Reviews: Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

Never Venture Out Among The Asteroids

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker — Alan Dean Foster & George Lucas

1976’s Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker is Alan Dean Foster’s (uncredited) novelization of the initial script for George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. (Not called that at the time of first release, as y’all no doubt know.)

Former Senator Palpatine’s quest to make the galaxy great again has transformed a troubled republic into a brutal autocracy. Here and there, out-numbered rebels are trying to resist oppression. All very sad, but what does it have to do with farmboy Luke Skywalker, stuck on backward desert world Tatooine?

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We Happy Few

Dancers of Arun — Elizabeth A. Lynn
Chronicles of Tornor, book 2

1979’s The Dancers of Arun is the second volume in Elizabeth A. Lynn’s Chronicles of Tornor.

Morven, Lord of Tornor, was obliged by custom to give his orphaned nephew Kerris a place within his household. Thanks to Kerris’ missing right arm, lopped off by a raider when Kerris was a child, that place can never be that of a proper warrior. But the otherwise useless young man does have a talent for letters. The Keep needs its scribes, even if it does not think much of them.

Orphan he may be, but Kerris is not utterly lacking in immediate family members. After years of silence, Kerris’ older brother Kel arrives to take Kerris south with him — that is, if that’s what Kerris would like. Having little to tie him to rustic Tornor, Kerris chooses to go south.

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Have No Fear of the Bayin’ Hounds

Outlaws of the Moon — Edmond Hamilton
Captain Future, book 10

Edmond Hamilton’s 1942 Outlaws of the Moon is the tenth volume in the Captain Future series.

Curt “Captain Future” Newton, android Otho, robot Grag, and living-brain-in-a-box Simon “The Brain” Wright ventured into deepest space in quest of a secret that could save dying Mercury. For fear of raising false hopes, Newton kept the mission secret. Enough time has elapsed since anyone has seen Newton and his Futuremen1 that the Solar System has concluded that Newton and his chums must be dead.

On the plus side, this means that the secrets of Newton’s hidden lunar laboratory are open to anyone who can find it. Corrupt scientist Wissler is certain he knows how to do so. The Moon is notoriously deficient in useful minerals, including radium. All Wissler needs to do is look for concentrations of radium. Radium in sufficient amounts to show up on a detector must be Captain Future’s private radium stock.

Well, no. Wissler does find radium but not where he expects to find it. Captain Future, it seems, lied about the Moon’s mineral resources.

[spoiler warning]


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Earth Air Water Tree

The City Under Ground — Suzanne Martel

Suzanne Martel’s 1963 The City Under Ground is the Anglophone version of Quatre Montréalais en l’an 3000, also published as Surréal 3000.

The underground city of Surréal1 was founded by survivors of the Great Destruction, survivors who had escaped the disaster by taking refuge in a geothermally powered facility under Montreal’s Mount Royal. As far as the founders knew they were the only humans left on Earth. By the year 3000, no visitor from outside Surréal has appeared to contradict this belief. Indeed, so convinced are the inhabitants that the surface of Earth is still uninhabitable that nobody has checked conditions outside for centuries.

A small earthquake changes everything.

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A Way Out of the Cage

Hour of the Horde — Gordon R. Dickson

1969’s Hour of the Horde is a standalone science fiction novel by Gordon R. Dickson.

Polio cost Miles Vander the use of an arm but did not dent his determination. He insists on recreating himself as an artist. So far, his efforts have come to naught. His doting girlfriend suspects that his surly isolation is to blame. Miles disagrees.

The looming alien invasion may make these differences of opinion moot.


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Ghost In Your Arms

Topper — Thorne Smith
Topper, book 1

Thorne Smith’s 1926 supernatural farce Topper is the first (and best) of two Topper novels.

Many would say that middle-aged Cosmo Topper has a perfect life. Marriage, job, life in the suburbs, pet cat: Cosmo has it all. If he were not far too repressed to be honest, Cosmo would explain that he feels crushed under the weighty bricks of conformity. Even the simple pleasures he might otherwise enjoy are robbed of their joy by the context in which he experiences them.

