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Reviews from August 2020 (22)

When the World Is Breaking My Heart

The Midnight Bargain

By C. L. Polk  

31 Aug, 2020

Miscellaneous Reviews

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C. L. Polk’s 2020 The Midnight Bargain is a secondary world fantasy, due out in October.

Beatrice Clayborn could be one of Chasland’s greatest magi — if only she were a man. But she is a woman and the only roles she’s allowed are those of wife and mother. Oh, she can do a little magic once she is too old to bear children, but even that permission is grudgingly given and strictly circumscribed. 

But women will hone their talents, disregarding patriarchal restrictions. There are grimoires intended for women, disguised but recognizable to those with talent. Beatrice, desperate to escape matrimony, has been methodically searching them out. The final volume she needs, the one that will permit her to summon a greater spirit and propose the pact of the great bargain,” thus becoming a mage of unquestionable power, is one quick purchase away. 

And then…

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Where the Clear Winds Blow

Rider  (Rider, book 1)

By Joyce Chng  

28 Aug, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

2 comments

Joyce Chng’s 2013 Rider: A Novel of Jin is the first novel in her Rider trilogy.

Lifang would like to be a Rider, one of the fortunate elites partnered with a Quetz (the enormous pterodactyl-like natives of Jin). Her family, however, believes Lifang can do her bit for the struggling human community on the planet Jin as an agri-seer”. Which is to say, highly educated farmer.

If it were up to her family and her community, Lifang would not get the career she wants. Fate intervenes. 


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Carry the Lantern High

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection  (The Year’s Best Science Fiction, book 3)

 Edited by Gardner Dozois 

27 Aug, 2020

Special Requests

3 comments

Gardner R. Dozois’ 1986 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection is an anthology of … do I need to spell this out? As one might expect, it covers stories from 1985.

Once more into the breach! Only thirty-two of these to go! Which at one per two months will keep me busy until 2026.


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Party in the U.S.A.

The Vilbar Party

By Evelyn E. Smith  

25 Aug, 2020

Special Requests

3 comments


Evelyn E. Smith’s The Vilbar Party” is a science fiction short story and possibly the shortest work I’ve ever been commissioned to review on its own. 

Narli Gzann is arguably the foremost academic in his field, a position he won through hard work and a steadfast commitment to being a joyless mope. Thus, when he becomes the first Saturnian invited to teach on Earth, his focus is on all the downsides, real and imagined. 

Still, the money is too good to turn down.

Horrors await him on Earth.


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You’re My Painkiller

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon  (Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, book 1)

By Spider Robinson  

23 Aug, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

5 comments

Spider Robinson’s 1977 Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon is the first of ten Callahan and Callahan-related books. 

Callahan’s! A Long Island bar where damaged people come to drink and recover in company. Widower Jake Stonebender washed up at Callahan’s after killing his wife and child thanks to his inept car repair. He narrates the tales that follow.


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No Place to Go

Remote Control

By Nnedi Okorafor  

21 Aug, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

1 comment


Nnedi Okorafor’s 2021 Remote Control is an upcoming science fiction novella. Unless you’re reading this after January 2021, in which case strike upcoming.”

Sankofa wanders Ghana in the company of a fox, visiting community after community. The people she encounters fall over themselves providing her with food and clothing. In part, this is because Sankofa provides a useful service. In large part, it is because she can burn people down to their bones merely by willing it. 

Her story begins in the rural town of Wulugu, when she was just a sickly girl named Fatima.


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An Open Invitation

The Armor of Light

By Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett  

20 Aug, 2020

Special Requests

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Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s 1988 The Armor of Light is a standalone historical fantasy novel. 

Court astrologer John Dee approaches the aged Queen Elizabeth with disquieting news. If nothing is done, then at some time in the next century a British monarch will be put to the axe. The Virgin Queen is horrified by this monstrous reversal of the natural order.

The key to the affair is James VI, King of Scotland, who even now is the focus of a dire magical plot. In a normal state of affairs, the death of a Scotsman is no great matter (to the English). In the case of James VI, he is the man who will inherit Elizabeth’s crown when she dies. His fate is significant. 

Someone will have to travel to Scotland to deal with the matter. That someone is two people: Sir Philip Sidney and Christopher Marlowe.


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