Reviews, May 2018

Black Stars And Endless Seas

Makoto Yukimura
Planetes Omnibus, book 1

2015’s Planetes Omnibus Volume 1 collects the Yuki Johnson translation of Phases 1 to 12 of Makoto Yukimura’s near-future hard-SF manga, Planetes. The Japanese original first saw print between 1999 and 2003.

By the last quarter of the 21st century, humanity’s glorious space ventures include crewed facilities in orbit, the Moon, and beyond. Gone, the energy concerns of the old days. Lunar helium three1 provides all the cheap energy humanity needs, at least for the moment. It’s a wonderful shiny future in which humans can engage in all manner of exotic occupations.

Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino is a garbage collector.

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Workin’ On The Chain Gang

The Nearest Fire — Cherry Wilder
Torin, book 2

1980’s The Nearest Fire is the second volume in Cherry Wilder’s Torin series.

Yolo Harn is principled and inflexible. Her righteous fury leads to an angry assault, a crime Yolo will regret for the rest of her life. Regardless of her motivation, assault is assault. Nothing for it but to send her off to prison.

Offered a poisoned amnesty, one that would trade a jail term for lifelong vassalage, Yolo sticks to her principles and declines the offer. Affronted, officials send Yolo away, to serve out her term in distant Itsik, the worst prison colony on Torin.

That act of spite places Torin’s destiny in Yolo’s hands.

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Faces of a Stranger

Daughter of the Lilies — Meg Syverud & Jessica "Yoko" Weaver

Daughter of the Lilies is an ongoing webcomic. Meg Syverud writes and draws the comic, assisted by colourist Jessica “Yoko” Weaver (aka Nytrinhia).

Given her druthers, masked mage Thistle prefers to perform beneficial magic: healing, plant growth, and entertaining illusions. As one of the members of Orc mercenary Orrig’s little troupe, she is valued for her lethal spells. Not the life she’d prefer, but one that circumstances have forced on her.

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A Thousand Yesterdays

Galaxy Magazine, April 1977

When I first encountered Galaxy Magazine (I had picked up the April 1977 issue on a whim1) it was only three years away from its final issue2. Of course I had no idea that it was doomed, nor that the issue I selected was the product of something of a renaissance for the magazine, thanks to editor Jim Baen. That first encounter was satisfying enough that I bought newsstand copies until the demise of the magazine made that impossible.

How does the issue stand up two generations later?

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Girl On Fire

Kitty Raises Hell — Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville, book 6

2009’s Kitty Raises Hell is the sixth book in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

Werewolves Kitty and Ben not only survived a Las Vegas’ infestation of cultists (as recounted in the previous volume in the series), they even managed to find a minister to marry them. Having succeeded in their main goal, the newlyweds return to Denver, determined to put Las Vegas and its monsters behind them.

Las Vegas’ monsters are unwilling to return the favour.

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Everybody Knows

Revenant Gun — Yoon Ha Lee
Machineries of Empires, book 3

2018’s Revenant Gun is the third volume in Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old Shuos Jedao wakes to discover he is actually over four centuries old. Most of his memories have been stolen by the enemy. Despite having few conscious memories of military experience, he is expected to command a vast military in a war over the fundamental rules of existence.

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Strange Phenomena

Skeen’s Leap — Jo Clayton
Skeen, book 1

1986’s Skeen’s Leap is the first volume in Jo Clayton’s Skeen trilogy.

Skeen is her own creation, from her name to her career as a star-faring grave robber, looting the relics of ancient civilizations for her own enrichment. It’s a heartwarming tale of personal re-invention.

Or it was, until Skeen’s lover Tibo stole her starship and marooned Skeen on Kildun Aalda. Although the authorities do not know who Skeen really is, it’s only a matter of time before she ends up in prison or dead.

Happily, there is a third option.

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You May Say I’m A Dreamer

Winter Tide — Ruthanna Emrys
Innsmouth Legacy, book 1

2017’s Winter Tide is the first volume in Ruthanna Emrys’s Innsmouth Legacy series.

The American government’s ample experience at rounding up and exterminating unwanted indigenous populations was evident in 1928, in the campaign against the Deep Ones. The government swept up the entire population of Innsmouth, consigning the unlucky inhabitants to incarceration and eventual execution in a desert concentration camp. By the time Japanese internees began to arrive in the 1940s, just two Deep Ones were left: Aphra and Caleb March.

