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Reviews from August 2016 (22)

Woke Up This Morning, Feeling Blue

Certain Dark Things

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

31 Aug, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2016’s Certain Dark Things is Canadian SF author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s second novel. 

World reaction to the revelation that vampires really do exist has varied. Some nations opted for cautious, monitored co-existence. Others simply drove the vampires out. Twenty-first century Mexico did both: Mexico was for many years a haven for vampires fleeing their former home nations, but Mexico City was declared a no-go zone for the blood drinkers. 

Declaring it was one thing; enforcing it another. 

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Grim Reality

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

By Rebecca Solnit 

30 Aug, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster is an unmitigated attack on niceness, kittens, and chocolate … or at least on one of the essential assumptions of modern society. Waterboard an author and the odds are they will eventually confess they believe society is perpetually poised on the brink of collapse, requiring only the impetus of some calamity, natural or otherwise, for that collapse to be realized. This is a widespread belief: it informs our entertainment and it shapes public policy. 

There is just one problem. It’s not actually true. Not the way its believers believe it to be true.

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Cosmic Griefers

Macroscope

By Piers Anthony 

28 Aug, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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By the time 1970’s Macroscope came out, Piers Anthony was no stranger to Hugo nominations. In 1968, his Chthon was nominated for Best Novel; in 1969, Getting Through University was nominated for Best Novelette. Indeed, 1970 was a banner year for Anthony. Not only did Macroscope get a Best Novel nod (losing to Left Hand of Darkness), he himself was nominated for Best Fan Writer, which presumably ended forever the argument over whether someone can be both a pro and a fan. 

How does Macroscope read forty-six years later?

Ivo is the product of a bold experiment, one that tests the limits of directed breeding and specialized upbringing. Poor Ivo seems to be an outlier. Everyone else in his cohort is a genius. Ivo is smart (IQ 125) but apparently not a genius. His only talent seems to be playing games. 

Well, except for one other thing.

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Embrace transience the way the grave will eventually embrace you

Children Who Chase Lost Voices

By Makoto Shinkai 

27 Aug, 2016

Translation

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I decided to review Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 fantasy film The Children Who Chase Lost Voices  for two reasons: the first was that I had just tried and failed to watch Age of Ultron. This DVD’s bright cover made me hope that Shinkai’s animated work was not filmed in what I have come to think of as Macular Degeneration-Vision (unlike Age of Ultron) . The second reason: the last few pieces I have reviewed have been pretty death-heavy (as has real life, for that matter). Since I had heard this was a particularly Studio Ghibli-esque work, I was hoping for something upbeat. 

I was snookered. Sure the film was Studio Ghibli-esque, in the same way that Grave of the Fireflies is Ghibli-esque.

While still a girl, Asuna had to learn how to take care of herself. Her father is dead and her mother works long shifts to support the two of them. Asuna spends hours in the countryside by herself, listening to an archaic radio set, one of the few mementos left by her late father. 

One day, she is attacked by a monster. 

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Into the Waste

Wolf Tower  (Claidi Journals, book 1)

By Tanith Lee 

26 Aug, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1998’s Wolf Tower is the first volume in Tanith Lee’s Claidi Journals , so titled because the story is told as a series of entries in protagonist Claidi’s secret diary.  Wolf Tower was also published as Law of the Wolf Tower , while the series is also known as the Wolf Tower series. Names can be tricky things, as protagonist Claidi finds out. 

The House is an oasis in the middle of a vast wasteland. In fact, most of its inhabitants believe that it is the oasis in the middle of a world-spanning Wasteland and that to be exiled from it is to be consigned to a short, miserable life. Claidi’s parents suffered such a fate, exiled from the House for crimes against propriety too terrible to mention. 

Even the doctrinaire rulers of the House could not bring themselves to punish the infant Claidi for her parents’ crimes. Instead they consigned her to a life of servitude to the stupid and cruel Jade Leaf. Such is the House’s mercy. 

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The Beginning

Alice Grove

By Jeph Jacques 

24 Aug, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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You may know Jeph Jacques as the writer/artist behind the post-singularity slice-of-life webcomic Questionable Content1. He is also the writer/artist behind the post-singularity, post-apocalyptic webcomic Alice Grove. It was an interesting webcomic on which to archive-binge immediately after finishing Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō.

Alice lives out in the country, where nobody will bother her. The townsfolk are fine with this because they are convinced Alice is a witch. A witch who serves and protects the town as best she grumpily can, but still a witch. Alice does her thing and the townies do theirs. It has been that way for a long, long time.

And then the blue-skinned extraterrestrial arrives. The worst kind of extraterrestrial: a tourist. And the worst kind of tourist: an idiot.

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No Bucks, No Buck Rogers, and Other Lessons Space Fans Don’t Want to Hear

False Steps: The Space Race as it Might Have Been

By Paul Drye 

22 Aug, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Paul Drye’s 2015  False Steps: The Space Race as it Might Have Been delivers exactly what it promises on the cover: a grand tour of the spacecraft that failed to make it from drawing board to reality over the last seventy years. Drye limits himself to the history of crewed spacecraft; probes may offer far more bang for the buck (a factor in the failure of many of the spacecraft included in this volume), but they lack the romance of humans in space. 


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Not the Worst Heinlein Novel

Time Enough For Love  (Lazarus Long, book 2)

By Robert A. Heinlein 

21 Aug, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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I no longer remember why I thought it would be a good idea to review 1973’s Time Enough For Love. It is by no means the worst of Heinlein’s books — that’s probably Number of the Beast,  although I am told that The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, which I have not read, gives NotB a run for its money — but considered as a whole, TEFL is not very good. It is, however, very long. As is this review. 

And yes, I am aware this book was nominated for a Nebula 1, a Hugo2, and a Locus 3.

Lazarus Long was a mere 213 years old when he first appeared in Methuselah’s Children . By the beginning of TEFL, he is an impressive two millennia old. Time weighs heavily on the ancient grognard. All he wants to do die. 

His descendants are not done with him and while dying may be every person’s right, it is not one Lazarus will get to enjoy. Chairman pro tem of the planet Secundus, Ira Weatherall, tempts the Methuselah with the one thing he cannot resist: an audience. 

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Player Two Has Re-Entered the Game

Darkness, I  (Blood Opera, book 3)

By Tanith Lee 

19 Aug, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1994’s Darkness, I is the final volume in Tanith Lee’s Blood Opera trilogy. Thank goodness, because I am not sure I could have taken a fourth volume. 

In the previous volume, Ruth died, struck down by the revenge-seeking widow of one of her victims. That would have been the end of her story .. except that Ruth is a Scarabae. Not only are the Scarabae slow to age, they reincarnate. 

Ruth won’t have to wait too long to live again; Ruth’s mother Rachaela is pregnant.… 

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