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Reviews from May 2019 (21)

Staying Alive


By Ling Ma  

31 May, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Ling Ma’s 2018 Severance is a standalone post-apocalyptic novel. 

Born in China, raised by her immigrant parents in the USA, Candice Chen found a rewarding tolerable niche for herself as an office drone at Specta, packaging expensive bibles for the religious book market. It’s an empty, meaningless life, but then, Candice is no worse off than most workers. 

Cue the zombie apocalypse. 

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I Guess This Time I’m The Villain

Alive: The Final Evolution, volume 1

By Tadashi Kawashima & Adachitoka  

30 May, 2019



The manga series Alive: The Final Evolution (Saishū Shinkateki Shōnen) was written by Tadashi Kawashima and illustrated by Adachitoka. It ran from 2003 to 2010; the final instalment was published shortly before Kawashima’s death. The first volume covers the first three instalments. 

Small and timid, Yuichi Hirose is a natural target for his school’s bullies. His only defense is provided by his friend Taisuke Kanou. Taisuke is an orphan, which would likely make him a target too … if it weren’t for Taisuke’s determined pugnaciousness. Taisuke never hesitates to step between Hirose and his tormentors, despite the fact that Taisuke always loses the scuffles that follow. 

It turns out that all Hirose needs to do to end his torment is to tap new potential. 

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Seconds From Sunrise

Aerial Magic

By Walkingnorth  

29 May, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews


Aerial Magic is an on-going secondary universe fantasy webtoon by Walkingnorth. I reviewed their Always Human here. Chapter one covers the first twenty-five episodes. 

Wisteria Kemp is determined to earn her way into the Aerial Guild, the professional association that regulates aerial magic. The conventional path to membership (at least in modern times) is through university. Having learned the hard way that she is ill-suited for the classroom, Wisteria chooses a more traditional course: an apprenticeship. 

Wisteria sends out four hundred applications for an apprentice position. She gets a single positive response, from Master Cecily Moon. Wisteria is invited to work at Moon’s broomstick repair shop in the vast metropolis of Vecrum. 

Convinced failure is assured, Wisteria takes with her only her avian familiar Puppy and a small supply of clothing. 

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Sweet Flowers Grow

Semiosis  (Semiosis, volume 1)

By Sue Burke  

28 May, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews


Sue Burke’s 2018’s Semiosis is hard-SF first-contact novel. It’s an accomplished debut and has been nominated for the Clarke award. It is the first volume in the Semiosis Duology.

Tired of Earth’s violence and exploitation, a community of idealists sets out for the stars in a sublight starship. Many years later they wake from cold sleep to learn they have travelled to HIP 30815f rather than HIP 30756. Having little other choice, they land on the Earthlike world they call Pax. They hope to find new lives in a shiny utopia. What most of them find are interesting ways to die. 

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Just a Castaway

Shōgun  (Asian Saga, volume 1)

By James Clavell  

25 May, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


James Clavell’s 1975 Shōgun is the first (by internal chronology) volume in his Asian saga.

English pilot John Blackthorne’s foray into Asia (by papal decree the exclusive domain of Portugal) ends in disaster. The Dutch fleet in which Blackthorne serves is scattered by a storm and Blackthorne’s ship Erasmus is driven ashore on the coast of Japan. The sickly sailors are immediately detained by local authorities. 

Of course, Blackthorne is a white man in an exotic land. No doubt he will play the mighty whitey card, master every skill that matters to the Japanese in a few weeks, and then remake the nation in his image. 

Perhaps not. 

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Family Circle


By Lisa M. Bradley  

24 May, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Lisa M. Bradley’s 2019 debut novel Exile is a standalone near-future novel. 

Leaking chemicals have affected the inhabitants of a previously unremarkable Texan town. Impulse controls have been shredded; psychosis and violence are rampant. The federal government’s response? Quarantine the community (now renamed Exile) and supply necessities. Exiles can only leave town if they can demonstrate that they are 4‑S: strong, smart, sane, and sterile. 

Protagonist Heidi Palermo is determined to leave. She’s 3‑S: strong, smart, and sterile. As for sanity … compared to the rest of her family she’s sane. That’s not sane enough for the government. 

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The Only One

Ordinary Jack  (Bagthorpe Saga, volume 1)

By Helen Cresswell  

21 May, 2019

Special Requests

1 comment

1977’s Ordinary Jack is the first volume in Helen Cresswell’s YA Bagthorpe Saga. 

The Bagthorpes are perhaps the single greatest collection of geniuses the world has ever seen. At least, that is what the Bagthorpes would say … and if you cannot trust the single greatest collection of geniuses the world has ever seen, whom1 can you trust? 

Jack Bagthorpe is the sole exception. Poor Jack is exceptionally unexceptional. 

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Lost in the Wilderness

Search the Sky

By Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth  

20 May, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1954’s Search the Sky is a standalone(ish) science fiction novel. It was the second novel-length collaboration between Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth,.

Ross has lived his whole life on Halsey’s Planet. Somehow he senses what his fellows cannot or will not: population levels are slowly, inexorably declining. The future will be grim. 

Halsey’s Planet is just one of many worlds settled by humans. Contact with its sister worlds is intermittent, carried out by sublight longliners, smaller versions of the ships that delivered the original colonists to Halsey’s Planet fourteen centuries earlier. 

A longliner arrives with an inbred crew of happy idiots bearing an enigmatic message and doleful news about the other human worlds. Another Halsey merchant, Haarland, asks Ross to come meet with him. This is odd, as Ross works for a rival firm. It turns out that Haarland has some bad news to share. 


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Have You Brought Me Hope

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

By Robert C. O’Brien  

18 May, 2019

Special Requests


Robert C. O’Brien’s 1971 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a standalone children’s SF novel. O’Brien wrote no sequels. 

Mrs. Frisby (a mouse) and her children (mice) have taken shelter in a cinder block near one of the fields owned by farmer Fitzgibbons. Winter is over and plowing season is approaching. The widow Frisby must move her children before a plow smashes into their home. 

In previous years, Mrs. Frisby had no trouble relocating her family before plowing season. This year is different. 

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