Reviews, July 2019

Another Day in Paradise

Deep Roots — Ruthanna Emrys
Innsmouth Legacy, book 2

2018’s Deep Roots is the second volume in Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy series.

Aphra Marsh survived an American concentration camp. She is one of very few land-dwelling Deep Ones still alive. Despite their much reduced numbers, she hopes to rebuild her shattered community. To do this, she needs the US government’s cooperation — or at least an end to active attempts to exterminate the Deep Ones.

But nuclear war threatens. Were it to happen, it would render her efforts pointless. Toleration of land-dwelling Deep Ones would mean nothing if the humans were to make the land temporarily uninhabitable. The ocean-dwelling Deep Ones would live on, but once their land-kin vanished, there would be no way to re-establish them.

The Deep Ones are not the only beings worried about humanity’s future.


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Voices in My Head

Children of Ruin — Adrian Tchaikovsky
Children of Time, book 2

2019’s Children of Ruin is the second book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time series.

Before it annihilated itself, Earth’s first great technological civilization dispatched starships to nearby star systems, there to terraform promising worlds. Millennia later, Earth’s second great technological civilization also dispatched starships. The purpose was not to reshape worlds according to humanity’s whim, but to escape the deadly trap Earth had become.

Nobody expected to find a planet full of portiids, genetically engineered intelligent spiders, but humans were convinced… compelled, really, to come to terms with the unintended products of Avrana Kern’s bold uplifting efforts. The starship Voyager is the product of the unexpected partnership, crewed by humans, portiids, and an emulation of the long-dead Kern, dispatched to explore a neighbouring star system. Who knows what wonders await them?


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Terrible Things

The Starlost — Cordwainer Bird

The TV series The Starlost ran from late September 1973 to early January 1974, about three and a half months and sixteen episodes too long. Originally created by Harlan Ellison, the writers were Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird), George Ghent, Norman Klenman, and Martin Lager, while the episodes were directed by Harvey Hart, Martin Lager, George McCowan, Leo Orenstein, Ed Richardson, and Joseph L. Scanlan. The series starred Keir Dullea, Gay Rowan, and Robin Ward.

The series is a credit to none of them.

Devon (Keir Dullea) is blindly in love with Rachel (Gay Rowan), whom the elders of Cyprus Corners have decreed must marry surly blacksmith Garth (Robin Ward). The elders do not tolerate dissent. Devon is forced to flee the only world he has ever known through a door on other side of which may lie certain doom.

To Devon’s enormous surprise, Cyprus Corners is not the whole of the world. It is merely one of a great number of habitats. The revelations do not stop there.


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Bury a Friend

The Ascent to Godhood — JY Yang
Tensorate, book 4

2019’s The Ascent to Godhood is the fourth entry in JY Yang’s Tensorate series.

Lady Han was the Protector’s greatest enemy. Once she was the Protector’s firmest ally Now that the Protector Hekate is finally dead after a half-century of tyranny, Lady Han tells the story of her transformation.

It begins in a small village.


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Let the Sun Fade Out to a Dark Sky

Escaping Exodus — Nicky Drayden

Nicky Drayden’s 2019 Escaping Exodus is a standalone SF novel.

Seske Kaleigh was born to become the leader of her spacefaring community. Becoming a leader involves onerous education and personal sacrifice. Seske would far rather spend her time having adventures with her lower-class crush, Adalla.

Seske’s culture is trapped on the edge of survival. Allowing Seske to follow her heart is not in the cards.


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Inciting and Inviting Me

Medusa Uploaded — Emily Devenport
Medusa Cycle, book 1

Emily Devenport’s Medusa Uploaded is the first volume in her generation ship series, the Medusa Cycle.

Olympia and Titania are two vast generation ships, dispatched on a long, slow journey to another star system. This was lifetimes ago. Olympia is still functioning, but poor Titania is lifeless wreckage tumbling across the stars, the victim of an act of sabotage. Oichi was born on Titania but was fortunate enough to emigrate to Olympia before Titania’s destruction. The rest of her family was not so lucky.

Oichi isn’t one of the ruling Executives; she’s a so-called worm. Her lot is to work hard for her whole life, hoping that no Executive will order her tossed out an airlock. Oichi’s fortune turns sour. Suspected as a potential dissident, she is cast out into the interstellar cold.

This is not the end of her story.


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A Defector of a Kind

Rite of Passage — Alexei Panshin


Alexei Panshin’s 1968 Rite of Passage is a standalone SF novel. It won a Nebula Award and was nominated for a Hugo.

