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Reviews from September 2016 (22)

How the Light Gets In

Saint Fire  (The Secret Books of Venus, book 2)

By Tanith Lee  

16 Sep, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1999’s Saint Fire is the second novel in Tanith Lee’s The Secret Books of Venus. 

If it were not for the Council of the Lamb, the masses who call Ve Nara home might waste their lives on love and pleasure. Ever vigilant, the Council diligently guides their charges towards self-denial and suffering, God’s chosen path for mortal humans. The Council’s grip on Ve Nara seems unbreakable, save for two minor details: 

  • The looming war with Jurneia, a country of heretics too blind to see their false god is but a mockery of the one true God, fools who think it’s the Christian God who is false. Whatever the truth or falsity of Jurneia’s theology, their vast fleet is all too real. 
  • The girl with fire in her hair. 


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A Thief in the Night

Going Dark  (Red, book 3)

By Linda Nagata  

15 Sep, 2016

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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2015’s Going Dark is the third and final volume in Linda Nagata’s Red Trilogy.

As far as the world is concerned, James Shelly died when his space plane was blown out of the sky. But he isn’t dead; he’s just gone undercover. He’s a member of ETM Strike Squad 7 – 1, an elite strike force formed to combat existential threats. 

7 – 1 is beyond covert, not listed in any official records, staffed by the officially dead, funded with a fortune stolen from a mad billionaire. Missions are selected by the enigmatic Red. In theory, all of them involve crises that could end human civilization. But there is a catch: 

The Red is not infallible. It is not all powerful. It is not even human. 

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Fever in the morning/Fever all through the night 

Transferral

By Kate Blair  

14 Sep, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2016’s Transferral is a debut novel from Canadian-by-choice author Kate Blair. It is not listed as such on her ISFDB entry because she does not have an ISFDB entry — someone should get on that — but her website confirms the info. 

The weed of crime may bear bitter fruit in our world but in sixteen-year-old Talia’s world, crime produces endless snotty hankies. Once science provided the means to move diseases from one human to another, it didn’t take long for lawmakers to see that this could be a perfect tool to reward decent citizens while punishing lawbreakers. Break a minor law and receive some law-abiding citizen’s cold. Break a major crime and say hello to necrotising fasciitis.

Talia, herself a survivor of a brutal crime that left her sister and mother dead, has no doubts about the morality of the transferral system of punishment. What could possibly be wrong with making sure good things happen to good people by ensuring that bad things happen to bad people? 

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Party at Ground Zero

Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship

By George Dyson  

13 Sep, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews

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George Dyson’s 2003 Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship is the biography of an atomic rocket that never was. Strike that, the atomic rocket that never was. Atomic rockets like NERVA or DUMBO may have used the power of the atom, but their approach was not so very different from conventional chemical rockets and their performance not so much better. Orion promised delta vees more than an order of magnitude better than NERVA at its best. 

All it asked in return for its astounding performance was a studied tolerance for proximity to nuclear explosions. Repeated explosions. 


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For One Single Yesterday

Dying of the Light

By George R R Martin  

11 Sep, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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1977’s Dying of the Light was George R. R. Martin’s first novel. While this novel is set in the same Manrealm as a number of Martin’s other stories1, this is a standalone. You don’t need to have read the other works to understand this one. This isn’t volume five of some interminable fantasy series.

Centuries after the collapse of the Federal Empire, the human worlds are still recovering. Fourteen of the more isolated, backward worlds collaborated on an ambitious project: terraforming the rogue world Worlorn as it passes by the giant star Fat Satan. 

By the time Dirk t’Larien arrives on Worlorn, hoping to help a former lover, Gwen Delvano, Worlorn’s Festival is over. Its path will take it past Fat Satan and back into the lightless interstellar depths. All life on the world is doomed. 

As is Dirk, if he sticks around.

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Plane Speaking

Kabu no Isaki, book 1

By Hitoshi Ashinano  

10 Sep, 2016

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Hitoshi Ashinano’s Kabu no Isaki — Isaki of the Cub— was serialized between 2007 and 2013 and subsequently collected into six volumes. I am unaware of a North American edition. Which minor fact did not deter the intrepid reviewer. 

At first glance, not much has changed in the (unspecified number of) years between our era and young Isaki’s. People still need to work, which means they need some means to get to work. For Isaki, work and transportation are one and the same. Neighbor Shiro allows Isaki the use of her aged but still reliable Piper Cub airplane. In return, Isaki uses the plane to run errands for Shiro. 

First glance is, of course, misleading. 

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No people, no problem!

Red Unicorn  (Unicorn, book 3)

By Tanith Lee  

9 Sep, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1997’s Red Unicorn is the third and final volume in Tanith Lee’s Unicorn series. 

Poor Tanaquil! In the previous volume, she fell in love with Honj. Because he is the paramour of Tanaquil’s half-sister Lizra, he is forever out of reach. Heartbroken, she returns to her mother Jaive’s isolated home, only to discover that an unexpected romance has ruined life there as well. 

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You see the signs, but you can’t read 

No Rest for the Wicked  (Widdershins, book 2)

By Kate Ashwin  

7 Sep, 2016

Special Requests

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Widdershins: No Rest for the Wicked is the second arc in Kate Ashwin’s ongoing webcomic. No Rest for the Wicked was published in 82 installments from March 12, 2012 to October 52012

Detained by police after a friendly altercation at a local pub, Jack O’Malley and his amiable German chum Wolfe face either prison term or — this being a fantasy England with its own Bloody Code — execution. Jack has a very special talent and that makes him potentially valuable to Councilwoman Fairbairn. Valuable enough to buy both Jack and Wolfe out of prison.

Of course, a contract with the councilwoman is involved but if contracts ever said anything important, O’Malley would have learned to read. 

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An old classic new to me

Children of the Atom

By Wilmar H. Shiras  

6 Sep, 2016

Rediscovery Tuesday

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Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: a well-meaning man founds a school for gifted youngsters. The gifted youngsters are mutants, children of the atom, each with their own gifts. They are mutants to whom the world will react with fear and anger when their existence is revealed. 

Like most well-read SFF fans, I’d heard of Wilmar H. Shiras’ 1953 classic Children of the Atom . I had a vague idea what later works plagiarized … were inspired by Shiras’ collection. I had never actually read Children until I discovered that an ebook edition had been published. Knowing when the original text was written, where it was published, and the works it inspired, I thought I had a pretty good idea how the plot had to play out. 

I was wrong. 

There will be spoilers. 

By 1973, the 1959 accident that left the staff of an atomic reactor dying of radiation poisoning is long forgotten. When child psychologist Peter Welles is asked to examine fourteen-year-old Tim, the accident seems to have no relevance to his patient. At a first glance, Tim seems like a perfectly normal young boy. At second glance, it becomes clear that Tim is concealing a great secret. He believes that if anyone were to learn his secret, he would become a pariah. 

He’s not wrong. 

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Through the Looking Glass

The Universe Between

By Alan E. Nourse  

4 Sep, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Alan E. Nourse’s 1965 The Universe Between is a fix-up of two novelettes published in 1951: High Threshold and The Universe Between. 

Ambitious cryogenics research has created an incomprehensible thing in the middle of the lab. Attempts to understand it have killed three men and put two more in the madhouse. Determined to unravel the mystery, Dr. John McEvoy has turned to the Hoffman Center. Perhaps the Center can provide a volunteer resilient enough to survive the thing (which may be a hypercube).

Much to McEvoy’s surprise, the best man for the job is a girl.

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