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Reviews from February 2023 (20)

Sky Full of Stars

The World Swappers

By John Brunner  

28 Feb, 2023

Shockwave Reader


John Brunner’s 1959 The World Swappers is a first-contact science fiction novel.

Four centuries earlier, bold visionaries embraced the promise of the stars. Hundreds of thousands left Earth to whatever dismal fate awaited them. They found thirty-one known habitable worlds within two hundred parsecs of Earth. The colonists had different notions of the utopias to which they aspired, but all of them found difficulty in achieving them.

Meanwhile, Earth did not descend into the over-populated, poverty-stricken hellhole predicted by doomsayers. Twenty-sixth century Earth is rich and lazy. However, the end of the golden age is in sight, unless adjustments are made in interstellar relations, adjustments that would allow emigration to restart.

Top oligarch Bassett is that confident he alone has the vision and the resources needed to restart and manage emigration. Shadowy cabal leader Uncredited social activist Saïd Counce knows that Bassett’s schemes are doomed. Were that not serious enough, Counce knows that the alien Others are about to stumble across humanity.

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Nobody Callin’ On The Phone

Midnight at the Well of Souls  (Saga of the Well of Souls, volume 1)

By Jack L. Chalker  

26 Feb, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Midnight at the Well of Souls is the first of at least ten volumes1 in Jack L. Chalker’s Saga of the Well of Souls.

Having reached the stars, most of humanity settled into stultifying conformity. Archaeologist Skander is no conformist; he’s a visionary (and perhaps a little mad). He has stumbled upon a secret that he believes will allow him to liberate humanity by manipulating the (cue megalomaniacal laughter) laws of nature! That secret is found on Dalgonia, a backwater world littered with the enigmatic relics of the long-vanished Markovians.

When Skander discovers that someone else (brilliant mathematician Varnett) has stumbled upon Skander’s secret, Skander does the only reasonable thing he can do: murder every other human on Dalgonia. Or rather, he attempts to do so. Skander and Varnett grapple near a Markovian gate and find themselves teleported away.

Drawn to Dalgonia by a distress call, freighter captain Nathan Brazil finds seven dead bodies. Brazil and his companions (malevolent drug lord Datham Hain, Hain’s drug-addicted victim Wu Julee, and courier

Vardia Diplo 1261) find the same Markovian gate. Like Varnett and Skander, they are all teleported away. Far, far away.

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Watch Us Where We Go

Jackal: A Novel

By Erin E. Adams  

24 Feb, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework


Erin E. Adams’ 2022 Jackal: A Novel is a stand-alone supernatural mystery novel.

Having successfully escaped Johnstown, Pennsylvania (most famous for a May 31, 1889, flood and a 1923 ethnic cleansing) for a career as a doctor, Haitian-American Liz Rocher is very reluctantly returning to Johnstown to attend the wedding of her best friend Melissa Mel” Parker.

Very white Mel is marrying her very not-white long-time boyfriend Garrett Washington. As one might expect in a town with Johnstown’s history, many people (including the bride’s family) are not pleased by the marriage. However, the event itself goes off as well as one could hope.

Liz takes her eyes off Mel and Garrett’s daughter Caroline. Only briefly, but long enough for the little girl to vanish.

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Gotta Have Faith

The Thousand Eyes  (Serpent Gates, volume 2)

By A. K. Larkwood  

23 Feb, 2023

Miscellaneous Reviews


2022’s The Thousand Eyes is the second and final book in A. K. Larkwood’s secondary-universe sword-and-sorcery Serpent Gates duology.

Having survived the thrilling events of The Unspoken Name, retired divine sacrifice Csorwe, her lover (the scholar-mage Qanwa Shuthmili), and their duelist pal Talasseres Charossa have become murder-hobos for hire, protecting the inquisitive as they foolishly commit archaeology in a multiverse filled with things about which mortals are happier not knowing1.

