Reviews, July 2018

Two Suns in the Sunset

Vestiges — Laurence Suhner
QuanTika, book 1

Vestiges is the first volume in Laurence Suhner’s QuanTika trilogy. Although Suhner writes in French, I was able to find an English translation of at least this first volume.

Having failed to terraform Mars, humanity transfers its colonizing enthusiasm to the nearby AltaMira system. Only six and a half light years from the Solar System, AltaMira is within reach of sub-light starships. Like the Solar System, it has an Earth-like world with a breathable atmosphere in the double star’s habitable zone. More or less. The “or less” is thanks to an eccentric orbit that dooms the world to snowball status for most of its year.

It is also the site of humanity’s first contact with an alien civilization — or rather, the relics of one. A structure dubbed the Great Arch orbits Gemma and is clearly artificial. It is also seemingly inert and impenetrable. Its secrets have been well hidden. That is about to change.

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Let The Ants Try

Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right — Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer’s 2017 Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right is a discursive ramble through the brambles of modern day fascism. Not an enjoyable ramble; it’s more like a tour of the Cairo garbage dumps. But it’s informative.

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Blessed With Beauty And Rage

Armageddon—2419 A.D. — Philip Francis Nowlan

Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon — 2419 A.D. was first published in 1928. In 1929, it was followed by a sequel, The Airlords of Han. This background was reworked for the comic strip “Buck Rogers,” which has been adopted into radio, movies, television and roleplaying games. The edition I first read (the cover featured here) was the combined edition Ace created in the 1960s. Since I no longer own that, I’ve resorted to reading the Project Gutenberg editions.

Anthony Rogers was just another radioactive-gas entrepreneur when a surveying foray into a promising mine ended in tragedy. Trapped by the tunnel collapse that killed his companions, Rogers was overcome by the very radioactive gases he hoped to mine. Death seemed certain.

Four hundred years later, Rogers wakes to find America transformed.

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All the rest are dead or in retreat/ Or with the enemy

Heirs of the Blade — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt, book 7

2011’s Heirs of the Blade is the seventh volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.

None of Tynisa’s closest friends have seen Tynisa since she fled after mortally wounding her foster-sister’s lover. She was not really responsible, as she was mesmerized by an enemy spellcaster at the time. Still, the guilt haunts her. So does the memory of Salma, Prince-Minor Salme Dien, whom she loved but lost to another and then to death on the battlefield.

Tynisa ventures to Leose, princely seat of Salma’s family the Salmae. There she meets his aristocratic family. She meets also meets Salma’s brother Alain, who might almost be Salma’s twin. Small wonder if she allows herself to fall for the silver-tongued aristocrat.

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Ages and Ages Hence

The Calculating Stars — Mary Robinette Kowal
Lady Astronaut, book 1

The Calculating Stars is the first novel in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series1.

President Dewey’s Take That! to Communist Russia took the form of not one but three successful space launches. Dewey scarcely has time to revel in America’s success before a space rock obliterates Dewey, Washington DC, and everyone else within hundreds of miles of the impact point.

Five hundred miles away, Elma York and her husband Nathaniel survive the impact and the immediate aftermath. Once the implications of the impact become clear, they realize that their survival — and the survival of the biosphere — may be strictly temporary.

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Dragons Live Forever

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters — Gen Urobuchi, Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita

2017’s anime film Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is the first in a trilogy of animated films about the big galoot. It was written by Gen Urobuchi and co-directed by Kōbun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita. Voice actors include Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji. Mamoru Miyano, Daisuke Ono, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, and Junichi Suwabe.

Humanity was seemingly helpless in the face of the kaiju, in particular Godzilla itself. Timely first contact with not one but two highly advanced aliens — the pious Exif and the technologically sophisticated Bilusaludo — proved humanity’s salvation. Not because the Exif and Bilusaludo were any more adept at fighting giant, indestructible monsters than the humans. They weren’t. But with alien help, a handful of humans was able to board starship Aratrum and flee towards the possible haven of Tau Ceti e.

Twenty years later….


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Stars Shining Bright Above You

Before Mars — Emma Newman
Planetfall, book 3

2018’s Before Mars is the third book in Emma Newman’s Planetfall series.

