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Reviews from January 2016 (22)

Orogeny

Jupiter

By Frederik Pohl 

31 Jan, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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The 1960s and 1970s were an exciting time for science and SF. Robotic probes had given humanity its first close up look at the worlds of our solar system: Lunar farside in 1959, Venus in 1962, Mars in 1965, Jupiter in 1973, Mercury in 1974 and Saturn in 1979 (the other worlds would have to wait until the 1980s). The flood of increasingly detailed information about the worlds of our solar system gave rise to a short-lived genre, one that it existed in the tension between how SF had imagined the neighbour worlds to be and what our space probes were revealing. 

Carol and Frederik Pohl’s 1973 anthology, Jupiter, is perhaps my favourite exemplar of that mayfly genre. It is filled with classic SF stories, most of which had been published between the 1930s and the 1950s (1971’s A Meeting with Medusa” is the outlier). All these stories doomed to obsolescence thanks to human ingenuity [1]. However, they still make good reading, for the most part.



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Adult fairy tales

Red as Blood

By Tanith Lee 

30 Jan, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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Tanith Lee’s 1983 collection of re-imagined fairy tales, Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, is by far my favourite Tanith Lee book. It’s not just that the stories in it are wonderful. I picked it up on a whim when I was a lowly security guard at a particularly unpleasant post1. The mass-market edition of Red as Blood had a very convenient property from my perspective: it fit into the inside breast pocket of a uniform without leaving a telltale bulge. I read and reread it a lot in late 1983, early 1984.

I have not reread it in years and years. As my Because My Tears Are Delicious to You series has shown, not all old favourites stand up to a reread. So how did Red as Blood stand up?


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Meetcute gunbattle!

Agent of Change  (Agent of Change, book 1)

By Steve Miller 

27 Jan, 2016

Special Requests

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Agent of Change is the first volume of Steve Miller and Sharon Lee’s Liaden series. 

Terrans bitterly resent their lowly position in the galactic status hierarchy. The off-world humans are richer and look down on their hick cousins; aliens possess advanced technology that Terra cannot match. Off-worlders, human and alien alike, sneer at Terrans and violate their laws with impunity. As a result, Terrans tend to overreact to provocation. Terra is a dangerous place.

Miri is an ex-mercenary. Val Con, of the clannish Liaden, is a spy. Neither should have come to Terra at this moment in time. Both of them did. 


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My to-be-read pile grows again

The Wizard Hunters  (The Fall of Ile-Rien, book 1)

By Martha Wells 

26 Jan, 2016

Special Requests

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2003’s The Wizard Hunters is the first book in Martha Wells’ The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy. 

Tremaine is poring over a book on poisons, seeking a way to commit suicide without her death looking like suicide … or worse yet, murder. She is interrupted by a knock at her door. It is her guardian, Guilliame Gerard, with bad news. A test at the Viller Institute has gone horribly wrong. The Institute’s lead sorcerer is dead and lost with him is the last of the Institute’s magical spheres. This is more than a research tragedy. It is a crippling blow to Ile-Rien’s efforts to defend itself.

Ile-Rien is at war, or least it is being attacked. 


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Someone ought to try and be sorry in a way that counts.… in a way that means something.”

Carrie

By Stephen King 

24 Jan, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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There’s a process that TV Tropes called adaptation displacement”:

Adaptation displacement is the phenomenon by which a derivative work becomes successful enough to overshadow the original work completely. 

Jaws, for example. Anyone mentioning Jaws probably means the movie, not the novel. They may not even know there was a novel or if they do, they may think that the novel is a novelization of the film. 

Now, it’s possible that Stephen King is immune to this process, being a sales behemoth, but I think not. And I am not the only person to think even King is victim to adaptation displacement. Take King’s 1974’s debut novel Carrie: mention it and people are likely to think you mean the 1976 Brian De Palma film or maybe the 2002 Bryan Fuller adaptation (which I have not seen) or the 2013 Kimberly Pierce adaptation (which I have also not seen). Or even the Broadway musical (!!!).

