Reviews, January 2019

Unstoppable

Kozue Amano
Amanchu!, book 1

2009’s Amanchu!, Volume One, collects the first six issues of Kozue Amano’s eponymous manga. Unlike Amano’s Aria, Amanchu! does not appear to be SF. Like Aria, it focuses on the friendship between two teens.

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Do You Wanna Touch?

The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton — Larry Niven

Larry Niven’s 1976 The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton collects the three then-extant Gil Hamilton stories1. All three are police procedurals and all three feature Gil Hamilton, a retired asteroid miner turned Amalgamated Regional Militia [ARM] officer.


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Looking For the Burning Truth

Breaking Strain — Paul Preuss
Arthur C. Clarke's Venus Prime, book 1

Paul Preuss’ 1987’s Breaking Strain is the first volume of six in the Arthur C. Clark’s Venus Prime series.

Taking pity on the amnesiac woman in his care, a guilt-ridden doctor restores her memories. This act costs the doctor his life, but allows the young cyborg, code-named Sparta, to escape the secret medical facility in which she is being held prisoner.

Reinventing herself as Ellen Troy, Sparta joins the Space Board as an investigator. Her cutting-edge education and advanced implants make her an exemplary recruit. First assignment: Port Hesperus, Venus!


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It Looks Like Rain

An Excess Male — Maggie Shen King

Maggie Shen King’s 2017’s An Excess Male is a standalone near-future SF novel.

Lee Wei-guo is one of forty million men who make up China’s so-called Bounty, the number of men in excess of the number of women. It’s a legacy of China’s one child policy that has been complicated by misogynistic choices to favor male children and abort or abandon females. Managing the Bounty is a pressing public policy challenge. Responses have included legalizing polyandry and assigning sex workers to the superfluous men.

Wei-guo is forty; his chances of finding a bride are waning. But there’s a glimmer of hope. He has enough money saved for a dowry1; he and his fathers can afford to pay a matchmaker for a few lunch meetings with prospective brides. One such has agreed to meet with Wei-guo and his fathers.

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Nobody’s Business But The Turks

Xia Da
Choukakou, book 2

Choukakou, which is also known as Chang Ge Xing, Chang Ge’s Journey, or Song of the Long March, is an ongoing manhua (Chinese comic) series by Xia Da. Volume two collects issues five through eleven.

Princess Li Chang Ge fled her uncle’s (Tang emperor Taizong) ruthless purge of Li Chang Ge’s immediate family. Posing as a young man of noble birth, she has wormed her way into the inner circle of Gong Sun Heng, Governor of Shuo.

Chang Ge’s plans to kill the Emperor are on hold for the moment. She and the whole of Shou have far more immediate problems:

Turks.

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Cry, Little Sister

The Fog Maiden — Jane Toombs

Jane Toombs’ 1976 The Fog Maiden is a standalone fantasy novel. If it were published today, I suspect it would be classified as urban fantasy/paranormal romance.

After the death of her father, Janella Maki was raised by her well-meaning but distant stepmother. Janella has no memories of her early past and knows even less about her biological parents. It’s a surprise when an uncle shows up to renew family ties.

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For Beautiful, For Spacious Skies

Black Star Rising — Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl’s 1985 Black Star Rising is a standalone science fiction novel.

The world is divided into two spheres, one dominated by India, one by China, These two powers were the only slightly damaged by an apocalyptic nuclear war that ravaged the United States and the Soviet Union. North America falls under China’s benevolent umbrella. Its aboriginal population is monitored by Chinese supervisors.

Castor is an Anglo farmer with pretensions above his class. Denied entry into university, he is an autodidact, hoovering up knowledge of no relevance to his duties to the Heavenly Grain Rice Collective. Elevation from this humble but necessary role comes courtesy of two unrelated events: a brutal murder and what seems to be a First Contact event.

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So Far Away

Dragon Pearl — Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee’s 2019 Dragon Pearl is a standalone science fantasy novel.

Thirteen-year-old Min is a magical fox girl. Other supernatural races may be respected throughout the Thousand Worlds, but not foxes. Foxes are seen as untrustworthy and murderous. Min is brought up to conceal her fox nature from neighbours on Jinju.

Min is biding her time, waiting to turn fifteen, when she will be eligible to join the Thousand Worlds’ space force. That’s one way off backwater Jinju. She knows even a fox can do this, because her older brother Jun managed it.

One day an investigator appears, with bad news about Jun.


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Driven By the Night

The Raven Tower — Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower is a standalone secondary-world fantasy.

Mawat’s story may sound familiar: a northern kingdom; an heir who learns that his father has disappeared and that his uncle has seized power.


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I Just Want To Be Okay Today

ONE & Yusuke Murata
One-Punch Man, book 2

One-Punch Man Volume Two collects Punches (issues) 9 through 15 (plus some bonus material) of ONE and Yusuke Murata’s ongoing manga.

Determined to deal with an annoying campaign of harassment, nigh-indestructible powerhouse Saitama and his earnest cyborg acolyte Genos set out to confront the mysterious House of Evolution.


