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Reviews from March 2016 (21)

The way to a man’s heart is through the rib-cage

The Summer Prince

By Alaya Dawn Johnson 

30 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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The title of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s 2013 The Summer Prince mirrors Vinge’s The Snow Queen. A tip of the hat to Vinge, whether coincidental or deliberate, is appropriate: both the Snow Queen of Tiamat and the Summer King of Palmares Tres have the same retirement package. They get to be the human sacrifice in a succession rite.

Both novels concern themselves with romantic triangles, but the relationships involved are very different. The triangle in The Snow Queen is toxic; that in The Summer Prince (the triangle between June Costa, her old friend Gil, and Enki) may be complicated and stressful, but in the end all three participants love and support each other. It’s just too bad that Enki’s ambition to be the next summer king seems likely to be fulfilled … because that means that Enki’s life is going to be very, very short1.

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Yesterday’s Tomorrows: the Symposium!

Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow: A Discursive Symposium

By Reginald Bretnor 

29 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Judging by the poll on my Livejournal, poor Reginald Bretnor is well on his way to the obscurity that awaits most of us. I remember him, not for his fiction or for the Future at War MilSF anthologies he edited (although, hrm, I do own them), but for non-fiction books like this one: 1974’s Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow: A Discursive Symposium. He also compiled Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future (1953)and The Craft of Science Fiction: A Symposium on Writing Science Fiction and Science Fantasy (1976)1.

Parts of this collection provide an interesting snapshot of science fiction forty-odd years ago. Other parts, um, well .…

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Enter Morgaine

The Gate of Ivrel  (Morgaine, book 1)

By C.J. Cherryh 

28 Mar, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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C. J. Cherryh’s 1976 novel Gate of Ivrel wasn’t the first Cherryh novel that I read, but it was the first one I read that I liked. 

Exiled for killing one brother and maiming the other, Vanye can expect a short and brutal life as an outcast. What he does not expect is that he will inadvertently free Morgaine Frosthair from the mysterious qujalin mound known to the backward locals as Morgaine’s Tomb. This was no tomb, but temporal trap. The artifact has held Morgaine suspended in time for an entire century, ever since her last grand adventure ended in disaster and rout. 

Vanye’s reward is obligatory servitude to Morgaine. Decades may have passed since Morgaine last walked this world. but her task is not yet done. 

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Why I have the munchies

Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology

By Charles Tan 

26 Mar, 2016

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Perhaps I never heard of Charles A. Tan’s 2012 anthology Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology; perhaps I read about it somewhere andforgot about it. Thanks to Melita Kennedy’s generosity and Lethe Press’ recent sale, I have received and read this book … much to my delight. 

I could add a something here about the history of the Filipino-Chinese community, but even a little research suggests that this cannot be done (properly) in one paragraph. 

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The Remotely Piloted Woman

Electric Forest

By Tanith Lee 

25 Mar, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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The Tanith Lee 1979 standalone Electric Forest is one of her straightforward SF stories. 

Magdala was clearly an exceptional child, but, sadly enough, not in any good way:

On any planet of the Earth Conclave, fetal conception was the controlled result of selective, artificial impregnation. This ensured that all children born were healthy. Occasionally, however, mistakes occurred in the area of contraception, and a fetus was conceived biologically. Sometimes, such children were less than perfect. It had happened that Magdala Cled was one of these. 

which is why her mother surrendered her to State Orphanage C; why her fellow orphans tormented her; why despite her natural intelligence she was consigned to a menial job; and why the name everyone called her was not her legal name but rather Ugly.”

When Claudio Loro offers her beauty, how can Magdala resist?


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Memento Mori

Letters to Tiptree

By Alexandra Pierce 

23 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein’s 2015’s Letters to Tiptree delivers exactly what it promises in the title … and more!

While women have always written science fiction, their presence in the field grew phenomenally in the 1960s and 1970s. And many of these new writers were very talented. I remember looking at a stack of new SF novels I had just purchased and realizing that none of them had been written by men. 

But there was one major talent to whom the men could point, a male talent who proved that men were still players in the top leagues. To quote Ted Sturgeon1

nearly all of the top newer writers, with the exception of James Tiptree, Jr., were women.”

For those of you tuning in late, James Tiptree, Jr. was the pen-name of Alice Bradley Sheldon. But this book isn’t so much about Tiptree, exactly2. It’s about how she affected her friends and readers … which includes the readers who might have been her friends had she not shot herself on May 191987.

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Don’t Fear the Reaper

The Terracotta Bride

By Zen Cho 

22 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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My main complaint about Zen Cho is that she doesn’t publish as much and as often as I would like1. Still, not only can I gleefully anticipate the second Sorcerer Royal book, but 2016’s The Terracotta Bride has just been released. And just purchased by me.

You might think death is the end to all of life’s problems. If you do, then some day you will discover, as did the unfortunate Siew Tsin, that this is not at all true. 

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Why is there no The Complete Collected Works of Joan D. Vinge?

Eyes of Amber

By Joan D. Vinge 

21 Mar, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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I hope to review all of the essential short story, novelette, and novella collections published by Joan D. Vinge. You may ask what subset of existing Vinge collections are on that list; the answer would be all three of them.” It would be easier if such a book as The Complete Collected Short Works of Joan D. Vinge were to exist … but it does not. Alas. 

I will begin with 1979’s Eyes of Amber and Other Stories, which contains, not only the novelette Eyes of Amber, but several other stories. As advertised.

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We All Must Go Down Into Darkness

Master of the House of Darts  (Obsidian and Blood, book 3)

By De Aliette Bodard 

19 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2011’s Master of the House of Darts is the third and to date final volume in Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood series. In the previous volume, Harbinger of the Storm, High Priest of the Dead Acatl and his allies resorted to some rather extreme measures to keep the Fifth World functioning (for the moment). This volume explores the consequences of that bold gambit.

The Empire now has a Revered Speaker and all should be well with the world. Should. In fact, Revered Speaker Tizoc-tzin’s first holy war gained a merely marginal victory and produced only a handful of prisoners for sacrifice. The gods may have spared the world, for now, but they certainly do not seem to be happy.

When a warrior collapses and dies during a holy rite, it falls to Acatl to investigate.


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A Matryoshka Novel

The Book of the Beast  (The Secret Books of Paradys, book 2)

By Tanith Lee 

18 Mar, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1988’s The Book of the Beast is the second of Tanith Lee’s The Secret Books of Paradys. The Book of the Damned was a collection; The Book of the Beast is a novel. Made out of short stories! Mysterious are the ways of authors … or perhaps publishers.

Young scholar Rauolin had no inkling of the dark history of the D’Uscaret clan when he took a lodging in their ancient home. Others are better informed — the name alone is enough to reduce one prostitute to hysterics — but poor Rauolin doesn’t begin to grasp the trouble he has invited until after his assignation with the enchanting and quite dead Helise D’Uscaret. 


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