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Reviews from June 2017 (21)

Tonight There’ll Be But Three

The Scorpion Rules  (Prisoners of Peace, book 1)

By Erin Bow 

30 Jun, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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The Scorpion Rules is the first volume in Erin Bow’s Prisoners of Peace series.

The children of the Precepture school live under the gaze of watchful cameras monitored by a powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence). The students are there to make their own small contributions to world peace. Each child at the school is the child of a national ruler. Each is hostage for their parent’s good behaviour. Nations can choose to go to war if they feel the national interest demands it, but if they do … the child hostages of all warring states involved will be immediately removed from class and killed. It’s a harsh system but it has worked as planned. Wars have been short and total casualties limited to a few thousand per year, despite the immense challenges encountered during four centuries of catastrophic climate change. 

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princes of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is one of the hostages. She hopes to live until she reaches the ripe old age of eighteen, at which point she will be released from the school. Failing that, she hopes to die with dignity. She does not consider escape. The AI will surely prevent that. 

Then the teenage boy with bound hands arrives at school. 

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Still Waiting For Tomorrow

The Ships of Air  (The Fall of Ile-Rien, book 2)

By Martha Wells 

29 Jun, 2017

Special Requests

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2004’s The Ships of Air is the second volume in Martha Wells’ The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy. It follows immediately on The Wizard Hunters, which I reviewed here.

The book begins on a high note (the same one on which the previous volume ended): Tremaine and her friends have captured a Gardier outpost! Victory is surely theirs, because that is how it works at the beginning of the second book in a trilogy. 

There are just two small problems: Firstly, Tremaine and her friends are in a parallel universe. Secondly, they have no means to get home.

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I’ll Fly Away

Kabu no Isaki, book 3

By Hitoshi Ashinano 

28 Jun, 2017

Translation

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The third volume of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Kabu no Isaki was published in 2010. There has been no officially sanctioned English edition of which I am aware.

Just as in volumes one and two, the world is filled with marvelous things, many of them everyday items magnified tenfold. Isaki is still trying to make a living flying a Piper Cub that belongs to semi-retired celebrity pilot Shiro. The world may be transformed into something rich and strange, but planes are still cool.

People familiar with volumes one and two may be thinking Finally! Answers to all the mysteries!” Hahahaha! Dream on.

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Love is Our Resistance

Rogue Queen

By De Sprague L. Camp 

25 Jun, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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L. Sprague de Camp’s 1951 standalone Rogue Queen takes place in de Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias setting.

Our protagonist, Iroedh, is a member of the worker-caste in the Avtiny community. Her group faces an existential threat: invasion and enslavement by its more aggressive and larger Arsuuni neighbours. Iroedh, as a scholar and antiquarian, seems to be of no use in the struggle. She is looked down on by her fellow Avtiny.

Then comes word of the visitors from the stars.

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A Man of Means by No Means

Storm of Dust  (Crossroads Adventures, book 2)

By Neil Randall 

23 Jun, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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Neil Randall is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, perhaps the finest university in Waterloo west of Philip Street1. To quote his UW bio:

I am a long-time faculty member in the English department at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and the director of the Games Institute (uwaterloo.ca/games-institute).

I confess I did not look closely at Randall’s 1987 book Storm of Dust when I bought it last year, except to note that: 

  • it was by a local author whom I knew back in the 1980s and 1990s;
  • it was related to one of my favourite David Drake books. 

What I was to discover is that Storm of Dust is an interesting artifact of ancient times, an artifact based on effectively obsolete tech. Who would have thought that interactive game books would ever die? 

If you are younger than twenty or so, you may be wondering: what the heck are those?

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Paranoia

By Paul Dean 

20 Jun, 2017

Reds Under The Bed

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Greg Costikyan, Dan Gelber, and Eric Goldbergs dark-comedy roleplaying game Paranoia was first published in 1984. The most recent edition, by James Wallis, Grant Howe, and Paul Dean, was released in March 2017, just in time for the Reds Under the Bed review series. How providential!

Life in Alpha Complex is pretty sweet. Most citizens (the NPCs) have all the mood-numbing drugs and meaningless drudgery they want, as well as enough carefully vetted entertainment to fill any empty hours. Their every need is fulfilled by the all-wise, all-seeing Computer. Indeed, it is against the rules for them to notice anything that might disturb them.

Player characters are not as lucky.

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When the Darkness Comes

The Black Cloud

By Fred Hoyle 

18 Jun, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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1957’s The Black Cloud  was Sir Fred Hoyle’s first novel. 

A young astronomer working  a blink comparator gets a career-making break when he notices that a small black region on two photographic plates grew measurably in the month between exposures. After a hurried consultation, the discoverer and his colleagues conclude: 

  • The dark spot is an interstellar cloud. 
  • Its apparent growth is because it is headed towards the Solar System. 
  • The lack of transverse motion means that it is headed directly at the Solar System. 
  • It will arrive in about two years. 

Exciting times to be an astronomer! Very exciting, because if the cloud passes between the Earth and the Sun it is dense enough to blot out sunlight entirely 1, dooming us all to a slow lingering death. 

Well, the discoverer can enjoy his enhanced career for the two years he has left. 

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Here in My Garden of Shadows

Point of Hopes  (Astreiant, book 1)

By Lisa A. Barnett 

17 Jun, 2017

Special Requests

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1995’s Point of Hopes  is the first novel in Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s Astreiant series.

The great and powerful of Chenedolle are distracted by matters of state: the childless queen has yet to settle on a designated heir. The people of the great city of Astreiant have a far more down-to-Earth concern. 

Someone is stealing their children. 

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Ashes! Ashes! We All Fall Down! 

The Ruined Empire

By Anna Kreider 

16 Jun, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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To quote the bio from Anna Krieder’s Go Make Me a Sandwich:

In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

Anna Kreider’s 2014’s The Ruined Empire answers a question many game designers must ponder: what does a designer do when due to nobody’s fault the product they worked on is no longer slated for release? 

In many cases, the work is work-for-hire, the publisher owns it outright, and the work vanishes, never to be seen again. 

In the case of The Ruined Empire…

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