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Reviews by Contributor: Lee, Tanith (61)

A Girl and Her Robot

The Silver Metal Lover  (Silver Metal Lover, book 1)

By Tanith Lee  

1 Jan, 2016

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1981’s The Silver Metal Lover is the first volume in Tanith Lee’s Silver Metal Lover duology; in fact, until 2005 it was the only volume in that series.

This novel, in which we learn that sixteen-year-old girls are not cold engines of pure logic, reminded me quite a lot of the two Four-BEE novels; like the nameless narrator of those two novels, Jane is a child of privilege. It’s true that a third of the world’s human population died when the Asteroid grazed Earth, but that was before Jane was born. It is also true that many have no hope of employment, but thanks to her mother’s vast fortune this does not seem likely to be relevant to Jane. 

But there are also quite a few differences between Jane and the unnamed narrator of the Four-BEE novels.…



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Mirror worlds

Day by Night

By Tanith Lee  

25 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1980’s Day by Night is a standalone novel, set on an eternally tide-locked world. One side is eternal burning day, the other side is endless freezing night. It is not a world that would seem to be hospitable to organic life. Yet, somehow, in a time forgotten and for reasons no one living knows, this world was settled by humans.

The aristocrats of the nightside enjoy a luxurious life in palaces sustained by an advanced (but mysterious) technology, while the desperate legions of the poor struggle to stay alive. There are no bread and circuses to pacify the masses, but the poor can at least enjoy Vitro’s fanciful tales.

And what a tale she spins! Her latest is the saga of Vel Thaidis, an aristocrat much like Vitro herself, who is framed for a crime of which she is innocent, by Ceedres, a rival who covets Vel’s estate. Cast down into the dregs of society, Vel faces a life of humiliation and degradation in her world’s Slumopolis. Although at least it isn’t likely to be a long life.… 

But Vitro’s own, real, life with her brother Vyen is less secure than expected.…


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Sabella’s little secret

Sabella or The Blood Stone  (Sabella, book 1)

By Tanith Lee  

18 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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Tanith Lee’s 1980 Sabella or The Blood Stone straddles science fiction and fantasy. 

Nova Mars is the world Old Mars never was: an ancient, dying world once home to complex ecologies and an advanced civilization, a world whose revivification at the hands of human terraformers came too late to save its natives from extinction. New Mars is now a thoroughly human world. All that remains of the natives are ruins and relics.

Sabella lives by herself, an attractive, if eerie looking, eccentric recluse with a fondness for dark clothing, an aversion to sunlight and oh, yes, a taste for blood. 

She can make do with animal blood, but human is so much better.


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The Lord of Darkness is a jerk

Death’s Master  (Tales of the Flat Earth, book 2)

By Tanith Lee  

11 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1979’s Death’s Master returns to Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth setting. It is an unfriendly place for Simmu and Zhirem; in any world but the Flat Earth, their mutual attraction might not have been doomed. Unfortunately, the Flat Earth is not a great place for lovers, particularly for those who, like Simmu and Zhirem, are pawns in a languid game played by rival demons: Uhlume, Lord of Death and Azhrarn, Lord of Darkness.

The story begins a generation before Simmu and Zhirem are born.


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Whatever happened to the baby abandoned in The Birthgrave?

Shadowfire  (Birthgrave, book 2)

By Tanith Lee  

4 Dec, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1978’s Shadowfire, second book in the Birthgrave trilogy, was originally published by DAW Books under the more lurid title of Vazkor, Son of Vazkor . Lurid because the DAW in DAW Books stands for Donald A. Wollheim and if he could have, he would have published the Bible as an omnibus of War God of Israel and The Thing with Three Souls .” Shadowfire isn’t exactly an informative title, but Vazkor, Son of Vazkor is only informative if you’ve read The Birthgrave and if you happen to know that this book is a sequel to The Birthgrave .

This book is about Vazkor’s son, but Vazkor isn’t the name of Vazkor’s son. That’s just the name of the book. That’s why DAW called the book Vazkor, Son of Vazkor .

And gave it this cover:



The son of Vazkor is actually named Tuvek. Whereas his late father was an ambitious warlord whose grand schemes left cities in ruins all across the continent of his nameless world, Tuvek is but one of a number of sullen, violent youths in an unremarkable barbarian tribe. He does not know that Vazkor was his real father, though he does have something of an inkling that he is not quite like the people who have raised him. His suspicions fall far short of the truth. 

And then comes the day of the Boys Rite. 


