Reviews, June 2019

Way Down on Old Chestnut Street

The Borribles — Michael de Larrabeiti
Borribles, book 1


1976’s The Borribles is the first volume in Michael de Larrabeiti’s Borribles trilogy.

Their pointy ears betray Borribles as having become something more than hard-faced street children. They keep the ears hidden and avoid the attention of the police who would crop their ears and steal their independence. Each Borrible must earn their transformation from runaway child into Borrible by means of sharpness of wit and strength of will. They win their names with thrilling adventures.

Eight Borribles will be offered the chance to become legends.


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Mr. Lonely

The Quiet Earth — Geoff Murphy, Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, Sam Pillsbury

1985’s The Quiet Earth was written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, and Sam Pillsbury; it was directed by Geoff Murphy. It is (loosely) based on the novel of the same name by Craig Harrison. It stars Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, and Peter Smith.

Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence), a scientist working on Project Flashlight, isn’t there at the New Zealand Flashlight facility on the morning of July 5th. That’s when the project will be tested. The effects of the test are obvious. To quote Zac:

[quote] “Zac Hobson, July 5th. One: there has been a malfunction in Project Flashlight with devastating results. Two: it seems I am the only person left on Earth.“ [quote]


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Once Was Lost

Not Your Sidekick — C. B. Lee
Sidekick Squad, book 1

2016’s Not Your Sidekick is the first of C. B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad series.

A superflare activated the metagene possessed by a minute fraction of humanity, granting them superhuman powers.

World War III nearly made that development irrelevant. Nearly. Despite humanity’s best efforts at removing itself from the board, humans and civilization survived. Life in the North American Collective may all be a bit regimented, but for Jessica Tran it is the only life she knows.

Her hometown Andover may be in backwater Nevada, but it is one of the lucky few to have resident superheroes, Smasher and Shockwave (who just happen to be Jessica’s parents). Too bad that the town also has resident supervillains, Master and Mistress Mischief.

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When They Look at Me

Spica Aoki
Kaiju Girl Caramelise, book 1

Kaiju Girl Caramelise, Vol. 1 is the first collection of Spica Aoki’s eponymous Shoujo manga.

Kuroe Akaishi suffers from a rare (probably unique) medical condition so embarrassing that she hides it from her schoolmates. The condition is exacerbated by strong emotion, so she tries to avoid drama. She’s aloof and detached … or at least as detached as she can be given that her schoolmates mock and torment her.

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Written on the Wind

Sandwriter — Monica Hughes
Sandwriter, book 1


Monica Hughes’ 1985 Sandwriter is the first entry in her Sandwriter duology.

Princess Antia of Kamalant has led a pampered life. Her parents are dead (of an accident, it is said) but she has been carefully raised by King Rangor (her uncle) and Queen Sankath (her aunt). Her immediate retinue includes doting nurse Nan and tutor Eskoril (whom Antia finds most attractive). Her childhood has been pleasant.

Now the bill for that childhood has come due.


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And No-one’s Quite Certain Whose Play It Is

The Illuminatus Trilogy — Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson

Three 1975 novels (The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan) together comprise Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus Trilogy.

New York Detectives Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon are assigned to investigate a bombing. Someone has attacked the office of a left-wing magazine, Confrontation. The detectives soon discover that their case may broaden to include tracing a missing person: editor Joe Malik.

Malik left notes that greatly confuse the two detectives. Malik’s paranoid ramblings document a world secretly run by a cabal known as the Illuminati. The ramblings are self-contradictory. More importantly, they give no hint as to Malik’s current location.

Meanwhile, in an entirely different part of the world….


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Born With the Gift of a Golden Voice

Unsung Heroine — Sarah Kuhn

2019’s Unsung Heroine is a side-story in Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine series.

Lucy Valdez is a multi-competent person. She’s adept at hand-to-hand fighting; she’s a karaoke queen at a local hot-spot, the Gutter. She’s been a sweetheart to half of the city’s lesbian community. Yet one challenge eludes her: how to win the heart of Rose Rorick (which includes keeping said heart once Rose learns what the real Lucy is like).

