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Reviews from September 2016 (22)

You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Louisa the Poisoner

By Tanith Lee

30 Sep, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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Tanith Lee’s delightful 1995 modern-day Horatio Alger story Louisa the Poisoner is a standalone chapbook. 

Pity poor Louisa, raised in March Mire, a swamp so dangerous that none but fools would venture into it,” fostered by a mad, witchy aunt, then cast out into an uncaring world. Her aunt has tragically died in convulsions (after Louisa poisoned her). How is one sad orphan, all alone in the world, to fend for herself? 

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Can you show me where it hurts?

Hospital Station  (Sector General, book 1)

By James White

29 Sep, 2016

Special Requests

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First published as short stories in New Worlds Magazine , James White’s Sector General was by far his most successful series. Of the twenty-one novels and nine collections White published, twelve were Sector General books. 1962’s Hospital Station was the very first Sector General fix-up, gathering short works first published in New Worlds.

Strategically located midway between the rim of the parent galaxy and the densely populated systems of the Greater Magellanic Cloud, Sector 12 General Hospital took the resources of hundreds of civilized worlds to create. Not a surprise, since its mission is to provide health care to all beings of all kinds. Even the radioactive ones. Even the ones unfamiliar to the Galactic Federation, races about which nothing is known. 

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I’ve got a feeling you could use a little smile

Aqua, book 1

By Kozue Amano

28 Sep, 2016

Translation

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Now for a change of pace from scenery-porn science fiction manga about airplanes. Time for Kozue Amano’s scenery-porn science fiction manga about gondolas: Aqua! Specifically, 2001’s Volume One. 

By the opening years of the 24 th century, humans had terraformed Mars. Owing to a slight miscalculation re the amount of ice present, 90% of Mars is ocean-covered. The colonists have renamed Mars Aqua” and embraced the possibilities of a largely ocean-covered world. 

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Let the Devil Take Tomorrow

Thomas the Rhymer

By Ellen Kushner

27 Sep, 2016

Special Requests

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Ellen Kushner’s 1990 Thomas the Rhymer is a standalone reinterpretation of the traditional ballad. It won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. 

Gavin and wife Meg are odd friends for someone like Thomas. Gavin and Meg live quiet lives on their farm, while Thomas is a wandering minstrel who has, or so he claims, played at court. At first, Gavin and Meg offered the stranger shelter, as good people would. Later, he becomes something of an adopted son to the childless couple. 

There are many reasons why the farm holds such an attraction for Thomas, not least of which is young Elspeth, who lives on a nearby farm. 

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Without a limit, without a doubt! 

Colonies in Space

By T. A. Heppenheimer

25 Sep, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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T. A. Heppenheimer’s Colonies in Space is just one of the many Disco Era books and articles published proposing that the Next Big Step for humans in space would not be settlements on Mars or the Moon, but rather grand space stations. The idea was very popular, at least until reality ensued.


These days, Heppenheimer may be remembered as the spoilsport who pointed out that Bussard ramjets are far more effective at dissipating energy than they are at generating it (which is to say, they’re not propulsion systems but brakes). Yet he too was a space colony enthusiast. I remember his book fondly. What I cannot do is resolve the teeny-tiny font in the paperback edition, 


So it was with great glee that I discovered that the National Space Society has made the work available online for free. I like free! It’s even better than cheap!

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We do the things you wanna see

Heroine Complex  (Heroine Complex, book 1)

By Sarah Kuhn

24 Sep, 2016

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Heroine Complex is Sarah Kuhn’s debut novel. 

An army of demons invaded San Francisco, but turned out to be somewhat fragile; they all died almost as soon as they arrived in our dimension (shades of H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds ). Ever since the failed invasion, San Francisco has endured several small scale incursions … but those attacks are nothing that dedicated volunteers cannot handle. 

Volunteers like San Francisco’s own leather-and-spandex clad superheroine, Aveda Jupiter. And voluntolds , like Aveda’s timid but loyal personal assistant, Evie Tanaka. 

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You can fall for chains of silver, you can fall for chains of gold/You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold 

A Bed of Earth  (The Secret Books of Venus, book 3)

By Tanith Lee

23 Sep, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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2002’s A Bed of Earth is the third novel in Tanith Lee’s The Secret Books of Venus.

A few yards of dirt in a Venus graveyard is all it took to trigger the long-running feud between the powerful della Scorpia and Barbaron clans. To surrender that narrow patch of land would show weakness and betray the family honour. Better bloodshed and death than dishonour!

Betrothed to Lord Ciara, 14-year-old Merelda della Scorpia prefers the dashing musician Lorenzo. The betrothal serves her grasping family’s goals, but eloping with Lorenzo serves Meralda’s heart. There is no real question which option the naive teen will choose. 

Alas for Merelda, intercepting the two lovers and handing them over to vindictive, malevolent Lord Ciara serves Andrea Barbaron’s sense of comic malice.

Lorenzo does not long survive Lord Ciara’s hospitality. Merelda does; Lord Ciara is unwilling to settle for simply killing her; he prefers a more perverse vengeance. Merelda is alive when Lord Ciara sends her away from Eel Island, but … nobody ever sees her again. Alive? Dead? Alive but writhing in torment? No living person knows. 

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Get away from the pain you drive into the heart of me

Cyteen  (Cyteen, book 1)

By C.J. Cherryh

20 Sep, 2016

Special Requests

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Grandmaster C. J. Cherryh’s 1988 Cyteen is arguably the magnum opus of her Alliance-Union novels. Together with its 2009 sequel Regenesis, Cyteen gives fans their most detailed look at Union, the first system-spanning nation independent of Earth. 

Ariane Emory is a Special, one of a handful of geniuses who stand out even in a polity established by the brightest of Earth’s star-faring bright. She is one of the people who have made Union what it is: a dystopic state run by interlocking self-selected oligarchies to whom the phrase checks and balances” is a joke. It is a galactic power utterly dependent on mass-produced, mind-controlled slaves. For Emory, secure in her power as head of the research facility Reseune, life is sweet. 

As her frozen corpse proves, even a sweet life can come to an unexpected, abrupt end. 

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The Hunter and the Bear

The Mercenary

By Jerry Pournelle

18 Sep, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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1977’s The Mercenary is a fix-up. It comprises three Jerry Pournelle stories: Peace with Honor (1971), The Mercenary (1972), and Sword and Scepter (1973). These are among the earliest of Pournelle’s stories1. They must have impressed readers because The Mercenary was nominated for Best Novella (losing to Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest ) while Pournelle himself won the very first John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. 

The Second Cold War ended with the formation of the CoDominium in the 1990s. The Soviet and American forces dominate the Earth. Thanks to the timely development of the Alderson Drive, those who object too loudly or who are simply surplus to needs can be shipped out to the interstellar colonies. 

It’s not a just system but it works. Or rather, it worked. Now nationalists across the planet want to bring it down and with it, civilization on Earth. 

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