Cosmo does what so many middle-aged men have done in his position: he buys a flashy car. The car used to belong to George and Marion Kerby, who lived the scandalous life Cosmo might have lived had he not feared the disapproval of society and his long-suffering wife. Cosmo can at least have their car, rebuilt after the wreck that ended the Kerbys’ lives.

To Cosmo’s tremendous surprises, he gets the Kerbys as well. Or at least their ghosts.

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On Such a Timeless Flight

Blast Off at Woomera — Hugh Walters
Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A, book 1

This week’s Tears review is of an old classic I never planned to review because I never expected to find a copy. When I stumbled across one, how could I resist?

1957’s Blast Off at Woomera (also known as Blast Off at 0300) is the first novel in Hugh Walter’s Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A.1 juvenile SF series.

A chance encounter between seventeen-year-old Chris Godfrey and Sir George Benson convinces Sir George that the college hopeful has just the qualifications required for a joint British-Australian space program.

Chris is bright, educated, and interested in rockets. Of greatest importance, Chris is only four foot, ten inches tall.

[spoiler alert]


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Freeze, Frame, Pause, Rewind, Stop

Thrice Upon a Time — James P. Hogan

James P. Hogan’s 1980 Thrice Upon a Time is a standalone time travel novel. Of a sort.

American-born Murdock is summoned to the ancestral castle in Scotland by his grandfather Sir Charles. Sir Charles wishes to demonstrate a scientific breakthrough: discovery of radiation that propagates back through time. What’s more, he has devised a means to use this tau radiation to send messages as well.

How prudent that might be depends on which model of time is correct.

(spoilers for a 37-year-old book that seems to have been out of print for over a decade)


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A Starman Waiting in the Sky

The Luck of Brin’s Five — Cherry Wilder
Torin, book 1

1977’s The Luck of Brin’s Five is the first volume in Cherry Wilder’s hard-SF Torin trilogy.

Hard times have come to the family of weavers known as Brin’s Five. Death by starvation is a distinct possibility. Salvation comes in the form of a flaming object that crashes down into a nearby lake. Or rather, it comes in the form of the alien from deepest space who escapes from the plummeting space-plane.

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Shadows of the World Appear

DragonQuest — Eric Goldberg, Gerard C. Klug, David James Ritchie, Edward J. Woods, Redmond A. Simonsen

Simulation Publications, Inc.’s 1980 roleplaying game DragonQuest (DQ for short) is the third game in the trifecta of RPGs on which I imprinted some thirty-eight years ago. Principle designers were Eric Goldberg, Gerard C. Klug, David James Ritchie, Edward J. Woods, and Redmond A. Simonsen.

Nota bene: I am cheating a bit because I’ve long since lost my original box with its three stapled booklets. Instead I wrote this review based on my second edition hardcover, which I acquired after I turned twenty.

My other RPG faves were Runequest and Traveller. DragonQuest was a fantasy RPG, as was Runequest. Traveller was SF. But RQ and Traveller were alike in that they both had extensively developed campaign settings1. DQ, on the other hand, assumed a bog-standard medieval fantasy Europe but failed to flesh it out. This is because DQ was published by a company that was doomed. Doomed, I tell you, doomed.

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A Little Bit Genghis Khan

Floating Worlds — Cecelia Holland

Cecilia Holland’s 1976 Floating Worlds is a standalone SF novel.

Thousands of years in the future, Earth is a polluted wasteland where to venture outside unprotected is to commit suicide. This is a lamentable state of affairs but not one that the anarchists running Earth, for very loose values of running, seem interested in fixing … or able to fix. The Moon, Mars, Venus, the Asteroids, and the Outer Planets, however, are all home to thriving human communities. All of which seem to be managing their affairs, and their environments, more successfully than is Earth.

Paula Mendoza is a doctrinaire anarchist, the last person one would expect to get drawn into government work. She has a rare skill, however, one that is of unique value to Earth’s Committee for the Revolution. Paula is multilingual.

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Mystery Dance

Virgin Planet — Poul Anderson

1959’s Virgin Planet is a novel-length expansion of Poul Anderson’s 1957 novella of the same name. It takes place in Anderson’s Psychotechnic League, a future history he developed from the 1940s to the late 1950s (it is in fact very nearly the final work in that setting.).