Lucy’s cunning gambits to present Rose with an acceptable version of Lucy have left Lucy firmly friend-zoned. Happily, Lucy has a zany scheme to solve the problem: fix up her unattainable crush with someone else. Once Rose is partnered, perhaps Lucy’s obsession will fade.


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Take Some Tea With Me

Predestination — Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

Michael and Peter Spierig’s 2014 Predestination is an SF film based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “ — All You Zombies — .” Predestination stars Ethan Hawke, and Sarah Snook. Bizarrely enough, it is not a terrible film inspiring lamentations from all who see it.

Maimed trying to disarm a bomb planted by the notorious Fizzle bomber, an agent is given a new face and a new assignment in Disco-era New York. His assignment begins with an orchestrated meeting in a bar.


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Wind Beneath My Wings

Naoko Takeuchi
Sailor Moon, book 1

1992’s Sailor Moon, Volume One collects the stories that kicked off Naoko Takeuchi’s insanely popular Sailor Moon franchise.

Fourteen-year-old Usagi Tsukino is a seemingly unremarkable student without any obvious talent. As far as the world can tell, she is a clumsy, spoiled crybaby whose grades make her mother despair. She does have good points: she’s pretty and she’s friendly.

Then Usagi accidentally steps on a cat named Luna


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They Will Not Control Us

Renegades — Marissa Meyer
Renegades, book 1

2017’s Renegades is the first volume in Marissa Meyer’s novel series, also known as Renegades.

Once prodigies (people with superpowers) were feared and oppressed. Thanks to the efforts of paramount prodigy Ace Artino (AKA Ace Anarchy) prodigies were feared but no longer oppressed, albeit at the cost of the temporary collapse of civilization during the Age of Anarchy.

The super-powered Renegades ended the Age of Anarchy by crushing every rival group. Based in Gatlon City, the Renegades have replaced the vanished civilian government with their own (well-intended) rule. This new arrangement is short on democratic niceties but it’s better than the never-ending gang war it replaced. Most people are willing to live with rule by Renegade.

But not Nova “Nightmare” Artino.


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Every Single Day

The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe — D. G. Compton


D. G. Compton’s 1974 The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (also published as The Unsleeping Eye) is a near-future SF novel.

Katherine Mortenhoe is a forty-four-year-old woman whose computer skills have won her a minor niche in publishing. She’s settled for a humdrum marriage that is only marginally superior to solitude. She has led an unremarkable life.

She learns that she has just four weeks to live. In the world of this novel, premature death is extremely rare, She has become a valuable media commodity.


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Catch Me As I Fall

The Falling Woman — Pat Murphy

1986’s The Falling Woman is a standalone Nebula-Award-winning fantasy by Pat Murphy.

Elizabeth Waters has escaped unwanted motherhood and a stultifying marriage at great cost to herself. Her reward: a career as a field archaeologist. Elizabeth is a valuable colleague at any dig because she seems to have a sixth sense for promising sites.

This is because she has a literal sixth sense. She sees the shades of the dead. The ghosts of the past guide her.


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Who Planted Thorns

Yuki Urushibara
Mushishi, book 1

Mushishi, Volume One collects the first five issues of Yuki Urushibara’s manga of the same title.

Ginko’s Japan hosts all the familiar life Kingdoms: plants, animals, and fungi. Alongside these familiar lifeforms there exists a much older, more primitive biota that human senses are ill suited to detect. These lifeforms are collectively known as the mushi. Ginko is one of the few people who can detect mushi. He has used this to become an expert in their ways, a mushi-shi.


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Does Anybody Hear Me

The Girl From The Well — Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco’s 2014 The Girl From the Well is a horror novel.

In the centuries since her lord betrayed and murdered her, Okiku has never found the peace that would allow her to leave this mundane world. She cannot take revenge on the men who tossed her down a well; they’re all dead. Consumed by a fury she can never slake, Okiku has turned her anger in another direction. She wanders the Earth, killing those who murder children.


