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Reviews from December 2019 (20)

Tick-Tock

Alice Payne Arrives  (Alice Payne, book 1)

By Kate Heartfield  

31 Dec, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2018’s Alice Payne Arrives is the first installment in Kate Heartfield’s Alice Payne series. 

Alice father Colonel Payne served for England in the American Revolutionary War; he returned home changed for the worse. Life at home is increasingly difficult for Alice. She could escape by marriage, if some well-heeled man were to overlook her mixed race heritage (which is not all that likely). But a staid, conventional, boring marriage has no appeal to Alice. She prefers to make a living as a dashing highwayman known as the Holy Ghost. She has a minion, an automaton named Laverna. (So, steampunk.)

Alice’s scheme to rob the odious Lord Ludderworth goes awry when Ludderworth, almost all of his servants, and his carriage vanish after the robbery. Highway robbery is common enough that it doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but a vanished aristocrat draws far more intense scrutiny. Alice may be hunted down and hanged. 

That’s bad enough, but, as Alice will discover, time travel makes everything worse.


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Upon This Happy Day

Worlds of the Imperium  (Imperium, book 1)

By Keith Laumer  

29 Dec, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

3 comments

1962’s Worlds of the Imperium is the first of Keith Laumer’s Imperium novels.

American diplomat Brion Bayard is stalked through the streets of Stockholm. Brion’s efforts to elude his pursuers are energetic but unsuccessful. He is overpowered and carried off. Nobody on Earth will ever see him again.

Nobody on his Earth, that is….


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Raise the Sails

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

By Temi Oh  

28 Dec, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

5 comments

Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is a standalone science fiction novel.

By 2012, breakneck technological development may not have solved problems like global warming, but it has given humans access to the Solar System and beyond. The United Kingdom’s Space Agency has the means to reach the nearest habitable exoplanet, Terra-Two. However, the trip will take more than twenty years. 

The solution? Send kids.


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Why Such a Lonely Beach

A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens  

26 Dec, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

Charles Dickens 1843’s A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas is a standalone ghost story. Although the author failed to prosper in the science fiction and fantasy genres (in large part because they would not be codified until the following century), he enjoyed great success as a popular author.

Ebenezer Scrooge is living the dream: he has amassed an impressive fortune from which he derives a cold pleasure. He seems to have won at the game of life.

He discovers he has miscalculated the night that his long-dead business partner Jacob Marley visits him.


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Comfortably Numb

Shimeji Simulation

By Tsukumizu  

24 Dec, 2019

Translation

1 comment

Tsukumizu’s 2019 Shimeji Simulation is an on-going surrealist slice-of-life manga.

Orphan Shimeji Tsukishima was unhappy at middle school and to avoid it, locked herself away in a small closet for two years. As high school approached, she reluctantly left her refuge. To her surprise, she discovers two small mushrooms — shimeji — sprouting from her head.

Shimeji has come to believe that effort is futile and hope is doomed to disappointment, She intends to pass through high school like a ghost, eschewing social contact and accepting whatever dismal fate life has in store for her. But her visualization of the all proves… inadequate.


Majime Yamashita may have been born with a fried egg on her head, but she’s not going to let that stop her from being the happiest, most outgoing person she can be. Thus far her ambitions have not yielded the social acceptance she craves, but she remains determined to make friends and have fun.

Intrigued by sullen, quiet Shimeji, Majime declares herself Shimeji’s friend. When Shimeji remains aloof, Majime decides the only proper solution is to declare to Shimeji that she is Shimeji’s girlfriend. Shimeji doesn’t have the energy to protest. It might be that she even likes madcap Majime a little. Not that she would say so. 

The schoolgirl with no will to strive is swept along in the wake of the schoolgirl with too much drive. Shimeji grudgingly joins the hole-digging club and slowly, reluctantly, starts to come out of her shell. 

Complications ensue. Shimeji’s older sister is something of a mad scientist. She recruits Majime and Shimeji as minions; they’ll help her construct an arcane device with which to reclaim the world from God. Whatever that means….

