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Reviews from January 2021 (22)

Each Time It Rains

The Space Merchants

By Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth  

31 Jan, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s 1953 The Space Merchants is a near-future SF satire. It was followed by The Merchant’s War, written by Pohl alone. 

Earth is a utopia. Population continues to soar and with it the economy explodes unchecked. True, supporting such a vast economic enterprise demands bold solutions to the challenge of dwindling resources, but only the worst sort of Consie—the Conservationists, lowest of the low — would object. Nation-states are guided by what best serves the corporations who effectively own the governments. At the top of this most perfect society sit the advertising experts who shape opinion. 

Mitch Courtenay, a Fowler Schocken Associates advertising agency star-class copywriter, is one of the elite. He has his own lavish two-bedroom apartment, can afford unreconstituted food, and enjoys the confidence of Fowler Schocken himself. He is, in other words, a man on his way up.

There are one or two tiny flaws in his idyllic life.

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Like Thousand Eyes

Warchild  (Monstress, book 5)

By Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda  

29 Jan, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework

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2020’s Warchild (Monstress, Volume 5) collects issues 25 to 30 of Marjorie Liu’s ongoing cosmic-horror-fantasy-war comic series. Art is by Sana Takeda.

The previous war between the Federation of Man and the Arcanic Empire ended when the city of Constantine was annihilated, taking over a hundred thousand people with it. The Federation credited the weapon used to the Arcanics — inaccurately, although the Arcanics were in no hurry to correct the error — and lacking their own equivalent, backed down to regroup. 

When the Federation’s holy city of Aurum is obliterated by a seemingly similar weapon, the logical inference is that the Arcanic Empire is to blame. They are not but the war is back on regardless.

High on the Federation’s to-conquer list: the city of Ravenna.


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Reading Books of Old

The Library War  (The Library War, book 1)

By Hiro Arikawa  

27 Jan, 2021

Translation

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2006’s The Library War (Toshokan Sensō) is the first volume in Hiro Arikawa’s Seiun-winning Library War novel series. 

In the last year of the Shouwa period, the Media Improvement Act provided the Improvement Special Agencies of the Ministry of Justice with sweeping powers of censorship and confiscation. Since criticism of the Act fell within the scope of the Act, legal reform of the Act is unlikely. Protecting Japan’s literary world therefore fell to the nation’s libraries, who soon found legal pretexts both to claim the right to assemble inclusive archives and more importantly, to arm their Library Defense Force. There will be no repeat of the Nightmare at Nino! 

The libraries follow four core principles.


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The Sun to Me is Dark

The Unspoken Name  (The Serpent Gates, book 1)

By A. K. Larkwood  

26 Jan, 2021

Special Requests

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2020’s The Unspoken Name is the first novel in A. K. Larkwood’s new series, The Serpent Gates. 

Csorwe is the latest in a long line of Chosen Brides of the Unspoken One. Until she turns fourteen, she will serve as a prophetess in the House of Silence. When she turns fourteen, she will ascend to the Shrine of the Unspoken One, perform a religious rite, and then disappear into the Shrine, never to be seen again.

What exactly happens to the Brides is unknown — each Bride enters the Shrine alone — but hauntings by revenants of previous Brides suggests that it’s nothing good. Csorwe will soon discover for herself the fate of Brides, because her fourteenth birthday is imminent. 

Then a stranger arrives.


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Shake Their Bony Hands

Folklorn

By Angela Mi Young Hur  

25 Jan, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework

2 comments

Angela Mi Young Hur’s 2021 Folklorn is an up-coming contemporary fantasy novel.

Else Park splits her time between stalking the wild neutrino in desolate Antarctica and doing physics research in Sweden. She’s aiming at professional success — which will be hers if her hypothesis is supported by experimental evidence — and also at emotion management: putting thousands of kilometres between her and her family back in America. 

Turns out that this isn’t far enough.


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Written in the Book of Life

Starship Through Space

By G. Harry Stine  

24 Jan, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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G. Harry Stine’s 1954 Starship Through Space is a standalone juvenile SF novel. It was published under his pen name, Lee Correy. It shares a setting and a character with 1953’s And a Star to Steer Her By.

Granted a leave of absence from Schiaparelli Space Academy on Mars, Walter Walt” Hansman is summoned back to Earth by his father. He fears that this might be bereavement leave, but Commander Le Farge assures Walt that whatever has happened, or is happening, it is not that Walt’s mother has died. Otherwise, neither the Commander nor the summons provides any hint as to what waits on Earth.

Warning: this review contains spoilers for a book I am pretty sure you will never read.

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Far Away, But Maybe Someday

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifth Annual Collection  (The Year’s Best Science Fiction, book 5)

By Gardner Dozois  

23 Jan, 2021

Special Requests

2 comments

Gardner Dozois’ 1988 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifth Annual Collection is the fifth Dozois anthology of noteworthy science fiction from the previous calendar year. I too am horrified that Dozois used the term collection” when anthology” would have been more appropriate. 

And what did the SF of 1987 — now thirty-four years in the past — look like?


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Where Are You Going, My Little One, Little One

Kiki’s Delivery Service

By Eiko Kadono  (Translated by Emily Balistrieri)

19 Jan, 2021

Translation

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Eiko Kadono 1985 Kiki’s Delivery Service is a coming-of-age fantasy novel, the first of a series featuring the eponymous Kiki. Illustrations are by Yuta Onoda. Translation is by Emily Balistrieri.

Kiki is half-witch: her mother Kokiri is a witch while her father, folklorist Okiro, is human. She has the choice of two heritages but can embrace only one. She chooses witch but … to her mother’s disappointment has mastered but a single witchy talent: flying her broom.

Nevertheless, Kiki is thirteen. For witches that means leaving home to find their destiny out in the world. Accompanied by her cat, Jiji, and her parents’ best wishes, Kiki flies away from her former home and heads off to her new one. 


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