Mia Havero grew up on a great Ship, an asteroid-sized vessel that wanders from star to star. It’s all she’s ever known. Mia’s Trial, a mandatory test that winnows the unfit from the fit, is approaching. If she passes, she will live out her life on her Ship. If she fails, she might be exiled. Or dead.

Mia Havero is twelve, going on thirteen.


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Under Your Skin

Get Out — Jordan Peele

2017’s Get Out was Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. The cast includes Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, and Catherine Keener.

Photographer Chris Washington (Kaluuya) reluctantly faces a romantic rite of passage: accompanying his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Williams) to a family get-together. What would be stressful in any circumstances is even more so in this case, because Chris is African-American while Rose is white.

Rose assures Chris that her family is not racist but still, any number of unpleasant surprises may await Chris. And do.


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Hunting Tonight

The Hound of Justice — Claire O'Dell
Janet Watson, book 2


2019’s The Hound of Justice is the second volume in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles.

Doctor Janet Watson has a new prosthetic arm and a new position at Georgetown University Hospital. The new arm is a vast improvement over the previous arm, but Janet is finding it hard to master. She needs to be capable of fine, disciplined movements if she is to return to being a surgeon.

America has a new President, Donovan, a Democratic Progressive. Like her new arm, the new President isn’t all Janet could wish him to be, but he is better than the alternative (reactionary Jeb Foley). Years into its second civil war, even a second-rate President and the hope of a disappointing peace is an improvement, at least from the perspective of the sane people of America.

Richard Speiker’s Brotherhood of Redemption is threatened by the prospect of peace. Inauguration day is marred by a terrorist bomb attack that fails to kill its intended target thanks to what appears to be simple incompetence.


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Dinner Bell

Kaiu Shira & Posuka Demizu
The Promised Neverland, book 1

The Promised Neverland, Volume 1 collects the first seven issues of author Kaiu Shira and illustrator Posuka Demizu’s manga.

Emma, Norman, and Ray grew up in Grace Field House, an orphanage run by kindly Isabella. Life at Grace Field House is almost luxurious. It is that rare orphanage whose inhabitants would remember it fondly. In later years. If there were later years. To be explained.

Sometime between the ages of six and twelve, the orphans will be fostered out. Emma, Norman, and Ray are the oldest orphans still remaining at the House. Their twelfth birthdays are looming, so they expect that they will soon be sent on their way to new homes.

When fellow orphan Connie forgets her stuffed animal in her haste to leave the House for her new home, Emma and Norman hurry after the six-year-old to return the beloved toy. They find Connie, but not in time.

It seems there is the orphans haven’t been told the truth about their new homes: they have been raised as food for demons.


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Keep Running, Keep Running

Meddling Kids — Edgar Cantero


Edgar Cantero’s 2018 Meddling Kids is the latest book in the Blyton Summer Detective Club Adventure series1.

In 1977, the Blyton Summer Detective Club — Peter, Kerri, Andy, Nate, and their dog Sean — capped off their successful teen detecting careers with the revelation of that the Sleepy Lake Monster was just would-be burglar Thomas Wickley in a rubber mask.

Wickley was sent off to prison. The four teens got on their lives. Thirteen years later, the surviving members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club are faced with a terrible revelation: they got their final case wrong.


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The One Where She Has Sex With a Plant

The Pollinators of Eden — John Boyd


John Boyd’s 1969 The Pollinators of Eden is a standalone SF novel.

Doctor Freda Caron expects that when the starship Botany docks, her fiancé Paul Theaston will be on it. He isn’t; all she gets is a message and a sample of alien life. Paul is doing research on the planet Flora, where he has encountered an intriguing scientific mystery. He wants to stay on-planet for one more duty cycle. Although mildly put out (this means she’s saddled with planning their wedding all by herself, rather than allowing Paul to think he’s helping), Freda also understands why he would stay. She too is a professional botanist; she understands the appeal of this tulip-appearing enigma.

The tulip has a flower much like flowers found on Earth. There are no known insects on planet Flora. Why produce a flower, and pollen, when there is nothing to spread the pollen. Or is there? Who or what does the pollinating?


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The Book of Life

The Reader — Traci Chee
Sea of Ink and Gold, book 1

Traci Chee’s 2016 The Reader is the first volume in her Sea of Ink and Gold series.

Sefia and her aunt Nin have been on the run ever since Sefia’s father was brutally murdered. Now, thanks to Sefia’s failed attempt at stealing a bandana, what had been a safe refuge is a refuge no longer. Someone may have recognized Nin and that means the pair have to flee. On their trail: killers seeking to recover a precious item stolen by Sefia’s parents.

The precious treasure is a book, whatever a book might be.


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Like I Just Lost The World War

This is How You Lose The Time War — Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s 2019 This is How You Lose the Time War is a standalone SF novel.

