Reviews: Gardner, James Alan

Just Pour Me Another One

They Promised Me The Gun Wasn’t Loaded — James Alan Gardner
The Dark and the Spark, book 2

2018’s They Promised Me The Gun Wasn’t Loaded is the second novel in James Alan Gardner’s The Dark and the Spark1 series. It is a sequel to 2017’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault.

University of Waterloo students Jools, K2, Miranda, and Shar were victims of a classic Mad Scientist’s lab accident, which, far from killing them, imbued them all with Light-derived superhuman abilities. Each so-called Spark gained a different set of powers; each adopted a different code-name to reflect their new identities (Ninety-Nine, Zircon, Aria, and Dakini). All of them were drafted into the on-going struggle between the Darklings (the one percent who control society) and the Light.

The Light opposes the vampires, demons, wraiths, and other Darklings. That doesn’t mean the Light is good, as Jools/Ninety-Nine is painfully aware.

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Something in the Wind

Radiant — James Alan Gardner
League of Peoples, book 7

To quote Wikipedia:

James Alan Gardner (born January 10, 1955) is a Canadian science fiction author. Raised in Simcoe and Bradford, Ontario, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied mathematics from the University of Waterloo.
Gardner has published science fiction short stories in a range of periodicals, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Amazing Stories. In 1989, his short story “The Children of Creche” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Writers of the Future contest. Two years later his story “Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large” won a Prix Aurora Award; another story, “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream,” won an Aurora and was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards.

Radiant is the seventh and thus far final volume in James Alan Gardner’s League of People’s series. Readers who want more books should make that known to publishers.

Youn Suu’s mother wanted the genetic engineers to ensure that her daughter would be a beauty who would satisfy her mother’s very demanding standards. Instead, Youn was born with a face that was, shall we say, less than conventionally beautiful. How inconsiderate of her!

The Technocracy has a use for people like Youn. The Explorer Corps is always looking for new recruits, particularly unsightly or unpopular people whose demise will be regretted by nobody. That’s because the hazards of exploration are matched only by the brevity of Explorer lifespans. Youn was fated from birth to become an Explorer or as they are better known, an Expendable.

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We Could Be Heroes

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault — James Alan Gardner
Dark Versus Spark, book 1

According to James Alan Gardner’s website:

I’m an award-winning writer, editor and teacher of science fiction and fantasy. I’ve published nine novels and a host of short stories in leading SF&F outlets. In addition to writing, I’m strongly interested in math and geology. In my spare time, I teach kung fu to kids and (unsuccessfully) to my rabbit.

2017’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault is the first novel in James Alan Gardner’s new Dark versus Spark series.

Kim Lam came to the University of Waterloo to reinvent themself, to go from gender to assertiveness. Thanks to some Mad Science, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

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Soon Found Out I Was Losing My Mind

Ascending — James Alan Gardner
League of Peoples, book 5

To quote Wikipedia (because if Jim’s site has a bio section, I am missing it):

James Alan Gardner (born January 10, 1955) is a Canadian science fiction author. Raised in Simcoe and Bradford, Ontario, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied mathematics from the University of Waterloo.

Gardner has published science fiction short stories in a range of periodicals, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Amazing Stories. In 1989, his short story “The Children of Creche” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Writers of the Future contest. Two years later his story “Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large” won a Prix Aurora Award; another story, “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream,” won an Aurora and was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards.

Ascending is the fifth book in James Alan Gardner’s League of Peoples series.

To quote its protagonist, the transparent glass woman Oar:

This is my story, the story of Oar. It is a wonderful story. I was in another story once, but it was not so wonderful, as I died in the end. That was very most sad indeed. But it turns out I am not such a one as stays dead forever, especially when I only fell eighty floors to the pavement.

Oar’s people are physically immortal, but their minds, sadly, are not. Given time, they lapse into catatonia, living but inert. There is no way to cure the condition nor is there any way to avoid it except dying.

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“My name is Festina Ramos, and I take great pride in my personal appearance.”

Expendable — James Alan Gardner
League of Peoples, book 1

Given that the University of Waterloo has been a hotbed of innovation since its founding it is not surprising that there have been science fiction authors connected with it at least as far back as the 1970s, but despite the fact that I have lived on campus on and off since 1961 I’ve met fewer of them than seems reasonable in retrospect.

It may be that at some point during his years at UW, I crossed paths with Thomas J. Ryan (The Adolescence of P1) but that would only have been in the literal sense, two strangers passing on some particular bit of campus. It’s not impossible that at some engineering mixer thrown by my parents I met the late Edward Llewellyn-Thomas (The Douglas Convolution as well as other books) but if I did I certainly never connected him with his pen name Edward Llewellyn. The first science fiction author connected with the University of Waterloo I know for a fact I met is James Alan Gardner, whose work I heard first on radio in the 1970s, who I met in person thanks to FASS, the University of Waterloo’s longest-operating amateur theatre group, and who gives me a ride to gaming every week.

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