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Reviews from December 2015 (28)

Sabella’s little secret

Sabella or The Blood Stone  (Sabella, volume 1)

By Tanith Lee  

18 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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Tanith Lee’s 1980 Sabella or The Blood Stone straddles science fiction and fantasy. 

Nova Mars is the world Old Mars never was: an ancient, dying world once home to complex ecologies and an advanced civilization, a world whose revivification at the hands of human terraformers came too late to save its natives from extinction. New Mars is now a thoroughly human world. All that remains of the natives are ruins and relics.

Sabella lives by herself, an attractive, if eerie looking, eccentric recluse with a fondness for dark clothing, an aversion to sunlight and oh, yes, a taste for blood. 

She can make do with animal blood, but human is so much better.


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Enter Jani Kilian

Code of Conduct  (Chronicles of Jani Kilian, volume 1)

By Kristine Smith  

17 Dec, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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1999’s Code of Conduct is the first volume in Kristine Smith’s Chronicles of Jani Kilian pentology. This review is almost certainly going to be one of my Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck reviews … but only because it has some MisSF elements, not because it checks all the genre boxes. Code of Conduct is as much detective fiction as it is MilSF; it is definitely not the big-guns, pew-pew-pew variety of MilSF. 

As far as anyone from the Commonwealth knows, Jani Kilian died when a military transport starship exploded. Everyone else onboard perished; Jani was only mostly dead. Immediate, cutting-edge medical intervention saved her life. Since her supposed death, Jani has been careful not to let her former bosses know that she is still alive. That would put her in legal peril, as she was confined to the brig was a prisoner(for having shot her highly-connected superior officer) before the explosion. 

Jani’s ex-lover Evan van Reuter doesn’t believe Jani is dead. As a member of one of the Families who run the Commonwealth, he has the resources to find her. He is also highly motivated to track Jani down. He has a job for which he believes she is ideally suited. 

Clearing his name. 


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The Girl Without Fear

Santa Olivia  (Santa Olivia, volume 1)

By Jacqueline Carey  

16 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2009’s Santa Olivia is the first volume in Jacqueline Carey’s Santa Olivia series. 

Loup Garron grew up in the isolated garrison town of Santa Olivia (or as the occupying troops call it, Outpost 12), in a buffer zone established to protect the US from the semi-mythical Mexican warlord El Segundo and from the waves of lethal disease still sweeping across the world. For Loup, all this seems normal … as is the fact that she is an orphan. All too many of Santa Olivia’s children have lost parents to disease or to rocket attacks launched by unseen enemies. 

What isn’t normal is Loup herself. 


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Did someone say UN Telepath”

The Whole Man

By John Brunner  

15 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Having recently reviewed one novel about UN telepaths, I am tempted to review an earlier book on the same theme: John Brunner’s 1964 The Whole Man. Written a generation before Emerald Eyes, it takes a much more optimistic view of mind-probing United Nation functionaries. 

Perhaps the most obvious difference is that whereas Carl Castanaveras was the servant of the UN’s militarized police force, Gerald Howson is employed by the World Heath Organization. 

Eventually.


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It’s black helicopter time

Emerald Eyes  (Tales of the Continuing Time, volume 1)

By Daniel Keyes Moran  

15 Dec, 2015

Special Requests

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1988’s Emerald Eyes is the first volume in Daniel Keys Moran’s Tales of the Continuing Time. It was also, I believe, his second novel, published three months after Armageddon Blues and three months before The Ring. 1988 was a very busy year for Mr. Moran. 

21st Century America is an occupied nation. A restive occupied nation, as many of its people are fundamentally incapable of adjusting to life under the victorious French-dominated United Nations — no matter how remorselessly the Peacekeepers stomp on stiff American necks. Few Americans have it harder than Carl Castanaveras, because he and the rest of his family are not merely subjugated by the UN. 

They are property.


