Reviews: Miscellaneous Reviews

Ages and Ages Hence

The Calculating Stars — Mary Robinette Kowal
Lady Astronaut, book 1

The Calculating Stars is the first novel in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series1.

President Dewey’s Take That! to Communist Russia took the form of not one but three successful space launches. Dewey scarcely has time to revel in America’s success before a space rock obliterates Dewey, Washington DC, and everyone else within hundreds of miles of the impact point.

Five hundred miles away, Elma York and her husband Nathaniel survive the impact and the immediate aftermath. Once the implications of the impact become clear, they realize that their survival — and the survival of the biosphere — may be strictly temporary.

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Sounds Like a Whisper

Empire of Sand — Tasha Suri
The Books of Ambha, book 1

Empire of Sand is the first book in Tasha Suri’s new series, The Books of Ambha.

Being the daughter of Governor of Irinah has its benefits, even for illegitimate children, like Mehr. Benefits even though her exiled mother was an Amrithi, a folk despised by the Ambhan ruling class. Mehr appreciates her privileges only when she loses them.

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Far Beyond a Star

Adrift — Rob Boffard

Rob Boffard’s 2018 Adrift is a standalone SF adventure.

Sigma Station began as a helium three mining station. Its spectacular view of the Horse Head Nebula transformed it into a tourist destination. Now it has been slated to play a crucial role in interstellar relations.

Not a role that most of the station’s inhabitants will survive to appreciate, mind you.

[spoiler warning]

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Workin’ On The Chain Gang

The Nearest Fire — Cherry Wilder
Torin, book 2

1980’s The Nearest Fire is the second volume in Cherry Wilder’s Torin series.

Yolo Harn is principled and inflexible. Her righteous fury leads to an angry assault, a crime Yolo will regret for the rest of her life. Regardless of her motivation, assault is assault. Nothing for it but to send her off to prison.

Offered a poisoned amnesty, one that would trade a jail term for lifelong vassalage, Yolo sticks to her principles and declines the offer. Affronted, officials send Yolo away, to serve out her term in distant Itsik, the worst prison colony on Torin.

That act of spite places Torin’s destiny in Yolo’s hands.

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You May Say I’m A Dreamer

Winter Tide — Ruthanna Emrys
Innsmouth Legacy, book 1

2017’s Winter Tide is the first volume in Ruthanna Emrys’s Innsmouth Legacy series.

The American government’s ample experience at rounding up and exterminating unwanted indigenous populations was evident in 1928, in the campaign against the Deep Ones. The government swept up the entire population of Innsmouth, consigning the unlucky inhabitants to incarceration and eventual execution in a desert concentration camp. By the time Japanese internees began to arrive in the 1940s, just two Deep Ones were left: Aphra and Caleb March.

Inadvertently freed with the Japanese internees at the end of the war, Aphra and Caleb prefer to avoid contact with the authorities who targeted their race for extermination. How unexpected, therefore, for the former génocidaires to reach out to Aphra for help.

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Tick Tock

Just One Damned Thing After Another — Jodi Taylor
The Chronicles of St. Mary's, book 1

2013’s Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first volume in Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s.

Academic achievement offered teenaged Madelaine Maxwell an escape from her horrific homelife. Her credentials as a historian prompted an offer of something even better: time travel.

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In a World Full of Wonder

The Dolphins of Altair — Margaret St. Clair

1967’s The Dolphins of Altair is an SF novel by Margaret St. Clair.

Fed up with brutal exploitation, the dolphins of Earth take a desperate step. They reach out telepathically to their oppressors. Three humans prove sympathetic: Secretary Madeline Paxton, dock worker Sven Erikson, a former soldier, and Navy psychiatrist Dr. Edward Lawrence.

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Way Up in the Clouds

Rogue Protocol — Martha Wells
Murderbot Diaries, book 3

2018’s Rogue Protocol is the third book in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series.

Frustrated with the progress of the case against the GrayCris Corporation (more exactly, the lack thereof), rogue SecUnit (self-designated Murderbot) reluctantly heads off to find damning evidence on GrayCris.

Which brings us to certain events in the Milu System.

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Satiny Luscious Chocolate

Free Chocolate — Amber Royer

2018’s Free Chocolate is an interstellar adventure by Amber Royer.

