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Reviews from December 2020 (22)

River Running Free

Voyage to the City of the Dead

By Alan Dean Foster  

17 Dec, 2020

Special Requests


Alan Dean Foster’s 1984 Voyage to the City of the Dead is a standalone novel set in his Humanx Commonwealth setting.

Eager to explore the mysteries of Tslamaina — Horseye to off-worlders — scientists Etienne and Lyra Redowl have been waiting impatiently for permission from the native authorities to explore far up the Barshajagad canyon along the course of the spectacular river Skar. 

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Have You Brought Me Hope or Have You Paid My Fee

Wolf Hall  (Thomas Cromwell, volume 1)

By Hilary Mantel  

15 Dec, 2020

Special Requests


2009’s Wolf Hall is the first volume in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. 

Thomas Cromwell escaped a brutal childhood and rose by dint of great effort to be the highly educated right-hand man to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. It’s a lofty position for such a low-born man and as long as nothing happens to Wolsey, Cromwell’s position is utterly secure.

Vexed at Wolsey’s failure to deliver a divorce, Henry withdraws his favour. Stripped of wealth and position, Wolsey escapes possible execution (Henry likes to accuse people of treason) by dying of natural causes first.

Without his patron, Cromwell’s position is manifestly hopeless.

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Burn, Baby, Burn

Fire Time  (Gunnar Heim, volume 2)

By Poul Anderson  

13 Dec, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1974’s Fire Time is the second book in Poul Anderson’s Gunnar Heim sequence. Be it noted that Heim makes an extremely brief appearance in this novel.

Three hundred parsecs from Sol, the Anubelea multiple star system offers humans a fascinating illustration of the impact of stellar evolution on planetary ecosystems. For the inhabitants of Ishtar, the peculiarities of their home system doom them to endless cycles of rise, fall, and recovery. 

But first! A lecture on stellar evolution.

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Darkest Day

These Violent Delights  (These Violent Delights, volume 1)

By Chloe Gong  

11 Dec, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

1 comment

2020’s These Violent Delights is the first volume in Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights series. 

Proud heir to leadership of the Scarlet Gang, Juliette Cai is determined to lead her father’s gangsters to total domination of Jazz-era Shanghai. There are but two small impediments to this scheme: firstly, that the Russian-run White Flowers do not care to admit defeat in the on-going blood feud between the gangs and secondly, that the current occupation of Shanghai by arrogant foreign powers appears to have tilted the balance in favour of the White Flowers.

There is also the almost inconsequential matter that White Flower heir Roma Montagov used to be Juliette’s lover. It’s an age-old story: two star-crossed teens meet and then part amid a flurry of bloody mutual assassination attempts facilitated by information clearly gleaned from each other. Their affair is the past. The only question now is who will kill whom.

A scattering of dead gangsters from both gangs, dumped on the waterfront, could be simply another bloody chapter in the gang war. It isn’t. Each of the dead men killed themself.

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Comfort in the Sound

Shadows of the Short Days

By Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson  

10 Dec, 2020

Special Requests

1 comment

2020’s Shadows of the Short Days is the English-language translation of Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson’s 2014 Icelandic fantasy Hrímland.

Hrímland (Iceland) has been occupied by the Kalmar Commonwealth. The inhabitants of Reykjavík chafe under a brutal police state. Political dissidents vanish into the Nine, never to be seen by their friends and family again. 

Dissident Garún was driven into political activism because she is Blendingur, half human and half … not.

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I’d Rather Stay Home and Read

Daughter of a Soldier, volume 1

By Miya Kazuki  

9 Dec, 2020



2015’s Daughter of a Soldier Volume 1 is the first of three Daughter of a Soldier instalments, which in turn form the first arc of Miya Kazuki’s Ascendance of a Bookworm. Ascendance of a Bookworm is an Isekai young-adult light novel series. Illustrations are by You Shiina. Daughter of a Soldier Volume 1 was translated into English by quof,

Urano Motosu loves books above all other things. Pallid skin, social isolation, parental disappointment, all are small prices to pay for a life spent glorying in books. 

Alas, Urano is so focused on her books that she steps into traffic without looking. Hello, Truck-Kun! Only the timely intervention by a friend saves Urano from decorating Truck-Kun’s grill.

Saved from an untimely demise, Urano returns home where she is killed by falling books during a minor earthquake. 

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We Didn’t Start the Fire

Dead Lies Dreaming  (New Management, volume 1)

By Charles Stross  

8 Dec, 2020

Special Requests


Charles Stross’ Dead Lies Dreaming is the tenth novel set in his Laundryverse and the first novel in the New Management sequence.

The United Kingdom flourishes under the enlightened rule of the New Management. No longer need the inhabitants of the island nation fear that transgressors will be insufficiently punished. If there’s one thing the Black Pharaoh believes in, it’s draconian consequences. Thus, the return of the Bloody Code; thus inspirational public executions. 

The UK’s new normal does make for a stressful work environment for career criminals like Imp and his Lost Boys. Imp and his associates — Game Boy, Doc, Del — do have one small advantage over their criminal competition: superpowers. 

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Hail to the Chief

The Multiple Man

By Ben Bova  

6 Dec, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

1 comment

Ben Bova’s 1976 The Multiple Man is a standalone near-future thriller.

Americo Meric” Albano is a true believer in President James J. Halliday. Meric is proud to be press secretary to the first president in memory who will be able to do the job properly. After decades of inept and crooked administrations, he believes that the US desperately needs Halliday. 

Meric is understandably upset when Halliday is found dead in an alley behind the building where the president gave a speech. 

Except… the dead man is not Halliday. It’s simply some stranger who is identical to Halliday … right down to his finger prints.

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Rise like the Day

King of the Rising  (Islands of Blood and Storm, volume 2)

By Kacen Callender  

4 Dec, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


King of the Rising is the second volume in Kacen Callender’s Islands of Blood and Storm series. 

The Islanders’ cunning ruse allowed them to slaughter Fjern slavers; many Fjern aristocrats are among the dead. The rebels are in firm control of the island on which the revolution started. Rebellions have cropped up all across the archipelago. 

But … the rebellions are not coordinated. The Fjern still control many islands, patrol the sea at will, and they have more armed men at their command than any of the rebel groups. Absent some brilliant strategy, time is not on the rebels’ side.

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