Currently, their employer is one Dr. Ilver Tvelujan, an ambitious historian with an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation. Tvelujan won’t be making past the next paragraph.

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Perchance to Dream

Insomniacs After School, volume 1

By Makoto Ojiro  

22 Feb, 2023



2019’s Insomniacs After School, Volume One is the first tankōbon of Makoto Ojiro’s manga series. Serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen manga magazine Weekly Big Comic Spirits, Insomniacs After School has been ongoing since May 2019. The English translation of Volume One appeared in 2023.

Everyone at Ganta Nakami’s high school knows the tragic story of the girl who loved too much and the astronomy club that perished as a result. The lovelorn girl threw herself from a height. First the boy with whom she was infatuated languished and died. Then so did every other member of the astronomy club. The former school observatory is long disused, save only as a storeroom.

Or so almost everyone believes.

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Til All Success Be Nobleness

A Journey in Other Worlds

By John Jacob Astor IV  

21 Feb, 2023

Special Requests


John Jacob Astor IV’s 1894 A Journey in Other Worlds is a stand-alone science fiction novel about a journey to Jupiter and Saturn.

In the year 2000, Anglo-Saxon prowess and fecundity have transformed America into an advanced, electrified multi-continental power that spans the Americas and Africa. The Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company is busily engaged in the great work of re-adjusting the Earth’s axial tilt to better suit American needs. Things are going well. It is the perfect time for a party of bored adventurers to set out for Jupiter and Saturn in an apergy-propelled1spacecraft.

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Where Fancy is Free

The Crystal Cave  (Merlin Trilogy, volume 1 The Arthurian Saga, book 1)

By Mary Stewart  

19 Feb, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


The Crystal Cave is Book One of Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga, which comprises five books: the Merlin trilogy (The Crystal Cave (1970), The Hollow Hills (1973), The Last Enchantment (1979)), The Wicked Day (1983), and The Prince and the Pilgrim (1995).

The Roman Empire having withdrawn in 410 AD, post-Roman Britain enjoys a golden age of instability, violence, and invasion. Myrddin Emrys, the bastard son of Welsh Princess Niniane, will be known by many names, of which the most familiar to modern readers is Merlin.

A bastard is beneath notice and this particular undersized bastard is not interested in the usual boyish activities. He isn’t a stalwart warrior. Fortunate for Merlin, as he might otherwise not have survived his youth. His ambitious uncle Camlach is perfectly willing to clarify dynastic succession by pruning the family tree but for the moment, Merlin isn’t an obvious threat.

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My Rest A Stone

The Silence of Bones

By June Hur  

17 Feb, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework


June Hur’s 2020 The Silence of Bones is a stand-alone historical murder mystery.

King Chŏngjo of Joseon has died. Natural causes? Assassination? The ominous natural phenomena said to have accompanied his death are suggestive of something askew. Nevertheless, in the well-ordered state that is Joseon, to speculate risks execution for treason.

Every politically aware person knows that when in five months the official mourning period ends, Catholics, deemed enemies of the state, will again be tracked down and punished, as will those whose diligence in exposing Catholics is insufficient. As will others whose crime is to have inconvenienced the currently well-connected. Rivers of blood will flow, followed, no doubt, by a golden age of stability.

Damo (indentured police servant) Seol has a more immediate problem: a woman’s corpse found in an alley.

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Up Off The Ground

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, volume 3

By Kanehito Yamada & Tsukasa Abe  (Translated by Misa)

15 Feb, 2023



2020’s Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Vol. 3 is the third volume of Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe’s secondary-universe fantasy manga. Frierenhas been serialized in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday since April 2020. The 2022 English translation is by Misa Japanese Ammo.”

Demons have managed to gain the upper hand over Graf Granat and his town. Elf mage Frieren, her human student Fern, and unconfident human warrior Stark are the only defenses left between the Graf’s subjects and zombification by Aura the Guillotine, a demon.

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