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Reviews from August 2017 (23)

Cast a Deadly Spell

A Pocket Full of Murder  (Uncommon Magic, volume 1)

By R. J. Anderson  

18 Aug, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


2015’s A Pocket Full of Murder is the first volume in R. J. Anderson’s Uncommon Magic series. Pocket is a young adult fantasy-mystery.

Despite the sober foresight that placed most political power in the Tarreton City Council in the hands of the local aristocracy, Tarreton has not prospered. In large part this is because the local Sagelord Lord Arvis is a fool whose decrees have consistently undermined the local economy. 

It is fortunate for the aristocracy that they are sufficiently buffered by personal wealth that they can maintain a proper lifestyle despite economic downturn. It’s a very different story for such plebeians as widower Urias Breck and his family. Not only is he unemployed (thanks to Arvis’ whimsical kneecapping of the local economy), but as a Moshite dissenter he is at the bottom of the list for most employers (who prefers their employees to belong to the Unifying Church). His affiliation with the Workers’ Club (wild-eyed extremists who want fair pay and responsible government) would further diminish his chances of being hired if anyone were to find out this last disreputable, disqualifying fact.

Or it would, if Urias had not just been arrested for murdering Governor Orien. Unemployment would be preferable to hanging. 

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The Kindness of Strangers


By Otsuichi  

16 Aug, 2017



Otsiuchi’s 2002 Goth is a collection. Most of the English translation was done by Andrew Cunningham, although one section was translated by Jocelyne Allen. The Haikasoru edition was published in 2015.

Morbid, expressionless Morino was a loner until she recognized a kindred spirit in a fellow student (who, being the narrator, feels little need to name himself in these stories). The pair bond over their shared fascination with gruesome murders.

Morino is particularly valuable to her murder-obsessed friend because although she remains completely unaware of the fact, Morino attracts killers, just as rotting meat attracts flies. Pheromones?

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If The Sky Fell

The Stone Sky  (The Broken Earth, volume 3)

By N. K. Jemisin  

15 Aug, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews


2017’s The Stone Sky is the third and final volume in N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy.

The Moon, long ago torn from its orbit around the Earth, is returning. Two women, Essun and her daughter Nassun, have the power to determine its course: a) past the Earth and back into interplanetary space, b) back into orbit around the Earth, or c) directly into the planet itself. 

Nassun, having had a good look at the evil humans do, is firmly convinced the third option is the correct one.

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All My Tomorrows

The Danger Quotient

By Annabel Johnson & Edgar Johnson  

14 Aug, 2017

Special Requests


Annabeland Edgar Johnson’s 1984 TheDanger Quotient isa standalone time travel novel.

130years after World War III turned the surface of the Earth into alifeless, UV-soaked hellscape, things are not going well for thedescendants who took refuge in a vast network of tunnels underColorado. For reasons unexplained, lifespans keep dropping. 

K/C — 4(SCI)(or Casey, for short) is a gene-engineered genius, one whom hisdesigners hope will be smart enough to solve the problem of theshrinking lifespans. Too bad that he probably won’t live longenough. He suffers from congenital defects that will kill him all toosoon. 

Hehas a cunning plan to put the little time remaining to him to gooduse. It’s a plan dependent on his homemade time-machine.

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Let The Memory Live Again


By Stephen Robinett  

13 Aug, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Stephen Robinett’s1 science fiction career2 ran from 1969 to 1983. In that time he produced five novels and twenty-one short stories. He appears to have disappeared from the science fiction world after 1983. Robinett died from complications of Hodgkin’s Disease in 2004, but it took a further five years for that news to filter back to SFdom.

A 1979 collection, Projections, contains nine Robinett stories, stories of which he was particular fond. 

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Our One True Guiding Light

The Princes of the Air

By John M. Ford  

12 Aug, 2017

Special Requests


(Added November 2019)

The reasons given in this review for Ford’s work being out of print are wrong. I apologize for the error.

The actual reason can be found here.

1982’s The Princes of the Air was John M. Ford’s second novel. His first novel, 1980’s Web of Angels (which I wish I had reviewed, because then I could link to the review) was a cyberpunk novel. The Princes of the Air was a space opera of manners. Ford’s reluctance to stick to as pecific genre is only one of the reasons he is not better known.

Orden, David, and Theo had sufficient talents to have spent their lives working up to ever more complicated con games … that is, until the forces of the law fell on them and consigned them to whatever fate waits the criminal classes in a star-spanning empire. Orden evaded this fate by entering the diplomatic service, an alternative career path for those blessed with a gift of gab and an eye for a good con. His friends David and Theo parlayed practice on simulated, video-game starships into crewing the real thing.

Any prudent person in Orden’s position would have maintained a low profile in a minor position. Ambitious Orden brought himself and hisfriends to the attention of the Queen.

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Eat Me Like a Sacrament

The Cannibal’s Handbook & Spider Spun

By Kit Daven  

11 Aug, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


2015’s Spider Spun” and The Cannibal’s Handbook” are two short stories by Kitchener-Waterloo author Kit Daven. I bought them because they were only 99 cents (less than a coffee and a doughnut) and because for some reason (even though the word counts are clearly indicated) I thought they were novellas. Both are from the upcoming collection, She’s No Good (upcoming, but no release date given).

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What I Wouldn’t Do

The Unit

By Ninni Holmqvist  (Translated by Marlaine Delargy)

8 Aug, 2017



Ninni Holmqvist’s 2006 dystopia, The Unit: A Novel, was translated in 2008 (from the author’s Swedish to English) by Marlaine Delargy. 

Dorrit Weger lived her life on the margins of Swedish society: never marrying, never having children, settling for a series of occupations that, no matter how personally satisfying, left her perpetually on the brink of insolvency. At age fifty, she is removed from her decaying house, separated from her loving dog, and consigned to the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. The Unit takes in dispensable people — authors, artists, homosexuals, and other non-conformists whose occupations are of no real use — and transforms them into valuable resources, as experimental medical subjects and involuntary organ donors. 

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The Way We Used to Be

The Beautiful Ones

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia  

7 Aug, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews


Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s soon-to-be-released The Beautiful Ones is a standalone SF novel. (SF in my estimation; see the discussion below.)

Hector Auvray rose from humble origins because he is an extremely powerful, skilled, and artistic telekinetic. He may not be an aristocrat but at least he is famous and rich. 

Valérie Beaulieu is famous, rich, beautiful, and an aristocrat. None of this truly makes her happy, since women of her class have nothing they can really call their own. Her background and beauty have only made her a valuable commodity on the marriage mart. She knows that her impoverished family’s future depends on her. A dutiful daughter, she abandoned her one true love so that she could marry the wealthy Gaetan instead.

Hector was that one true love. Ten years after being spurned by Valérie, Hector has returned to the city of Loisail.

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Like a Mirror Held Before Me

Adam Link, Robot

By Eando Binder  

6 Aug, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

1 comment

Eando Binder’s i 1965 Adam Link, Robot is a fix-up of stories first published in the late 1930s and early 1940s. 

Adam Link is the product of years of work by kindly Dr. Charles Link. 500 pounds of unstoppable metal guided by an iridium-sponge brain, the robot is the first of its kind. Thanks to Dr. Link’s careful training, it is not in any way a ravening, unstoppable killbot. 

Unfortunately for Adam, Dr. Link is one of the very few people willing to give the robot the benefit of the doubt. When Dr. Link is killed in a household mishap, Adam is immediately accused of killing the old man. With public opinion against him, Adam has little chance of winning a trial. Indeed, the odds of him surviving long enough to get a trial are poor. He is, after all, only a machine. 

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