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Reviews from August 2023 (23)

The Sacrificial Altar to Success

Polar City Blues  (Polar City, volume 1)

By Katharine Kerr  

31 Aug, 2023

The End of History


1991’s Polar City Blues is the first volume in Katharine Kerr’s Polar City space opera series.

During the interval between humanity’s collective triumph over Einstein (spaceflight) and the collapse of the terrestrial biosphere, humans were able to establish extraterrestrial colonies, of which Hagar is one. Now unified as the Republic, the human polity is overshadowed by its two neighbors, the Alliance (dominated by the Master Race) and the Confederation (dominated by the carlis). Remaining neutral and unconquered by aliens demands an ongoing balancing act.

Murdered consular personnel could unbalance the diplomatic teeter-totter. Polar City Police Chief Bates now must deal with a murder with far-ranging political implications.

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A Series of Cunning Plans

The Apothecary Diaries, volume 8

By Natsu Hyuuga  (Translated by Kevin Steinbach)

30 Aug, 2023



2019’s The Apothecary Diaries: Volume 8 is the eighth light novel in Natsu Hyuuga’s Apothecary Diaries series. The illustrations are by Touko Shino. The 2023 English language edition was translated by Kevin Steinbach.

In which our heroes (one of whom is apothecary and occasional consulting detective Maomao) explore the exciting world of unintended consequences of clear-eyed, sensible public policy.

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Future’s Here Today

Age of Miracles

By John Brunner  

29 Aug, 2023

Shockwave Reader


1973’s Age of Miracles is an expanded and revised edition of John Brunner’s 1965 The Day of the Star Cities.

First contact with a vastly superior alien civilization came in the form of catastrophe: every lump of fissionable material larger than two or three kilograms on the surface of the Earth abruptly blew up. Chaos and mass death followed. By the time surviving governments were able to take stock, vast, enigmatic, alien structures had planted themselves in the American Midwest, in western Brazil, near the Russian Urals, on Australia’s Nullabor Plain, and in Antarctica. Armies dispatched to drive off the invaders went mad. In the end, humanity had to accept that new owners now dominated Earth.

Near the alien city in the American Midwest, a madman staggers away from the city. He had clearly ventured too close. He dies and is then identified as government employee Correy Bennett. The only problem with this is that the original Correy Bennett is still very much alive.

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Out of the Sky

Juniper Time

By Kate Wilhelm  

27 Aug, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Kate Wilhelm’s 1979 Juniper Time is a stand-alone climate catastrophe novel.

Jean Brighton’s father is an astronaut, a true believer convinced that the space program in gener al and the space station in particular will produce results justifying the expense. America being beset by local effects of an ever-increasing global drought, public support for the space station is waning. Following Jean’s father’s accidental death, the program is put on hold … for a time.

Fast forward a decade or so. The children of the astronauts who worked on the almost completed space station are adults. They are ready to take up their parents’ cause. Except Jean, who is a linguist, not an engineer, and who hated the space station for stealing her father.

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The Executioner’s Face

Shorefall  (Founders, volume 2)

By Robert Jackson Bennett  

24 Aug, 2023

Special Requests


2020’s Shorefall is the second volume in Robert Jackson Bennett’s secondary-universe industrial-fantasy Founders trilogy. Volume One was reviewed here.

Would-be social revolutionaries Sancia, Berenice, Orso, and Gregor have a plan to block the greed of the established merchant houses in the city of Tevanne. They have founded their own, upstart, merchant house, Foundryside. It’s merely the first step on their ambitious plan to bring social justice to the city.

But reforming Tevanne must soon be set aside in favour of simple survival. Gregor’s mother, Ofelia Dandolo of the Dandolo merchant house, is just as determined as the quartet to bring justice to an unjust world. Her methods are significantly more apocalyptic.

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Whispers Like Cold Winds


By Djuna  (Translated by Anton Hur)

23 Aug, 2023



Djuna’s 2021’s Counterweight is a near-future science fiction novel. It was originally published in Korean. The 2021 English translation is by Anton Hur.

The once obscure island nation of Patusan has turned out to be an ideal location on which to base a space elevator. It’s a great opportunity for corporate takeover, an opportunity that LK Group has quickly seized. LK is building the elevator base and importing labor to do the job. The indigenous population has been reduced to a powerless minority in their own land. LK would assert that a rising tide lifts all boats. The indigenous boats would not agree.

LK External Affairs chief Mac can attest to local discontent. Managing it is part of Mac’s job. The great corporations and their AIs run the world. Groups like the Patusan Liberation Front are ripe for infiltration and infiltrated they are. Which has posed a minor puzzle for Mac: how did non-entity Choi Gangwu’s name end up on a PLF list and how might LK turn this curious fact to their advantage? While a mundane explanation offers itself — Choi has good reason to be disgruntled with LK — matters soon take a far more bizarre turn.

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Wanderin’ Worker

Being Alien  (Becoming Alien, volume 2)

By Rebecca Ore  

22 Aug, 2023

Big Hair, Big Guns!


1989’s Being Alien is the second volume in Rebecca Ore’s Becoming Alien trilogy. The first volume, Becoming Alien, was reviewed here.

Tom Gentry has been recruited to serve the galactic polity, the Federation. He has been given a new name, training, and employment in the Federation’s monitoring and first contact bureaucracy.

For the most part, Tom has adjusted well. 

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Feel You In My Blood

Darker Than You Think

By Jack Williamson  

20 Aug, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Jack Williamson’s 1948 Darker Than You Think is a stand-alone anthropological horror novel. It’s an expansion of the 1940 novella of the same title.

Reporter Will Barbee waits at Clarendon’s new municipal airport. He is expecting Dr. Lamarck Mondrick of the Humane1 Research Foundation, along with his team of researchers. They are returning from a research trip in post-war Central Asia. Barbee is eager to report on his former mentor’s discoveries.

Unfortunately for Will and even more unfortunately for the scientist, Will is not alone. The ravishingly beautiful April Bell is a reporter for a rival paper. She may be a killer!

Warning: Newbery Award-levels of animal carnage.

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Never Grow Old

The Everlasting Road  (Floraverse, volume 2)

By Wab Kinew  

18 Aug, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework

1 comment

The Everlasting Road is the second volume in Wab Kinew’s Floraverse young adult fantasy. The first volume is reviewed here.

Anishinaabe teen Bagonegiizhigok Bugz” Holiday has vanquished her Clan:LESS rivals, but has not been able to restore her position (and income from said position) in the online Floraverse. Personal tragedy has distracted her: her brother has recently died of cancer.

Bugz has come up with a bold coping mechanism for grief. It is one a certain Doctor Frankenstein would recognize.

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