Anna Kubrin is offered a chance too good to refuse: a chance to go to GaborCorps’ Mars base as the resident geologist/artist. This is her only chance: GaborCorps has a monopoly on Mars exploration. But … if she accepts the post, Anna will spend two years away from her husband George and child Mia.

This weighs on Anna — as does her awareness that two years away from her family does not bother her nearly as much as convention demands. Despite this, there was never any doubt that she would accept; by the time the novel begins she has made the journey.

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Goodbye, Blue Sky

One in Three Hundred — J. T. McIntosh

1953’s One in Three Hundred is the first installment of a J. T. McIntosh trilogy (also called One in Three Hundred).

Nobody on Earth needs to worry about anything bad that might happen after September 18th, because on that date (as predicted by scientists) the Sun is going to become brighter. Not a lot, but enough to boil the Earth’s oceans and kill every living thing on the planet.

Humanity does not intend to give up and accept inevitable death.

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Caught Up in Circles

A Tale of Time City — Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’ 1987 A Tale of Time City is a standalone young-adult SF novel.

1939: a year after World War Two has broken out, young Vivian Smith is sent off to the country, to live with her cousin Marty for the duration. She is not met by her cousin; she is met by Jonathan Lee Walker, who kidnaps Vivian and whisks her off to a destination outside of time itself.

In Jonathan’s defense, he means well.

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Hands Up And Touch The Sky

M-Space — Clarence Redd

Clarence Redd’s 2016 M-Space is an SF table-top role-playing game. It uses the D100-derived Mythras Imperative game engine, which is to say it is a close relative of RPGs like Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, and Future World. M-Space is published by Frostbyte Books, headquartered in Sweden. It is also the specific game that inspired me to do the BRP series of SFRPG reviews.

Onward to the stars!

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Just a Slob Like One of Us

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 2

Noragami, Volume 2 collects issues four through seven of a series from Adachitoka. It’s the tale of a minor god’s efforts to establish himself in modern-day Japan.

Minor god Yato is not well known, but he has profound effects on those who meet him. Yukini may be dead, but his spirit has been recruited to serve as Yato’s reluctant sidekick and magical weapon. Schoolgirl Hiyori Iki has gained a wonderous ability to astrally project! Even if she cannot control her potentially fatal condition, this is still a profound effect. Right?

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‘Tis The Gift To Be Simple

Record of a Spaceborn Few — Becky Chambers
Galactic Commons, book 3

2018’s Record of a Spaceborn Few is the third volume in Becky Chambers’ Galactic Commons series.

Having ruined the Earth, humans mined the Earth’s cities and turned them into a vast interstellar fleet. The Exodus Fleet’s design proved surprisingly robust; not only did the fleet survive centuries and light-years, the people riding the ships neither went mad nor devolved into cannibalistic barbarians. The Exodus Fleet was an impressive achievement. Even if the technology involved was hilariously backward by galactic standards.

If only humans had encountered the galaxy-spanning Galactic Commons (GC) before the Fleet set out, the whole endeavour might have been unnecessary. As it is, the human race was allowed to join the GC as a very junior member, while the aging Fleet was graciously permitted to park itself in an otherwise useless stellar system.

Where it still orbits.

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Villain By The Devil’s Law

The Bladerunner — Alan E. Nourse

Alan E. Nourse’s 1974 The Bladerunner is a standalone near-future medical SF novel. It is not the novel on which the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner is based. It is the novel on which the title of the film Blade Runner is based. More on that later.

In this novel’s 1994, America faced the perfect storm of population pressure, an aging population, soaring universal health care costs, and studies blaming the increased incidence of antibiotic-resistant diseases and the spread of genetic disorders like diabetes on modern medicine itself. Following the Health Riots the United States hastily adopted the Heinz-Lafferty Eugenics Control program.

Medical treatment is still available to all, but any individual who requires health care services for any reason is sterilized. Children under five are exempt, save for children who have known hereditary disease; the latter are routinely sterilized or euthanized.

Unsurprisingly, a considerable fraction of Americans want medical treatment without mandatory sterilization. Many physicians do not agree that the Heinz-Lafferty program is good public policy. The resistant Americans have provided demand, The resistant physicians have provided supply. The twenty years since the Riots have seen a black market in medical care firmly establish itself in the US. Such a vast black market needs its middlemen and that’s where Billy Gimp comes in.

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