Reviews: Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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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Writing in the Garden

Titan — John Varley
Gaea, book 1

1979’s Titan is the first novel in John Varley’s Gaea trilogy.

Ringmaster is the first crewed spacecraft to visit distant Saturn. The crew discovers a twelfth moon of Saturn, the first discovered in the six decades since Janus and Epimethius were detected in the 1960s1. What at first appears to be a small object turns out to be huge, over 1300 kilometres in diameter2. By rights, any moon that large should be spherical and comparable in mass to our Moon. This object, which the astronauts initially call Themis, is a torus of low mass which is spinning rapidly enough that any object on its surface would be flicked off into space. The obvious conclusion is that the object is artificial, possibly an alien generation ship.

When Ringmaster approaches the object, they discover something else about Themis. It knows that Ringmaster is nearby and is able to reach out and tear the spacecraft apart. The crew — Cirocco Jones, Bill NLN, April and August Polo, Gaby Plauget, Calvin Greene, and Gene Springfield — are grabbed by immense tentacles and borne off into the depths of the vast moon.

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Proserpina! Proserpina!

Worlds — Joe Haldeman
Worlds, book 1

1981’s Worlds is the first volume in Joe Haldeman’s Worlds trilogy.

By 2084, half a million people live in forty-one orbital habitats circling the Earth; they are the so-called Worlds. New New York is largest of the Worlds. It is the only home our protagonist Marianne O’Hara has ever known. University in Old New York will be an entirely new experience for her. If she plays her cards wrong, possibly her last experience ever.

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Another Mile of Silence

Orbitsville — Bob Shaw
Orbitsville, book 1

1975’s Orbitsville is the first volume in Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville trilogy.

Vance Garamond is a competent starship pilot but a terrible babysitter. He fails to prevent his boss’s son from falling to his death. His boss, Elizabeth Lindstrom, the autocratic president of the company that controls interstellar flight, is notoriously vindictive. Rather than wait to see what form her vengeance will take, Garamond collects his wife Aileen and son Christopher and flees to the stars in a commandeered flickerwing starship, the Bissendorf.

If only there were somewhere beyond Lindstrom’s reach Garamond and his family could flee …

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Take That Boy’s Crown

Watchtower — Elizabeth A. Lynn
Chronicles of Tornor, book 1

1979’s Watchtower is the first volume in Elizabeth A. Lynn’s Chronicles of Tornor.

Most of Tornor Keep’s defenders died in a futile attempt to bar invaders led by Col Istor. Knocked out cold early in the battle, the armsman Ryke was spared. Not out of charity. Istor respected Ryke’s abilities and preferred to keep him alive and useful. Not that Istor wholly trusts Ryke, but he does have leverage.

That leverage is Errel, heir to the late lord of Tornor Keep. Errel lives only as long as Ryke serves Istor. At that, Errel survives only as a “cheari” or jester.

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Ice Cold Hands Takin’ Hold Of Me

A Fond Farewell to Dying — Syd Logsdon

1981’s A Fond Farewell to Dying is a novel-length expansion of Syd Logsdon’s 1978 novella To Go Not Gently.

Of all the nations of Earth, India has been least affected by the Cataclysm that ended Euro-American domination of the world. Though even India was changed: sea level rise has cut it off from mainland Asia and the fallout that made it over the Himalayas has forced birth rates below replacement levels. Two centuries after the nuclear conflict, India is a much emptier place.

Scientist David Singer has abandoned the North America of his birth for India, the most advanced nation on the planet. Now calling himself Ram David Singh, he is researching what he conceives as immortality tech. The odds of an American hick garnering the required resources from the Indian state may seen poor, but geopolitics is his friend.

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When You Hear the Wild Geese Calling

The Exiles Trilogy — Ben Bova

1971’s Exiled From Earth, 1972’s Flight of Exiles, and 1975’s End of Exile form Ben Bova’s Exile Trilogy.

Cast out from overcrowded Earth, will our heroes be able to maintain a stable culture for the decades or centuries it will take to find a new Earth … or will they, like pretty much every other generation ship in the genre — last week’s excepted — end up recapitulating Robert Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky?

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Living in the Shadow of the Messes That You Made

Fuzzy Sapiens — H. Beam Piper
Little Fuzzy, book 2

1964’s Fuzzy Sapiens, first published under the title The Other Human Race, is the sequel1 to H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

Previously: old Jack Holloway, Ben Rainsford, Ruth Otheris, and their allies triumphed over the forces of pure capitalist evil, as represented by Victor Grego and his Chartered Zarathustra Company. Zarathustra was reclassified from Class-III to Class-IV and its native Fuzzies legally accepted as people.

Now Jack and his friends get to grapple with the consequences of winning.

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I am a Merry Ploughboy

The Makeshift Rocket — Poul Anderson

1962’s standalone comic SF novel The Makeshift Rocket is an expansion of Poul Anderson’s 1958 A Bicycle Built for Brew.

The gyrogravitic generator gave humans and Martians cheap space flight and the ability to transform any dead rock in space into an acceptable facsimile of a habitable world, one with Earth-like gravity and an atmosphere. Any gang of idiots with enough money could create their own pocket nation out in the Asteroid belt. Many idiots did.

