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Reviews from November 2016 (21)

Hear my whispers in the dark

Penric’s Mission  (Penric and Desdemona, volume 4)

By Lois McMaster Bujold  

15 Nov, 2016

Miscellaneous Reviews


Penric’s Mission is the fourth instalment in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series.

Following an ill-fated foray into medicine, demon-haunted, all-round-nice-guy Penric takes up a new occupation: covert agent for the Duke of Adria. As the novel opens, he is travelling into Cedonia, there to contact to recruit a Cedonian general who is believed to be disaffected. 

No sooner does he step off the boat than Penric is arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison. Not an auspicious beginning, particularly since his cell is designed to fill with water once his captors have no further use for him. Eventually, they do not. 

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What my body needs is close encounter three

Unpopular Planet

By Evelyn E. Smith  

13 Nov, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


I freely admit that I picked up Evelyn E. Smith’s 1975 Fortean satire Unpopular Planet for a fairly stupid reason: her initials amused me. If only she had had a doctorate! 

A prolific author, Smith was best known for her crossword puzzles, Gothic romances, and the Miss Melville series (about a middle-aged socialite turned professional assassin). Although some of her work is still in print , this particular novel is not. Having reread it, I think I know why. 

Nicholas Piggot is both a physical throwback — tall, blond, and sturdy, in a world of short, swarthy nebbishes —and a social maladept. He makes a sketchy living as a disreputable musician catering to the lowest sorts of people. It’s probably for the best that no one know he is haunted by Blue Dragons that only he can see. As it is, only the fact that the extremely well-born Bernardine has set her cap for him has saved him from being classified as unfit to reproduce. 

Enraged that he has been replaced in Bernardine’s heart, Hubert Carmichael vows revenge. Bad news for poor Nicholas. Hubert is one of the bluest-blooded members of America’s officially classless society; he has the money and influence to make Nicholas’ life as unpleasant as it will be short. 

That’s the plan, anyway. 

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A pirate so bold

Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure Upon the High Seas  (Piratica, volume 1)

By Tanith Lee  

11 Nov, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee


2006’s Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure Upon the High Seas is the first volume in Tanith Lee’s Piratica trilogy. 

An exploding cannon cost Artemesia Art” Fitz-Willoughby Weatherhouse her mother and her memory. At age sixteen, Artemesia regains her lost memories. They explain why she has never fit in at the Angels Academy for Young Maidens: Art is the daughter of Molly Faith, better known as the infamous pirate queen Piratica. 

Escaping from the academy is trivial. So is trading her dress for trousers, her hated surname for the far more satisfactory Blastside.” An encounter with a hapless highwayman provides her with a pistol and a very snappy hat. Luck leads her to stumble across the remnants of Piratica’s old crew. All she needs is a seaworthy boat and Art Blastside can pick up where her mother left off. 

O Sing of the valour o’ a pirate so bold
Who robbed the seas over, and took all the gold
Of captains and traders, from Carrib to Inde,
And slipped by the nets of the Law like the wind 

There is just one small complication. 

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Back together now stitch by stitch

Fix  (Mancer, volume 3)

By Ferrett Steinmetz  

10 Nov, 2016

Special Requests


2016’s Fix is the third and final (?) volume in Ferrett Steinmetz’ Mancer series. 

Paul Tsabo did his best to talk America into abandoning its draconian anti-’Mancer ways. Alas, Paul is a bureaucratomancer, not a oratoromancer, and his pleas fell on deaf ears. Persuasion having failed, Paul, his family, his friends and their allies dug in for a long campaign aimed at changing America’s mind. 

What Paul’s efforts do succeed at is convincing SMASH (the organization charged with protecting America from the Mancer menace) that their conventional methods for dealing with domestic threats isn’t going to work with Paul. SMASH is the sort of organization whose answer, when a hammer fails, is to get a much larger hammer. 

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And it don’t matter if you don’t believe

Venus of Shadows  (Venus, volume 2)

By Pamela Sargent  

8 Nov, 2016



1988’s Venus of Shadows is the middle volume of Pamela Sargent’s Venus trilogy. It was preceded by 1986’s Venus of Dreams and followed by 2001’s Child of Venus.

I know it is odd to start reviewing a series in the middle … but for various reasons this seemed an apt choice for a review that will go live the same day that Americans strain to make the difficult choice between a flawed candidate and a weasel-headed fucknugget once described by helpful Scots as a tiny-fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon.” Although Shadows is a close follow-up to the first volume, Venus of Dreams, it was published in a bygone era when even series books were expected to stand on their own; thus, it can be read without having read the first book.

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Don’t matter if I fall from the sky

Fireflood and Other Stories

By Vonda N. McIntyre  

6 Nov, 2016

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1979’s Fireflood and Other Stories was Vonda N. McIntyre’s first and (as far as I know) only collection 1. It contains most of her early works, excepting only six pieces. It is one of the reliable comfort reads to which I return every decade or so. 

Well, comfort” is the wrong word. Don’t look to early McIntyre for warm, happy feels. 

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Turn around and you’re tiny, Turn around and you’re grown

Larque on the Wing

By Nancy Springer  

5 Nov, 2016

James Tiptree, Jr. Award


Holy crap, it has been over a year since I wrote my last Tiptree Award review.

Nancy Springer’s standalone contemporary fantasy Larque on the Wing shared the 1994 Tiptree Award with Le Guin’s The Matter of Segri.”

An outsider might say that artist Larque Harootunian is by many measures a success. She runs a thriving craft business; she’s married with children. Her marriage is somewhat unconventional, but it’s still within her comfort (or at least toleration) zone. The only notable off-notes in her outwardly successful life are the memories that haunt her. 

Granted, almost everyone is haunted by the ghosts of their past …but what would be metaphor for anyone else is literal truth for Larque. 

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In Restless Dreams

Forests of the Night

By Tanith Lee  

4 Nov, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee


Tanith Lee’s 1989 Forests of the Night is a single-author collection. 

Unlike previous Lee collections, this one includes epigrammatic introductions by Lee herself, introductions that are often more allusive than informative. Forests of the Night overlaps with other collections I have reviewed — but only slightly. 

It includes what may be the single most Tanith-Lee-like short work I have ever read. 

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