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Return to Janus 

Victory on Janus  (Janus, volume 2)

By Andre Norton 

28 Aug, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks


1965's The Year of the Unicorn takes us back to the Witch World, across the ocean to High Hallack

Andre Norton’s 19661 Victory on Janus returns to the bleak world of 1963’s Judgment on Janus . Victory isn’t as grim a book as Judgment, but it is still nothing like upbeat. 

The Ift, reborn in commandeered and transformed human bodies after millennia of extinction, are still a mere handful. Lacking numbers, their survival is due only to the fact the human colonists on Janus are largely unaware of and consequently indifferent to the alien revenants. 

Or rather, were. Now the colonists are burning the vast forests around their settlements. If the Ift cannot find out why the humans are doing this, and convince them to stop, then it is only a matter of time before the Ift are cast back into unending darkness. 

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Found amongst the rushes

Skye-Object 3270a  (Deception Well, volume 3)

By Linda Nagata 

26 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


2010’s Skye-Object 3270a is a late addition to Nagata’s Nanotech Chronicles1. While it shares a setting with 1998’s Deception Well, this book can be read as a standalone. It is explicitly intended for a younger audience than Vast. 

Despite the object” in her name, Skye-Object isn’t a what but a who, a young woman. 

Her odd name is a reminder of her history; she was found, as a toddler, in suspended animation in a starship’s lifeboat. The astronomer who first noticed it had tagged it as Sky Object 3270a. Skye’s rescuers were never able to determine the lifeboat’s origin or Skye’s original name. They were kind enough to give Skye a new home in the city of Silk. 

The rescuers can make an educated guess as to why Skye’s parents cast her into the deeps of space. Unfortunately, that guess is … incomplete. 

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A gardener’s tale

Bryony and Roses

By T. Kingfisher 

25 Aug, 2015

Special Requests


The author lurking behind the pen name T. Kingfisher is perhaps best known for routinely kicking me out of the #2 position on Livejournal. She is also a Hugo-winning author whose books are well worth sampling. Case in point: 2015’s Bryony and Roses.

When we first meet Bryony, she’s finally found something that distracts her from a recent avalanche of catastrophe: 

  • her mother died;
  • her father indulged in ill-conceived schemes to marry off his three daughters, showing total indifference to their feelings in the matter; 
  • he fell into debt;
  • he was murdered; 
  • the sisters fled from the city into impoverished rustic seclusion. 

Bryony’s current predicament is the ultimate distraction: she is freezing to death in an unexpected spring blizzard. 

She is saved when she finds a manor house where no manor house was before or should be now. Inside, she finds no visible host or servants, but she does find food, warmth, and shelter from the storm. 

But of course there’s a catch. 

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Sixteen by Hughes

Devil or Angel & Other Stories

By Matthew Hughes 

24 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


I’ve reviewed Hughes here before and I will review him again in the future.

Although he is perhaps best known for his Vancian Archonate stories, those do not make up the entirety of his work. Devil or Angel & Other Stories collects sixteen of his non-Archonate stories [1], written deliberately in what the cover calls old-style.” Which is to say that it would not come as a surprise to find that these stories had been published in such magazines of yore as Unknown, Galaxy, or even the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Except that they weren’t [2].

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Not the secondary world fantasy you’re expecting

The Northern Girl  (Chronicles of Tornor, volume 3)

By Elizabeth A. Lynn 

23 Aug, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Elizabeth A. Lynn’s 1980’s The Northern Girl, is the third book in the Chronicles of Tornor. As was the custom of those ancient days, the book works as a standalone. While reading the first two books would provide interesting context for this work, you don’t need to have read those books to understand this one. As I recall, the first two were good but this one is the longest and most ambitious of the three. It’s also not your bog-standard secondary world fantasy.

Half-a-millennium after its founding, Kendra-on-the-Delta is arguably the greatest of the cities of Arun, the land stretching from the Grey Hills to the ocean. To date, Arun has been not so much a nation or kingdom as a collection of loosely allied city-states and holdings. Now, thanks to the ambitions of a few ambitious men, all that may be about to change.

But that’s not what the book is really about.

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From the country that gave us Iain Banks, Ian Rankin and Ian MacLean

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night

By Christopher Brookmyre 

22 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


I got inexplicably not named Ia(i)n Christopher Brookmyre’s 1999 standalone novel One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night for my 40 birthday many years ago; it seems like yesterday! 

