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Reviews from July 2017 (21)

Wild Geese Singing of Endless Flight

The Starmen of Llyrdis

By Leigh Brackett

30 Jul, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Leigh Brackett’s standalone space adventure The Starmen of Llyrdis was first published in 1952, under the title The Starmen.

Perpetually out of step with the world, Michael Trehearne has travelled to Brittany in search of his family roots. When he glimpses a face much like his own, he is convinced he has come to the right place. He is both right and wrong: some of his kin are at hand but they are only visiting Brittany. Their true home is far from France.

Light years away, in fact.

Spoiler warnings, for this and for the unrelated The Long Tomorrow.

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When the Dark Comes Here

Fullmetal Alchemist, book 3

By Hiromu Arakawa

28 Jul, 2017

Translation

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Viz’ Fullmetal Alchemist (3‑in‑1 Edition), Volume 3 includes Volumes 7, 8, and 9 of the original Japanese manga. Story and art are by Hiromu Arakawa; English translation by Akira Watanabe; English adaptation, by Jake Forbes; touch-up art and lettering by Wayne Truman. The original manga appeared in 2004. The English translation appeared in 2011. Volume 1 was reviewed here . Volume 2 was reviewed here.

Al receives a tantalizing unsigned note. It suggests a meeting in an isolated location. Although he is only fourteen, Al is canny enough to suspect a trap. But he is also familiar with the meeting location and composed entirely of metal … so Al is understandably confident in his ability to handle any trouble he might encounter. 

The results are mixed. 

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I Think You’ll Like It Out In Space

Traveller Core Rulebook

By Matthew Sprange

25 Jul, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Just over forty years ago, Game Designer’s Workshop released the first version of their SF roleplaying game,  Traveller (reviewed here ). Over the years, there have been many editions of Traveller, released to varying degrees of enthusiasm. 

In 2016, Mongoose Publishing released the second edition of their version of Traveller. How does author Matthew Sprange’s version stand up? 

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The Likeness of a Dream

Death Comes as the End

By Agatha Christie

23 Jul, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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1944’s Death Comes as the End was Agatha Christie’s sole foray into historical mystery. In it, she abandoned her familiar 20 th century England for Egypt at the very end of the First Intermediate Period. I seem to have a weakness? superpower? for discovering authors through their most atypical work, so it should come as no surprise that this was the very first Agatha Christie I ever read. 

Recently widowed, young Renisenb returns to her family home in Thebes. Although she has been gone for eight years, little of significance seems to have changed. Her mortuary-priest father Imhotep still micromanages the household (through letters if he is away on business); her older brothers Yamose and Sobek still squabble with each other, and the youngest brother Ipy is still spoiled. The older brothers are married, but their wives have little influence over the household. 

Imhotep’s scribe Hori could tell her this stability is an illusion. All it takes to destroy it is an old man’s foolish infatuation with a beautiful young girl. 

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The Prodigal Stranger

The Last Good Man

By Linda Nagata

22 Jul, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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Linda Nagata’s 2017 The Last Good Man is a standalone milSF novel.

Four months after Fatima Atwan was kidnapped by El-Hashem’s Al-Furat Coalition, the US State Department has done nothing to rescue her. Fatima’s desperate father turns to military contractor Requisite Operations to do what the State Department either can not or will not do: save the young woman.

By law, Requisite Operations (RO) cannot deliver a ransom. What the law will let them do is attempt a foray into the chaos left after Daesh’s collapse, a foray to retrieve Fatima. Hussam El-Hashem1 may be a mere bandit using religion as justification for robbery and slavery, but he’s no idiot. Not only is his location secret, it changes on a weekly basis.

It would take extraordinary resources to find him. Luckily for Fatima, RO has those resources.

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Mercy Mercy Show Me Mercy

This Gulf of Time and Stars  (Reunification, book 1)

By Julia E. Czerneda

21 Jul, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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2015’s This Gulf of Time and Stars is the first book in Julie E. Czerneda’s Reunification series. It is set in her Clan Chronicles setting (first visited in her 1997 debut novel, A Thousand Words for Stranger).

Refugees without history, the surprisingly humanoid Clan live unseen amongst humans, who in turn live in the vast multi-species galactic confederation, the Trade Pact. The Clan’s psychic assassins eliminate any person unlucky enough to discover the Clan’s existence. Or rather, the Clan once lived unseen amongst humans. Now they live out in the open, outed by a biological trap of their own creation.

The Clan breeding program was so successful at creating females of unparalleled psychic power that no male can survive breeding with them. Hoping that the Trade Pact’s vast R&D resources can overcome the reproductive bottleneck, the Clan revealed themselves and joined the Trade Pact.

The Clan may have traded gradual extinction for swift extermination.

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Scrawled Upon My Soul

Raven Stratagem  (Machineries of Empire, book 2)

By Yoon Ha Lee

18 Jul, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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2017’s Raven Stratagem is the second novel in Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series. The first novel in the series, Ninefox Gambit, was reviewed here. Readers are well advised to read Ninefox Gambit before reading Raven Stratagem.

The Hexarchate is far too sensible to rely on the obedience of soldiers with free will. Instead, every soldier of the Kel has no choice in the matter, thanks to formation instinct conditioning. To see a superior officer is to be compelled to obey them. It’s a system designed to make mutiny impossible. For the person wearing senior officer Cheris’ body, it means that taking control of the Swanknot shipswarm is merely a matter of establishing that they are the undead General Shuos Jedao. Once they believe they are confronted with a general with three centuries of seniority, the hapless soldiers have no choice but to obey.

By the time the Hexarchate’s rulers discover what Jedao has done, he and his little fleet are long gone.

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