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Half World, Complete Horror

Half World

By Hiromi Goto  

14 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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In Hiromi Goto’s 2009 novel Half World, the world is divided between the Realm of Flesh, the Realm of Spirit, and a Half World that bridges them. In ages past, humans cycled through these worlds; people lived and died in the Realm of Flesh and they were reborn in the Half World, where they were purged of their sins and traumas. Once purged, they were reborn in the paradisiacal Spirit World, from which they will fall, to be reborn in the Realm of Flesh. So the cycle began again. It’s basic Buddhist cosmogony at work.

But somehow, nobody is quite sure how, this cycle was shattered. The inhabitants of each realm have been trapped in their realms, reborn over and over into the same circumstances. This is hardest on the Half Worlders, who must relive their traumas over and over. The worlds are stuck in stasis. 

Until


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Very Proper Charlies

Soft Targets

By Dean Ing  

13 Dec, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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The America of Ing’s 1979 novel is filled with soft, juicy, unsuspecting Americans, who are pathetically vulnerable to bombs, bullets and the occasional bludgeoning. The whole country is a virtual smorgasbord for terrorists looking for quick, easy fame and funds from approving supporters. 

For Hakim Arif, leader of the notorious Fat’ah terrorist group, Americans are not really his enemy, no matter what his press releases will say. Americans are the key element in his new entrepreneurial venture. Terrorism is a low-risk, high-profit scheme to which Hakim intends to add a bold new innovation: killing civilians within an unprepared United States. 

But someone is about to throw a wooden shoe into the gears of Hakim’s business. 


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Before Rissa and Bran

Zelde M’Tana

By F. M. Busby  

12 Dec, 2015

Special Requests

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ISFDB lists 1980’s Zelde M’Tana as the third book in the Rissa Kerguelen series. Even though it was the last of the Kerguelen series to be published, it is not a sequel at all. It’s a prequel. Rissa doesn’t appear in this book; her man-candy Bran Tregare appears only towards the end. This novel focuses on the eponymous Zelde and her life before she crossed paths with Rissa. 

When we first meet her, Zelde does not seem a likely candidate for star travel. She is one of North America’s Wild Children, with little memory of her long-lost parents or any other way of life; she’s only mostly sure that her name really is Zelde M’Tana. Zelde is snatched up by Rehabilitation, an agency with a do-good name and some do-bad methods and goals. After Zelde attacks a Rehab officer, she is scheduled for a lobotomy and life in the slave camps of Total Welfare. 

Luckily for Zelde, there is such a thing as a kind-hearted Rehabilitation officer, who sees her as someone worth salvaging. Zelde is diverted to the UET (United Energy and Transport) starship Great Khan , the first step towards to what the official hopes will be a better life out in the stars. Better” is a relative term: she is being exported as a sex slave, to a brothel on the distant mining colony Iron Hat. 

But Great Khan will never reach Iron Hat. 



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The Lord of Darkness is a jerk

Death’s Master  (Tales of the Flat Earth, volume 2)

By Tanith Lee  

11 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1979’s Death’s Master returns to Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth setting. It is an unfriendly place for Simmu and Zhirem; in any world but the Flat Earth, their mutual attraction might not have been doomed. Unfortunately, the Flat Earth is not a great place for lovers, particularly for those who, like Simmu and Zhirem, are pawns in a languid game played by rival demons: Uhlume, Lord of Death and Azhrarn, Lord of Darkness.

The story begins a generation before Simmu and Zhirem are born.


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How odd to think of a fantasy movie from New Zealand

What We Do in the Shadows

By Taika Waititi & Jermaine Clement  

10 Dec, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Vampires! Powerful, ravenous and immune to the ravages of time! Rather unfortunately for Viago (Taika Waititi) , Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) , and Petyr (Ben Fransham), the undead subjects of 2014’s mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows , vampires also seem to be immune to the Flynn Effect. Everyone around them is getting smarter decade by decade, but they remain in a perpetual state of vague befuddlement. The quartet share a house in Wellington as well as a daily struggle to deal with the baffling modern world. 

But change is coming. Change in the form of the human known as Nick. 

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