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Reviews from January 2017 (23)

And I Hear Something Scratching Through The Wall

The Lottery and Other Stories

By Shirley Jackson 

31 Jan, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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1949’s The Lottery and Other Stories is a collection of short pieces by Shirley Jackson. Aside from The Haunting of Hill House, there’s a giant Jackson-sized hole in my reading. When I saw how inexpensive The Lottery ebook was, I snapped it up. Time spent in various waiting rooms allowed me the leisure to actually read it. 

There are twenty-five pieces in this book. I am not going to do my usual story by story approach; cue sighs of relief all round. 

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Game of Therns

The Gods of Xuma or Barsoom Revisited  (Breakout, book 4)

By David J. Lake 

29 Jan, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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[due to a technical issue, this is unedited]

1978’s The Gods of Xuma or Barsoom Revisited is the fourth book in David J. Lake’s Breakout series1. Readers intrigued by my review need not worry if they have not read the first three books; not only does Gods function as a standalone, good luck finding a copy. Many authors benefited from the golden age of ebook reprints but the late Mr. Lake does not appear to have been one of them.

The stars are ours! Well, the Moon is ours (albeit at the cost of World Wars Three and Four largely depopulating the Earth but eggs and omelettes), not that the Russians, Americans and Chinese like sharing that world with each other. The stalwarts of the Euro-American moon base have every hope Operation Breakout will plant Euro-Americans on the worlds of 82 Eridani, Epsilon Eridani and Delta Pavonis.

The unfortunates sent to Epsilon Eridani found only airless rocks and the Delta Pavonis ship has yet to report its findings but in 2143, starship Riverhorse hits the jackpot. 82 Eridani 3 is small but habitable, the Mars ours solar system never had. Linguist Tom Carson favours the name Barsoom”, after Edgar Rice Burroughs but humourless Captain Mannheim insists on Ares. Whatever the planet is called, it is clearly life-bearing, a potential home for humanity. 

Pity about the natives.

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Visited By A Majestic Hymn

A Wizard’s Henchman  (Kaslo Chronicles, book 1)

By Matthew Hughes 

27 Jan, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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British-born Canadian Matthew Hughes has lived in many places. One of them was Kitchener-Waterloo, which earns him a spot in A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction. Hughes writes in a wide range of genres, both non-fiction and fiction. To quote from his site, he has been employed as

a journalist, then as a staff speechwriter to the Canadian Ministers of Justice and Environment, and — from 1979 until a few years back — as a freelance corporate and political speechwriter in British Columbia.

He also writes science fiction and fantasy, as well as mystery. He has won the

Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award and has been shortlisted for the Aurora, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, Endeavour, A. E. Van Vogt, and Derringer Awards.

Despite these accolades, Hughes is often overlooked. It’s inexplicable, although his tendency towards humour may explain some of it. Humorous F&SF, save of the broadest, least subtle sort, is generally not popular in North America. Perhaps this work, which is more apocalyptic than funny, will appeal to a broader range of readers.

2016’s A Wizard’s Henchman is the first volume in Matthew Hughes’ Kaslo Chronicles.

There are ten thousand inhabited worlds in the Spray and none of them are utopias. Problems abound. Erm Kaslo has made a very nice living for himself as an all-round troubleshooter for rich men who are able to pay well for services rendered. The rich and powerful don’t get that way by being ethical or trustworthy—but even the most ruthless learn that it’s never a good idea to disappoint Erm Kaslo.

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You Get To Meet All Sorts In This Line Of Work

Hammers on Bone  (Persons Non Grata, book 1)

By Cassandra Khaw 

26 Jan, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2016’s Hammers on Bone is the first work in Cassandra Khaws Persons Non Grata series.

The sign on his door says John Persons, PI”. It doesn’t say John Persons, Killer for Hire.” Abel, the kid currently on the other side of Persons desk, wants a killer, someone who will deal with his stepdad McKinsey before the stepdad can kill Abel and his brother James.

Persons has killed, but only in self-defence. Just like any other completely normal person. Persons is trying very hard to be a normal person. Abel is convinced that there’s more to Persons than meets the eye and he’s a very persuasive kid. Persons agrees to take a look at the stepdad and proceed as seems … ethical.

A faint mewling voice in the back of Persons’ head thinks that this is the right choice.

