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Reviews from December 2015 (28)

Ending 2015 on a high note

A Stranger in Olondria

By Sofia Samatar

31 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2013’s A Stranger in Olondria was Sofia Samatar’s debut novel. 

Jevick lives far from Olondria. Son of a wealthy pepper merchant living in the backwater Tea Islands, Jevick’s life is transformed when his father decides to hire a tutor for his son. The merchant values education without respecting it, and has little idea that exposure to the world of letters will radically affect Jevick.

His father’s death frees Jevick to make his way to Olondria, where Jevick is soon


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African Horror

African Monsters

By Jo Thomas

29 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I was unfamiliar with Margrét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas, and also with their publisher Fox Spirit. Cheryl Morgan mentioned the African Monsters anthology on her website and it looked interesting; Fox Spirit was kind enough to supply me with a review copy. I am happy that they did. Now I am familiar, not only with the publishing house, but with the editors and authors of this fine book. 

(spoilers)


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The Menace of Mrs. Claus

The Elf Conspiracy  (Hy Brasail Chronicles, book 1)

By Kass Williams

28 Dec, 2015

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2015’s The Elf Conspiracy  is the first volume in Kass William’s Hy Brasail Chronicles .

This would have been ever so much more seasonal had I managed to get this review written before the 25 th. Oh, well. I guess I can think of it as being unusually early for Christmas 2016

For centuries, Kris Kringle has played an ever-more-demanding role as Santa Claus, bringing presents to children around the world. Now danger threatens. 


  • an ambitious elf is planning a coup; 
  • Santa’s former slave servant Peter is still holding a grudge; 
  • four bright kids — Harald, Shuggar, Bart, and Princess — have managed to find Santa’s realm. 

Could it be worse? Yes! Danger is close at hand in the person of Gladys. The new Mrs. Claus. 



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Seduced by the cover art

With Friends Like These…

By Alan Dean Foster

27 Dec, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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I would have been willing to bet actual cash money — well, Canadian money — that if an Alan Dean Foster book were to be featured in this series, it would have been the first book in the Flinx series, The Tar-Aiym Krang. But that book doesn’t have a Michael Whelan cover1 and 1977’s With Friends Like These… does. Sometimes I choose books on the basis of their covers. I am just that shallow.

With Friends Like These… wasn’t Alan Dean Foster’s first collection. Very early in his career he began doing novelizations (many novelizations2) and by the end of 1977, he had already written no less than nine Star Trek Logs, based on the animated Star Trek scripts. I do think that this book was his first collection of non-tie-in works; the stories in it are among his first published stories.


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Pathfinder’s Legacy

Planetfall

By Emma Newman

26 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2015’s Planetfall is Emma Newman’s fifth novel. A standalone science fiction novel, it is unrelated to her  Split Worlds trilogy.

Twenty years before, the devout passengers of the starship Atlas followed the Pathfinder, Lee Suh-Mi, to a distant and surprisingly Earth-like world where, Suh assured them, God was waiting for them. Settling near an enigmatic structure that the colonists call God’s City, the colonists are still waiting for their God to reveal itself. In fact, they are still waiting for Suh to return from her first and only foray into the City. 

In many ways the colony has been marking time, waiting for some external event that will utterly transform them. Now, that event looms … in the form of a wandering nomad on a world with no known natives. 


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Mirror worlds

Day by Night

By Tanith Lee

25 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1980’s Day by Night is a standalone novel, set on an eternally tide-locked world. One side is eternal burning day, the other side is endless freezing night. It is not a world that would seem to be hospitable to organic life. Yet, somehow, in a time forgotten and for reasons no one living knows, this world was settled by humans.

The aristocrats of the nightside enjoy a luxurious life in palaces sustained by an advanced (but mysterious) technology, while the desperate legions of the poor struggle to stay alive. There are no bread and circuses to pacify the masses, but the poor can at least enjoy Vitro’s fanciful tales.

And what a tale she spins! Her latest is the saga of Vel Thaidis, an aristocrat much like Vitro herself, who is framed for a crime of which she is innocent, by Ceedres, a rival who covets Vel’s estate. Cast down into the dregs of society, Vel faces a life of humiliation and degradation in her world’s Slumopolis. Although at least it isn’t likely to be a long life.… 

But Vitro’s own, real, life with her brother Vyen is less secure than expected.…


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Beware Aliens Bearing Gifts

Dawn  (Xenogenesis, book 1)

By Octavia E. Butler

24 Dec, 2015

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1987’s Dawn is the first volume in Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy. It was followed by 1988’s Adulthood Rites and 1989’s Imago.

Nuclear war has killed most of humanity. Few wanted the war … but to build so many nuclear weapons and then not use them would have been immorally profligate. Those not killed immediately faced lingering deaths due to fallout and nuclear winter. The total extinction of humans appeared to be imminent. 

And then the aliens arrived in their vast, living starship.… 


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A temple to commercialism

Mallworld

By Somtow Sucharitkul

22 Dec, 2015

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Tor published the 1984 edition of Somtow Sucharitkul’s 1 Mallworld well after the market for collections and anthologies was perceived to have imploded, thanks to the efforts of one Roger Elwood. Hence they really, really wanted readers to think that Mallworld was a novel. It isn’t. It is a collection that Tor has tried to convert into a fix-up by removing the individual titles and adding some minor linking material. 

Titles lifted from William G. Contento’s Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections. I’ve used the table of contents from the 1981 Starblaze edition.

The Mallworld is a vast space station in the asteroid belt, a place where virtually anything you could want is available … for a price. That price could be money or it could be your very soul!  But it’ll probably be money because it’s hard to deposit souls in a bank account. 

There is one tiny fly in the ointment as far as the humans of the distant future are concerned, which is 


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Like a mocking kiss on the cold cheek of convention

The Night Life of the Gods

By Thorne Smith

20 Dec, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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I owe my encounter with 1931’s The Night Life of the Gods  to Del Rey’s decision to reprint six of Thorne Smith’s comic fantasies ( Topper, Topper Takes a Trip , The Night Life of the Gods , The Stray Lamb , Rain in the Doorway , and Turnabout) in 1980. I had never heard of Thorne Smith — then — although once I had read a few of his novels, I realized that I had already encountered many of his characters and plots in movies and TV. Sometimes directly adapted from his work, sometimes inspired by it 1.

Of the six reprints, Rain in the Doorway was my favourite, but The Night Life of the Gods  had a quality even Rain could not match: Night Life was my very first Thorne Smith novel. As I would learn, Smith novels tend to have very recognizable themes: unhappy middle-aged men, often married, trapped in unrewarding lives, who are freed from the doldrums of modern existence by an encounter with the whimsically fantastic, which often comes in the form of a fetching young woman.

Although I couldn’t know it at the time, this being my first Smith, Night Life subverts the Smith formula. Protagonist Hunter Hawk isn’t one of Smith’s worn-down conformists. Hunter Hawk, you see, does not give a fig for convention because Hunter Hawk is a Mad Scientist! 


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A beautiful hypothesis slain by ugly fact

Diadem from the Stars  (Diadem, book 1)

By Jo Clayton

19 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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In a previous review I said 

despite being aware enough of her work to have picked up significant details of the Diadem series through cultural osmosis … 

A bold assertion! And now that I have tracked down and read Jo Clayton’s 1977 debut novel, Diadem from the Stars , I can now assess how accurate that claim was. 

The good news is that I definitely got the name of the series and the name of the author correct. Otherwise … 


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