First published in 1991 under the title Mördare utan ansikte, and translated in 1997 by Stephen T. Murray, Faceless Killers introduces Kurt Wallander, a morose Swedish policeman. Wallander is painfully aware that middle age is transforming him into a doughy old man; he is worried about his hostile and increasing senile father; he is alienated from his daughter; and his wife of many years just left him because living with Wallander was killing her soul. Wallander’s disposition is in no way aided by the human depravity his job forces him to confront every day, depravity like the brutal attack on Johannes and Maria Lövgren that left the old farmer noseless and beaten to death. Maria is barely clinging to life after the attack.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one:
A teenager in a rustic, backward community happens to be in the right place at the right time to encounter a distressed space craft. His attempt to help entangles him with a vast interstellar government, one that sits in judgment of humans. His actions could affect the course of human history.
Except this isn’t squeaky-clean Kip Russell, but Tom Gentry — who, when we first meet him, is the unwilling witness to his brother Warren’s ambitious drug dealings. Warren is trapped by mental illness and a criminal record; manufacturing drugs is the only way he can imagine to pay the mortgage on the family farm and keep the family fed. Tom doesn’t have Warren’s mental issues but he might as well have the criminal record, because the local authorities, all too familiar with the Gentrys, have marked him as a future criminal. Tom might dream of a better life but his odds of escaping to one are slim.
1991’s The Phoenix Guards seems to have intended as a one-off, as far as I can tell from the two “about the author” pieces. Nostalgic for works in the style of Sabatini and Dumas, Brust set out to create a new work reminiscent of the French Romantics, one set in the distant past of his on-going Vlad Taltos series.
This is intended, not just as a tribute to an author whose work I remember fondly, but also as a tribute to a line of single author collections that had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager. Under various series names, Ballantine’s Classic Library of Science Fiction collected the short works of various pulp-age notables, authors of whom I might otherwise have remained ignorant. I very quickly learned to snap up anything from Ballantine (and later, Del Rey) whose title was of the form “The Best of [Unfamiliar Author Name Here]”. This Eric Frank Russell collection was one of those books, and one of the better purchases I made in 1978.
Addison’s 2014 novel The Goblin Emperor was a pleasant change of pace from so much of my current reading at the time (grimdark fantasies and War-On-the-Enlightenment SF). The world of her novel is deeply flawed; her protagonist, the goblin emperor of the title, is an abused, despised half-breed, hemmed in on all sides by the customs and laws of his land. It would have been comprehensible if he had spent his reign sticking the heads of those who had abused him on spikes. That is not the choice Maia makes. A protagonist who does his best to leave the world a better place than he found it really shouldn’t be something so rare that it catches my attention … but, alas, it is.
In the spirit of Social Credit leader Camil Samson’s wonderful phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Union Nationale has brought you to the edge of the abyss. With Social Credit, you will take one step forward,” follow me over the edge and into the abyss that is Heinlein’s post-Scribners work.
Scribners rejected 1959’s Starship Troopers, marking the end of what had been a fruitful relationship between the touchy Heinlein and that particular publisher. It also foreshadowed the end of his career as an author of books deliberately aimed at young adults. Rereading it, I was reminded of something I was told in Economics 101 way back in 1980: “don’t try to apply any of this to real life.”
2014’s Ancillary Sword is a sequel to 2013’s Ancillary Justice. Ancillary Justice won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the BSFA Award, the Locus Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Justice also made the Tiptree Honor List, was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick award, and was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for best first science fiction/fantasy/horror novel. When a debut novel sweeps awards like this, the author’s second novel will be ruthlessly examined by legions of reviewers and critics who want to see if the author can catch lightning in bottle a second time. Justice won so many awards that Sword will be subjected to particularly close attention. But no pressure!
Academy City! Home to the reality-redefining espers, able to alter natural law at will and filled with scientific marvels! For student Touma Kamijou, it is merely the setting of the endless series of humiliations, failures, and mishaps that is his life. His school marks are dismal and accidents dog his heels. His esper power, Imagine Breaker, the ability to negate all unnatural powers, is1 dismissed as Level Zero, the very lowest of rating in Academy City.
I think Fire Logic is my first Marks novel. It is certainly not my last. Normally my Rediscoveries are books familiar to me but not to others. In this case, I am the beneficiary of someone else’s experience.
Fire Logic begins rather like Harris’ Seven Citadels quartet (or The Lantern Bearers, or indeed a lot of secondary world series). For the last generation, Shaftal has suffered a continuing invasion from the Sainnites, an aggressive warrior people of unclear origins. Despite the wise guidance of Harald G’Deon, Shaftal has done nothing effective to drive the invaders back into the sea. Two grim bits of news mark the end of Harald’s era: Harald has died without naming an heir and the Sainnites have taken the holy city of Lilterwess, leaving none alive.
Frederik Pohl was many things: author, agent, editor, that guy who beat me for the 2010 Best Fan Hugo (James angrily shakes his fist). This short story, first published in 1989’s Foundation’s Friends: Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov, combines a number of those interests.
Fair warning: spoilers.