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Reviews from February 2016 (18)

The Woman Who Walked Home


By Octavia E. Butler  

28 Feb, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1979’s Kindred was Octavia E. Butler’s fourth novel, but her first standalone. 

Dana has lost an arm, and the police suspect that her husband Kevin knows a lot more about Dana’s injuries than either he or Dana are letting on. Dana is not covering up spouse abuse; she just knows that the police would never accept the truth: Dana is the victim of time travel gone horribly wrong.

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The last of Vis

The White Serpent  (Wars of Vis, volume 3)

By Tanith Lee  

26 Feb, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee


Tanith Lee’s 1988 novel The White Serpent is the third and final volume in the Wars of Vis series, which has been, as you may recall, not exactly my favourite Lee series.

As this book opens, a fragile peace holds in the lands of Vis. The ancient antagonisms remain, and wars could rekindle at any moment.

It’s ironic that the event that kickstarts the plot is a genuine moment of affection between two people of different races. 

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In all the old stories, the only thing that ever won was love. And occasionally a good sharp knife.”

The Raven and the Reindeer

By T. Kingfisher  

24 Feb, 2016

Special Requests


T. Kingfisher’s 2016 novel The Raven and the Reindeer begins like this:

Once upon a time, there was a boy born with frost in his eyes and frost in his heart.

Kay is prime Snow Queen bait: beautiful, obsessive, and coldly proud. It was perhaps inevitable that Kay would fall for the Snow Queen’s enticements, abandoning home, family, and friends for ultimately fatal delights. Kay’s doom seems assured.

But this isn’t frost-eyed Kay’s story. It’s Gerta’s.

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Better to break than to bend

Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe  

21 Feb, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Chinua Achebe’s 1959 novel Things Fall Apart can teach us many things. What it taught me is that my memory is highly selective. I didn’t remember much about the book (having last read it in 1981) but I did remember one scene in particular! Go me! Except it turns out what I forgot can be summed up as every important aspect of the novel.”

Driven by the memory of his father Unoka’s shameful indolence, Okonkwo has striven his whole life to live up to his personal ideal of the Ibo man: brave, hard-working, and prudent, someone who fulfills every duty his society demands of a man. 

At a cost.

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Unexpected discoveries

Tamastara or The Indian Nights

By Tanith Lee  

19 Feb, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee


Tanith Lee’s 1984 Tamastara or The Indian Nights collects seven stories, five original to this volume. I was actually going to skip this one, in part because for some reason I had never catalogued it and thought I didn’t have a copy, and in part because British author tackles Indian fantasy” filled me with foreboding, especially in the context of the more problematic aspects of The Storm Lord.

Having discovered that I do in fact have a copy, I feel that I am required to review it, trepidation or no.

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Very definitely a hell below

Sly Mongoose  (Xenowealth, volume 3)

By Tobias S. Buckell  

18 Feb, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews


Tobias S. Buckell’s 2008 novel Sly Mongoose is the third book in the Xenowealth sequence. Now, you might ask why start with the third book?” There is a very straightforward answer: I wanted to read a book that gave me license to gratuitously embed this image:

Also, this specific book and I have some history, which I will get into later on.

Chilo isn’t Venus but it’s a lot like Venus, from the dense atmosphere to the furnace temperatures down on the ground. The good news is that like Venus, Chilo does have a region where the temperatures and pressures won’t immediately kill humans. The bad news is that region is thirty kilometers above the surface. 

Which brings us to the balloon-cities of the sort featured in that gratuitously embedded image above. 

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Between the Millstones

The Half-Made World  (Half-Made World, volume 1)

By Felix Gilman  

17 Feb, 2016

Special Requests


Felix Gilman’s 2010 novel The Half-Made World takes us to a continent whose westernmost expanses are still forming out of primordial chaos. Demons and worse lurk there. Two monstrous factions struggle for control of the new frontier: the Gun, a cabal of possessed warriors doling out violence and cruelty on a retail scale, and the Line, a horrific railway that serves up terror and oppression wholesale. 

Here and there are pockets of free people, but their freedom is doomed. Despite the Gun’s best efforts, the Line is inexorably consuming the whole of the continent. Victory seems assured.

At least, it does until a rumour begins to circulate. 

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We’ll live together, like two neighbour vines, Circling our souls and loves in one another

The Fortunate Fall

By Cameron Reed  

16 Feb, 2016

Special Requests


Added in 2023: The Fortunate Fall was published under a now disused byline. The author embraces the name Cameron Reed and to reflect this, I have amended the review appropriately.

1996’s The Fortunate Fall was Cameron Reed’s debut novel — and to date, their only one. While we can regret not having more Reed novels, we can also be grateful that we have at least this one … which is a fine book. 

The genocidal Guardians fell to the Unanimous Army, a vast horde of mind-controlled slaves dancing on the strings of neurological implants. Once the Army’s task was completed, the surviving soldiers were freed to survive as best they could, often thousands of miles from home. Chaos followed. 

Two law enforcement bodies, the Weavers and the Postcops, are determined to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent anyone from duplicating the crimes against humanity devised by the creator of the Unanimous Army (crimes that include the dark art of mind sculpting). Woe to anyone who falls afoul of either police force. 

All this is history. For Maya Andreyeva, it is half-remembered history at best. She is an Eye (what passes for a journalist in the novel’s imagined future). Her nervous system is connected to the net, so that millions of people can experience what she experiences, see what she sees. Of course, her output is carefully edited; her superiors have no desire to see their carefully orchestrated regime endangered by rogue info. 

That’s OK by Maya. It is quite unwittingly that she gives the world an experience it will never forget.

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Unintentionally appropriate for Valentine’s Day


By Samuel R. Delany  

14 Feb, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


I admit I am cheating when I include Samuel R. Delany’s 1976 Triton1 in this series, because my Because My Tears are Delicious to You reviews are intended to cover books I read and reread as a teen. I didn’t so much read and reread Triton in the 1970s as much as I tried over and over to read it2. But now I have finished it. Finally. 

It is a sad excuse for a book that does not have at least one unexpected positive quality. This is not a sad excuse for a book. But the nature of the redeeming quality will be revealed later in the review. Foreshadowing: the mark of quality literature!

The moon Triton3 is by some measures a utopia: certainly, what passes for government on Triton has done its best to provide a physical and social context in which people are free be happy. It stops well short of reshaping the people to suit the utopia, which for Bron Helstrom is just too bad. 

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