Reviews, July 2018

Silent in the Trees

Changer’s Moon — Jo Clayton
Duel of Sorcery, book 3

1985’s Changer’s Moon is the third and final novel in Jo Clayton’s Duel of Sorcery trilogy.

Ser Noris, bored and powerful beyond reason, is nearing the end of his game with the Goddess. At stake is an entire world. Noris has succeeded in bending all but a few of the world’s mages to his will, and subjecting most of the world to his cruel, misogynistic theocracy. True, the Biserica Valley (refuge of the Goddess followers) is still holding out … but surely its fall is only a matter of time.

Standing between the Goddess and the jaded wizard is a mortal woman, a green-skinned mutant sorceress named Serroi.

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I’ve Got Money Now

Gateway — Frederik Pohl
Heechee, book 1

1977’s Gateway is the first novel in Frederik Pohl’s Heechee series.

Robinette Broadhead has wealth and status, so why is he so miserable? The answer lies in the past, in the source of Broadhead’s money: the alien starport humans call Gateway.

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A Debt to the Devil, Willie Must Pay

Kitty’s House of Horrors — Carrie Vaughn
Kitty Norville, book 7

2010’s Kitty’s House of Horrors is the seventh installment in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

Thanks to her late night radio show, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Norville has become the voice of America’s eldritch community. Hollywood hotshots Joey Provost and Ron Valenti want to turn her into the face of the weird as well — or at least one of the faces. Kitty is the most recent supernatural figure to be invited onto Provost and Valenti’s proposed reality show.

Provost and Valenti’s previous shows have been low-common-denominator schlock like Jailbird Moms, Cheerleader Sorority House, and Stripper Idol. This show, they promise, will be totally classy, featuring name celebrities. Despite her misgivings, Kitty agrees to appear on the show.

Provost and Valenti (and co-producer Eli Cabe) definitely deliver a show quite unlike their previous offerings.

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No Guilt To Haunt Me

We Could Be Villains — Missy Meyer
Valentine & Hart, book 1

2014’s We Could Be Villains is the first volume in Missy Meyer’s Valentine & Hart series.

Sarah Valentine has an unrewarding job working for Seattle software company WonderPop. Her social life isn’t too hot either. Small wonder that when she meets personable mail room employee Nathan Anderson, she embraces the opportunity for a dalliance. She is rather disgruntled when Nathan suddenly vanishes without so much as a goodbye.

Next: Sarah finds herself collateral damage when Seattle’s own super-hero team, the Ultimate Faction, takes an interest in WonderPop.

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The Pain That You Drive Into The Heart Of Me

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 3

Noragami Book 3 collects issues 8 to 11 of Adachitoka’s on-going series. Although just how long it will be on-going is open to question in these issues.

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Everybody Knows The Good Guys Lost

The Armageddon Crazy — Mick Farren

1989’s The Armageddon Crazy is a standalone near-future novel by Mick Farren.

The Crash of 1998 was deliberately engineered by banks who hoped to unseat the Democrats. The Panic of 1999 was an unintended consequence. A surprisingly fragile economy imploded. The consequence of that: President Faithful’s victory in 2000. No longer do Americans have to languish under a two party system! Now they can enjoy living under a brutal theocracy.

A brutal, incompetent theocracy.

Spoilers for a book well out of print.


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Angels in the Wilderness

Five Against Venus — Philip Latham
Winston Science Fiction, book 3

Philip Latham’s 1952 Five Against Venus was the third novel published in Winston’s SF line.

Although a member of his high school’s Space Club, sixteen-year-old Bruce Robinson has never been to space himself. His father, Mr. Robinson, is cheerful, endlessly optimistic, and consistently unsuccessful. His family lives in genteel poverty on Pico street. An expensive trip to the Moon … not gonna happen.

This changes when Mr. Robinson is hired as Tycho City’s new public relations manager. Tycho City as in Tycho Crater as in ON THE MOON. The family will become comparatively well-to-do and they will get to live on the Moon!

That’s the plan, anyway. The reality is different.

 (spoilers)


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Put Your Hands Up High

Heroine’s Journey — Sarah Kuhn
Heroine Complex, book 3

2018’s Heroine’s Journey is the third instalment in Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex series.

Like her sister Evie and her sister’s best friend, Aveda Jupiter, Beatrice “Bea” Tanaka has bona-fide superpowers. However …

The ten-year age difference between Evie and Bea means that Evie sees Bea as a kid sister. Not only that, she’s the kid sister whom Evie raised after the death of their mother. Evie cannot see Bea as anything but a child and relegates her sister to support roles.

Evie is also suspicious of Bea’s superpowers. Bea can control other people’s emotions, which is a super-villainous sort of power. (It doesn’t help that Bea once sided with a black hat.) True, Bea can also scream loudly enough to shatter solid objects, but it’s not at all clear that she can use this superpower in an emergency or that it will even be useful when used.

Bea is afraid that Evie will never accept her as an equal; she is less and less interested in helping Evie and Aveda.

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The Blackest Day

Memory — Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles Vorkosigan, book 8

Memory is the eighth1 book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series.

Killed by an enemy grenade in a previous book, Miles turned out to be only mostly dead. After an extended recovery (and some complications) he returned to his role as Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii Mercenaries. But there were lingering health effects from his injuries. Simple prudence should have kept Miles off battlefields. It didn’t.

One day Miles wakes from a seizure to discover that he had inadvertently lopped off the legs of the man his team was trying to rescue. Unwilling to admit to error or damaged health, Miles compounds his error by writing a false report on the incident and sending it to his boss, spymaster and ImpSec Chief Simon Illyan.

The consequences are immediate and dire.

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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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