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Delight and Malice

Night’s Master  (Tales of the Flat Earth, book 1)

By Tanith Lee  

27 Nov, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1978’s Night’s Master, by Tanith Lee, is volume one of the Tales of the Flat Earth. Set in the days when the Earth was flat and floated on the ocean of chaos,” this is less a novel than a collection of three two-part novellas connected by a recurring character, the eponymous Night’s Master, the great and powerful demon prince Azhrarn. 

Azhrarn loves beauty almost as much as he revels in malice.


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for there was still life in it, waiting, stored like seed. 

Drinking Sapphire Wine  (Biting the Sun, book 2)

By Tanith Lee  

20 Nov, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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Tanith Lee’s 1977 Drinking Sapphire Wine is a sequel to 1976’s Don’t Bite the Sun1.

Dragged back to utopian four-BEE following the death of her pet and her unborn child, the nameless narrator chafes against a society which, they now realize, is much too limited. Life in four-BEE is pleasant and utterly meaningless; the narrator and other adolescents, the Jangs, are expected to do nothing but enjoy themselves … but even the adults (known only as older persons ) play no really useful roles. Any job worth doing is done by robots and quasi-robots because they can be trusted to do important jobs correctly. 

Even rebellion is meaningless in four-BEE. The quasi-robots who keep the city running simply fix any damage with a long suffering sigh. Or so everyone thought. And then … one of the Jangs, Zirk, outraged over a comparatively trivial disagreement, challenges the narrator to a duel. The duel leads to an interesting discovery. There is a crime the quasi-robot-run Committee will not forgive: 

Murder.


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Light and Dark

Volkhavaar

By Tanith Lee  

13 Nov, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1977’s Volkhavaar is probably counted as one of Tanith Lee’s minor works, but I suspect it’s one that a lot readers found endearing back in the Disco Era. 

Life for Shaina the slave girl, kidnapped when she was very young, is a series of humiliations and beatings at the hands of her owners. Two events will change her dismal lot forever: a seemingly chance meeting with Barbayat, the Grey Lady from Cold Crag, and the appearance of Kernik, the Clever Showman and his troupe, in particular the exceedingly handsome Dasyel. Smitten with Dasyel, the young slave agrees to Barbayat’s terms: she will allow the ancient witch to feed on her blood in exchange for wisdom. Wisdom and power that can unite Shaina and Dasyel. 

What Shaina does not know is that Kernik the Showman is merely the latest name of the grand villain Volkhavaar, servant of a dark and forgotten god. Dasyel, like all the players, is Volkhavaar’s thrall. What Volkhavaar has he does not willingly surrender. 


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This is James’ Sad Face

The Storm Lord  (Wars of Vis, book 1)

By Tanith Lee  

6 Nov, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1976’s The Storm Lord is the first volume in Tanith Lee’s The Wars of Vis trilogy. It establishes the setting: oppressed Lowlanders who face endless racial persecution at the hands of the violent and sexually voracious Vis majority.

Dragged away from her people to sate King Rehdon’s lusts, priestess Ashne’e leaves her mark on history in two ways; first, her deadly Lowland sex magic leaves Rhedon a corpse the first time he rapes her. Second, that single night is enough to leave Ashne’e pregnant with Rhedon’s youngest son, a boy who by the laws of the great city of Dorthar is entitled to its throne! 

If he can stay alive long enough to claim his rightful place.

Warning: by the standards of the 1970s, which were kind of rapey, this is super-duper rapey. 


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Evil will come and you will welcome it

The Birthgrave  (Birthgrave, book 1)

By Tanith Lee  

30 Oct, 2015

A Year of Tanith Lee

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1975’s The Birthgrave wasn’t Tanith Lee’s first novel but it seems like a good place to begin my new review series, A Year of Tanith Lee.

There were a number of reasons for this choice: 

  • DAW has just reissued it, so it’s easily available. 
  • I believe that it was this book that established Lee as an author of significance; it was a Nebula nominee, 
  • When I solicited suggestions for Lee books to review, this was one of the works that turned up in list after list.

The Birthgrave is of particular interest to me because hard as it may be to believe, even though I have been aware of its existence for OH GOD FORTY YEARS HOW CAN IT BE FORTY YEARS some time, I’ve never read it. There as a reason for this, a very stupid reason. More on that later.

Centuries after the fall of her great and terrible people, an amnesiac wakes deep underground. Berated for her people’s sins by a bodiless voice calling itself Karrakaz, tortured with a glimpse of her own monstrous reflection, the amnesiac is offered death — but chooses instead to flee the caverns, into a world populated by the ignorant descendants of the humans her people once enslaved. 

The villagers she encounters offer her worship. She rewards them with death.


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