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Reviews from September 2019 (19)

We’re Better Off Apart

The City and the Stars

By Arthur C. Clarke  

29 Sep, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Arthur C. Clarke’s 1956 The City and the Stars is a standalone SF novel. A famous SF novel. 

A billion years in the future, Earth is a lifeless, arid desert world. The galaxy-spanning civilization of the ancients is gone, the victim, or so myth has it, of nigh-unstoppable Invaders. The last remnant of humanity lives in the city of Diaspar. The inhabitants are effectively immortal, being reincarnated over and over again from Central Computer records. 

Once reborn, they take up their old roles. That is, everyone but young Alvin, one of the rare unique persons intermittently created to ensure that Diaspar does not completely stagnate. Alvin is going to succeed in this purpose and then some. 

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Just Another Ordinary Day

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

By Lois McMaster Bujold  

28 Sep, 2019

Special Requests


Lois McMaster Bujold’s 2012 Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is an SF adventure. It’s set in her Vorkosiverse, but unlike most of the other novels, which focus on Cordelia Vorkosigan or her son Miles, it stars Miles’ cousin Ivan Xav Vorpatril — better known as Ivan, you idiot!” 

Ivan is widely viewed as a shallow, lazy womanizer. This is in large part a well-crafted mask. Ivan eschews any appearance of dedication or boldness. He is not viewed as a threat; as a consequence, he is still alive, an achievement many bold Vorkosiverse characters cannot claim. (Well his cousin Miles is bold and threatening; naturally, he died once. It’s just that Miles being Miles, he got better.) If Ivan has his way, he will have a long, unremarkable career followed by a long, unremarkable retirement. 

Ivan is not going to have his way. 

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Right From Wrong and Weak From Strong

A Ruin of Shadows

By L. D. Lewis  

27 Sep, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


L. D. Lewis’ 2018 A Ruin of Shadows is a standalone secondary-universe fantasy novella. 

General Édo and her Shadow Army — an army of just seven people — have fought for decades to expand the Boorhian Empire. Each of the Shadows brings their own special skill set to the task of annihilating enemies. Ebony-masked Édo, for example, is essentially invulnerable, which is convenient for a professional soldier. 

All careers ultimately end. 

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Heartaches by the Number


By Nino Cipri  

26 Sep, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews


Nino Cipri’s 2020 Finna is a standalone SF novella. 

Heartbroken over her breakup with Jules, Ava has rearranged her life to minimize contact with her ex. A challenging task, given that the pair both work at soulless big box store LitenVärld. Still, careful schedule management should do the trick. At least if fucking Derek doesn’t call in sick, obligating Ava come in to work on what should be an off-day. 

The resulting encounter between the former couple is as uncomfortable as it is unwanted. But it could be worse — and is. 

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Rise From the Ashes

Kingdom of Souls

By Rena Barron  

23 Sep, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Rena Barron’s 2019 Kingdom of Souls is a young-adult secondary-universe fantasy. 

Arrah is the daughter of powerful parents. Her father is a respected witchdoctor, an honorary member of the Aatari tribe’s ruling council, the edam. Her mother Arti occupies an even loftier position as Ka-Priestess. It is the third most powerful position in the Kingdom. Arrah, alas, has as much magical power as a hollow gourd. Some folks like her prove to be late bloomers of remarkable ability. Arrah is increasingly convinced she is just a magicless failure. 

There are ways for the powerless to gain power. They’re costly. One would have to be desperate to try them. Soon, Arrah will be desperate enough. 

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Terrible Swift Sword

Edison’s Conquest of Mars

By Garrett P. Serviss  

22 Sep, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Garrett P. Serviss’ 1898 Edison’s Conquest of Mars is a sequel to 1897’s Fighters from Mars, or The War of the Worlds in and near Boston, which was a version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds rewritten and dumbed down by persons unknown in order to better suit Yankee sensibilities. 

Having survived Mars’ first attack thanks to the Martian vulnerability to modern Terrestrial diseases, the people of Earth are alarmed when astronomers report that the foul Martians are preparing for a second foray. Mars has the technological edge; it is likely that they will be able to guard their second invasion force against disease. 

Is Earth doomed? No. Earth has Thomas Edison.

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All You Do is Look the Other Way

Sweet Blue Flowers, volume 1

By Takako Shimura  

21 Sep, 2019



Takako Shimura’s Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana) was serialized between 2004 and 2013. Volume One contains the first seven issues. 

When they were separated as children, BFFs Akira Okudaira and Fumi Manjoume vowed to write each other every day. Well … 

Years later, they meet again on a train. They’re both travelling to their new high school. They don’t recognize each other and find themselves making friends all over again. Eventually the penny drops. Recognition! Delight! It’s almost as though the intervening years had never been. 

Which is good, because Fumi could use a friend. 

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You Should See Me in a Crown

Empress of Forever

By Max Gladstone  

19 Sep, 2019

Space Opera That Doesn't Suck


Max Gladstone’s 2019 Empress of Forever is a standalone space opera. 

Oligarch Vivian Liao is certain that Earth’s shadowy masters have finally tired of her. She fears that in short order she will be immured in some deep-state prison, slated for a brief but memorable terminal interview with a torturer. She attempts to avoid this dismal fate by launching a daring bid to conquer the world. She will hack and control the world’s computer infrastructure. Bwahaha! 

Before she can do more than start her attack, she is dragged off to another realm by an enigmatic woman in futuristic garb. 

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I’m a Lionheart

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

By Alix E. Harrow  

18 Sep, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews


Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a standalone portal fantasy. 

January Scaller rarely sees her beloved father, because Julian Scaller is absent running errands for wealthy Mr. Locke. She has been raised mainly by Mr. Locke’s servants. Her life is cozy and safe, but January increasingly feels that she is just one of Locke’s carefully guarded treasures. Not at all a person.

But a person who is a one-of-a-kind human, one who might not do well in the harsh outside world. 

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Season For Battle Wounds

The Deathworld Trilogy

By Harry Harrison  

15 Sep, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Harry Harrison’s The Deathworld Trilogy consists of three works: 1960’s Deathworld, 1964’s Deathworld 2, and 1968’s Deathworld 3. Alternate titles: Deathworld, The Ethical Engineer, and The Horse Barbarians. All were serialized in the same magazine, which was known as Astounding when Deathworld was published and Analog when the other two came out. 

(The Deathworld series is much longer. More on that later.) 

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