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Reviews from June 2021 (9)

A Long, Long Time

Sands of Mars

By Arthur C. Clarke  

13 Jun, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Arthur C. Clarke’s 1951 Sands of Mars is a standalone science fiction novel. It was his debut novel. It has also been published as The Sands of Mars.

To commemorate the maiden voyage of Ares, first passenger rocket on the Earth-Mars loop, famed science fiction author Martin Gibson has been dispatched to document the voyage. Although not decrepit as such, Gibson is old enough that he began writing when interplanetary travel was a matter of imagination and not practical engineering. Thus, he can provide an interesting perspective on the realities of crewed space flight. 

While space flight is as unexciting as legions of engineers can arrange1, the voyage does provide some unexpected surprises.

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

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A Fistful of Steel

Swastika Night

By Katharin Burdekin  

10 Jun, 2021

Special Requests


Katharine Burdekin’s 1937 Swastika Night is a novel about a fascist dystopia. It was originally published under the pen name Murray Constantine (Some editions still are).

The Twenty Years War ended with Nazi Germany’s utter victory over the other nations of Europe and Africa. Seven centuries later, the Nazi Empire is rivaled only by the Japanese Empire. The pious Germans who dominate Nazi Europe believe with all their hearts in pride, in courage, in violence, in brutality, in bloodshed, in ruthlessness, and all other soldierly and heroic virtues.” For most Germans, to do otherwise is literally unthinkable.

Hermann is one such German. His reassuringly inflexible world view will be upended when his old chum Alfred re-enters his life. 

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Try To Change Their Worlds

The Beast Warrior  (Beast Player, book 2)

By Nahoko Uehashi  

9 Jun, 2021



Nahoko Uehashi’s 2020 The Beast Warrior is the second book in her Beast Player young-adult secondary-universe fantasy series. Cathy Hirano’s translation was published in 2020, which makes me optimistic that more Uehashi books will be translated in the near future. 

Eleven years after the events of The Beast Player, the kingdom of Lyoza is still wrestling with the repercussions of a controversial marriage: Lyoza’s religious leader, the Yojeh, married the kingdom’s Aluhan military commander. This was intended to heal the rift between the kingdom’s two great factions, but many subjects are alarmed by the unconventional move.

Meanwhile, Elin, Lyoza’s keeper of the Royal Beasts (whom readers may remember from Beast Player) has her own problems. Once again, mass death shapes her life.

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Gonna Play For The Sky

The Precipice  (Asteroid Wars)

By Ben Bova  

8 Jun, 2021

Blatant Self-Aggrandizement


2001’s The Precipice is the first volume in Ben Bova’s Asteroid Wars series, which in turn takes place in his interminable Grand Tour setting. 

The Precipiceis also the very first book I was paid to review. I suspect the reason my review garnered me a place as one of the SFBC’s first-readers was less due to any insight I offered and more because I had the book read and the review submitted less than a day later. Twenty years and six thousand nine hundred plus reviews later, how does The Precipice stand up?

Heartbroken over the death of his former lover, former President Jane Scanwell (who died while assisting refugees from a natural disaster), Dan Randolph sets out to save the 21st century1 Earth from climate change and civilization itself from the short-sighted bureaucrats, self-serving politicians, deranged conservatives of the New Morality, and (of course!) the witless masses who enable the activities of the preceding factions. 

Rather conveniently, no sooner has Randolph resolved to fix a broken world than malevolent businessman and compulsive horn dog billionaire Martin Humphries arrives in Randolph’s office to offer the means to do just that. There is, of course, a catch.

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Howling Around Your Door

The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction

By Anthony Boucher  

6 Jun, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Anthony Boucher’s 1969 The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction is a fantasy and science fiction collection. It would be confusing were it not a fantasy and science fiction collection … although I should add that it is not a Fantasy and Science Fiction collection in the sense some might have expected from Boucher1.

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Our Little Trouble

Witches Steeped in Gold

By Ciannon Smart  

4 Jun, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework


Ciannon Smart’s 2021 Witches Steeped in Gold is a young-adult secondary-universe fantasy novel. It is Smart’s debut novel.

A decade before the novel opens, Judair Cariot, Witches Council Doyenne, deposed Empress Cordelia Adair. In the ten years since, Judair has ruled the island of Aiyca with an iron hand. A place for everyone and everyone in their place. Which could be a grave, as was true for more than one of the Adair clan. 

Judair’s despised daughter Jazmyne is as unhappy as anyone with her mother’s punitive rule. She has covertly joined the resistance. Which would be a death sentence in itself, were she to be found out, but … there’s another reason to be afraid. Judair is as ruthless to her family as she is to her subjects. Judair sacrificed her own daughter, Jazmyne’s sister Madisyn, after deciding that Madisyn wasn’t fit for purpose. Jazmyne might be next. 

Jazmyne is proceeding according to a cautious, methodical plan. This is about to be junked by a huge monkey-wrench of a development.

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There Before You Know It

The Fall of Doc Future

By W. Dow Rieder  

3 Jun, 2021

Special Requests


The Fall of Doc Future by W. Dow Rieder is an online superhero novel. It was serialized between 2012 and 2013.

Those closest to Doc Future can tell something is wrong with the super-genius. Never one to share his problems with the intellectually inferior — and as far as Doc can tell, everyone is his intellectual inferior — Doc is unwilling to publicly acknowledge the toll that his prophetic nightmares are taking on him. Ridding himself of them would deny him the means to foresee world-threatening crises before they happen, so he must find some way to live with them. 

As it happens, while Doc is a bright guy, self analysis is tricky. Doc does not fully understand his own problems.

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Ask The Old Grey Standing Stones

Odin’s Child  (Raven Rings, book 1)

By Siri Pettersen  (Translated by Siân Mackie & Paul Russell Garrett)

2 Jun, 2021



2013’s Odin’s Child is the first volume in Siri Pettersen’s Raven Rings trilogy. It was first published in Norway in 2013. The 2021 English translation is by Siân Mackie and Paul Russell Garrett.

Why cannot Hirka channel Might, the earth-magic that pervades her world? Why doesn’t she have a tail, as all proper Ymlings do? Why should she lack the Ymling tail and talents? She doesn’t know. 

Until her fifteenth year, she and her father Thorrald could conceal or explain away her deficiencies from the world. Now she faces the Ymling rite of passage, a rite that will reveal her lack of Might. It’s not clear how the authorities will react. 

Thorrald knows what she does not. Hirka is Thorrald’s adopted daughter, and she was born tailless because she is no Ymling. She comes from another world. She is an Odin’s Child. As far as most Ymlings are concerned, that would be enough to prove she is cursed. Hirka, once she learns from her father the truth, fears they might be correct. Which does not mean she doesn’t still want to live. 

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Do What You Gotta Do

Red Noise

By John P. Murphy  

1 Jun, 2021

Special Requests


John P. Murphy’s 2020 Red Noise is a deep-space spaghetti Western. It is his debut novel.

The Miner (who has gone to great trouble to conceal her true name) arrives at Station 35 with a load of nickel-iron. Her plan is simple: sell the metal, restock, renew her asteroid claim, and head back out into space where she can be alone with her books and plants.

She soon discovers that Station 35’s central ethos is not customer satisfaction. 

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