Davis Bertram, the young, proud owner of a splendid starship, is determined to make a name for himself. He sets out on a voyage of exploration to the Delta Capitis Lupi system. The system has only recently emerged from a fifty light-year-wide trepidation vortex; the system may or may not be home to an Earth-like world. What is certain is that Davis will be the first man to visit the system.

But not, as he discovers, the first human.

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In For The Kill

Scream Blacula Scream — Bob Kelljan
Blacula, book 2

1973’s Scream Blacula Scream is a sequel to 1972’s cult-classic Blaxploitation horror film Blacula.

Outraged that his voodoo-queen mother has selected talented and powerful Lisa Fortier (played by Pam Grier) as her successor, Willis (Richard Lawson) seeks out a disgraced voodoo master, from whom he purchases the bones of the late Prince Mamuwalde (William H. Marshall). Armed with a modicum of magic, Willis plans to resurrect the vampire and then compel Mamuwalde to take vengeance on Lisa.

Mamuwalde’s first act is to drain Willis dry.

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933–1940 — George S. Schuyler

George S. Schuyler’s 1931 Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, AD 1933–1940 is a satire.

Where other inventors have offered temporary hair straightening and skin-lightening methods, Dr. Crookman provides a service that is both thorough and permanent: any American Negro with fifty dollars can walk into one of Crookman’s sanatoria and emerge indistinguishable from the white majority.

The consequences are not long delayed.

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How I’ll Make You Pay

The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas

1844’s The Count of Monte Cristo is a standalone novel of revenge written by Alexandre Dumas. While it is not my usual SF, it has certainly influenced SF. As well, there were (to my surprise) not one but two SFnal moments in the book.

Young Edmond Dantès has it all, from a solid career to a loving fiancée. Alas for Dantès, success engenders jealousy. In short order he is framed for Bonapartist subversion and secretly consigned to life imprisonment in the forbidding Château d’If. His friends and loved ones will never know why he vanished.

At least, that’s the plan.

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Strange Language

Babel-17 — Samuel R. Delany

1966’s Babel-17 is an SF novel by Samuel R. Delany. Not his first (he had already published a number of Ace Doubles and one standalone), but the one that made his name. It shared the Nebula with Flowers for Algernon and was nominated for the Hugo as well, losing to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It shares some elements of its setting with an earlier Delany novel, Empire Star.

Victory over the Invaders may depend on understanding a series of indecipherable messages broadcast in an odd code? cipher? language? that the authorities label Babel-17. The Alliance turns to noted linguist Rydra Wong. “Tell us what this is and tell us what it means!”

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We Pray For One Last Landing/ On The Globe That Gave Us Birth

Winds of Gath — E. C. Tubb
Dumarest Saga, book 1

1967’s The Winds of Gath is the first novel of thirty-three in E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest Saga.

The life of an itinerant stellar traveler is hard and dangerous. Earl Dumarest accepts the hazards; traveling is his only hope of finding his lost homeworld, Earth. He does try to minimize risk with due diligence and planning. His latest trip, for example, involves the usual 15% chance he won’t wake from cold sleep (or Low, as it is called in the argot of the starfarer) but if he does wake up, it will be on Broome. He should easily find employment there.

The best-laid plans, etc. Gloria, the Matriarch of Kund, hires the starship on which he was traveling, already in cold sleep. He cannot object when the ship is diverted to the planet Gath. Dumarest’s contract with the ship specified that he was to debark at the next world it touched. Was Broome, now Gath.

Gath has no economy to speak off. No jobs. But unless Dumarest can somehow accumulate enough cash for a trip out, he is trapped on the planet.

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Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down

Hammer’s Slammers — David Drake

1979’s Hammer’s Slammers was the first collection of David Drake’s long-running Hammer’s Slammers stories. The Slammers are a mercenary company formed by Alois Hammer.

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And What Have You Got At The End Of The Day?

Shadow of a Broken Man — George C. Chesbro
Mongo, book 1

1977’s Shadow of a Broken Man is the first volume in George C. Chesbro’s long-running Mongo series. The Mongo series lives in the intersection of mundane detective fiction and outright science fiction. Or at least I think it does.

Former circus tumbler turned black belt martial artist turned academic, criminology professor Dr. Robert “Mongo the Magnificent” Fredrickson has a minor side-line as a private detective. His cases are often peculiar, as if people with normal cases don’t seek out New York’s only dwarf detective. Lookism, I suppose.

