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Ineluctably American SF

The Android’s Dream  (The Android’s Dream, volume 1)

By John Scalzi 

25 Apr, 2015

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2006’s The Android’s Dream takes us to a near-future where the Earth is unified (in the sense that the US does whatever the hell it wants and the rest of the planet has to live with the consequences), Earth is among the most minor of the minor powers belonging to the galaxy-spanning Common Confederation. Given that Earth is to the mightiest powers of the Galaxy as modern Paraguay is to NATO, the sensible course of action for Earth as a whole is to concentrate on maintaining a low profile while building up its economy and military.

Of course, there’s often a huge gulf between what’s good for a polity as a whole and what’s good for individuals within it.

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Return to the Dipple

Judgment on Janus  (Janus, volume 1)

By Andre Norton 

24 Apr, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1963’s Judgment on Janus returns to the Dipple, that oubliette for refugees. Life in the Dipple is so wretched and horrible that young Naill Renfro considers it only sensible to sell himself as a contract labourer — a slave — so he can earn enough money to buy his dying mother a fatal overdose of drugs. Naill can do nothing to make her life in the Dipple bearable; dreaming herself to death is the only escape possible for his mother.

Naill at least manages to trade the Dipple for a new life on Janus, although given what he finds on that backward world, it’s not clear he got the better of the deal.

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Leigh Brackett’s Mars (Part Two)

Shadow Over Mars  (Leigh Brackett’s Solar System, volume 4)

By Leigh Brackett 

23 Apr, 2015

Leigh Brackett's Solar System

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Old-timey planetary romance authors sure loved them some Mars. Not the Mars of science, but the slowly dying Mars of fiction: crisscrossed with ancient canals and full of strange relics and degenerate remnants of once-great civilizations. 1944’s Shadow Over Mars takes us to one of those Old Marses, where we join Earthman Rick Urquhart as he flees through the streets of Ruh, trying to escape the ruthless press gangs of the Terran Exploitations Company.

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It’s a Cook book! It’s a Cook book!

The Dragon Never Sleeps

By Glen Cook 

22 Apr, 2015

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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The odds are fairly good that if you’re aware of Glen Cook, you know him for series like Garrett and Black Company; if you’re of a certain vintage, you might have read his early Dread Empire books, or perhaps the Starfishers space operas. The Black Company (novel, not series) would have made a fine inaugural book for my new review series, Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck. However, it happens that I prefer SF to fantasy [1], so I will review something that (thanks to Stupid Publisher Tricks back in the Late Reagan) was unjustly obscure: 1988’s The Dragon Never Sleeps.

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Side-quest!

Silence in Solitude  (The Roads of Heaven, volume 2)

By Melissa Scott 

21 Apr, 2015

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1986’s Silence in Solitude is the second volume in the Roads of Heaven trilogy (and Scott’s fourth novel overall, if the ISFDB is to be trusted [1]).

The story begins six months after Silence arrives on Solitudo Hermae to begin her training as a magus. She is working under the supervision of Magus Isambard, an old ally.

As a female pilot in a fanatically patriarchal society, Silence was already unusual; her new career as a female magus makes her virtually sui generis [2].

This is not such a good thing, as the Hegemon has put a price on Silence’s head. Hard to be an inconspicuous fugitive when you are notably unique. 

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Bigger Rocks

The Ruined City  (Veiled Isles, volume 2)

By Paula Volsky 

18 Apr, 2015

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2012’s The Ruined City is the middle volume of Paula Volsky’s (or as the cover would have it, Paula Brandon’s) Veiled Isles trilogy. It begins on a somewhat hopeful note: not only has Jianna escaped from Ironheart, but the adepts of the Isles finally seem to be doing something about an existential threat that makes all lesser conflicts, political, military or domestic, entirely beside the point.

This is the middle volume of the trilogy, so it’s not going to be that simple.

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Leigh Brackett’s Mars (Part One)

Sea-Kings of Mars  (Leight Brackett’s Solar System, volume 3)

By Leigh Brackett 

16 Apr, 2015

Leigh Brackett's Solar System

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1949’s Sea-Kings of Mars (also published under the title Sword of Rhiannon) takes us the world most frequently featured in Brackett’s Solar System: the red planet of Mars. In this novel, Mars is an ancient, worn-out world, its peoples and cultures much reduced from their heyday a million years ago. The novel’s protagonist, Matthew Carse, is also much reduced, having fallen from the lofty status of archaeologist to that of criminal. As the book opens, he is merely one of the many disreputable characters lurking in the streets of the Martian city of Jekkara.

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Nor are jerks

Moongather  (Duel of Sorcery, volume 1)

By Jo Clayton 

14 Apr, 2015

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My terrible confession: until now, despite buying Jo Clayton’s novels with the intention of reading them at some point, despite being aware enough of her work to have picked up significant details of the Diadem series through cultural osmosis, I have a horrible feeling that this is the first Clayton I have actually read.

Jo Clayton (1939 – 1998) was, I believe, another one of Donald Wollheim’s discoveries. Her debut novel, 1977’s Diadem from the Stars, was the 235th book DAW published [1]. The Diadem universe books made up a large fraction of her output and are probably her best known works. That said, the Diadem books were not the whole of her thirty-five book bibliography. The book I have in hand, 1982’s Moongather, first in the Duel of Sorcery trilogy, is completely unrelated to the Diadem series. It is a fantasy rather than science fiction.

It begins with a shocking betrayal 

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