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Reviews from September 2017 (22)

A Restless Spirit on an Endless Flight 

Stoneskin  (Deep Witch)

By K.B. Spangler 

30 Sep, 2017

Space Opera That Doesn't Suck

2 comments

2017’s Stoneskin is a prequel to K. B. Spangler’s upcoming Deep Witch trilogy. 

Tembi Moon, one of the poorest of Adhama’s poor, knows her alleys and she knows that the alley in which she has awakened is no alley that she has ever seen. It’s the first hint that something vast and alien has taken a personal interest in her.

Vast, alien, and as friendly as a puppy dog.

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Truth in the Space Between

The Last Namsara

By Kristen Ciccarelli 

29 Sep, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

2 comments

To quote her website: 

Kristen Ciccarelli hails from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula where she grew up on her grandfather’s grape farm. She spent her childhood running wild with her cousins, adventuring in the woods, building forts in the barn, and obsessing over books, dragons, and girls wielding really cool weapons.

2017’s The Last Namsara is Kristen Ciccarelli’s debut novel.

Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, hunts dragons. She has devoted her life to this quest, to the point that dragons have become an endangered species. 

Her father the king has one final task for Asha. Kill Kozu, the First Dragon. One last death and the king’s rule will be secure against any revival of the old faith (and its dragons). 

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No Colors Any More

Kubikiri Cycle  (Zaregoto, book 1)

By NisiOsiN 

27 Sep, 2017

Translation

0 comments

2002’s Kubikiri Cycle is the first volume in NisiOisiN’s Zaregoto series. The 2008 English translation is by Greg Moore.

Exiled to Wet Crow’s Feather Island, Akagami Iria surrounds herself with the world’s best and brightest, people at the pinnacle of their chosen fields. But one resident, nineteen-year-old Il-chan, is no such genius. His lesser status gnaws at him. There’s no cure; for him, study and practice would be futile. But the fact that he knows he is a comparative dullard means that he is aware of his mediocrity — which fact bars him from the Garden of Eden that the truly dim enjoy.

Il-chan is on the island because his best friend Kunagisa Tomo is there. Kunigisa is a genius in her field of computer science. Outside her specialty, she is incapable of even minimal self-care or day-to-day competence. It’s Il-chan’s job to protect her from her own tunnel vision. Why would he do this? Well, certainly not because he’s in love with Kunagisa. That would be attachment and attachment is a fool’s game.

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Slack Your Rope Hangman

Exo

By Fonda Lee 

26 Sep, 2017

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

3 comments

Fonda Lee’s 2017 Exo is a standalone young-adult SF adventure novel. (No, this is not a review of Steven Gould’s Exo, even if my editor wishes it were.)

Earth is a colony of the Mur Commonwealth, a colony protected by its benevolent zhree overlords from their rapacious Rii cousins. Most humans, secure in their placid second-class existence, regard the brutal resistance that first met the zhree as a regrettable mistake. For the insurgents of the Sapience, the resistance is an inspiration.

Teenager Donovan Reyes is a loyal soldier for the zhree: an elite soldier, hardened with alien biotechnology. Donovan and those like him are charged with maintaining the peace in West America. His enhancements provide Donovan and his comrades with the durability, speed, and lethality required to protect the squishies,” as the soldiers deem the unenhanced humans, from their own worst impulses.

A moment of poor judgment lets the insurgents capture Donovan. Sapience’s policy is to brutally murder any soldiers they capture, pour encourager les autres. Donovan’s prospects are dim — or they would be if not for the fact that in addition to being a willing ally of the zhree, he is also the only son of West America’s Prime Liaison Reyes. Donovan has considerable hostage value.

The Reyes government does not negotiate with terrorists. 

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The Best Kind of Loving Is The One That Hurts

The High Couch of Silistra  (Silistra Quartet, book 1)

By Janet E. Morris 

25 Sep, 2017

Special Requests

1 comment

1977’s The High Couch of Silistra is the first volume in Janet Morris’ Silistra Quartet. It’s also proof that not every reviewer should review every book, because the market it caters to, the BDSM crowd, is not one to which I belong. I’m mostly blind to whatever strengths this work may have.

The ancient Silistrans used their impressive technology to scour their own homeworld. A handful survived in underground refuges. When the surface of Silistra recovered and the descendants of the survivors emerged from their warrens, they vowed to never again become dependent on technology.

Silistrans are hardy, long-lived, and thanks to that ancient war, infertile. High technology might have dealt with the fertility issue. The Silistrans chose an entirely different solution.

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It’s The Hard Knock Life

Beasts of New York

By Jon Evans 

22 Sep, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

3 comments

To quote his Wikipedia entry, Arthur Ellis award-winner Jon Evans was 

(b)orn to an expatriate Rhodesian father and Canadian mother. Evans grew up in Waterloo, Ontario and graduated from the University of Waterloo. He has a degree in electrical engineering and over 10 years of experience working as a software engineer. 

He’s also a former customer of mine, from the days when I owned a game store. Small world!

2011’s Beasts of New York won the Foreword Medal of the Year Award. 

Patch son of Silver, of the Seeker clan, of the Treetops tribe, of the Center Kingdom, faces calamity, as do all his compatriots. Long winter means food stores are pressed to their limits and beyond. Instead of a meagre supply barely able to see Patch and his kin to spring, there is nothing. Starvation looms.

Patch discovers that his clan and kind face an existential threat that is far greater than a lean winter. The fate of the beasts of New York rests on the shoulders of Patch the squirrel.

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Heavenly Blessed and Worldy Wise

Stratagem  (Legend of the Galactic Heroes, book 4)

By Yoshiki Tanaka 

20 Sep, 2017

Translation

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First published under the title Ginga Eiyu Densetsu, 1984’s Stratagem is the fourth volume in Yoshiki Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Tyran Grillo’s translation was published by Haikasoru in 2017.

In any other era, military genius Reinhard von Lohengramm would have been just as successful at conquering the breakaway Free Planets Alliance as he has been at commandeering the reins of power in his native Galactic Empire. Fate was unkind to Lohengramm; the Free Planets have their own military genius in academic Yang Wen-li. Thus far, the Free Planets remain free.

Scheming merchants and disloyal aristocrats may be about to hand von Lohengramm the means to finally defeat the Free Planets. 

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I Know At Last The Secret Of It All

Power Ballad

By Molly Brooks 

19 Sep, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

Molly Brooks’ 2017 Power Ballad is, in the words of its creator, a lesbian superhero romcom” webcomic. 

Meera Verma is the perfect personal assistant, so keen that it has taken her only two days to realize that her boss, talented musician Carina Peterson, is also Los Angeles’ two-fisted costumed vigilante, the Skeleton. As any respectable personal assistant would, Meera immediately extends her services to the Skeleton as well. 

Meera has only one defect as an employee. She’s made the terrible error of falling hard for her boss.

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Like the Stars Above

Whipping Star  (ConSentiency, book 1)

By Frank Herbert 

17 Sep, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

3 comments

1970’s Whipping Star is the third piece and first novel-length work in Frank Herbert’s ConSentiency series. I hope I’ve worked out how I am going to number Whipping Star by the time I post this review.

The ConSentiency spans the Milky Way. While faster than light drives exist, all are too slow for galactic travel. What made the ConSentiency practical was the jumpdoor. Jumpdoors allow people to step from the surface of one planet to the surface of another. Jumpdoors were so clearly useful that nobody questioned their enigmatic Caleban creators too closely about how exactly they worked.

Jumpdoors have some interesting undocumented features. For example, someone who knows their jumpdoors can use them to kill an astonishing fraction of the population of the ConSentiency in one go. 

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