His new case seems pretty straightforward: find out how a dead man managed to design a new building.

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The Bright Blessed Day

Another Look at Atlantis and Fifteen Other Essays — Willy Ley

Willy Ley’s 1969 Another Look at Atlantis and Fifteen Other Essays is a collection of non-fiction pieces. From 1952 to his death in 1969, Ley had a regular science column in Galaxy Magazine, For Your Information. As far as I can tell, none of these essays were drawn from that source.

This was my first exposure to Ley. If I am reading the bibliographic information correctly, it was the final Ley book published while Ley was alive.

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O Happy Pair

Fireship — Joan D. Vinge

Joan D. Vinge’s 1978 Fireship was her first collection. It collects two novellas, the eponymous Fireship and 1975’s Mother and Child.

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You’re My Mirror

The Man Who Folded Himself — David Gerrold

David Gerrold’s 1973 The Man Who Folded Himself is a standalone time-travel story.

Assured by his Uncle Jim that he will inherit a vast estate, Daniel Eakins is unpleasantly surprised to discover (after his uncle’s demise) that his legacy is not the hundred-million-plus dollars Daniel had expected. What he gets: the far smaller sum of six thousand dollars … and a belt.

It is a particularly fine belt. In fact, closer examination reveals that it is a fully functional time machine.

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Dark Is Bright As Fire

The Witches of Karres — James H. Schmitz

1966’s The Witches of Karres is James H. Schmitz’s novel-length expansion of his 1949 novelette of the same name. It is a standalone space opera.

Given an aged starship and a cargo of dubious value, naive Captain Pausert headed out into space in search of a fortune and his prospective father-in-law’s respect. If he had not also been hobbled by his own essential decency, he might have realized his dreams.

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Though The Truth May Vary

Close to Critical — Hal Clement

Hal Clement’s 1958 young-adult adventure novel Close to Critical is apparently set in the same universe as his far more famous Mission of Gravity, but it can be read as a standalone work.

No human could walk unprotected on Tenebra’s surface: if the 8100 kilo-pascal air pressure didn’t crush them, the 374o C mixture of dissolved oxygen and sulphur oxides surely would dissolve them. But as hostile as Tenebra might seem to a terrestrial, it’s a life-bearing planet. Tenebra doesn’t just have life. It has intelligent life and that offers a unique opportunity to researchers up in orbit.

A human-Drommian team has established an orbital observation station circling Tenebra. A telefactored robot serves as their optical receptors and manipulative organs down on the ground.

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Somethin’ To Make Me Numb

Time Travelers Strictly Cash — Spider Robinson
Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, book 2

1981’s Time Travelers Strictly Cash is Spider Robinson’s second Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon collection. Sort of. More on that after the break.

Bar stories are a recurring motif in science fiction. See also Tales From the White Hart and the somewhat less classic Tales from Gavagan’s Bar, as well as the Draco Tavern sequence. The conceit is simple: people gather to consume alcohol and share stories or experience events not necessarily inhibited by plausibility. It’s a variation on the club stories genre, which itself is a riff on the general trope of people telling stories to each other in some plausible setting. Decameron (people tell stories in a villa); Canterbury Tales (people tell stories on pilgrimage); people telling stories by the comfy fireside, or on a dark and stormy night, or around a campfire … Authors have come up with a multitude of settings in which people might be telling stories to each other.

In the case of the Callahan’s tales, all of the stories are told by habitual barfly Jake. Everyone at the bar has some traumatic backstory which they are trying to blot out by consuming excessive amounts of a toxic depressant in the company of like-minded friends. Jake, for example, invested years killing brain cells and slowing dissolving his liver in his effort to forget how his efforts at car maintenance killed his wife and child. So far, the Callahan cure does not appear to have worked, but hey, it’s drink to excess or take a course in auto mechanics.

Anyone is welcome at Callahan’s, from aliens to talking dogs to time travelers1.

As is generally the case with bar stories, these are (supposedly) comic. Some of you may remember that I have a barely discernible sense of humour and may therefore wonder if I am the best choice to review this venerable collection. Let’s find out together.

There will be some spoilers.

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