Reviews: Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

Just a Castaway

Shōgun — James Clavell
Asian Saga, book 1

James Clavell’s 1975 Shōgun is the first (by internal chronology) volume in his Asian saga.

English pilot John Blackthorne’s foray into Asia (by papal decree the exclusive domain of Portugal) ends in disaster. The Dutch fleet in which Blackthorne serves is scattered by a storm and Blackthorne’s ship Erasmus is driven ashore on the coast of Japan. The sickly sailors are immediately detained by local authorities.

Of course, Blackthorne is a white man in an exotic land. No doubt he will play the mighty whitey card, master every skill that matters to the Japanese in a few weeks, and then remake the nation in his image.

Perhaps not.


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Lost in the Wilderness

Search the Sky — Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth

1954’s Search the Sky is a standalone(ish) science fiction novel. It was the second novel-length collaboration between Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth,.

Ross has lived his whole life on Halsey’s Planet. Somehow he senses what his fellows cannot or will not: population levels are slowly, inexorably declining. The future will be grim.

Halsey’s Planet is just one of many worlds settled by humans. Contact with its sister worlds is intermittent, carried out by sublight longliners, smaller versions of the ships that delivered the original colonists to Halsey’s Planet fourteen centuries earlier.

A longliner arrives with an inbred crew of happy idiots bearing an enigmatic message and doleful news about the other human worlds. Another Halsey merchant, Haarland, asks Ross to come meet with him. This is odd, as Ross works for a rival firm. It turns out that Haarland has some bad news to share.

 Spoilers….


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Cops and Robots

The Caves of Steel — Isaac Asimov

1954’s The Caves of Steel is the first of Isaac Asimov’s novels that feature Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw.

Elijah is a human. R. Daneel is a robot. They fight crime!


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I Started a Joke

Mindswap — Robert Sheckley

Robert Sheckley’s 1966 Mindswap is a standalone SF comedy.

Interplanetary travel is prohibitively expensive. Interstellar travel even more-so. Bad news for Marvin Flynn, a small town young man with the travel bug.

Even though travelling in person is far too expensive for Marvin, there exists an affordable alternative. Simply dispatch his mind to some waiting body on a far-off world. What could go wrong?


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Outside of That

Beyond This Horizon — Robert A. Heinlein

1948’s Beyond This Horizon1 is a standalone novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

The development of workable methods for genetic selection sparked two genocidal wars. But all that’s in the past. The world has recovered. The Americas are practically a utopia. A long-running program aimed at creating the perfect human is close to completion. The latest iteration is Hamilton Felix. He would be the perfect man save for two flaws:

  • He could have a perfect memory (or so think the program planners2).

  • He refuses to marry and produce the child who would be the perfect human.

Oh, and his pal Monroe-Alpha has committed a spot of treason. We’ll get to that later.


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Waiting in the Sky

Identified — Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Tony Barwick
UFO, book 1

1970’s “Identified” was the first episode of the TV series UFO. The series was helmed by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, with Reg Hill. The episode was written by the Andersons and Tony Barwick and directed by Gerry Anderson. Unlike previous Anderson efforts, characters were portrayed not by puppets, but by live actors.

Humanity has incontrovertible proof that aliens have discovered Earth and are taking a close interest in humans. This interest outs itself whenever the aliens notice humans noticing them; the luckless humans are killed. One such attack on a highly placed colonel (played by Ed Bishop) moves the top powers of the day (US, USSR, etc.) to adopt a new strategy: secrecy. They’ll form a task force that will covertly investigate the aliens.

Ten years later…

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Trick or Treat

Wasp — Eric Frank Russell


Eric Frank Russell’s 1957 Wasp is a standalone science fiction novel.

Terra and the Sirian Combine have been at war for a year. Humanity enjoys a significant technological edge, but the Sirians outnumber the Terrans ten-to-one. The solution, as far as Terra’s High Command is concerned, is to adopt tactics in which the weight of numbers cannot come into play.

James Mowry is given an offer he cannot refuse. He is to become a wasp.


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Tell Me Lies

The Cosmic Computer — H. Beam Piper


H. Beam Piper’s 1963 The Cosmic Computer is a standalone science fiction novel. It’s set in Piper’s Terra-Human future history, in the last days of the Federation.

Conn Maxwell returns from Terra to his backwater homeworld, Poictesme, armed with hard-won knowledge. The family friends who pooled resources to pay for Conn’s education did so in the hope that while on Earth, Conn would uncover the secret location of Merlin, the fabled supercomputer that many believe allowed the Federation to triumph over the secessionist System States Alliance. With Merlin’s help, surely the investors could learn how to kickstart Poictesme’s moribund economy.

What Conn learned was that Merlin was not just legendary. It was a myth. There would be no all-powerful supercomputer to guide Poictesme to prosperity.

