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Reviews in Project: Special Requests (307)

Into the Calm and the Quiet

Time Piper  (Tom Humboldt’s Time Machine, book 1)

By Delia Huddy  

20 Oct, 2020

Special Requests

4 comments

Delia Huddy’s 1979 Time Piper is the first volume in a duology (Tom Humboldt’s Time Machine). 

Eighteen-year-old Luke Crantock first encounters Hare Bingley as she flees a group of local bullies. This fails to serve as a meet-cute for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because Luke discovers that he is too cowardly to intervene; she has to escape on her own. Secondly, because Hare, on her part, isn’t at all interested in forming personal connections. 

Nevertheless, Luke cannot stop thinking about the beautiful young woman.


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Mean Old World

Spinning Silver

By Naomi Novik  

7 Oct, 2020

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0 comments

Naomi Novik’s 2018 Spinning Silver is a standalone fantasy novel. 

Miryem Mandelstam comes from a family of Jewish moneylenders in the pocket kingdom of Lithvas. It’s just too bad that her father has no aptitude for the job; he gives loans to anti-Semitic neighbours who have no intention of ever repaying. Miryem’s family lives in abject poverty. 

Young Miryem eventually takes her father’s accounts in hand. The people of her nameless village could laugh off her father’s timid requests for payment, but they cannot say no to the determined young woman. Her family fortunes improve dramatically. 

This is risky: rich Jews are Jews worth robbing. As it turns out, Miryem attracts the attention of a predator even more dangerous than her neighbours: the king of the Staryks. 


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Time for a Holiday

How Much for Just the Planet?

By John M. Ford  

17 Sep, 2020

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2 comments

1987’s How Much for Just the Planet? is a standalone comic Star Trek tie-in novel by John M. Ford. 

The dilithium-rich world Direidi is too close to both the Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. Inevitably, one great power or the other was bound to stumble across the potentially valuable world. As it happened, Klingon and Federation survey vessels discovered the world simultaneously.

Time for Direidi’s Plan C to be put into action.


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Bird in a Cage

Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders  (Kitty Peck, book 1)

By Kate Griffin II  

15 Sep, 2020

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2013’s Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders is the first volume in Kate Griffin’s Kitty Peck series.

It’s 1880 and London. Seventeen-year-old orphan Kitty Peck makes her living working backstage in the Paradise theatre, one of the many enterprises owned by crime lord Lady Ginger. 

Kitty is summoned to an audience with her boss, an audience in which she is told that she owes a debt. Kitty’s brother Joey owed Lady Ginger (or so the crime boss says). Since Joey vanished two years earlier, Kitty will have to make good on the debt. 


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Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

By T. Kingfisher  

14 Sep, 2020

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4 comments

T. Kingfisher’s 2020 A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is a standalone secondary-world fantasy.

Fourteen-year-old Mona opens up her aunt’s bakery in the wee hours of the morning and finds a murdered girl on the bakery floor. Mona alerts her aunt and the pair summon the police. This, as it turns out, is both the responsible thing to do and a decision that will greatly complicate Mona’s life.


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Baby, Let Me Change Your Life

Amberlough  (Amberlough Dossier, book 1)

By Lara Elena Donnelly  

2 Sep, 2020

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1 comment

Lara Elena Donnelly’s 2017 Amberlough is the first volume in her Amberlough Dossier secondary-world science fiction dystopia. 

From one perspective, Amberlough City is a cosmopolitan, sophisticated city, home to great art and refined culture. From another point of view — that of the puritanical One State Party — it typifies all that is wrong with the loose four-nation confederation of Gedda, a polity where people are allowed to be unproductively flamboyant and egregiously non-conformist rather than serving their betters in approved ways. This must be stopped!


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Carry the Lantern High

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection  (The Year’s Best Science Fiction, book 3)

 Edited by Gardner Dozois 

27 Aug, 2020

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3 comments

Gardner R. Dozois’ 1986 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection is an anthology of … do I need to spell this out? As one might expect, it covers stories from 1985.

Once more into the breach! Only thirty-two of these to go! Which at one per two months will keep me busy until 2026.


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Party in the U.S.A.

The Vilbar Party

By Evelyn E. Smith  

25 Aug, 2020

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3 comments


Evelyn E. Smith’s The Vilbar Party” is a science fiction short story and possibly the shortest work I’ve ever been commissioned to review on its own. 

Narli Gzann is arguably the foremost academic in his field, a position he won through hard work and a steadfast commitment to being a joyless mope. Thus, when he becomes the first Saturnian invited to teach on Earth, his focus is on all the downsides, real and imagined. 

Still, the money is too good to turn down.

Horrors await him on Earth.


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An Open Invitation

The Armor of Light

By Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett  

20 Aug, 2020

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Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s 1988 The Armor of Light is a standalone historical fantasy novel. 

Court astrologer John Dee approaches the aged Queen Elizabeth with disquieting news. If nothing is done, then at some time in the next century a British monarch will be put to the axe. The Virgin Queen is horrified by this monstrous reversal of the natural order.

The key to the affair is James VI, King of Scotland, who even now is the focus of a dire magical plot. In a normal state of affairs, the death of a Scotsman is no great matter (to the English). In the case of James VI, he is the man who will inherit Elizabeth’s crown when she dies. His fate is significant. 

Someone will have to travel to Scotland to deal with the matter. That someone is two people: Sir Philip Sidney and Christopher Marlowe.


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Walking Against the Crowd

Axiom’s End: A Novel

By Lindsay Ellis  

17 Aug, 2020

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1 comment

Lindsay Ellis’ 2020 Axiom’s End: A Novel is the first book in her projected Noumena series. 

In a 2007 that never was, Cora Sabino is a shiftless twenty-something, forever pissing off her mother by her lackluster work ethic and tendency to let things slide. But Cora is just trying to cope. Not only did her father Nils Ortega abandon his family when he became a world-famous internet pundit and leaker of dark government secrets, this world’s Julian Assange, he is the reason that they have been subjected to unpredictable but intrusive government surveillance. It’s wearing. 

Cora is working a temp job when a meteor crashes into Angeles National Forest. This unlikely event is the second time in recent history that a meteor has impacted near LA. Nils believes the first, the so-called Ampersand Event, was an alien spacecraft. He also believes the US government is in contact with aliens. It’s a wild claim. 

It’s also true, but not quite as Nils imagines it.


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