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Reviews in Project: Special Requests (400)

Adapt or Die

Ammonite

By Nicola Griffith  

4 Dec, 2014

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Although 1992’s Ammonite1, winner of the Lambda and Tiptree awards link], was not Nicola Griffith’s debut, most of her short fiction to that date had been published in David Pringles’ Interzone, which, despite efforts on my part, I have never been able to find on this side of the Atlantic (not even the issue in which my work turned out — to my surprise—to have appeared). For people like me, for whom Pringles were unpalatable snacks in tubes, this novel would have been the first time we encountered Griffith. It was a strong debut.

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The one with a thinly disguised Walter Cronkite as villain

The Venus Belt  (North American Confederacy, volume 2)

By L. Neil Smith  

20 Nov, 2014

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1981’s The Venus Belt came out the year after The Probability Broach. The astute reader can tell that Smith is now more comfortable thinking of himself as an author of overtly ideological fiction1. The lectures on libertarian right-thinkery are more frequent and more heavy-handed2, and the plot more perfunctory. The villains, on the other hand, are very villainous. Plausibility was never a goal but the result in this case is not all that interesting. 

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More Intrigue, sorcery, intrigue, swashbuckling adventure and intrigue

Five Hundred Years After  (Khaavren Romances, volume 2)

By Steven Brust  

19 Nov, 2014

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As one might guess from the title, 1994’s Five Hundred Years After picks up with Khaavren and friends half a millennium after the events of The Phoenix Guard. Dragaerans are very long lived and so rather than having been dust for four centuries, Khaavren has merely matured into a comfortable middle-age as the respected commander of the Phoenix Guard. All of his old companions, Tazendra, Pel, and Aerich, have also found lives suitable to their characters.

spoilers

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New Society, Familiar Crimes

The Dark Colony  (Asteroid Police, volume 1)

By Richard Penn  

18 Nov, 2014

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The Dark Colony is Richard F. Penn’s debut novel, published in 2014. It turns out if you want a positive review from me, it really helps to write a hard SF novel that addresses my frequent lamentation: too few authors have seen the plot possibilities in Jerry Pournelle’s 1974 essay Those Pesky Belters and Their Torchships.” Penn appears to have written out of a parallel interest in the same subjects rather than because he was specifically trying to please me. Well done, at any rate.

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Intrigue, sorcery, intrigue, swashbuckling adventure and intrigue”

The Phoenix Guards  (The Khaavren Romances, volume 1)

By Steven Brust  

10 Nov, 2014

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1991’s The Phoenix Guards seems to have intended as a one-off, as far as I can tell from the two about the author” pieces. Nostalgic for works in the style of Sabatini and Dumas, Brust set out to create a new work reminiscent of the French Romantics, one set in the distant past of his on-going Vlad Taltos series.

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The Whole World is Watching

Ancillary Sword  (Imperial Radch, volume 2)

By Ann Leckie  

6 Nov, 2014

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2014’s Ancillary Sword is a sequel to 2013’s Ancillary Justice. Ancillary Justice won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the BSFA Award, the Locus Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Justice also made the Tiptree Honor List, was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick award, and was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for best first science fiction/fantasy/horror novel. When a debut novel sweeps awards like this, the author’s second novel will be ruthlessly examined by legions of reviewers and critics who want to see if the author can catch lightning in bottle a second time. Justice won so many awards that Sword will be subjected to particularly close attention. But no pressure! 

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The deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because they are possible to find.”

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

By Richard Rhodes  

16 Oct, 2014

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I am using the wrong cover for this because for some reason I cannot seem to save a copy of the image of the cover of the 25th Edition.

I am embarrassed to admit that despite the fact I have a collection of books on the theory of nuclear weapons, this is the first time I have ever read this impressive work. Although the author occasionally interrupts the narrative with issues quite irrelevant to the origin of nuclear weapons – peculiar objections to Extinction Level Events and other side issues – there’s a lot of detail in this book and it is well worth the trouble of hunting down. 

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I hated this book

The Soul of the Robot

By Barrington J. Bayley  

6 Oct, 2014

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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.

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Sound and fury, signifying nothing

The Powers of Light Trilogy: Treasure of Light, Redemption of Light & Abyss of Light

By Kathleen M. O’Neal  

27 Sep, 2014

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Kathleen O’Neal is probably better known these days as Kathleen O’Neal Gear; particularly in combination with her husband Michael, she is a prolific author, with at least 34 novels published since her debut novel, Abyss of Light, appeared in 1990. I am personally unfamiliar with the main body of her work but it appears for the most part to be an exploration of prehistorical North America, drawing on her training as an archaeologist. Have not read those books, don’t have an opinion on them.

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The Russians Came Knocking

The Russians Came Knocking

By K B Spangler  

11 Sep, 2014

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Set in the same universe as Digital Divide and Maker Space (and A Girl and Her Fed, which I have still not read), this novella offers a change of pace, eschewing the procedurals of the two Rachel Peng novels for the very sexy adventures of Josh Glassman, Deputy Director of the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Technologies, hunky cyborg media relations expert and self-declared man-whore.

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