Inadvertently freed with the Japanese internees at the end of the war, Aphra and Caleb prefer to avoid contact with the authorities who targeted their race for extermination. How unexpected, therefore, for the former génocidaires to reach out to Aphra for help.

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Never Venture Out Among The Asteroids

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker — Alan Dean Foster & George Lucas

1976’s Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker is Alan Dean Foster’s (uncredited) novelization of the initial script for George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. (Not called that at the time of first release, as y’all no doubt know.)

Former Senator Palpatine’s quest to make the galaxy great again has transformed a troubled republic into a brutal autocracy. Here and there, out-numbered rebels are trying to resist oppression. All very sad, but what does it have to do with farmboy Luke Skywalker, stuck on backward desert world Tatooine?

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A Life of Danger

Ethan of Athos — Lois McMaster Bujold

1986’s Ethan of Athos is a standalone SF novel, set in the same universe and time as the Cordelia and Miles Vorkosigan novels. Ethan shares one character with the Miles books, but is otherwise independent.

Settled by misogynist religious fanatics centuries earlier, Athos is an isolationist world populated entirely by men. Happily for the he-man woman-haters of Athos, reproductive technology in the form of uterine replicators has allowed Athosians to perpetuate themselves.

Permitted, past-tense.

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Saving The World From Solomon Grundy

ONE & Yusuke Murata
One Punch Man, book 1

One-Punch Man Volume One collects Punches 1 through 8 of ONE and Yusuke Murata’s ongoing manga.

Salaryman turned superhero Saitama wrestles every day with a terrible burden.

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Tick Tock

Just One Damned Thing After Another — Jodi Taylor
The Chronicles of St. Mary's, book 1

2013’s Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first volume in Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s.

Academic achievement offered teenaged Madelaine Maxwell an escape from her horrific homelife. Her credentials as a historian prompted an offer of something even better: time travel.

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In a World Full of Wonder

The Dolphins of Altair — Margaret St. Clair

1967’s The Dolphins of Altair is an SF novel by Margaret St. Clair.

Fed up with brutal exploitation, the dolphins of Earth take a desperate step. They reach out telepathically to their oppressors. Three humans prove sympathetic: Secretary Madeline Paxton, dock worker Sven Erikson, a former soldier, and Navy psychiatrist Dr. Edward Lawrence.

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We Happy Few

Dancers of Arun — Elizabeth A. Lynn
Chronicles of Tornor, book 2

1979’s The Dancers of Arun is the second volume in Elizabeth A. Lynn’s Chronicles of Tornor.

Morven, Lord of Tornor, was obliged by custom to give his orphaned nephew Kerris a place within his household. Thanks to Kerris’ missing right arm, lopped off by a raider when Kerris was a child, that place can never be that of a proper warrior. But the otherwise useless young man does have a talent for letters. The Keep needs its scribes, even if it does not think much of them.

Orphan he may be, but Kerris is not utterly lacking in immediate family members. After years of silence, Kerris’ older brother Kel arrives to take Kerris south with him — that is, if that’s what Kerris would like. Having little to tie him to rustic Tornor, Kerris chooses to go south.

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The Happy Wanderer

The Scarab Path — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt, book 5

2010’s The Scarab Path is the fifth volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.

To Collegium’s scholars, Khanaphes is a distant enigma. Like Collegium, Khanaphes is a Beetle city. Unlike Collegium and the other Beetle communities of the Lowlands, Khanaphes is oddly backward. It seems to be an ancient city immune to historical processes.

Cheerwell “Che” Maker has a hypothesis. Perhaps Khanaphes’ Beetles are Inapts, magical adepts blind to machinery. Cheerwell knows from bitter experience that this is possible, because she is just such an Inapt Beetle. Opening her mind to dangerous dark forces came at a cost: her ability to comprehend even simple mechanical devices.

Still, a chance to improve her magical skills cannot be passed up. She decides to join Collegium’s expedition to Khanaphes.

Collegium’s second expedition, that is.

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Way Up in the Clouds

Rogue Protocol — Martha Wells
Murderbot Diaries, book 3

2018’s Rogue Protocol is the third book in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series.

Frustrated with the progress of the case against the GrayCris Corporation (more exactly, the lack thereof), rogue SecUnit (self-designated Murderbot) reluctantly heads off to find damning evidence on GrayCris.