I read the novel first and so for me, Carrie will always be the Signet mass market paperback about an unpopular girl: her first date, how she was transformed from outcast to queen of the ball, and how in the end she finally embraced her inner potential. 



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The Return of James’ Sad Face

Anackire  (Wars of Vis, book 2)

By Tanith Lee 

22 Jan, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1983’s Anackire, second in the Wars of Vis series, picks up a generation or so after the events of The Storm Lord. The cover of the book bills it as an epic companion novel,” suggesting that this takes place in a shared world and that it is not a direct sequel. Not so! This is as sequelly a sequel as ever sequelled a melodramatic fantasy novel.

I disliked The Storm Lord and I disliked this book even more.

Raldnor has vanished into legend — or possibly into another time or place. None can say with certainty. He seems to have left peace of a sort behind him. Peace is an unlikely thing in the tumultuous lands of Vis. Indeed, as the events of this novel will show, it has only been a pause between wars. As the book opens, that pause is drawing to an end. 


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I still have not read Kim

7th Sigma

By Steven Gould 

21 Jan, 2016

Special Requests

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Sometimes, an author’s early work is so popular that the reader and publisher demand for sequels dominates the rest of their career. Examples include Asimov and Foundation, Card and Ender, and Bujold and Miles. This list also includes Steven Gould, whose ongoing Jumper series comprises five novels to date, as well as an unfortunate movie adaptation. Indeed, of the five novels Gould has published in the 21st century, four of them have been Jumper novels.

But only four. One of them was notJumper novel. That novel was 2011’s 7th Sigma.

Fifty years earlier, the bugs, insectile von Neumann devices, appeared in America’s Southwest. Ravenous for metal, fecund, easily provoked, extraordinarily dangerous, the bugs quickly claimed a swath of the United States for their own. Then they halted their advance — for reasons unknown. 

Within the bug-dominated Territory, any form of technology involving metal or electromagnetic radiation soon attracts bugs. Life within the zone means abandoning advanced technology (unless it involves plastics, ceramics, and composites). 

That does not mean life in the zone is impossible: humans lived in that region long before radios and metal technology were available. In the era of 7th Sigma,they still do. 

One such inhabitant is a seemingly unremarkable boy named Kimble, a boy living parentless by choice. 


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Death is the beginning

Harbinger of the Storm  (Obsidian and Blood, book 2)

By De Aliette Bodard 

19 Jan, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2011’s Harbinger of the Storm is the second volume in Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood Trilogy.

Acatl, Tenochtitlan’s High Priest of the Dead, knows immediately when the Revered Speaker Axayacatl, Emperor of the Mexica, dies. The Emperor was vital to the maintenance of the wards that protect his empire from star demons, and his death has weakened the wards. A new emperor must be installed … quickly!

The new emperor will be chosen by the council, but the council finds itself under attack. A star demon has invaded the imperial palace and dismembered one of the councillors. Since the wards are only weakened, not gone, the star demon could not have entered without inside help. Some human sorcerer is meddling. It is up to Acatl to discover the identity and motives of the culprit, then frustrate the plot.


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Jobe’s Choice

Moonstar: Jobe Book One  (Jobe, book 1)

By David Gerrold 

17 Jan, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Moonstar: Jobe Book One, is, as far as I can tell, David Gerrold’s 1977 Moonstar Odyssey under a new title. I own a first edition of the older book1; I compared it to the later ebook; they seem substantially the same. 

This book was an obvious candidate for an ebook re-issue. The 1977 original earned a Nebula nomination and I expect it would have been mentioned by the Tiptree Award people — if the Tiptree Award had existed then.

I don’t think this book quite works, but at least it’s an ambitious book. Where it fails, it fails in interesting ways. 

Satlik is an unusual world; its origin is unclear and it orbits an atypical main sequence star. It was a lifeless world until human starfarers arrived, as colonists who terraformed the world. That was centuries ago. Satlik is now a fragile paradise.

The human inhabitants of Satlik are nearly as unusual as their world. 


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