Reviews, May 2017

Leader of the Pack

Chiho Saito
Revolutionary Girl Utena, book 2

Volume 2 is the second half of Viz’s The Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Box Set, which collects all of Chiho Saito’s popular manga, Revolutionary Girl Utena.

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I’ve Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway

Not This August — C. M. Kornbluth

C. M. Kornbluth’s 1955 Not This August is a standalone novel of what was then the near future.

April 17, 1965: the bitter war between the United States and its allies—essentially just Canada by this stage of the war—and the combined forces of People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union ends with a glorious victory! But not for the US. America has been invaded, its armies crushed, its government given no choice but to surrender.

In the aftermath of unconditional surrender, the United States of America is swept away, replaced by the North American People’s Democratic Republic. What this means for former Americans is not clear.

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Sometimes Love Is Not Enough

Star Songs of an Old Primate — James Tiptree, Jr.

1978’s Star Songs of an Old Primate was James Tiptree, Jr’s third collection. Three years separated it from Warm Worlds and Otherwise three years and a significant revelation.

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In a World Few Hearts Survive

Sovereign — April Daniels
Nemesis, book 2

2017’s Sovereign is the second novel in April Daniels’ Nemesis series.

Less than a year after super-powers were thrust on her, Danny “Dreadnought” Tozer seems to be finding her feet as a superhero and as a person. She and her lawyer have a cunning scheme to recreate the effectively defunct Legion Pacifica under Danny’s control. Danny is also on the verge of being legally emancipated from her abusive parents. Not bad for someone only barely old enough to drive.

With everything under control, it seems like the perfect time for a working holiday at a global convention for superhumans. This is, of course, exactly when her enemies unite against her.

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For We’re All Agreed That All We Need Is Sitting There In Your Head

The Song of Hadariah — Alisse Lee Goldenberg
Dybbuk Scrolls Trilogy, book 1

To quote her online bio :

Alisse Lee Goldenberg is an award-winning author of Horror, Young Adult Paranormal Romance, and Young Adult Fantasy fiction. She is currently working on three series: The Sitnalta Series, The Dybbuk Scrolls, and The Bath Salts Journals (co-authored with An Tran). She has her Bachelors of Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folklore since she was a child. Alisse is also a voice actress living in Toronto with her husband Brian, and their triplets Joseph, Phillip, and Hailey.

2017’s The Song of Hadariah is the first volume in Alisse Lee Goldenberg’s Dybbuk Scrolls Trilogy: Book 1

Seventeen-year-old Carrie has a lot of important decisions to make; her choices could shape her entire adult life. When she saves a beleaguered fox from her dog, she does not think that she is making one of those Big Decisions. Yet her impulsive act of kindness turns out to be not just Big, but the Biggest.

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A Time to Kill

Red Girls — Kazuki Sakuraba

Kazuki Sakuraba’s Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas was published as Akakuchibaki no Densetsu in 2006. The 2015 English language edition was translated by Jocelyne Allen.

No one would have thought that the foundling Manyo was marked for great things. A mysterious mountain-dwelling clan had left the infant in Benimidori, an insignificant rural village. Fostered by a local family, she grew up as just another rustic in a small town notable only for the old Akakuchiba iron works and some recent shipyards. But fate had other plans for Manyo.

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There’s a Danger A-Coming and It Plans to Enslave

The Takeover — G. C. Edmondson & C. M. Kotlan

C. G. Edmondson and C. M. Kotlan’s 1984 novel The Takeover is a near-future thriller, written in those long-forgotten days when Americans were terrified that the Russians might somehow subvert America’s most basic institutions. Of course, these days we can look back and laugh at such ludicrous fears.

The Russian military adventure codenamed Cassandra was intended to exploit a moment of American vulnerability and win concessions for the Soviet Union. Even Cassandra’s architect, Undersecretary of Agriculture and Commerce Pikusky, didn’t expect his little project to succeed to the extent it did. The Soviets wanted trade concessions. They got total conquest!

Or so it seemed.

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In Liberating Strife

Seven Days in May — Fletcher Knebel & Charles W. Bailey II

Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey’s 1962’s Seven Days in May is a best-selling political thriller set in the early 1970s.

The struggle over Iran brought the Americans and Soviets to the brink of all-out war. Republican President Edgar Frazier’s decision to accept a divided Iran was reasonable under the circumstances (it averted nuclear war) but it was political suicide for him1.

