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Reviews from April 2017 (21)

What Was I Thinking?

A Spell for Chameleon  (Xanth, volume 1)

By Piers Anthony  

16 Apr, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1977’s British Fantasy Award-winning A Spell for Chameleon is the first volume in Piers Anthony’s seemingly endless Xanth series.

Spoiler warning.

Poor Bink! Each human Xanth has their own unique magical gift. Bink appears to be one of the few exceptions, with no discernible magical talent. Not only does this place him at a considerable disadvantage to his fellow humans, but it will cost him his place in Xanth. Human law mandates exile for those without magic. 

On the slim chance the Good Magician Humfrey’s powers can uncover the talent all previous attempts to discover have failed to spot, Bink set out to offer a year of service to the Magician in exchange for Humfrey’s help. 

Humfrey may be Good but he is not Friendly or Easy to Reach.

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One Way or Another

Hellmaw: Soul Larcenist  (Dagger of Sacrados, volume 1)

By Suzanne Church  

14 Apr, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


Suzanne Church’s 2016 supernatural thriller Hellmaw: Soul Larcenist is book one in the Dagger of Sacrados Trilogy. It is set in Ed Greenwoods shared universe, Hellmaw. 

Called to the scene of a spectacularly brutal double homicide, protagonist Detective Sergeant Windsor Kane has no idea that she and her husband Davian are being stalked by the killer. By the time she does figure that out, she and Davian have been overpowered, kidnapped, and prepared for a slow, painful death.

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Baptisms of Fire

Fullmetal Alchemist, volume 2

By Hiromu Arakawa  

12 Apr, 2017



Viz’FullmetalAlchemist (3‑in‑1 Edition), Volume 2 includesVolumes 4, 5, 6 of the original Japanese manga [1]. Story and art areby Hiromu Arakawa; English translation by Akira Watanabe; Englishadaptation, by Jake Forbes and Egan Loo; touch-up art & lettering by Wayne Truman. 

The first thing a stranger might notice about Edward Elric is his prosthetic arm and leg. The first thing they might notice about Edward’s younger brother Al is his huge metal body. More on those details later. Both are skilled alchemists. Both are not yet teenagers. Both are members of a military organization, trading service for training. 

As Volume 2 of the omnibus edition opens, Al and Ed have gotten their asses soundly kicked by a stabby, shape-shifting woman named Envy and her minions [2]. Death is a distinct possibility. 

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A Long Cold Lonely Winter

The Core of the Sun

By Johanna Sinisalo  

11 Apr, 2017

The 2017 Prometheus Award Finalists


2013’s The Core of the Sun is a standalone dystopian novel by Johanna Sinisalo. First published in Finnish, the 2016 English edition was translated by Lola Rogers. It’s also the first of four reviews of 2017 Prometheus Nominees (I sure hope I have written the intro for the series of reviews by the time this review is posted). 

The Eustitocratic Republic Finland is a utopia … or so it assures its citizens. If you cannot trust an intrusive, nanny-state that goes to extraordinary lengths to isolate its people from the outside world, whom can you trust? The people of Finland live healthy, properly ordered lives, unlike the legions of unfortunates trapped in hedonistic, decadent democracies.

The key to this dazzling success is the proper domestication of women.

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Hide Me in a Hollow Sound

A Closed and Common Orbit  (Wayfarers, volume 2)

By Becky Chambers  

10 Apr, 2017

Special Requests


2016’s Hugo nominee A Closed and Common Orbit is the second novel in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series.

Forced by circumstance to abandon her life as the mind of a starship, artificial intelligence Lovelace is re-homed in an android body. She adopts a new identity as Sidra. Life in a humanoid shell, tottering precariously on two legs and dealing with complex, unfamiliar social protocols, is challenging. 

She meets Pepper, who is eager to help Sidra learn to cope. Unlike many others, Pepper believes that artificial intelligences are people. Why does Pepper have this peculiar and economically inconvenient belief?

The answer to that lies twenty years in the past.

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And I Think to Myself, What a Wonderful World

Tales of Known Space: The Universe of Larry Niven

By Larry Niven  

9 Apr, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1975’s Tales of Known Space: the Universe of Larry Niven was Larry Niven’s sixth collection (if you don’t count the British-only Inconstant Moon and the Dutch De Stranden van Sirius Vier) or his eighth (if you do.). It is the fourth instalment in an informal series I call the essential collections of Larry Niven [1], being an irregular review series I may not even get around to finishing or continuing” (or tagging or giving its own formal series name in the sidebar). 

