no manor house was before or should be now. Inside, she finds no visible host or servants, but she does find food, warmth, and shelter from the storm. 

But of course there’s a catch. 

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Sixteen by Hughes

Devil or Angel & Other Stories

By Matthew Hughes

24 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I’ve reviewed Hughes here before and I will review him again in the future.

Although he is perhaps best known for his Vancian Archonate stories, those do not make up the entirety of his work. Devil or Angel & Other Stories collects sixteen of his non-Archonate stories [1], written deliberately in what the cover calls old-style.” Which is to say that it would not come as a surprise to find that these stories had been published in such magazines of yore as Unknown, Galaxy, or even the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Except that they weren’t [2].



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Not the secondary world fantasy you’re expecting

The Northern Girl  (Chronicles of Tornor, book 3)

By Elizabeth A. Lynn

23 Aug, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Elizabeth A. Lynn’s 1980’s The Northern Girl, is the third book in the Chronicles of Tornor. As was the custom of those ancient days, the book works as a standalone. While reading the first two books would provide interesting context for this work, you don’t need to have read those books to understand this one. As I recall, the first two were good but this one is the longest and most ambitious of the three. It’s also not your bog-standard secondary world fantasy.

Half-a-millennium after its founding, Kendra-on-the-Delta is arguably the greatest of the cities of Arun, the land stretching from the Grey Hills to the ocean. To date, Arun has been not so much a nation or kingdom as a collection of loosely allied city-states and holdings. Now, thanks to the ambitions of a few ambitious men, all that may be about to change.

But that’s not what the book is really about.

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From the country that gave us Iain Banks, Ian Rankin and Ian MacLean

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night

By Christopher Brookmyre

22 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I got inexplicably not named Ia(i)n Christopher Brookmyre’s 1999 standalone novel One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night  for my 40 birthday  many years ago; it seems like yesterday! 

William Conner is a career soldier turned mercenary turned, finally, criminal and goon wrangler for Dawson, whose current scheme requires a small band of hard bastards. Called in at the last moment, Conner has assembled a small army on the coast of Scotland near the unremarkable town of Auchelea. 

It’s not the town that has soldier-for-hire Dawson’s attention. It’s the oil platform converted into a lavish holiday resort floating offshore of Auchelea. Though not quite finished, the resort is said to be playing host to a group of wealthy venture capitalists, who would be well worth the gang’s time to kidnap. 

The idea that they are all billionaire entrepreneurs would be a hell of a surprise to the former students of Auchelea’s St. Michael’s high school, the people who are actually using the converted platform/resort for their school reunion. 

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Whatever Happened to the Solar Queen?

Postmarked the Stars  (Solar Queen, book 4)

By Andre Norton

21 Aug, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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Although a decade passed for Norton’s fans between the third Solar Queen novel (1959’s Voodoo Planet) and the fourth (1969’s Postmarked the Stars), for protagonist Dane Thorson, the events of this book Postmarked the Stars, follow right on the heels of the earlier three. 

Dane’s appointment as temporary cargo chief on the Solar Queen, replacing a superior on holiday, seems like it should be a good thing. All it does is paint a great big target on poor Dane. Ne’er do wells are plotting to use the ship for nefarious purposes. This becomes obvious when Dane, having set out to pick up a parcel for transport, wakes up from a drugged stupor in an unfamiliar room. When he staggers back to the Solar Queen, he finds that he has been replaced by a look-alike. 

Temporarily. The look-alike in fact was in such terrible health he had no business trying to travel; he dies of an unexpected heart condition even before Dane gets back to the Solar Queen. There’s no way to ask him what he was up to. But that’s OK; the results of the doppleganger’s shenanigans are revealed in short order. 

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