As his Democratic Party replacement Jordan Lyman discovers, sometimes success is just the opportunity to fail on a more epic scale.

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Free To Fly

Dreadnought — April Daniels
Nemesis, book 1

2017’s Dreadnought is the first novel in April Daniels’ Nemesis series. It’s the first book I have read by this author and it will not be the last.

Fifteen-year-old Danny went shopping. Buying nail polish, which was their coping mechanism for life with a domineering father who would react with rage and abuse if he were to discover that his son Danny is actually his daughter Danny. What Danny got out of the shopping trip was a starring role as “vulnerable bystander in a battle between two superhumans,” a bystander cowering as the mighty Dreadnought fights to the death with villain Utopia.

Danny was lucky not to be reduced to a sooty outline on a wall. Their luck does not stop there.

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Not Enough Fun In Kitchener

A Place So Foreign and Eight More — Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow probably requires no introduction, but a link to his Wikipedia entry seems prudent. Doctorow’s connection to Waterloo Region is, as is so often the case, via education. He attended the University of Waterloo in the 1990s and again in the 2000s.

2003’s A Place So Foreign and Eight More is a collection of Doctorow stories. I seem to have misfiled my copy of this but no worry: large portions of it are available online1.

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Sew Your Fortunes On A String

Hiromu Arakawa
Fullmetal Alchemist, book 1

Viz’ Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volume 1 includes Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of the original Japanese manga [1]. Story and art are by Hiromu Arakawa; English translation by Akira Watanabe; English adaptation, by Jake Forbes and Egan Loo; touch-up art & lettering by Wayne Truman. The original manga appeared in 2003. The English translation appeared in 2011.

Wait! Are you confused yet? As my editor was confused? “You already reviewed Full Metal Alchemist!” Yes, but I reviewed the second volume in the series, not the first. Which was checked out and never returned to Kitchener Public Library.

On a war-wracked continent, two young brothers wander from town to town. Although Edward Elric is only fifteen and Alphonse Elric is just fourteen, both are skilled alchemists. Indeed, their skill is only outmatched by their boldness, which is why they are searching for the Philosopher’s Stone.

The Stone might be able to give Ed back his missing arm and leg and Al back his missing body…

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Follow, Follow

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps — Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson’s 2015 The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is set in the same universe as his A Taste of Honey (reviewed here).

Long ago, the gods fled Earth, leaving their mortal offspring behind. The demigods are too weighted by flesh to ascend, but have great powers in the mortal realm.

One demigod, the Captain, uses his gifts to lead a company of mercenaries. Demane, also semi-divine, is one of his soldiers. Demane is hopelessly smitten with the Captain and follows him despite having no real taste for the life of a mercenary. His fellow soldiers are wary of him; they call him a sorcerer, even though he tries to conceal his gifts.

Both men’s gifts will be needed to get the mercenaries and the merchants they are guarding through the Wildeeps. Well, at least some of the mercenaries and some of the merchants.

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Souvenirs

Change the Sky and Other Stories — Margaret St. Clair

1974’s Change the Sky and Other Stories is a collection by the prolific Margaret St. Clair.

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All I Have To Do Is Dream

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award Anthology — A. N. Editor

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

honors under-read science fiction and fantasy authors with the intention of drawing renewed attention to the winners. The award was initiated in 2001 by the Cordwainer Smith Foundation.

That’s a fine goal. Yet, even though the award has been given every year since 2001, the award’s website has not been updated since 2012. That’s not the way to draw attention to the honoured works. At least the Wikipedia entry seems to be up-to-date.

Something else the Rediscovery Award people have never done, to my knowledge, is commission a Rediscovery-theme anthology. If they did, it might look something like this:

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Run Between the Raindrops

Triptych — J. M. Frey

2011’s Triptych is a standalone science fiction novel by J. M. Frey.

Forced to flee their dying homeworld [1], the aliens found new homes on Earth. In stark contrast to the experiences of pretty every previous wave of refugees in the history of our planet, the governments of Earth, working through the UN, organized a sensible, effective effort to integrate the aliens into human society. Key to this effort are the Specialists who act as cultural ambassadors to the aliens.

Now the effort has gone horribly wrong.

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Once in a Lullaby

Sea of Shadow — Fuyumi Ono
The Twelve Kingdoms, book 1

1992’s portal fantasy Sea of Shadow is the first volume in Fuyumi Ono’s Twelve Kingdoms series. The 2007 English language edition was translated by Alexander O. Smith, and Elye J. Alexander.