Captain Dhan Gopal Radhakrishnan and Engineer Knud Axel Syrup of Mercury Girl sense that something is wrong on the worldlette Lois. Clue: the flags.

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About Strange People in the Strangest Place

A World Out of Time — Larry Niven

ISFDB lists 1976’s A World Out of Time as one of Larry Niven’s State novels1, which it is. I liked to think of it as the last fun Niven novel. Having reread it, I am not so sure that’s right.

Jerome Branch Corbell had himself frozen in 1970 in a desperate bid to escape terminal cancer. In 2190, a man with Corbell’s memories woke up to discover a world unlike any Corbell had expected back in 1970, a world that expected him to expiate a crime he had no memory of committing … with a mission that would consume three centuries.

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Rise Up

The Tripods Trilogy — John Christopher

1967’s The White Mountains, 1968’s The City of Gold and Lead, and 1968’s The Pool of Fire constitute John Christopher’s Tripods trilogy.

A century after the coming of the Tripods, humans are few, backward, and well-behaved. It has been decades since any human posed a serious threat to Tripod rule.

That’s about to change.

(spoilers)

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Like the Stars Above

Whipping Star — Frank Herbert
ConSentiency, book 1

1970’s Whipping Star is the third piece and first novel-length work in Frank Herbert’s ConSentiency series. I hope I’ve worked out how I am going to number Whipping Star by the time I post this review.

The ConSentiency spans the Milky Way. While faster than light drives exist, all are too slow for galactic travel. What made the ConSentiency practical was the jumpdoor. Jumpdoors allow people to step from the surface of one planet to the surface of another. Jumpdoors were so clearly useful that nobody questioned their enigmatic Caleban creators too closely about how exactly they worked.

Jumpdoors have some interesting undocumented features. For example, someone who knows their jumpdoors can use them to kill an astonishing fraction of the population of the ConSentiency in one go.

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Will A Pretty Face Make It Better?

Restoree — Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey’s standalone SF novel Restoree was her debut novel.

Snatched by monstrous aliens, embittered spinster Sara wakes from nightmares to find herself transformed from an all-too-Semitic-looking woman whom nobody could possibly love to a beauty. Her current captors are using her as grunt labor in a mental institution. They regard her as semi-intelligent and unthreatening.

Her masters’ underestimation of Sara’s cognitive abilities will prove their undoing.


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The Moon in Her Eye

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld — Patricia A. McKillip

1974’s standalone secondary world fantasy The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was Patricia A. McKillip’s second fantasy novel. It won the World Fantasy Award and was nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award1.

Raised in isolation by her mage father, the ice-white lady Sybel is content to live with her menagerie of fantastic beasts. She knows nothing of the company of humans and cares naught for the lack.

This does not prevent a stranger from arriving on her doorstep, bearing a child whom he means to foist on her.

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Cruel Garden

Hothouse — Brian Aldiss

1962’s Hugo-winning Hothouse is a standalone SF novel by Brian Aldiss.

In a distant future, the Earth is tide-locked to the Sun, while the Moon has retreated to one of the Earth-Sun Lagrange points. On the illuminated side of Earth, a vast banyan tree dominates the land. In this overheated world, voracious plants dominate. Only four groups of insects still exist on the banyan-dominated land: wasps, bees, ants and termites. All other animals are extinct.

All, save for the stunted, degenerate descendants of humanity.

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Not Here No More

Cadaverific — Becka Kinzie

To quote Becka Kinzie’s site:

Hello, I’m a freelance artist from the K-W Region. I’ve also been working as a colour flatter and colouring assistant since the early 2010s. In my spare time, I create my own macabre series of comics, which are posted online. The pages are eventually made into comic book issues, and so far I have self-published 15 of them (for sale at events/conventions).

Kenzie’s first webcomic, Cadaverific, ran from 2008 to 2014.

Corey Bowman’s story should have ended the night the night he died. A minor altercation between Corey and a low-rent acquaintance ended in Corey’s accidental death. Yes, the story should have ended there, but it didn’t. Corey’s cousin J. P. just happened to have come into possession of a monkey’s paw — sorry, the Monkey’s Paw — and in an idle moment of grief, wished Corey was back among his friends.

J. P. was nowhere near specific enough about his wish.

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So Said The Lighthouse Keeper

The Keeper of the Isis Light — Monica Hughes
Isis, book 1

1980’s The Keeper of the Isis Light is the first volume in Monica Hughes’ Isis Trilogy.

Olwen Pendennis has been the keeper of the Isis FTL beacon ever since she was an infant, an infant orphaned by calamity on distant Isis. For her, life with no human companions is perfectly normal. After all, she has her wise robot Guardian to advise and keep watch over her, her amiable but formidable-looking Hairy Dragon Hobbit for company, and an entire planet to call her own.

On her tenth birthday — sixteenth by Earth years — her life changes forever.

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Let The Memory Live Again

Projections — Stephen Robinett

Stephen Robinett’s1 science fiction career2 ran from 1969 to 1983. In that time he produced five novels and twenty-one short stories. He appears to have disappeared from the science fiction world after 1983. Robinett died from complications of Hodgkin’s Disease in 2004, but it took a further five years for that news to filter back to SFdom.

A 1979 collection, Projections, contains nine Robinett stories, stories of which he was particular fond.

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