When Conn returns to his homeworld, he lies to his friends and backers. He claims to know how to find Merlin. This isn’t just an attempt to spare his friends or evade responsibility for the failure. He wants to use the belief in Merlin to inspire his world to take the steps that will rebuild its economy.


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Where The Rippling Waters Glide

Hestia — C. J. Cherryh

C. J. Cherryh’s 1979 Hestia is a standalone science fiction novel.

The colonists who settled Hestia were warned that the valley on which they had set their hopes was not suitable. The settlers ignored the warnings and founded a community in the valley. In the century since settlement, the community has endured disaster after disaster. Each year the community is worse off.

The colonists now believe that they have a solution: a dam to control the river. Only problem: they lack dam-building know-how. That’s where Sam Merritt, our protagonist, enters the narrative.


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And Learn How to Fly

A House in Space — Henry S. F. Cooper, Jr.

Henry S. F. Cooper, Jr’s 1976 A House in Space is a short account of Skylab, America’s first manned space station.


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By The Last Breath Of The Four Winds That Blow

The Stars My Destination — Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester’s 1956 The Stars My Destination is a standalone tale of REVENGE! And a change of heart.

Psychic teleportation transformed society. The economic effects triggered war between the Inner Planets and the Outer Satellites.

Gulliver Foyle survived the destruction of the interplanetary space craft Nomad only to spend six months trapped on the hulk. When finally another ship, the Vorga, came within rescue range, Foyle was quick to fire off distress signals. Inexplicably, the Vorga ignored the flares and continued on its way.

Until this moment, Foyle had been an entirely unremarkable prole, uneducated, unmotivated, and destined to live and die in obscurity. Vorga’s act gave Foyle the motivation he had previously lacked. Now he has goals: survive and make the crew of Vorga pay for leaving him in deep space.


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Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt

Trouble on Titan — Alan E. Nourse

1954’s Trouble on Titan was Alan E. Nourse’s debut novel1. It is standalone juvenile SF. It has recently been reprinted and issued in e-book form by Prologue Books.

Tuck Benedict is disappointed to learn that his hoped-for reunion with his father must be postponed. Colonel Benedict has spent years troubleshooting on Mars and Venus for the Security Commission. His leave has been cancelled. He’s been dispatched to Titan, home to unruly rubidium miners.

The colonel invites Tuck to join him on his mission to Titan, but Tuck fears delay in reporting to college could cost him his scholarship. Then … luck puts Tuck in a position to save his father from a mail bomb. Afraid that the assassin might succeed if Tuck is not there to protect his father, Tuck changes his mind. School must wait until Tuck returns from the mining colony.

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Songs That May No Longer Please Us

Destinies, November–December 1978 — Jim Baen

Destinies, November–December 1978 was the debut issue of Jim Baen’s bookazine Destinies. Destinies ran from late 1978 to summer of 1981. There were eleven issues, each the size of a mass market paperback; there was a Best-of anthology as well1. Back in the day, I was an avid magazine reader and this was one of my favourite magazines.

Odd that until I reread this volume I did not remember it at all.


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You May See a Stranger

Enchantress From the Stars — Sylvia Engdahl
Elana, book 1

Sylvia Engdahl’s 1970 Enchantress From the Stars is the first of the two Elana novels, also the first of five Anthropology Service novels.

The Federation is vast and powerful; it is also a good neighbor. It is not inclined to try to fix other cultures (Special Circumstances, cough cough). The Federation takes non-interference seriously enough that its very existence is a secret from less developed star-faring powers. Protecting pre-industrial worlds like Andrecia from imperialists (like the Empire) would therefore seem to be impossible.

 Seem.


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Fly Me To The Moon

Operation Columbus — Hugh Walters
Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A. series, book 3

1960’s Operation Columbus (AKA First on the Moon) is the third volume in the Hugh Walters series ’ Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A.

The mysterious Domes of Pico have been smashed with atomic weapons, ending the immediate threat to the Earth. The next obvious step is to send a manned mission to the Moon to examine the remains and, it is hoped, determine what sort of being built the Domes.

The end of the lunar threat brought with it the end of human unity. Instead of cooperating on the mission, the West and the Soviets are in a race to the Moon. Chris Godfrey hopes to be the West’s man on the moon. Who his Soviet rival be? Nobody in the West can say.

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Lookin’ For Love

After Doomsday — Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s 1962 After Doomsday is a standalone science fiction novel.

Twenty years after first contact with galactic civilization, humanity has assimilated much off-world technology. The Americans send a mission of exploration, the USS Benjamin Franklin, to the core of the galaxy and back. The Franklin returns to an Earth scoured clean of life, orbited by alien missiles.

At least three hundred humans have survived the apocalypse: the three hundred on board the Franklin. Thanks to American views on staffing potentially dangerous missions, all three hundred are men.

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Do You Wanna Touch?