Which brings us to certain events in the Milu System.

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Party in the Sun

The Thousand Year Beach — Tobi Hirotaka

2002’s The Thousand Year Beach is a standalone SF novel by Tobi Hirotaka. The 2018 Anglophone edition was translated by Matt Treyvaud.

The Realm of Summer is a pleasing simulation of perfect summer in a Southern European seaside town, an idealization of something that would no doubt prove sadly flawed in real life. This perfection has been unsullied by human tourists for a thousand years (at least by the inhabitants’ virtual clocks), leaving them free to enjoy their lives without the complications humans would inflict.

All things end.

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Satiny Luscious Chocolate

Free Chocolate — Amber Royer

2018’s Free Chocolate is an interstellar adventure by Amber Royer.

Humans were surprised and alarmed to discover that alien Krom had infiltrated the Earth, passing themselves off as Homo sapiens. Humans were surprised and enraged to discover that their Krom visitors had used their time on Earth to purchase samples of particularly enticing Terrestrial products: coffee, sugar, tea, vanilla.

By the time technologically backward Earth had adjusted to the new state of affairs and was finally able to market their unique biological materials to the galaxy … earthlings found that the Krom already controlled the market for the sampled goods. In doing so, the Krom had violated no galactic regulations. Just business. Nothing to see here. Humanity could only react with impotent fury and close off Earth to other aliens.

But the Krom overlooked one potential export:

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Have No Fear of the Bayin’ Hounds

Outlaws of the Moon — Edmond Hamilton
Captain Future, book 10

Edmond Hamilton’s 1942 Outlaws of the Moon is the tenth volume in the Captain Future series.

Curt “Captain Future” Newton, android Otho, robot Grag, and living-brain-in-a-box Simon “The Brain” Wright ventured into deepest space in quest of a secret that could save dying Mercury. For fear of raising false hopes, Newton kept the mission secret. Enough time has elapsed since anyone has seen Newton and his Futuremen1 that the Solar System has concluded that Newton and his chums must be dead.

On the plus side, this means that the secrets of Newton’s hidden lunar laboratory are open to anyone who can find it. Corrupt scientist Wissler is certain he knows how to do so. The Moon is notoriously deficient in useful minerals, including radium. All Wissler needs to do is look for concentrations of radium. Radium in sufficient amounts to show up on a detector must be Captain Future’s private radium stock.

Well, no. Wissler does find radium but not where he expects to find it. Captain Future, it seems, lied about the Moon’s mineral resources.

[spoiler warning]


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Don’t Play Your Games With Me

Charmed Life — Diana Wynne Jones
Chrestomanci, book 1

1977’s Charmed Life is the first novel in Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series.

Gwendolen and Eric “Cat” Chant were orphaned by a boating disaster; their survival wasn’t due to luck, but to Gwendolen’s witchy gifts. Their new guardian, Mrs. Sharp, is a Certified Witch. She does her best to mentor Gwendolen, but her best is not enough for ambitious Gwendolen.

Gwedolen exploits a family connection to senior mage Christopher Chant — better known as Chrestomanci — and cajoles him into inviting her into the Chrestomanci household. Her totally insignificant (in her eyes) brother, Cat, comes as part of the package. No matter. The fame and power to which she is entitled will soon be hers! Or so she thinks.

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In Dreams I Talk To You

Voices of a Distant Star — Makoto Shinkai & Sumomo Yumeka

2002’s Voices of a Distant Star is a standalone original video animation by Makoto Shinkai. It was later the basis of a 2004 manga by Sumomo Yumeka.

Noboru Terao, obviously (although inarticulately) smitten with fellow student Mikako Nagamine, expects to spend his years in high school mooning after Mikako. Unbeknownst to Noboru, Mikako has volunteered to join the UN Space Army. Mikako will not be attending high school. She will be travelling across the solar system and beyond.

They are determined to remain in contact. Physics will not be their friend in this matter.

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Come to Burn Your Kingdom Down

The Human Dress — Graydon Saunders

Graydon Saunders’s 2018 The Human Dress is a standalone secondary-world fantasy novel.

Braemor lies just south of lands still claimed by the Walking Ice. It’s a challenging place for humans. It is barely post-glacial and home to humongous beasts that we might call “dinosaurs.” Misfortune or a bad winter could send the community into a death spiral.

So could a deliberate campaign of sabotage.

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