Humans were surprised and alarmed to discover that alien Krom had infiltrated the Earth, passing themselves off as Homo sapiens. Humans were surprised and enraged to discover that their Krom visitors had used their time on Earth to purchase samples of particularly enticing Terrestrial products: coffee, sugar, tea, vanilla.

By the time technologically backward Earth had adjusted to the new state of affairs and was finally able to market their unique biological materials to the galaxy … earthlings found that the Krom already controlled the market for the sampled goods. In doing so, the Krom had violated no galactic regulations. Just business. Nothing to see here. Humanity could only react with impotent fury and close off Earth to other aliens.

But the Krom overlooked one potential export:

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Last and Final Moment

Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion — Margaret Killjoy
Danielle Cain, book 1

2017’s The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is the first story in Margaret Killjoy’s

Danielle Cain series.

Determined to find out why her friend Clay killed himself, Danielle Cain travels to Freedom City. Once a ghost town, the community has been commandeered by idealistic anarchists determined to create a living utopia. Aside from one small detail, they appear to have succeeded.

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Nothing Up His Sleeve

Moon You — Cho Seok

Cho Seok’s Moon You is a post-apocalyptic webtoon.

An optimist would say the mission to save the Earth was 10/11th successful. A cynic would say that 1/11th failure was enough to doom civilization as we know it. Moon Yoo would say that he got left behind when the other stalwarts returned from the Moon to the Earth and so the whole end of the world thing is pretty academic from his perspective.

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A Strain of Song in the Forest

Feather Bound — Sarah Raughley

Sarah Raughley’s 2014 debut novel, Feather Bound, is a standalone young-adult urban fantasy.

The Davis sisters have survived a difficult childhood (no thanks to their alcoholic father). Each sister has reacted in different fashion. Ericka marries for money; Adriana works to earn enough money that she need not depend on her dad; Deanna is left behind, stuck with the responsibility for the feckless father.

It’s Deanna who attends the funeral of their father’s estranged best friend, magazine magnate Ralph Hedley. She is present when Swan-activist Shannon Dalhousey accuses Hedley of being a feather-stealer. She is also there to witness the surprising appearance of Hyde Hedley, Ralph’s son (he was believed to be dead).

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The Thunder Rolling Through Me

The Black Gods Drums — P. Djeli Clark

P. Djeli Clark’s 2018 The Black God’s Drums is a steampunk fantasy novella.

Orphaned at ten, Jacqueline renamed herself “Creeper” and embraced life on the streets of the free city of New Orleans. An independent city state since the British, French, and Haitian airships forced peace on the Union and Confederacy, the city is neutral ground where all nationalities can mix … and conspire against each other.

Little noted by adults, thirteen-year-old Creeper believes what she has overheard will earn her a place on Ann-Marie St. Augustine’s airship Midnight Robber.

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Living in the Flames

Killing Gravity — Corey J. White
Voidwitch, book 1

2017’s Killing Gravity is the first instalment in Corey J. White’s Voidwitch series.

The MEPHISTO corporation purchased Mariam from her father and turned her from an unremarkable little girl into a living weapon who could liquefy soldiers and divert asteroids with a thought. Much to the corporation’s surprise, Mariam — Mars Xi — felt little gratitude for the gift of such power; she resented the terrible cost she had paid in pain and suffering. And she was unwilling to become a corporate tool. She fled, hoping to put her past behind her.

Years later, her past catches up to her.


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Looking Nice With A Ribbon In My Hair

Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures — Alex Acks

Alex Acks’ 2018 Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures is a collection of short stories set in an America run, not by oligarchs and tech-bros, but by a collection of titled aristocrats. Each noble is eager to expand their pocket kingdom at the expense of their rival dukes. All stories feature Captain Marta Ramos (engineer and thief) and her steadfast subordinate, Meriwether Octavian Simms.

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Moonight Up My Sleeve

The Descent of Monsters — JY Yang
Tensorate, book 3

The Descent of Monsters is the third volume in JY Yang’s Tensorate silkpunk series.

An isolated research facility falls silent. When concerned Protectorate officials send subordinates to find out why, all that investigators find are fragments of brutally murdered researchers and animals, a dead monster, and two still living Machinist rebels. Investigator Chuwan Sariman is tasked with solving the puzzle.

Or rather, the task of arriving at an explanation that is acceptable to her bosses, bosses who are in no way tolerant of failure or excessive independent thought.