The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton — Larry Niven

Larry Niven’s 1976 The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton collects the three then-extant Gil Hamilton stories1. All three are police procedurals and all three feature Gil Hamilton, a retired asteroid miner turned Amalgamated Regional Militia [ARM] officer.


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Cry, Little Sister

The Fog Maiden — Jane Toombs

Jane Toombs’ 1976 The Fog Maiden is a standalone fantasy novel. If it were published today, I suspect it would be classified as urban fantasy/paranormal romance.

After the death of her father, Janella Maki was raised by her well-meaning but distant stepmother. Janella has no memories of her early past and knows even less about her biological parents. It’s a surprise when an uncle shows up to renew family ties.

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A Land So Wild and Savage

World’s Fair 1992 — Robert Silverberg
Regan, book 2


1970’s World’s Fair 1992 is the second in Robert Silverberg’s Regan series.

Would-be xenologist Bill Hasting’s essay on the possibility of life on distant Pluto was far-out stuff, but intriguing enough to win the teen a year’s stay on the 1992 World’s Fair Satellite. It’s not a vacation: he will have to work. Still, he’s enjoying a trip that others must pay $$$ to experience.

Life on the station is less exotic than one might expect.


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English Country Garden

The Day of the Triffids — John Wyndham

Although 1951’s The Day of the Triffids was not John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris’ first novel, it was the first that he published under the name John Wyndham. It established him as the master of the Cozy Catastrophe.

His eyes bandaged thanks to an injury, Bill Masen cannot see the wondrous meteor shower that lights up Earth’s sky. As a consequence, he is spared the side-effect that manifests the following day: total blindness. As most of the human population had ooh’d and ah’d at the sight, most of them are blind.

It gets worse.

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Not So Little Boys

The Ship Who Sang — Anne McCaffrey
Brainships, book 1

Anne McCaffrey’s 1969’s The Ship Who Sang is a fix-up of SF stories published 1961–1969.

Hideously disfigured Helva might have been humanely euthanized, as was routinely done to those outside the norm for her time and place. But she had a brain worth salvaging. Helva survived the conversion process and was reborn as … the brain of interstellar ship XH 834.


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Cherry Lips

The Dragon — Jane Gaskell
Atlan, book 2

The Dragon is the second half of the original 1963 hardcover edition of Jane Gaskell’s The Serpent, which in turn is the first part of the Atlan series. Publishers, am I right? Let’s call it book two of the Atlan series and move on.

Thanks to the tumultuous events towards the end of the previous instalment, Cija is on the run. She manages to hide in plain sight, as her friend Smahil’s lover. Smahil insists on making this pretense real. It’s probably for the best that Cija does not know that Smahil is her half-brother.

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Someone Out There

Shakespeare’s Planet — Clifford D. Simak

Clifford D. Simak’s 1976 Shakespeare’s Planet is a standalone SF novel.

Carter Horton wakes from hibernation to the news that his starship’s long voyage in search of an Earthlike world has finally succeeded. Unfortunately, this quest took a thousand years in the ship’s frame of reference and even more in Earth’s frame of reference. All of his human companions died in a mishap centuries ago. His only remaining companions are his Ship’s mind and an obsequious robot named Nicodemus.

Oh, and Ship refuses to head back to Earth on the grounds that enough time has passed to make their quest utterly pointless.

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Spare Me Over

A Princess of Mars — Edgar Rice Burroughs
Barsoom, book 1

1912’s A Princess of Mars is the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ interminable Barsoom series.

Having fought on the losing side of the Slavers’ Uprising, Captain John Carter heads west to see what he can steal from North America’s indigenous population. Cornered by a Native American warband, death seems inevitable … but as is the way of portal series, Carter finds himself transported to an entirely unfamiliar world.

Carter is on dying Mars, or as its inhabitants call it, Barsoom.

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No More Ashes, No More Sackcloth

Panic in the Year Zero! — Ray Milland

Ray Milland’s 1962’s Panic in Year Zero! is a film about surviving an atomic war. John Morton and Jay Simms’ script was based (without credit) on Ward Moore’s “Lot” (1953) and “Lot’s Daughter” (1954).

Los Angelinos Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland), wife Ann Baldwin (Jean Hagen), son Rick Baldwin (Frankie Avalon), and daughter Karen Baldwin (Mary Mitchell) set out early one morning for a camping trip at rustic Shibes Meadow, a trip for which Harry seems the main enthusiast. Their timing proves fortunate. Soon after they reach country roads, mysterious bright flashes signal the end of the Baldwin’s comfortable middle-class life.

The mushroom clouds growing over Los Angeles confirm what the bright flashes suggested. America’s enemies have struck with atomic force on Los Angeles. Although Ann’s mother may still be alive in flaming LA, Harry soon gives up any hope of rescuing the superfluous old lady (played by nobody, as she never appears on screen). Instead, he focuses on saving his family from the chaos to come.

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