While I know I read this when I was a teen, I was actually only ten when I first encountered it and while I didn’t like it much at the time – because I was ten and this isn’t really a book for a ten-year-old – I reread it several times that year. In part that is because even though I didn’t like it I did find it fascinating but the real reason was we were living in Brazil, we had gone three months without any books in English1 to read and this was in the big case of school books that finally caught up with us around Christmas. It was actually my brother’s allotment of course books for grade nine but I didn’t care. I read all the books in that box over and over, except maybe the math books.
Moon thinks of himself as a “shifter”, but why he can change from a wingless to a winged form is a mystery to him, along with why those are the only two forms in his repertory. There are lots of different intelligent species in the Three Worlds, enough that not every variety is known to every person, and since his family died when he was young, Moon never learned what kind of person he is.
1955’s Tunnel in the Sky takes us to a future Earth jam-packed with people but rescued from an ongoing Malthusian crisis by the timely invention of interstellar gates. With access to the hundred thousand Earth-like worlds1 scattered through the Milky Way, there is enough room for everyone to spread out while breeding like mice, at least for a time – I make it about 600 years before all one hundred thousand worlds are as crammed with people as the Earth is.
When I selected this, I had no memory of the plot at all despite the fact my copy of the book is well worn. It seemed suitable that issues of history, forgotten and rewritten, play such a central role in this novel of the mid-1990s so I thank the endless series of head injuries I have suffered for their contribution to this reading experience.
I have only myself to blame for this. I could have gone with the Chronicles of Tornor or A Different Light but no, I snagged this one even though there was a quiet voice at the back of my head saying I didn’t enjoy The Sardonyx Net the first time round. Well, now at least I remember why I didn’t like it.
Although I think of Barrington J. Bayley as a charming oddity from the 1970s, I see his career actually began in the 1950s and continued into the Aughts. Still, of the sixteen Bayley novels of which I am aware, nine are from the 1970s and only three date from later than the mid-1980s. Apparently he was influential on a number of higher profile authors, all of whom will probably be happier with me if they stop reading now.
1976’s Don’t Bite the Sun is apparently the first volume in a trilogy but while the second book, Drinking Sapphire Wine, saw print in 1977, the third volume was never published. I only just discovered there was even supposed to be a third one and I have no idea what it would have been about. My copy is the first printing of the mass market paperback and I read it in a way a reader coming to it could not today, on its own and without reference to the sequel. I am going to tried hard to replicate that experience here.
1954’s The Star Beast is notable for a couple of things. Of all the Heinlein Girls in Charge, The Star Beast’s Betty Sorenson is the girl most in charge and in Mr. Kiku we find an extremely uncommon figure for SF, a sympathetic career bureaucrat.
Mezentia, queen of the industrialized cities! Also the only industrialized city of note thanks to its habit of closing guarding its secrets through all available means, up to and including casual genocide; it is a very bad thing to give Mezentia the impression some of their intellectual property has fallen into your soon to be extremely and brutally dead hands.
For some reason the cover says this was edited by “Haikasoru” but that is a stand-in for Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington. As explained in Mamatas’ introduction, the intention here is de-exoticize so if you’re looking for something to reinforce an impression of Japan as Other and Enchantedly Unknowable, look to other works for support in that endeavor.
Washington for her part makes a point of thanking the translators; they often go unnoticed (and I think in at least one book I am considering for review, uncredited) but anyone who has read a bad translation next to a superior one will know how crucial they are. Lesser publishers could learn from Haikasoru.