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Were It Not For Hope

The Ninth Rain  (Winnowing Flame, book 1)

By Jen Williams 

6 Jan, 2020

Special Requests


2018’s The Ninth Rain is the first volume in Jen Williams’ Winnowing Flame trilogy.

Once the Eborans were rulers and guardians of their world; they were sustained and armed by their tree-god Ygseril. Eight times they fought the Jure’lia, invading horrors from beyond the sky. Eight times they won. In the aftermath of the eighth invasion, however, Ygseril died. Since then, the Eborans have suffered a long, inexorable decline.

Tormalin the Oathless abandons the remnant of once-great Ebora for a life of adventure and debauchery abroad, in the service of Lady Vincenza Vintage” de Grazon. Vintage is determined to discover the true nature of the invaders and possibly a way to reverse the corruption each invasion leaves in its wake.

Vintage’s archaeology is surprisingly combat-intensive.

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Couriers de Bois Are We

The Search for Zei / The Hand of Zei  (Krishna, book 3)

By L. Sprague de Camp 

5 Jan, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


L. Sprague de Camp’s 1963 The Search for Zei / The Hand of Zei is the Ace Double edition of the second book in de Camp’s Krishna planetary adventure series.

Krishna! Exotic planet of adventure! A place that has little day-to-day relevance to ghostwriter Dirk Barnevelt, living as he does a life of quiet oppression under the iron rule of his mother on Earth, twelve light-years away. The closest Barnevelt gets to adventure is writing up the exploits of interplanetary explorer Igor Shtain.

Then Shtain vanishes.

(On the one hand, spoilers; on the other, this book is ancient.)

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A Bird Without a Song

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight

By Aliette de Bodard 

3 Jan, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Aliette de Bodard’s 2019 Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight is a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories. The science fiction stories are set in her alternate history, the Universe of Xuya (in which North American colonization was first settled by Asians), while the fantasies are set in her Dominion of the Fallen, in which Paris is recovering from a war between fallen angels. 

The title is apt.

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Alice Payne Arrives  (Alice Payne, book 1)

By Kate Heartfield 

31 Dec, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews


2018’s Alice Payne Arrives is the first installment in Kate Heartfield’s Alice Payne series. 

Alice father Colonel Payne served for England in the American Revolutionary War; he returned home changed for the worse. Life at home is increasingly difficult for Alice. She could escape by marriage, if some well-heeled man were to overlook her mixed race heritage (which is not all that likely). But a staid, conventional, boring marriage has no appeal to Alice. She prefers to make a living as a dashing highwayman known as the Holy Ghost. She has a minion, an automaton named Laverna. (So, steampunk.)

Alice’s scheme to rob the odious Lord Ludderworth goes awry when Ludderworth, almost all of his servants, and his carriage vanish after the robbery. Highway robbery is common enough that it doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but a vanished aristocrat draws far more intense scrutiny. Alice may be hunted down and hanged. 

That’s bad enough, but, as Alice will discover, time travel makes everything worse.

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Upon This Happy Day

Worlds of the Imperium  (Imperium, book 1)

By Keith Laumer 

29 Dec, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1962’s Worlds of the Imperium is the first of Keith Laumer’s Imperium novels.

American diplomat Brion Bayard is stalked through the streets of Stockholm. Brion’s efforts to elude his pursuers are energetic but unsuccessful. He is overpowered and carried off. Nobody on Earth will ever see him again.

Nobody on his Earth, that is….

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Raise the Sails

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

By Temi Oh 

28 Dec, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is a standalone science fiction novel.

By 2012, breakneck technological development may not have solved problems like global warming, but it has given humans access to the Solar System and beyond. The United Kingdom’s Space Agency has the means to reach the nearest habitable exoplanet, Terra-Two. However, the trip will take more than twenty years. 

The solution? Send kids.

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Why Such a Lonely Beach

A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens 

26 Dec, 2019

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

Charles Dickens 1843’s A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas is a standalone ghost story. Although the author failed to prosper in the science fiction and fantasy genres (in large part because they would not be codified until the following century), he enjoyed great success as a popular author.

Ebenezer Scrooge is living the dream: he has amassed an impressive fortune from which he derives a cold pleasure. He seems to have won at the game of life.

He discovers he has miscalculated the night that his long-dead business partner Jacob Marley visits him.

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Comfortably Numb

Shimeji Simulation

By Tsukumizu 

24 Dec, 2019


1 comment

Tsukumizu’s 2019 Shimeji Simulation is an on-going surrealist slice-of-life manga.

Orphan Shimeji Tsukishima was unhappy at middle school and to avoid it, locked herself away in a small closet for two years. As high school approached, she reluctantly left her refuge. To her surprise, she discovers two small mushrooms — shimeji — sprouting from her head.

Shimeji has come to believe that effort is futile and hope is doomed to disappointment, She intends to pass through high school like a ghost, eschewing social contact and accepting whatever dismal fate life has in store for her. But her visualization of the all proves… inadequate.

Majime Yamashita may have been born with a fried egg on her head, but she’s not going to let that stop her from being the happiest, most outgoing person she can be. Thus far her ambitions have not yielded the social acceptance she craves, but she remains determined to make friends and have fun.

Intrigued by sullen, quiet Shimeji, Majime declares herself Shimeji’s friend. When Shimeji remains aloof, Majime decides the only proper solution is to declare to Shimeji that she is Shimeji’s girlfriend. Shimeji doesn’t have the energy to protest. It might be that she even likes madcap Majime a little. Not that she would say so. 

The schoolgirl with no will to strive is swept along in the wake of the schoolgirl with too much drive. Shimeji grudgingly joins the hole-digging club and slowly, reluctantly, starts to come out of her shell. 

Complications ensue. Shimeji’s older sister is something of a mad scientist. She recruits Majime and Shimeji as minions; they’ll help her construct an arcane device with which to reclaim the world from God. Whatever that means….


You are doubtless wondering why did the sister let Shimeji hide in the closet for two years? The sister is devoted to her work and seems content to let Shimeji find her own way. Indeed, most of the adults in this manga are far too focused on their own issues to offer help or guidance to the teenagers. 

People looking for a hormone-driven yuri manga should look elsewhere. Majime and Shimeji may be girlfriends but what that means is that sometimes Shimeji will permit Majime to hold her hand … briefly. While avoiding direct eye contact. Given that Shimeji spent enough time alone in the dark to sprout mushrooms, even that’s a big step.

Girls Last Tour protagonists Chito and Yuuri play minor supporting roles in this manga. How that’s possible is not clear. It’s just one of many odd bits about which one should not think too deeply. This is not a manga in which things make a lot of sense. Stuff happens. Causality is unclear. Detached acceptance is a valid coping skill. So is making friends. None of it means anything but at least if one has friends one isn’t alone, growing mushrooms on one’s head. 

I don’t know if this manga is going anywhere but it doesn’t really matter. It’s pleasant in its odd way. 

If Shimeji Simulation is available in North America, this is a well-kept secret.

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