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Reviews in Project: Special Requests (323)

Far Away, But Maybe Someday

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifth Annual Collection  (The Year’s Best Science Fiction, book 5)

By Gardner Dozois  

23 Jan, 2021

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Gardner Dozois’ 1988 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifth Annual Collectionis the fifth Dozois anthology of noteworthy science fiction from the previous calendar year. I too am horrified that Dozois used the term collection” when anthology” would have been more appropriate. 

And what did the SF of 1987 — now thirty-four years in the past — look like?


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Nice Day For a White Wedding

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors  (The Risen Kingdoms, book 1)

By Curtis Craddock  

31 Dec, 2020

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2017’s An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is the first volume in Curtis Craddock’s secondary world dynastic fantasy, The Risen Kingdoms.

Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs’ deformed hand should have earned her a quiet death at birth; she should have been smothered or perhaps discarded over the edge of the floating island that is her homeland. Spared by a quick-thinking bystander, Isabelle proves completely innocent of the Sanguinaire blood-magic that signifies descent from a saint, descent that forms the basis of the aristocracy’s lofty status in l’Empire Céleste. She is therefore a social pariah and completely useless to her ambitious father. He leaves her care to Jean-Claude, the fatherly musketeer who helped save her. 

This should have been the end of her story … but fate had other plans for Isabelle.

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River Running Free

Voyage to the City of the Dead

By Alan Dean Foster  

17 Dec, 2020

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Alan Dean Foster’s 1984 Voyage to the City of the Dead is a standalone novel set in his Humanx Commonwealth setting.

Eager to explore the mysteries of Tslamaina — Horseye to off-worlders — scientists Etienne and Lyra Redowl have been waiting impatiently for permission from the native authorities to explore far up the Barshajagad canyon along the course of the spectacular river Skar. 

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Have You Brought Me Hope or Have You Paid My Fee

Wolf Hall  (Thomas Cromwell, book 1)

By Hilary Mantel  

15 Dec, 2020

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2009’s Wolf Hall is the first volume in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. 

Thomas Cromwell escaped a brutal childhood and rose by dint of great effort to be the highly educated right-hand man to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. It’s a lofty position for such a low-born man and as long as nothing happens to Wolsey, Cromwell’s position is utterly secure.

Vexed at Wolsey’s failure to deliver a divorce, Henry withdraws his favour. Stripped of wealth and position, Wolsey escapes possible execution (Henry likes to accuse people of treason) by dying of natural causes first.

Without his patron, Cromwell’s position is manifestly hopeless.


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Comfort in the Sound

Shadows of the Short Days

By Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson  

10 Dec, 2020

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2020’s Shadows of the Short Days is the English-language translation of Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson’s 2014 Icelandic fantasy Hrímland.

Hrímland (Iceland) has been occupied by the Kalmar Commonwealth. The inhabitants of Reykjavík chafe under a brutal police state. Political dissidents vanish into the Nine, never to be seen by their friends and family again. 

Dissident Garún was driven into political activism because she is Blendingur, half human and half … not.


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We Didn’t Start the Fire

Dead Lies Dreaming  (New Management, book 1)

By Charles Stross  

8 Dec, 2020

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Charles Stross’ Dead Lies Dreaming is the tenth novel set in his Laundryverse and the first novel in the New Management sequence.

The United Kingdom flourishes under the enlightened rule of the New Management. No longer need the inhabitants of the island nation fear that transgressors will be insufficiently punished. If there’s one thing the Black Pharaoh believes in, it’s draconian consequences. Thus, the return of the Bloody Code; thus inspirational public executions. 

The UK’s new normal does make for a stressful work environment for career criminals like Imp and his Lost Boys. Imp and his associates — Game Boy, Doc, Del — do have one small advantage over their criminal competition: superpowers. 


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Another Year Over

The Paper Bark Tree Mystery  (Crown Colony, book 3)

By Ovidia Yu  

3 Dec, 2020

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The Paper Bark Tree Mystery is the third volume in Ovidia Yu’s Crown Colony mystery series. 

Singapore in 1937 is very much a British colony. When officious, interfering, profoundly ignorant operations adviser Bernard Bald Bernie’ Hemsworth descends on Singapore’s Detective Unit, there is little the senior staff can do to resist his counter-productive directives. Su Lin, until then the team’s main paper-pusher, is summarily fired and replaced by Dolly Darling, late of India. 

Dolly is incompetent and not very bright but she’s pretty and white, qualities that Bald Bernie values highly. Unable to do her job, Dolly turns to Su Lin to do the job for her. A covert meeting in the Unit’s records facility turns up something neither woman expected: Bald Bernie’s dead body.

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Wouldn’t It Be Nice To Walk Together?

Hellspark

By Janet Kagan  

30 Nov, 2020

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Janet Kagan’s 1988 Hellsparkis a standalone SF mystery.

It’s by mere chance that Hellspark trader Tocohl Susumo interrupts an apparent mugging. Consequences! What was supposed to be an enjoyable holiday finds her sent to the newly found world of Lassti. Thanks to a misapprehension, she will be trusted to make a number of important legal determinations. Whether the late researcher Oloitokitok died by misadventure or was murdered might be the least of her decisions.

The survey team may be in the midst of a first contact. Or it might not. Nobody is quite sure.

(spoilers)


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To Reach the Unreachable Star

Only You Can Save Mankind  (Johnny Maxwell, book 1)

By Terry Pratchett  

26 Nov, 2020

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1992’s Only You Can Save Mankind is the first volume in Terry Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell trilogy.

The grim tyranny of Margaret Thatcher was succeeded by the slightly less onerous rule of her former lackey John Major. Not that this concerned Johnny Maxwell, who was young enough to avoid most unpleasant world news. But his youthful innocence cannot protect him from the reality that his parents are on the verge of divorce nor from the fact neither parent seems up to the task of parenting him.

At least the same technological progress that allows the British government to whimsically snuff out lives half a planet away has also allowed young Johnny the distraction of computer games.

If only his video enemies would stop trying to talk to him.


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