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Reviews from March 2016 (21)

I think from now on, I will not trust anyone who isn’t angry.”

How to Suppress Women’s Writing

By Joanna Russ  

16 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews


I owe my awareness of this book Joanna Russ’ 1983 work How to Suppress Women’s Writing to the ancient Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf-lovers. I am shockingly under-read in Russ’ works1, but this one I made a point of hunting down, because then, even mentioning the title could be reliably counted upon to start a flame war. Combustible = interesting. I suspect the main reason this work is no longer flame war fodder is because it is annoyingly difficult to acquire. It has been, what’s the right word? Oh, right. Suppressed.

As I will show, it’s not enough to have good will towards women’s writing. One also has to be continually on guard against tendencies one may not be aware of having. Tendencies one may have convinced oneself one does not have.

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The Tortoise and the Hare

Saturn Run

By John Sandford & Ctein  

15 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews


Ctein and John Sandford’s Saturn Run came out to great acclaim in 2015. I am a big fan of hard SF set in our solar system, so I was very interested. At the same time I am incredibly cheap, so I didn’t run out and buy it. Instead, I put a hold on it at my local library1. My decision to seek it out via my local library gave me a useful measure of just how popular it is, because I had to renew my reserve request twice and it still took six months for the book to show up in my spot on Kitchener Public Library’s hold shelf.

Having read it, I am very curious as to how certain plot elements have been received both inside the US and outside it. 

Six decades into the 21st century, one unmotivated but very lucky grad student is in the right place at the right time to witness the detection of an alien starship. The aliens seemingly have no interest in Earth. Instead they go into orbit around Saturn, rendezvousing with … something. 

By the time China and America can dispatch expeditions to Saturn, the aliens are gone. But whatever it was that they visited is still orbiting Saturn. It might offer untold treasure to whoever can reach it first! (Or perhaps a devastating plague, but who could imagine a downer like that?)

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Marge Menninger’s Brave New World


By Frederik Pohl  

13 Mar, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Frederik Pohl’s 1979 standalone novel Jem was one of my favourite Pohl books. I think it still has its strengths. Aging gracefully” is not one of them, but perhaps the thick drifts of zeerust that festoon the novel can serve as a warning to modern writers. 

It’s … well, the year isn’t exactly clear but 

Handsome, hoary old Carl Sagan [looked] like a spry octogenarian instead of whatever incredible age he really was

so it’s at least set in 2024, possibly later1.

In some ways the 21st century is surprisingly familiar. It is plagued with the same energy and population concerns as the 1970s, albeit on a much larger scale — enough to have forced the world to abandon ideological alliances in favour of resource-based blocs. In other ways it is dramatically different: this is a world with functioning, if extremely expensive, faster than light travel.

It is also a world where nuclear proliferation has continued without check, which is good, because the possibility of nuclear Armageddon means there is a limit to international aggression (despite the pressures of population bomb and resource depletion). Petty harassment like sabotage and assassinations is OK, but nobody is stupid enough to push past the limits of the endless cold war because to do so is to risk the end of everything. 

At least, that’s the theory. 

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Paradys is no paradise

The Book of the Damned  (The Secret Books of Paradys, volume 1)

By Tanith Lee  

11 Mar, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee


1988’s The Book of the Damned is the first volume in Tanith Lee’s four volume series, The Secret Books of Paradys.

Paradys” is an example of what our pals Kœssler and Derocquigny called faux amis du traducteur” or false friends.” That is also a good term for the boon companions someone might find in Paradys. Paradys, this fantasy world’s answer to Paris, may sound like Paradise, but anyone seeking a lost Eden or even a walled garden in Paradys is a fool. 

There are quite a lot of fools, as it turns out.

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Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht


By B R Sanders  

9 Mar, 2016

Special Requests


I get to pick more of what I read these days than I did two years ago … but I don’t begrudge the time spent reading what other people select for me. From time to time they pick something interesting, something that would have otherwise flown under my radar. Case in point: B. R. Sanders’ 2015 novel Ariah.

Planning his life seemed so straightforward to young Ariah: apprentice himself to Dirva, master his skills as a mimic and empathic shaper, then find some conventional niche to fill for the rest of his life. But, just as moving from his backwater hometown Ardijan to the big city of Rabatha brings a rude awakening about the true place of elves in the Empire, so too will life with Dirva educate Ariah in ways he never expected.

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Genki Girl Superhero

Tales of the Starbuck Avenger!

