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Reviews from December 2019 (20)

Ancient Melodies

Black Man’s Burden & Border, Breed Nor Birth

By Mack Reynolds  

15 Dec, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Mack Reynolds’ Black Man’s Burden & Border, Breed Nor Birth, published together in a 1972 Ace Double, are the first two installments in Reynolds’ Homer Crawford series. Black Man’s Burden was first serialized in the December 1961, January 1962 issues of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact. Border, Breed Nor Birth was first serialized in the July 1962, August 1962 issues of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact.

The world is rapidly converging on a shared standard of living. The sole exception is backward Africa, victim of colonial exploitation and runaway population growth. The Reunited Nations has bold plans to drag the dark continent into the twentieth century, to turn it from a savage land into one equal to, if not America or Common Europe, at least Australia. 

One major stumbling block: native Africans have ties to specific ethnic groups. Personal loyalties trump continental and racial loyalties. On the other hand, it’s no use sending white Americans, commie Russians, or Common Europeans to fix the place up. The one point on which all black African agree is profound distrust of white outsiders who arrive claiming to want to improve Africa.

As it happens, there are many people descended from Africans born outside Africa. American-born Homer Crawford, for example. 

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Took a Little Risk

Chilling Effect  (Chilling Effect, volume 1)

By Valerie Valdes  

13 Dec, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Valeria Valdes’ 2019 debut novel Chilling Effect is the first volume in her Chilling Effect series. 

Interstellar gates provided humanity access to the stars. The latest member of the galaxy-spanning Benevolent Organization of Federated Astrostates, humans are valued for two attributes: their willingness to have sex with just about anything and their expendability.

Eva Innocente, Captain of the starship La Sirena Negra, has turned her back on her family and their shady deals. No longer will she and her crew be sent off on dangerous errands without sufficient information. Now she and the rest of the crew of La Sirena Negra eke out a meagre living delivering legitimate cargoes from point A to point B. 

One day it all goes wrong.

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I Walk Alone


By Priya Sharma  

6 Dec, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Priya Sharma’s 2019 Ormeshadow is a standalone gothic fantasy novella.

Gideon Belman had a happy enough life in Bath. This ended when his father John uprooted the family to return to Ormeshadow, to once more take up running his half of Ormesleep Farm. 

In John’s absence, John’s brother Thomas has overseen the whole farm. Thomas has a clear vision of how his prodigal brother’s return should play out: as unpleasantly as possible.

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I Get By

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, volume 1

By Shinobu Ohtaka  

5 Dec, 2019



Shinobu Ohtaka’s Arabian-Knights-themed Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday from June 2009 to October 2017. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 1 collects the first seven issues (or Nights) of the manga series.

Tween Aladdin seems an easy target, being tiny and half-starved. As one unlucky bandit clan discovers, appearances can be deceiving. Aladdin may be small, but Udo, the djinn who lives in his flute, is large and powerful indeed. 

If only Udo’s head were not still trapped in some other (unknown) container, the djinn would be even more impressive. Aladdin is determined to find and free his friend’s head.

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Secrets Stolen From Deep Inside

Pebble in the Sky  (Trantorian Empire, volume 1)

By Isaac Asimov  

1 Dec, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Asimov’s 1950 Pebble in the Sky is either the first (by publication date) or the third (by internal chronology) of three standalone novels (The Stars, Like Dust, The Currents of Space, and Pebble in the Sky) set some millennia prior to the beginning of the Foundation trilogy. The three novels form a loose trilogy that has been dubbed the Empire novels or sometimes the Galactic Empirenovels.

The Stars, Like Dustis set long before Trantor began its rise to power; The Currents of Space is set during its rise. Pebble in the Sky is set at the height of the Galactic Empire’s power. 

The book opens with an Eisenhower-era tailor, Joseph Schwartz, who finds himself transported onto a desolate alien world. He later learns that he is still on Earth, an Earth of the far future. The plant has been scoured by nuclear war. Even though this happened some time ago, Earth is still radioactive in places and is largely sterile. 

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