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Eye for an Eye

The Kingdom of Copper — S. A. Chakraborty
Daevabad, book 2

2019’s The Kingdom of Copper is the second volume in S. A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy.

Nahri escaped her life as a confidence agent in French-and-Turkish occupied Cairo with a few, well-chosen words. Or rather, by accidentally summoning a djinn during a faked exorcism. The djinn Dara whisked Nahri off to Daevabad, the city of the djinn, where she was soon entangled in cut-throat court politics. Nahri is, it seems, the last remaining person with a blood tie to the previous dynasty, the Nahids.

Her mere existence threatens the current ruler, Ghassan. Ghassan attempts to defuse the threat by marrying Nahri to his loyal, if dissolute, son Muntadhir.


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Thank You For The Music

The Dramaturges of Yan — John Brunner


John Brunner’s 1972 The Dramaturges of Yan is a standalone SF novel.

Humans have expanded throughout the galaxy like kudzu. What they find on Yan is … puzzling.


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Gone, Gone, Gone Away

The Ghost Bride — Yangsze Choo

Yangsze Choo’s 2013 The Ghost Bride is a standalone novel of the supernatural.

Li Lan is the only child of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia. When the novel takes place, the British control Malacca (having taken it from the Dutch, who in turn had taken it from Portugal). The region’s colonial rulers are a fact of life, but one that is of little relevance to Li Lan’s daily life.

That life is difficult. Her mother died of smallpox. Her father survived, but with scars, inside and out. He has retreated to his study, where he smokes opium and engages in aimless scholarly pursuits. He is squandering the family fortune.

Li Lan, as the child of a well-to-do family, should have been financially secure; her family should be attempting to arrange a marriage with a young man of good family. She is neither secure nor betrothed. When her father does entertain a marriage offer, the groom is problematic. Lim Tian Ching is a scion of the well-to-do Lim family. It’s just that he’s dead.


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Serve Someone

Yana Toboso
Black Butler, book 1

Yana Toboso’s ongoing manga Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) debuted in 2006. Volume One collects the first four issues.

Gloomy twelve-year-old Ceil Phantomhive is an orphan and a tween. He is also a canny businessman: he has guided the family business, Funtom Company, towards domination of the game and candy industries.

Business success has not lifted his profound depression. He never smiles. Nonetheless his fiancée Elizabeth Midford (a fiancée at twelve?) and his servants adore him.


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To Get What I Want

Crisis on Infinite Earths — Marv Wolfman & George Pérez

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a twelve-issue miniseries from DC Comics1 published from 1985 to 1986. It was written by Marv Wolfman, and pencilled by George Pérez2.

There are many versions of the Earth, each with their own histories. The superheroes of Earth One made contact with their counterparts on Earth Two an indeterminate time ago. In what almost seemed to have become an annual tradition, Earth One’s Justice League periodically teamed up with Earth Two’s Justice Society to deal with crises affecting both worlds.

Now there is a crisis affecting not just Earth One, and Earth Two, but all the worlds.

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To Fall Down At Your Door

Walking to Aldebaran — Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Walking to Aldebaran is a standalone science fiction novella.

Lucky Gary Rendell has realized his childhood dream of being an astronaut! Even better, what was thought to be Planet Nine has turned out to be an enigmatic alien artifact and Gary has been assigned to the joint mission dispatched to examine the massive structure.

Marvels wait inside.


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Fall Into The Sky

The Voyage of the Space Beagle — A. E. Van Vogt

A. E. Van Vogt’s 1950 The Voyage of the Space Beagle is a fix-up novel of deep-space exploration.

All but one person crewing the Space Beagle are experts, knowledgeable in their own field and ignorant of any other. The one exception is the Nexialist, Dr. Elliott Grosvenor. He is a generalist who can synthesize multiple fields. Nexialism is a new field with new methods. The experts on the Space Beagle view the new field with disdain.

Pity, as only Grosvenor can prevent the utter destruction of the mission.


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