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Reviews from February 2016 (18)

I may be interrogating this text from the wrong perspective

The Best of All Possible Worlds  (Sadiri, book 1)

By Karen Lord 

11 Feb, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Karen Lord’s 2013 The Best of All Possible Worlds was her second novel. To paraphrase the author’s site, it 

won the Frank Collymore Literary Award for 2009. […] It also won the 2013 RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was nominated for Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards Best Science Fiction Novel. 

And yet, while I like elements of it, I cannot warm to the novel as a whole. Not every reviewer is a good fit for every book.

Despite their generous efforts to provide the other human races of the galaxy with their wise guidance, not everyone loves the Sadiri. Their cousins on Ain dislike the Sadiri enough to reduce their homeworld and everyone on it to ash. Only the Sadiri lucky enough to be offworld survive the disaster.

Cygnus Beta1 is no stranger to refugees. Indeed, the one thing its disparate peoples tend to have in common is a calamitous event in their past that triggered a desperate migration. It is therefore a logical place for some of the surviving Sadiri to settle, a place where they might build new lives for themselves.


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Deconstructing the Chosen”

Below the Root  (Green Sky Trilogy, book 1)

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder 

10 Feb, 2016

Special Requests

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Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s 1975 novel Below the Root is the first volume in her Green Sky Trilogy; the subsequent volumes were 1976’s And All Between and 1977’s Until the Celebration. Not only is this the first Snyder I have knowingly read … until this review was commissioned, I had never heard of this prolific Newbery winner. It just goes to show there is always more to learn.

All hail the Chosen One! Or at least Chosen one; young Raamo D’ok’s psychic abilities earn him a position as a trainee Ol-Zhaan, the ruling class who govern the world of Green Sky. Even before his training begins, selection brings with it status and respect, a development that baffles Raamo. He has as yet done nothing to earn respect. 

It is not the only false note in Raamo’s world.


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Bildungsroman Thriller

Love is the Drug

By Alaya Dawn Johnson 

9 Feb, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2014’s Love is the Drug is my first exposure to the works of Alaya Dawn Johnson. 

If her mother has anything to say about the matter, seventeen-year-old Emily Bird is destined for an Ivy League university, to be followed by a suitable career and marriage. Anything that might threaten the grand design — looking too black for white people’s comfort, insufficiently exalted grades, any hint that Emily takes after her un-ambitious uncle, any hint of an interest in the Wrong Sort of Boy — earns firm parental disapproval. Nothing is going to come in the way of the right sort of life for Emily: not the terrorist-spread flu sweeping the world, not alluring bad boys like Emily’s fellow student Coffee, and certainly not Emily’s own preferences.

So far the grand plan has worked: Emily’s grades are good, she is demure and well-behaved, and her boyfriend Paul is just the sort of ambitious, well-connected boy Emily deserves. 

The plan holds together until the night of the party.


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Nyumbani Bildungsroman

Imaro  (Imaro, book 1)

By Charles R. Saunders 

7 Feb, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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I admit I am cheating a smidge with this review of Charles R. Saunders’ 1981’s sword and sorcery fix-up novel Imaro. I’m reviewing the revised 2006 edition, the book I own, not the original (which differs in some ways). I’ve long since misplaced my copy of the second printing of the first edition. However … this is the author’s preferred edition. 

More on the cover later…

The laws of the Illyassai are unforgiving.


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Darker Than the Night

Sung in Shadow

By Tanith Lee 

5 Feb, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1983’s Sung in Shadow is Tanith Lee’s reworking of a certain famous play involving star-crossed, love-struck teens. I don’t know why I was surprised to discover this as I read: the play is arguably the iconic romance in English lit. It is also just as intense, melodramatic, and bloody as the best of Lee. 

Sana Verensa’s great families are united on one point only: that they are hate and distrust each other and engage in endless struggle for dominance and revenge. Alliances come and go while old hatreds are nursed for decades. In a city plagued by continual violence between bravos, what hope has love?


Who can know where love will find us,
Love far darker than the night,
Love far colder than the snow—
That has been both cold and bright—
Sung in shadow, that was show,
Bitter-tasting are you now,
Music of sweet and delight 


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I do not care for Teray

Patternmaster  (Patternist, book 5)

By Octavia E. Butler 

4 Feb, 2016

Rediscovery Tuesday

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Octavia E. Butler’s 1976 novel Patternmaster was the first in her Patternist series to be published; this is not surprising, as this book was her debut novel. In terms of internal chronology, it is the final book in the series, the endpoint to which all the other books—Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Survivor—led.

(I will probably review all of Butler’s books eventually. Perhaps even including Survivor.)

Patternmaster is a gloomy destination for a future history.


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The War on Boredom!

Moonscatter  (Duel of Sorcery, book 2)

By Jo Clayton 

2 Feb, 2016

Special Requests

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1983’s Moonscatter is the second volume of Jo Clayton’s Duel of Sorcery. 

Immortal, powerful, the grandest of his kind, Ser Noris [1] faces a nearly insurmountable challenge: he’s bored. A thrilling conflict might be just the ticket … but the only possible rival worthy of a man of his power is She, the phoenix-like embodiment of the cycle of life. Victory for Ser Noris might mean the end of all life — but at least he won’t be bored.

But Ser Noris isn’t the protagonist of this adventure. His former acolyte/lever to change the world Serroi is. Cast aside when she did not suit Ser Noris, Serroi built a new life for herself, a life now threatened by her old master’s efforts to escape boredom.

Elsewhere, a young girl named Tuli provides a peasant’s-eye view of what living in a secondary fantasy world prone to world-saving quests looks like. 


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