~oOo~


You are doubtless wondering why did the sister let Shimeji hide in the closet for two years? The sister is devoted to her work and seems content to let Shimeji find her own way. Indeed, most of the adults in this manga are far too focused on their own issues to offer help or guidance to the teenagers. 

People looking for a hormone-driven yuri manga should look elsewhere. Majime and Shimeji may be girlfriends but what that means is that sometimes Shimeji will permit Majime to hold her hand … briefly. While avoiding direct eye contact. Given that Shimeji spent enough time alone in the dark to sprout mushrooms, even that’s a big step.

Girls Last Tour protagonists Chito and Yuuri play minor supporting roles in this manga. How that’s possible is not clear. It’s just one of many odd bits about which one should not think too deeply. This is not a manga in which things make a lot of sense. Stuff happens. Causality is unclear. Detached acceptance is a valid coping skill. So is making friends. None of it means anything but at least if one has friends one isn’t alone, growing mushrooms on one’s head. 

I don’t know if this manga is going anywhere but it doesn’t really matter. It’s pleasant in its odd way. 

If Shimeji Simulation is available in North America, this is a well-kept secret.

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Fools Rush In

Wicked Fox  (Gumiho, book 1)

By Kat Cho  

23 Dec, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

1 comment

Kat Cho’s 2019 debut novel Wicked Fox is the first volume in her Gumiho series.

Thanks to his irresistible charm, slacker Jihoon slides past the strict discipline enforced on other Korean teens. But charm will only take him so far. It won’t get him into a prestigious college and it certainly won’t protect him from the goblin he encounters one night.

Miyoung intervenes, killing the goblin. This may be a temporary reprieve. Miyoung isn’t the attractive young woman she seems to be. She is a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox. She survives by draining the life force from humans like Jihoon.


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Mr. Peabody’s Coal Train

Stargate

By Stephen Robinett  

22 Dec, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Stephen Robinett’s 1976 Stargate is a standalone SF novel set in the same universe as his short piece Jenson’s Folly.” It was originally serialized in Analog under Robinett’s pen-name Tak Hallus. It is one of three SF novels Robinett wrote.

Downsized engineer Robert Collins needs a job. Co-worker Bernie Mitchel, also downsized, has found a senior engineering spot at Merriweather Enterprize [sic], but cannot accept it due to a heart condition. He cedes the opportunity to Robert. 

The job turns out to involve cutting edge technology, corporate espionage, murder, and quite possibly the destruction of the entire Solar System.

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Twenty Questions

Magic For Liars

By Sarah Gailey  

21 Dec, 2019

Special Requests

2 comments

Sarah Gailey’s debut novel Magic for Liars is a standalone modern-fantasy-private-investigator story.

The Osborne Academy for Young Mages has a problem. Health and Wellness teacher Sylvia Capley has been found bisected and quite dead in the library. Headmaster Marion Torres does not believe the official explanation, magical mishap. She believes it was murder. 

Torres turns to Ivy Gamble for help. Unlike her sister Tabitha, who teaches at Osborne, Ivy has no magical talent whatsoever. What she does have is a PI license and a long experience of uncovering secrets.


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I Ran All Night and Day

Ancestral Night  (White Space, book 1)

By Elizabeth Bear  

19 Dec, 2019

Space Opera That Doesn't Suck

5 comments

2019’s Ancestral Night is the first volume in Elizabeth Bear’s White Space series. It shares a universe with her earlier Jacob’s Ladder sequence1.

Halmey Dz and her partners (the starship Singer and Connla Kurucz) make a precarious living searching out lost starships. They’ve had a run of bad luck; one more failure and they may lose their government subsidy. 

On the other hand, the wrong lost starship could kill them. 


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Icy Hands Taking Hold of Me

The Apple-Tree Throne

By Premee Mohamed  

18 Dec, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

1 comment

Premee Mohamed’s 2018 novella, The Apple-Tree Throne, is an alternate-history fantasy.

Having served overseas in the army of the Greater Republic of Britannia, Lieutenant Braddock returns home with a debilitating leg injury. His commanding officer, Major-General Theodore Wickersley, returns in a coffin. Having been promoted far beyond his competence: the Major-General made egregious mistakes that led to his death. 


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