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Dreams and Bones

Summer in Orcus — T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher’s 2017’s Summer in Orcus is a standalone young-adult portal fantasy.

Determined to keep Summer safe, Summer’s mother has spent years protecting the girl from every possible danger, no matter how small. No matter how ludicrous. The weight of her mother’s love is a heavy burden.

Perhaps another girl would have turned down the Baba Yaga’s offer to give her her heart’s desire. Summer accepts and is immediately dispatched to a new, unfamiliar world. One that comes with a quest.

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Sometimes In My Dreams

Under The Pendulum Sun — Jeannette Ng

Jeannette Ng’s 2017 Under the Pendulum Sun: A Novel of the Fae is a standalone Gothic fantasy novel.

In this world, Captain Cook’s explorations found a route to the Faelands. Just as India, China, and other far off lands were eventually forced to grant Englishmen access, so too has Arcadia been opened to traders, diplomats, and others. Change has come into the world beneath the Pendulum Sun.

The Reverend Laon Helstone has travelled to Arcadia hoping to convert the heathen to the one true, Anglican, faith. Was he successful? Impossible to say, as no word has returned from this visitor to the Faerie realm. The silence is ominous, given the fate of his predecessor.

Concerned for his well-being, his sister Catherine Helstone follows in Laon’s footsteps.

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We Are Select

The Tea Master and the Detective — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2018 mystery The Tea Master and the Detective takes place in her Xuya universe.

Cashiered following a deep-space calamity, shipmind The Shadow’s Child now makes a meagre living brewing medicinal infusions. It claims that these infusions will alleviate the stresses of other-dimensional travel.

Long Chau seems to be just another human client. She is in fact something unusual.

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Cold As Hell

One Way — S. J. Morden

S. J. Morden’s 2018 One Way is an SF murder mystery.

Franklin Kittridge accepted that the cost of killing his son’s pusher would be a life spent in prison. He expects to die in prison. Imagine his surprise when Xenosystems Operations, the parent company of the corporation that owns Frank’s prison, offers him an alternative:

Die on Mars instead.


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Pick A Star From The Sky

The Awakened Kingdom — N. K. Jemisin

2014’s The Awakened Kingdom is a sequel to N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

Years after the events of the trilogy, the Gods Itempas and Yeinne make a godling, one who might fit the place left empty by the late Sieh. Being gods, they raise their child Shill in the manner befitting gods, which is essentially to kick the kid out the door and hope for the best.


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I’ll Be In Your Dream

The Gathering — Virginia Hamilton
Justice Trilogy, book 3

1981’s The Gathering is the third book in Virginia Hamilton’s Justice Trilogy.

Justice, Levi, Thomas, and Dorian each have their own special power. Apart, they are impressive (even if some of them do not think so), but together they can step through time itself.

That’s good, because they have unfinished business in the future.

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Everything A Big Bad Wolf Could Want

Red Rider’s Hood — Neal Shusterman
Dark Fusion, book 2

2005’s Red Rider’s Hood is the second volume in Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series. It is a modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Sixteen-year-old Red allows himself to be distracted by the revelation that classmate Marissa Flowers might have a bit of a crush on him. His befuddlement allows Cedric Soames’ Wolf gang to ambush, overpower, and rob Red and his beloved Grandma. Worse, the gang steals Red’s beloved Mustang.

Of course, this means war.

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Sink Me In The River At Dawn

Bloodchild and Other Stories — Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler’s 1995 Bloodchild and Other Stories is a collection. The particular edition I have is the Open Road Media edition; I know there’s an updated version, but I do not know if that edition is different from the one I have in hand.

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Lean On Me

Domino Falls — Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
Devil's Wake, book 2

2013’s Domino Falls is a sequel to Stephen Barnes and Tananarive Due’s 2012 novel, Devil’s Wake.

Freak Day, when the infected turned on their former friends, neighbours, and family members, ended the comfortable old world. Mere weeks after Freak Day, most humans are either dead or infected. The few untainted survivors struggle to survive and to avoid the infection even one bite can transmit.

Kendra lost her family to Freak Day and its aftermath. No person can survive alone for long; luckily for Kendra, she has five reliable allies in Terry, Piranha, Sonia, Dean, and Darius. Even better, the six teens may have found the refuge they need in Domino Falls, one of the few towns to survive Freak Day.

Or they may not.

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