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Reviews in Project: Special Requests (446)

In a galaxy not so far away

The Price of the Stars  (Mageworld, volume 1)

By Debra Doyle & James D. MacDonald  

23 Dec, 2014

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Back when I had my store, 1992’s The Price of Stars was pitched to me as the sort of book people who like Star Wars would like. It happens I don’t particularly care for Star Wars myself, although I am not hostile to the source material Lucas was — inspired by” won’t attract lawsuits, right? Let’s say inspired by” — but since my personal preferences have played almost no role in what I’ve read in the last thirteen and a half years, I have read many Star Wars novels. So. Very. Many. Stars Wars novels. Against my will, I am something of an expert in this field and so I can say with some authority that this should appeal to fans of Star Wars. Early Star Wars, that is. Not the current stuff.

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Suddenly Aaronovitch

Rivers of London  (Rivers of London, volume 1)

By Ben Aaronovitch  

20 Dec, 2014

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2011’s Rivers of London lives at the intersection of two popular British genres, fantasy and the police procedural. This is my first Aaronovitch; I would have read it sooner, but it turns out that getting the British edition of the book in Canada wasn’t as straightforward as I expected1. I did finally get my copy and I was not disappointed. 

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Jane Austen meets Genghis Khan

Jaran  (The Novels of the Jaran, volume 1)

By Kate Elliott  

18 Dec, 2014

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I picked up 1992’s Jaran in 1992 and what with one thing and another only just now got around to finishing this anthropological romance (as mandated by this very commissioned review). I have read the Crossroads series so I am not unfamiliar with Elliott’s fiction; it’s just this one I didn’t read at the time. Why? It tickled a peculiar and no doubt shameful prejudice of mine, of which more later0.

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The Universe is Antagonist Enough

Deadly Litter

By James White  

15 Dec, 2014

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I freely admit that this review of 1964’s Deadly Litter is a placeholder review. It buys me time until I can toddle over to Dana Porter Arts Library’s Rare Books room, where I hope to read and review their copy of Escape Orbit. I own a lot of White books but not, as it happens, that one. Deadly Litter won out over all of the other James White novels that I could have reread because I could not remember reading it at any point since the 1970s. Also, it was at the top of my stack of James White novels and if I picked any other book, the stack would have fallen over. 

I have to say, that method handed me a better book than have many of my more intellectual approaches.

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An ecological SF novel

Slow River

By Nicola Griffith  

13 Dec, 2014

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1995’s Slow River was Griffith’s second science fiction novel. It was also (at least as of this date) her final SF novel. Where Ammonite used an interstellar setting, Slow River is down to Earth, so down that it is positively subterranean in spots. Garnering both the Lambda and the Nebula, it is one of very few near-future hard SF novels that is focused on bio-remediation (this is to the best of my knowledge; feel free to comment). 

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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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