Two great powers, technological Agency and biological Garden, are engaged in a long, brutal war for control of reality itself. Not satisfied with shaping a single universe to suit their tastes, both sides covet control of every history of every universe.

Red fights for Agency. Red is very good at their job. Good enough to attract the attention of Garden operative Blue.


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Strange Fascinations Fascinate Me

Making History — Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry’s 1996 Making History is an alternate history. It won the 1998 Sidewise Award1.

To his biochemist girlfriend Jane Michael, “Puppy” Young is a charming, bumbling idiot who cannot be trusted unattended in a laboratory. He’s an amusement, but not a man with whom she could possibly spend her life. To the world at large, Puppy is a feckless graduate student working toward a PhD in history, a field he believes is (like Puppy himself) cruelly unappreciated by the world. His grand ambitions run up against reality when his advisor reveals to Puppy that large swaths of Puppy’s thesis on Hitler are utter crap.

This academic setback isn’t the only downer; Puppy finds out that Jane is moving to Princeton without him. It’s at this moment of utter personal failure that some misaddressed mail provides Puppy with an introduction to physicist Leo Zuckerman. It is an encounter that will reshape history.


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The End of Laughter and Soft Lies

Earth’s Last Citadel — C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner


1943’s Earth’s Last Citadel is a standalone far-future adventure by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner.

Alan Drake’s desperate bid to get genius Sir Colin out of a North African war-zone is stymied when the two are ambushed by Axis agents Karen Martin and Mike Smith. Karen and Mike catch up to Alan and Sir Colin just after the pair stumble across a mysterious object in the desert. The Nazis barely have time to gloat before they and their prey are bewitched into entering what appears to be an alien spacecraft.

The four do not emerge from their captor’s craft for a very very very long time.


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Won’t Shed a Tear

Jade War — Fonda Lee
Green Bone Saga, book 2


Jade War is the second volume in Fonda Lee’s ongoing Green Bone Saga.

Ayt Mada has a simple dream: unify all of Kekon’s clans under her benevolent rule, the better to protect Kekon’s interests in a world filled with powerful, empires. The No Peak clan refuses to submit to Ayt’s Mountain Clan, so it must be destroyed for the greater good.

No Peak’s Pillar (leader) Kaul Lan had all the skills that might ensure No Peak’s survival in the face of the Mountain Clan’s aggression. Alas for No Peak, Lan was murdered, leaving the clan with Lan’s intemperate brother Hilo as leader. Hilo prefers direct, brutal methods. No Peak’s survival depends on Hilo growing into his unwanted role.


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Detective De Tu Amor

Point of Knives — Melissa Scott

Melissa Scott’s Point of Knives is set at a time between that of Point of Hopes and that of Point of Dreams, the first and second instalments of the Astreiant series. Since my site does not do fractions or decimals, numbering Point of Knives is a bit tricky. So I will not even try.

Adjunct Point Nicolas Rathe is called from his bed to attend to a murder. Rathe soon discovers that there were two murders: both Grandad Steen and his son Old Steen were mortally injured, although by someone inept enough that dying Old Steen tried to run to safety.

The motive for some murders is obscure. In Grandad Steen’s case, the motive seems clear: treasure.


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The Same Thing If You Please

Lee Narae
Bloody Sweet, book 1

Bloody Sweet, Volume One, collects an astounding number of installments of this Lee Narae webtoon.

Shin Naerim’s mother performs a valuable, if unconventional, public service: she is a moodang, a Korean shaman. Shin Naerim also provides a valuable public service: she is a meek victim whom her classmates can torment without any fear of repercussions.


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As Sweet As Any Harmony

The Outside — Ada Hoffmann

2019’s The Outside is Ada Hoffmann’s debut SF novel.

Praise to the Gods of the galaxy, who brought us out of Old Earth.
Praise to the Gods of the warp drive, who push at the edges of space.
Praise to the Gods of the portal, who open all doors to our bodies.
Praise to the Gods of the ansible, who open all doors to our words.
Praise, praise be to the Gods who know, whose minds are above human minds, whose knowledge has kept us alive.

Once artificial intelligences, now something much more, the gods rule the human-occupied sector of the Milky Way. Having the gods consume their souls after death is a small price to pay for access to the stars. Despite centuries of such benevolent guidance, some humans still persist in trying to develop their own advanced technologies without divine help.

Yasira Shien is the Shien in the Talirr-Shien Effect, the phenomenon at the heart of the Pride of Jai. If all works to plan, the Talsirr-Shien Reactor will power an orbiting research facility for centuries to come.

If all does not go according to plan, well … who knows?


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