By Jeffrey Wells  

8 Mar, 2016

Special Requests


Tales of The Starbuck Avenger! by Jeffrey Channing” Wells is a 2011 fix-up of material first published on his Livejournal. (Remember LiveJournal? It’s a social media platform, like MySpace or Ello, still used by several people. More than two or three, outside Russia.) Fix-ups, novels created from shorter works, have a long history in speculative fiction and I am genuinely happy to see this tradition continue.

Tricia Trish” Hocking’s life as an unremarkable barista was doomed the moment an excited man forced his way into the Gorham Street Starbucks where Trish worked. Demanding a venti sulawesi double-shot dulce de leche espresso within the next three minutes,” the agitated customer insisted that it was a matter of life or death. Well, some people take their coffee very seriously.

But Trish’s old life really ended when on a whim she went out one night to scale buildings and lurk on rooftops. Given the time of night and the icy conditions, her multi-story plummet was likely inevitable. The fact that she did not. on reaching the sidewalk, explode like a tripe-filled balloon was more than a little odd. 

There are superhumans walking Trish’s world and Trish is one of them.

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Cruel Cosplay

Lord of Light

By Roger Zelazny  

6 Mar, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


I am afflicted with Zelazny-memory-loss syndrome: I have read many books written by the late Roger Zelazny, but for some reason retain little memory of them. It’s not because they are bad books, or even boring books; they’ve been lauded by fans and pros alike. For example, Roger Zelazny’s 1967 standalone novel Lord of Light won the Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula (losing to Delany’s The Einstein Intersection)1. Did I remember anything about it before I picked it up for a reread? Not really.

Well, that’s not completely true. There’s a truly wretched pun in the book: that I remembered, because apparently my brain hates me. And the beginning has always stuck in my mind.

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the ‑atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god. 

Sam’s former friends and allies, on the other hand, have been positively eager to claim divine status. 

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A side trip into radio

The Silver Sky

By Tanith Lee  

4 Mar, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee


Although she may be best known for her novels and short-form collections, Tanith Lee worked in media other than print. For example, fans of the television show Blake’s 7 may know her as the author of the episodes Sarcophagus” and Sand.” Lee also wrote for radio. People familiar with my Livejournal More Words, Deeper Hole know that I have a long-standing interest in science fiction audio dramas. When I discovered that Daughter of the Night provided access to Lee’s The Silver Sky, which was broadcast on Saturday Night Theatre on 9 August 1980, I couldn’t resist downloading and listening to it.

Scientists have come up with a theory suggesting that an actual time machines might be possible. Solid British engineering of the sort that made the Comet and the R101 household names turned that theory into operational reality! Alas, good old British politics may cut off the funding for the project before it can send its first manned capsule into the depths of time. 

Lead researcher Paul is having none of that political nonsense! And so with the same cool intellect that has left his marriage in ruins, he quietly alters the schedule so that the next test flight will also be a manned one. What could possibly go wrong?

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Back to Bilalistan

Zulu Heart  (Bilalistan, volume 2)

By Steven Barnes  

3 Mar, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews


Steven Barnes’ Zulu Heart is a follow-up to 2002’s Lion’s Blood. It is also the final volume (to date) in Barnes’ Bilalistan alternate history.

Four years after the events of Lion’s Blood, Walid Kai’s long-delayed marriage to his Zulu fiancée, Nandi, is finally at hand. This could become complicated … and not just due to Kai’s conflicted relationship with Nandi’s Zulu nation. Kai is already married to Lamiya. Will Nandi and Lamiya will cooperate … or quarrel?1. As if that weren’t enough drama, Kai’s position as Walid, or leader, is going to pose even greater challenges.

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Cosmic Caper!

Lamarchos  (Diadem, volume 2)

By Jo Clayton  

2 Mar, 2016

Special Requests


1978’s Lamarchos is the second installment in Jo Clayton’s Diadem series; my review of the first book is here. I plan to slowly work my way through the rest of the series (especially if people keep tossing money at me to do so); I’m hoping that I like the later installments more than I liked this one.

Our heroine, Aleytys, has several long-term goals: find her mother’s people, and find some way to master, if not remove, the alien artifact currently meshed to her nervous system. She also has a short-term goal: earn enough money to sustain herself and her baby. For the moment, the short-term goal (survival) takes precedence. That’s why Aleytys and her lover Stavver have made an uncomfortable alliance with the questionably sane criminal mastermind, Maissa. 

They have been tasked to help out with what seems a straight-forward con job: bilk some low-tech rubes on backwater Lamarchos out of valuable gems. Aleytys’ psychic talents and Stavver’s criminal expertise should make that easy-peasy. 

If only Lamarchos’ gods weren’t real. And very interested in what Aleytys can do for them …

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