An unkind reviewer might call this the Known Space stories that weren’t good enough to make it into Neutron Star. ” That’s not entirely true … but Niven himself acknowledges that a couple of the stories are not very good. Rather than bury them and try to conceal that they ever existed, he opted for completism (although it took another couple of collections to accomplish that goal).

There’s a very good reason beyond being a Niven fanboy as a teen that I picked this up. I will explain my reasoning at the end of the review. 

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Soon Found Out I Was Losing My Mind

Ascending  (League of Peoples, volume 5)

By James Alan Gardner  

7 Apr, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


To quote Wikipedia (because if Jim’s site has a bio section, I am missing it):

James Alan Gardner (born January 10, 1955) is a Canadian science fiction author. Raised in Simcoe and Bradford, Ontario, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied mathematics from the University of Waterloo.

Gardner has published science fiction short stories in a range of periodicals, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Amazing Stories. In 1989, his short story The Children of Creche” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Writers of the Future contest. Two years later his story Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large” won a Prix Aurora Award; another story, Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream,” won an Aurora and was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards.

Ascending is the fifth book in James Alan Gardner’s League of Peoples series.

To quote its protagonist, the transparent glass woman Oar:

This is my story, the story of Oar. It is a wonderful story. I was in another story once, but it was not so wonderful, as I died in the end. That was very most sad indeed. But it turns out I am not such a one as stays dead forever, especially when I only fell eighty floors to the pavement. 

Oar’s people are physically immortal, but their minds, sadly, are not. Given time, they lapse into catatonia, living but inert. There is no way to cure the condition nor is there any way to avoid it except dying.

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Your Words Don’t Burn Me Anymore

iD  (Machine Dynasty, volume 2)

By Madeline Ashby  

5 Apr, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews


Madeline Ashby’s 2016 Company Town is a standalone science fiction novel that has received enough acclaim — in large part due to its position in Canada Reads—that I have as yet been unable to obtain a copy1. That is why this is a review of her 2013 novel, iD.

iD is the second instalment in Madeline Ashby’s Machine Dynasty series. 

Every von Neumann robot that has ever been built comes with an infallible fail-safe that will kill the robot deader than the dodo if the robot fails to protect and serve their humans. Every robot save Amy, that is. Amy’s failsafe does not work. What’s worse from the human point of view is that vN robots spawn copies unless actively prevented; all of Amy’s iterations will have similarly defective failsafes.

There is an easy solution: simply kill Amy. Or rather, use her lover Javier’s failsafe to compel him to do it for the humans. 

This simple plan has only one flaw.

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Cause Two Can Keep a Secret If One of Them is Dead

Orbital Cloud

By Taiyo Fujii  (Translated by Timothy Silver)

4 Apr, 2017



Taiyo Fujii’s Orbital Cloud is a standalone science fiction thriller. Originally published in 2014 under the title Ōbitaru Kuraudo, Orbital Cloud was translated into English by Timothy Silver. The Haikasoru edition was published in March 2017.

Even in 2020, putting objects into orbit is still the domain of national governments and billionaires. Observation of objects in orbit, on the other hand, is something well within the grasp of the motivated amateurs like Kazumi Kimura’s website Meteor News. Meteor News, focused on shooting star prediction, is among the first to notice SAFIR 3’s bizarre behaviour.

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There Was Two of Everthing But One of Me


By Rosel George Brown & Keith Laumer  

2 Apr, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


The Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown 1966 collaboration Earthblood is a standalone space opera. 

Although Roan’s adopted father Raff was only a mutant human, and his adopted mother Bella a lowly Yill. Roan himself was a true-blooded pure-strain Terran — something not seen in the galaxy since the Imperial Terran Navy was swept from the skies by the Niss, fivet housand years earlier. Where Roan came from, and how he found his way to a backwater world like Tambool, neither Raff nor Bella cang uess. What they do know is they love their adopted son and intend to raise him as best they can.

But in a galaxy populated by mutants and aliens, can there be room for even one true human?

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