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A Land So Wild and Savage

World’s Fair 1992 — Robert Silverberg
Regan, book 2


1970’s World’s Fair 1992 is the second in Robert Silverberg’s Regan series.

Would-be xenologist Bill Hasting’s essay on the possibility of life on distant Pluto was far-out stuff, but intriguing enough to win the teen a year’s stay on the 1992 World’s Fair Satellite. It’s not a vacation: he will have to work. Still, he’s enjoying a trip that others must pay $$$ to experience.

Life on the station is less exotic than one might expect.


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Hands Red

Temper — Nicky Drayden

2018’s Temper is a standalone secondary world fantasy novel by Nicky Drayden.

A few pitiful singletons aside, every person has their twin. When one of the pair has a virtue, their twin will have the corresponding vice. There are seven virtues and seven vices; hence it is inevitable that one of the pair will have more virtues, one will have more vices.

Auben is remarkably vice-ridden; he has six of the possible seven vices. His twin Kasim has six virtues. Not that this bothers Auben; he enjoys his vices and is certain that he is smart enough to avoid their consequences.

Then Auben engages with Icy Blue.

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Paint It Black

Voice of the Whirlwind — Walter Jon Williams
Hardwired, book 2

1987’s Voice of the Whirlwind is the second volume in Walter Jon Williams’ Hardwired series. It can be read as a standalone novel1.

Etienne Steward wakes to discover that he is a clone, the Beta, of the man with whose memories he was imbued. More revelations follow, none good:

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Hello, Is There Anybody Else Here?

Adachitoka
Noragami, book 9

Adachitoka’s Noragami Volume 9 collects issues 32 to 35 of the adventures of the stray god Yato. The manga was first published in 2013; the English translation was published in 2015. Included in the volume are

  • 32. “She Who Invites” (誘な女 “Izanami”)

  • 33. “Wielder of an Iron Will” (イシ椎い持ち “Ishi Tsutsui Mochi”)

  • 34. “Such Were Their Desires” (斯く在りし望み “Kaku Arishi Nozomi”)

  • 35. “Death” (死 “Shi”)

Things are not going well for Yato and his former shinki Nora. In fact, the two find themselves in hell.

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Laying Down the Law

Ninth Step Station — Malka Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Curtis C. Chen

Malka Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and Curtis C. Chen’s 2018 Ninth Step Station is an anthology of serial shared-world cyberpunk fiction. It is published by Serial Box, who (to quote their site):

Serial Box is a publishing company and mobile app that produces and delivers team-written serialized fiction. We blend story production and distribution practices from television, book publishing and narrative podcasting to create professionally crafted serials that fit your life.

Following earthquake and Chinese invasion, Tokyo is divided between Chinese occupation forces, American forces, and of course the Japanese themselves. Crime is still a fact of life. It is up to Tokyo Metropolitan Police officers like Miyako Korida to deal with it. Because there is no job that cannot be made more complicated, Miyako has the privilege of partnering with Peacekeeper Lieutenant Emma Higashi of the US Navy.

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English Country Garden

The Day of the Triffids — John Wyndham

Although 1951’s The Day of the Triffids was not John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris’ first novel, it was the first that he published under the name John Wyndham. It established him as the master of the Cozy Catastrophe.

His eyes bandaged thanks to an injury, Bill Masen cannot see the wondrous meteor shower that lights up Earth’s sky. As a consequence, he is spared the side-effect that manifests the following day: total blindness. As most of the human population had ooh’d and ah’d at the sight, most of them are blind.

It gets worse.

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Panorama

Hidden Sun — Jaine Fenn
Shadowlands, book 1

2018’s Hidden Sun is the first volume in Jaine Fenn’s Shadowlands series.

Disfigured in a mishap, aristocratic shadowkin Rhia disregards convention and indulges her scholarly interests.

Dej is also unconventional, but she’s not as lucky. She’s a skykin and so a lesser being in the eyes of the shadowkin who run the creche that raised her. Rhia can flout rules; Dej cannot. She is punished for disobedience and eventually sent back to her people, the skykins, who lead hard lives under the bright sun of the skylands.

Who would expect that these two women, of such different backgrounds and tastes, would ever meet?

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Of People Going By

How Long ‘til Black Future Month? — N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin’s 2018 How Long ‘til Black Future Month? is a collection of short stories. It is her first collection of stories. Nota bene: it’s only been out for a month, but that still makes it a 2018 publication and thus eligible for a 2019 Hugo. Just saying.

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I’m Walking on Air

Psychokinesis — Yeon Sang-Ho

Yeon Sang-Ho’s 2018 Psychokinesis is a superhero movie. It stars Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Park Jung-min, Kim Min-jae and Jung Yu-mi.

Shin Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong) is a bank security guard. He’s content to waste his life filching supplies from the bank and drinking himself into a stupor every night.

 Then:

  • His estranged daughter Shin Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung) contacts Seok-heon with the news that his ex-wife is dead, killed in an altercation with thugs.

  • A sip of meteor-tainted water imbues Seok-heon with psychic powers.


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