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Reviews from November 2023 (22)

High You Fly

Talonsister  (Talon, volume 1)

By Jen Williams  

30 Nov, 2023

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

2023’s Talonsister is the first of two books in Jen Williams’ latest secondary-universe fantasy Talon duology.

Transformed (at the cost of her memories and through the application of processed titan remains) into a nigh-superhuman Herald, Leven repaid the Starlight Empire with eight years of service. She is now retired.

Plagued by visions of northern Brittletain, Leven resolves to visit that mysterious island to see why she has memories of a region that, as far as she can tell, she has never visited.

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Starry Night

Insomniacs After School, volume 4

By Makoto Ojiro  

29 Nov, 2023



Insomniacs After School, Vol. 4 is the fourth 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 Four will appear in December 2023

Two insomniacs, Ganta Nakami and Isaki Magari, had a meet-cute in , their high school observatory, which turned out to be the sole place where either could sleep. Access to the observatory being dependent on there being a recognized astronomy club, the pair have been relentlessly working to restore the moribund club1. This demanding effort has kept the boy and girl busy, so that they have no time to ponder just why it is that they enjoy each other’s company so. Nevertheless, their shared hobby is fun and entirely calamity-free2.

In this volume: calamity strikes!

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Bomb Bomb Bomb

The Wrong End of Time

By John Brunner  

28 Nov, 2023

Shockwave Reader


John Brunner’s 1971 The Wrong End of Time is a stand-alone near-future science fiction story.

Affronted by several ungracious rejections of helpful US intervention, offended Americans have retreated back to North America. For the last thirty years, the US has sullenly remained behind what it firmly believes to be impenetrable defenses, reveling in capitalist decadence while doing its best to ignore the existence of the outside world1.

Now the outside world comes calling, in the form of Vassily Sheklov.

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Let The Children Boogie

Star Probe

By Joseph Green  

26 Nov, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Joseph Green’s 1976 Star Probe is a stand-alone science fiction novel.

In the far-off year of Two! Thousand! Eleven! an alien starship moving at 8,000 kilometers/second1 is detected at the edge of the Solar System. Its path will take it past Earth, by which time the actively decelerating probe will have slowed to a comparatively sedate 400 kilometers per second. Even that speed is far above Solar escape velocity at 1 Astronomical Unit. If nothing is done, the visitor will continue on its way out of the Solar System.

The only impediments standing between humanity2 and interception of the visiting Probe are technological and political.

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Black As Blind

Land of Milk and Honey

By C Pam Zhang  

24 Nov, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework

1 comment

C Pam Zhang’s 2023 Land of Milk and Honey is a stand-alone near-future SF novel.

As crop-killing smog spreads across Earth, leaving famine in its wake, people across the planet unite to do what humans do best: scapegoat minorities and engage in ethnic cleansing programs.

Asian-Americans were high on the US’s list of people to eject. Nevertheless, the protagonist, an unnamed chef, hopes to one day earn enough points to return to the United States. To do so the chef will have to clear the debt she inherited from her late mother — America no longer wants the bodies of its former citizen but it most certainly expects to be paid all monies owed. Yet earning enough money seems impossible.

Enter a visionary oligarch, who is looking for skills that the chef can offer.

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A Little Bit Funny

A Spell of Empire: The Horns of Tartarus

By Michael Scott Rohan & Allan J. Scott  

23 Nov, 2023

The End of History


Michael Scott Rohan and Allan J. Scott’s 1992 A Spell of Empire: The Horns of Tartarus is an alternate-history fantasy novel.

Apprentice alchemist and hobbyist musician Volker barely survives his master’s exploration of forbidden forces. Now without a master or home, the half-elf discovers that his magical talents and his musical skills aren’t good enough, or impressive enough, to secure employment … until Volker meets tone-deaf Ulrich Tragelicht of Worms, dealer in wines and spices. Volker is just the employee that Ulrich needs.

But first, some history.

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Read or Die

Magus of the Library, volume 1

By Mitsu Izumi  

22 Nov, 2023


1 comment

2018’s Magus of the Library, Volume 1 is the first tankōbon in Mitsu Izumi’s secondary-universe fantasy manga series, Toshokan no Daimajutsushi in the original Japanese. Magus has been serialized in Good! Afternoon since November 2017. The English translation appeared in 2019.

Although he is but a young boy and impoverished at that, Theo provides his village with a valuable service. Being not merely from the slums but of mixed-heritage as well, the half-Haupi boy is a person at whom all may sneer, all may bully, without consequence.

Theo is relentlessly upbeat. Nevertheless, one aspect of his lowly status weighs on him. Children from the slums may not use the town library.

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Can’t Be a Rolling Stone

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirteenth Annual Collection  (The Year’s Best Science Fiction, volume 13)

 Edited by Gardner Dozois 

21 Nov, 2023

Blatant Self-Aggrandizement


1996’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirteenth Annual Collection is the thirteenth volume in Gardner Dozois’ Best Science Fiction of the Year anthology series. The anthology was also published under the title The Best New Science Fiction: 10th Annual Collection, which seems pretty confusing.

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That Long, Lonesome Road

Watchstar  (Watchstar, volume 1)

By Pamela Sargent  

19 Nov, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1980’s Watchstar is the first volume of Pamela Sargent’s Watchstar young-adult science fiction trilogy1.

Daiya AnraBrun’s people are joined in a single community by their mental links. Their lives are made easier by their telekinetic gifts. They are comforted by the knowledge that one day they will leave their bodies to become part of the Merged Ones. Life is perfect.

If pressed, Daiya might admit she chafes under the relentlessly enforced conformity and finds the frequent infanticide (for eugenics reasons) distasteful. But these things may not bother Daiya for long, as she faces a rite of passage from which she is unlikely to return.

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Dance Monkey

The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport

By Samit Basu  

17 Nov, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework


Samit Basu’s 2023 The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport is a stand-alone science fiction novel.

History grinds on. Once the center of a powerful nation, Shantiport is now a backwater colonial possession on a backwater planet. In theory, the port should be the point of egress from the planet. In practice, the city is a trap from which escape is very difficult.

Lina and Bador’s parents Darkak and Johra opposed the Tiger Clan’s domination of Shantiport. Their efforts got results: Darkak vanished ten years before and has not been seen since, while Johra is closely watched by the Tiger Clan.

Lina is determined to free her city. Bador for his part is tired of being her uninformed errand boy. Moku the storybot documents it all.

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