Yoko Nakajima’s oddly coloured hair, lighter than any proper Japanese person’s hair should be, makes her an object of suspicion to her parents and schoolmates. It’s true that her hair has been its present colour since birth, and that she is to all appearances a normal, hardworking student and dutiful daughter. But isn’t that just the sort of facade a covert nonconformist would adopt? Her reluctance to assimilate by dying her hair black only underlines here oddity. Although if she did colour her hair, that would also be bad (her school forbids hair-colouring [1]).

But things could get worse, and do. Accosted by a stranger, given a magic sword and the ability to use it, attacked by monsters, Yoko is transported from Japan to the strange world of the Twelve Kingdoms.

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Fall for Pretty Strangers

Miranda and Caliban — Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban is a standalone retelling of Shakespeare’s novelization of Forbidden Planet, which for some reason he called The Tempest.

Determined to have revenge on his usurping brother Antonio and Antonio’s ally, the King of Naples, Prospero has retreated to a deserted island to hone his magical skills. Usurping the witch Sycorax’s legacy for his own, he is determined to use every resource at his disposal to punish his enemies.

This book does not tell Prospero’s story. Shakespeare already did that. It focuses on his naïve daughter Miranda.

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Underneath the Skull of the Moon

Rocket to the Morgue — Anthony Boucher
Sister Ursula Mysteries, book 2

H. H. Holmes’ 1942 mystery Rocket to the Morgue is a sequel to 1940’s Nine Times Nine . In Nine Times Nine , Detective Inspector Terry Marshall, assisted by Sister Ursula of the Sisters of Martha of Bethany, solved a locked-room mystery. In Rocket, the intrepid duo will confront something far more vexing:

Science fiction authors.

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Money is the Anthem of Success

Aventine — Lee Killough

1981’s Aventine is Lee Killough’s sole short-story collection to date. The stories share a common setting: Aventine, an artists community on a distant world. At least, that is how the inhabitants like to see themselves. The truth is darker.

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Controlled By The Pull Of Another

Far-Seer — Robert J. Sawyer
Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy, book 1

Many science fiction writers (Canadians in particular, because Canada) are not especially outgoing and thus not inclined to actively promote themselves (one reason why I try do that for them.. With one noteworthy exception: a former Waterloo resident and past Edna-Staebler-Writer-in-Residence [1] named Robert J. Sawyer, who, if he ever suffered from this common debility, managed to overcome it. As a result, his online bio is sufficiently voluminous that I find myself paralyzed by choice. What, if anything, to quote? So I will just link to the ten-thousand-word Sawyer version. Enjoy!

1992’s Far-Seer is the first volume in Robert J. Sawyer’s Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy.

The dinosaurs may have perished on Earth, but their descendants live on, on the habitable moon of a distant gas giant [2]. The intelligent carnosaurs known as Quintaglios have no inkling of their past. Indeed, their grasp of the present is shaky. As far as they are concerned, they live on a vast island floating down a vaster river. They do not know that their world is a sphere or that the body their religion worships is the greater world around which theirs orbits.

Apprentice astrologer Afsan will change all that.

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That’s No Moon That’s Waiting There

Endurance — Yoshiki Tanaka
Legend of the Galactic Heroes, book 3

1984’s Endurance is the third volume in Yoshiki Tanaka’s MilSpaceOpera manga series, Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The 2016 English language edition was translated by Daniel Huddleston.

Two civil wars have ended; both the Galactic Empire and its deadly enemy, the Free Planets Alliance, are at peace. Reinhard uses the respite to consolidate his control over the Empire, becoming Emperor in all but formal title.

The FPA uses peace for an entirely different purpose.

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You Don’t Own Me

Dissidence — Ken MacLeod
The Corporation Wars, book 1

The Corporation Wars: Dissidence is the first volume in Ken MacLeod’s Corporation Wars series. It is one of two books from the series that were nominated for this year’s Prometheus Award. Due to lack of time, it is the only one of the two that I will be reviewing.

Illicit drone warfare for the shape of the human future is all fun and games until, as Carlos the Terrorist found out, your allies turn on you and frame you for an atrocity—your enemies work out where you are—and someone drops a building on your head. Player One has left the game. Not completely out (the building was full of cryogens and you were flash frozen) but out for several centuries.

Fast forward those few centuries and medical advances have made death a curable condition.

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