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Just Like a River Running Through

Tomoe’s Story  (Usagi Yojimbo, book 22)

By Stan Sakai 

25 Jan, 2017

Special Requests

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Tomoe’s Story is the 22nd volume in Stan Sakai’s long-running Usagi Yojimbo anthropomorphic comic series. It collects six stories featuring Tomoe, a feline woman samurai, who keeps crossing paths with Miyamoto Usagi. Unlike other friends/allies, such as morally unencumbered Gen and ostentatious jerk Inukai, Usagi and Tomoe share many moral perspectives, but their friendship is not without its complications.

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Quit Hollering at Me

Crosstalk

By Willis. Connie 

24 Jan, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Connie Willis’ 2016 Crosstalk is a standalone near-future SF novel. I regret to inform my readers that this review may not be as enjoyably vitriolic as previous Willis reviews. (I may revisit that decision once Crosstalk gets its inevitable, inexplicable Hugo nomination.) As Willis novels go, I didn’t hate it all that much. 

In the exciting world of Tomorrow CE, couples are not limited to intrusive social media and ever-present electronic communications. Now there’s the option of the EED, a device that creates an empathic link between lovebirds. Or at least, it’s supposed to. 

Pressured into submitting to elective brain surgery by her loving fiancé Trent, Briddey Flannigan gets an EED. Alas! there is no sign of the empathic link that should have formed between Briddey and Trent. What Briddey got was… 

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Born to Die

Judgment Night

By C.L. Moore 

22 Jan, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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C. L. Moore’s short novel Judgment Night was serialized in two issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding back in 1943. Judgment Night is also the title of a collection published by Dell back in the Disco Era (which is how I encountered the story) .. but the edition I have in hand is Diversion Books’ 2015 ebook. They’ve presented the novel as a standalone — which it is. Not only are there no sequels of which I am aware, it’s not clear to me how there could be.

The race that holds Ericon holds the galaxy, because the race that holds Ericon can draw on the wisdom of the Ancients. Access to the Ancients does not mean that one will be able to put their wisdom to effective use. In fact, dynasty after dynasty have interpreted the advice they were given in ways that led to their doom. All human governments are as mortal (if not so short-lived) as their members.

Our protagonist, Juille, believes that she can defy fate. 

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Dance Me Through The Panic Till I’m Gathered Safely In 

Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

21 Jan, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s 2014 anthology Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse delivers exactly what it promises: post-apocalyptic tales told from Canadian perspectives. 

The moral here seems to be that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. 

Also, it’s not going to get better.

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Into the Magic Night

The Untold Tale  (Accidental Turn, book 1)

By J. M. Frey 

20 Jan, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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To quote the bio in her novel: 

(J. M. Frey) is a voice actor, SF/F author, professionally trained music theatre performer, not-so-trained but nonetheless enthusiastic screenwriter and webseries-ist, and a fanthropologist and pop culture scholar. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, radio programs, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. 

Frey has been nominated for both the Aurora and the Lambda Awards.

2015’s The Untold Tale is the first volume in The Accidental Turn series.

Kintyre Turn is a bona fide hero, complete with the magic sword Foesmiter and his very own loyal sidekick, Sir Bevel. Most damsels in distress, at least the ones from Hain, would be relieved to get Kintyre’s help. Lucy Pip” Piper isn’t from Hain and she’s not at all relieved to be rescued by Kintyre. That’s because she has to make do with Kintyre’s much less impressive stuttering brother Forsyth.

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Take a Dream on a Sunday

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

By Kij Johnson 

18 Jan, 2017

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Although modern discussion of Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s fiction often focuses on his virulent racism, he was also something of a misogynist. His female characters tended to be absent or objectionable. Is it possible to write in the Lovecraftian vein without racism and misogyny? Or is Lovecraft’s world of eldritch horrors dependent on rampant hatred of the Other?

Kij Johnson’s 2016’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is something of a test for the hypothesis I can write Lovecraftian fiction that does not reek of hatred and disgust.” It is also a test of my recent suggestion that the most flawed originals can inspire the best modern interpretations.

Professor Boe is woken from a sound sleep to deal with a crisis. One of her most promising students, Jurat, has eloped with a lover, Heller. Heller is objectionable because he is a dreamer from the waking world and it is to the waking world Jurat and Heller are fleeing. The university’s toleration of Ulthar Women’s College is grudging at best. If news gets out that the daughter of a trustee has been … misplaced, the hard-won women’s college might be shut down entirely.

Someone must retrieve Jurat. Retired adventurer Boe is the logical choice.

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