William Conner is a career soldier turned mercenary turned, finally, criminal and goon wrangler for Dawson, whose current scheme requires a small band of hard bastards. Called in at the last moment, Conner has assembled a small army on the coast of Scotland near the unremarkable town of Auchelea. 

It’s not the town that has soldier-for-hire Dawson’s attention. It’s the oil platform converted into a lavish holiday resort floating offshore of Auchelea. Though not quite finished, the resort is said to be playing host to a group of wealthy venture capitalists, who would be well worth the gang’s time to kidnap. 

The idea that they are all billionaire entrepreneurs would be a hell of a surprise to the former students of Auchelea’s St. Michael’s high school, the people who are actually using the converted platform/resort for their school reunion. 

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Whatever Happened to the Solar Queen?

Postmarked the Stars  (Solar Queen, volume 4)

By Andre Norton 

21 Aug, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks


Although a decade passed for Norton’s fans between the third Solar Queen novel (1959’s Voodoo Planet) and the fourth (1969’s Postmarked the Stars), for protagonist Dane Thorson, the events of this book Postmarked the Stars, follow right on the heels of the earlier three. 

Dane’s appointment as temporary cargo chief on the Solar Queen, replacing a superior on holiday, seems like it should be a good thing. All it does is paint a great big target on poor Dane. Ne’er do wells are plotting to use the ship for nefarious purposes. This becomes obvious when Dane, having set out to pick up a parcel for transport, wakes up from a drugged stupor in an unfamiliar room. When he staggers back to the Solar Queen, he finds that he has been replaced by a look-alike. 

Temporarily. The look-alike in fact was in such terrible health he had no business trying to travel; he dies of an unexpected heart condition even before Dane gets back to the Solar Queen. There’s no way to ask him what he was up to. But that’s OK; the results of the doppleganger’s shenanigans are revealed in short order. 

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It’s about soldiers,” he said. They fight, then they have sex, then they do drugs, then they fight some more.”

War Games  (Hybrid Wars, volume 1)

By Karl Hansen 

19 Aug, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck


It’s a good thing that the title for this review series is Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck and not, say, Military Speculative Fiction That is an Exemplar of All That is Good in Fiction. I’m not sure that I would say that Karl Hansen’s 1981 War Games is good. That may be too positive a word for this enthusiastically nihilistic war story. The book has definite points of interest — but I am not 100% sure I would call it good. 

But it sure is energetic.

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A Spy Abroad

The Drowning City  (The Necromancer Chronicles, volume 1)

By Amanda Downum 

18 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


Amanda Downum’s 2009 debut novel The Drowning City, first of the Necromancer Chronicles, takes us to the exotic city of Symir, a city balanced between ocean, river, and volcano. As the city’s sobriquet The Drowning City” suggests, water has a slight edge over fire at present. To necromancer Isyllt Iskaldur, who has spent three weeks sailing from her homeland of Selafai, the Drowning City is exciting and novel. Most importantly it’s a potentially useful catspaw in the ongoing struggle between Selafai and the Assari Empire.

For the people who live in Symir, the city isn’t exotic at all. It’s home. And as convenient as it would be for Isyllt and her spymaster boss if the Symirians were willing to become naive pawns in the Selafian plots, the Symirians have their own complex relationships with the Empire of which they are a reluctant part. They have no intention of playing along with Isyllt’s cunning plans. 

In fact, the locals have their own cunning plans and Isyllt will be doing quite well to survive contact with them.

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Not with a whimper but a bang

The Fifth Season  (The Broken Earth, volume 1)

By N. K. Jemisin 

17 Aug, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


The unfortunates in 2015’s The Fifth Season live on a world almost as active as Jupiter’s moon Io, a world constantly rattled by tremours and reshaped by volcanoes, a world where geological and historical timescales are the same. 

Embracing whimsical gallows humour, they call their single landmass The Stillness”. 

Any particular community on this world can be certain that, in time, it will be wiped out by earthquake, tsunami, acid rain, or abrupt climate change. Humanity as a whole survives on the Stillness because until now, no calamity massive enough to kill absolutely every human has happened. 

Thanks to the forward-thinking social policies of the Sanze Empire, humanity’s run of luck is about to end. 

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