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Newsletter #123 September November, 2018

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        Uncompromising Honor by David Weber ($28.00, due October 2) is almost 800 pages, which makes it uncomfortable for reading in bed. But it’s worth it. Many loose ends are tied up, Honor is the primary character in a significant portion of the book, and the war between Manticore and the Solarian League is brought to a conclusion. But, of course, some bad guys are still in hiding and plotting at the end of the book.
        
        Target Rich Environment Volume 1 by Larry Correia ($25.00, due early September) is a collection of Larry’s short stories. Many of them are set in the universes of his various book series, Monster Hunters International, Grimnoir Chronicles, and the Dead Six series; a few are not related to his other universes, and the final story is “The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent”, appearing in print for the first time. I have a strong preference for novels over short stories, but I enjoyed this collection and I’m sure that most of the people who have read Larry’s novels will also enjoy this collection of stories.

        I’ve previously recommended Patrick S. Tomlinson’s first trilogy, The Ark ($7.99), Trident’s Forge ($7.99), and Children of the Divide ($7.99). Gate Crashers ($18.99) is the first of a new trilogy, from a different publisher, set in a different universe. While the first trilogy was science fiction/police procedural crossovers, the new series is space opera/humor crossover. “In Space, No One Can See You Screw Up” on the front cover is a strong clue to the flavor of the book.
        The slower-than-light interstellar exploration vessel Magellan has a crew of 157 that spend most of their time in cryosleep while the artificial intelligence (who likes to be called “Maggie”) keeps things running and looks for something interesting enough to thaw some of the peoplecicles to see if they also find it interesting. When Maggie finds an alien artifact between stars, broadcasting a low-power message, she wakes the captain and a few of the crew, who find this very interesting. They decide to grab the artifact and take it back to Earth, but the artifact resists. Soon aliens show up, and an entertaining story follows.

        Rosewater by Tade Thompson ($15.99, due mid-September) is about a strange alien invasion that takes place in near-future Nigeria. A mysterious biodome appears in Nigeria far from any major city, and rumors spread of its strange healing powers. Gradually the town of Rosewater grows up around the biodome, some hoping for a miracle cure (and a few receiving such a cure), some trying to figure out what the aliens want and what they are really doing, and some undercover agents for the Nigerian government. I’m looking forward to the second book of the trilogy, The Rosewater Insurrection, coming next April.

        Black Triumph by Brendan DuBois ($16.00, due early October) is the final book of the trilogy that began with Dark Victory ($7.99) and continued with Red Vengeance ($7.99, just received). Sixteen-year-old Randy Knox and his K-9 Thor have been fighting the invading Creepers for four years. The alien Creepers came to Earth, detonated nuclear weapons in the atmosphere to destroy all electronic devices and dropped asteroids into oceans to create artificial tsunamis to kill much of the human race. They then set up bases all over Earth, and the humans have been fighting back ever since, while also trying to figure out what the aliens want. In the third book, Randy becomes a prisoner of war, finally learns what is motivating the aliens, and helps to bring the war to an end.

        Over a decade ago, Walter Jon Williams’ very good space opera/military science fiction series Dread Empire’s Fall came out, consisting of Praxis (#1, $8.99), The Sundering (#2, $8.99) and Conventions of War (#3, $8.99). Whenever all three books were available at the same time, they spent most of the last decade on our recommended sf display, and we also frequently have used copies. The Accidental War ($16.99, due esrly September) is a sequel, starting seven years after Conventions of War, and is the first of a new trilogy following many of the same characters from the first trilogy. I enjoyed it even though it had been over a decade since I had last read the first trilogy, but I would have enjoyed it more if I had re-read the original trilogy.

        Last issue I recommended Castaway Planet by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor, which is like a Heinlein juvenile version of Swiss Family Robinson in space. I then read the sequel, Castaway Odyssey, and thought it worked even better as a juvenile novel. A different lifeship with a different mix of characters is tossed into space by the same accident that struck the lifeship in Castaway Planet, and the second lifeship eventually reach the same planet, and after a series of adventures joins the characters from the first novel. Unfortunately, the publisher is out of both books, as are all the wholesalers, and we are also out.
        I then went back to 3 earlier books set in the same universe, which are not juveniles, and which are all still available. Boundary ($7.99) starts in the near future. A paleontologist is digging for dinosaur bones in rural Montana when she finds the 65 million year old remains of what is clearly an extraterrestrial. It will ruin her career if she goes too public about the fossil of the extraterrestrial, so she keeps quiet about this until a few years later when a mission to Mars finds an alien base built into Phobos, with the mummified remains of the same kind of extraterrestrial that she found in Montana. This is the best engineering-type sf book I’ve found in many years, and is now on our Recommended SF display.
        The next book, Portal ($7.99), follows the same batch of characters to another ancient alien base inside the asteroid Ceres, and a competing crew from the European Union on a newly designed type of ship uses some dirty tricks to try to beat our heroes to another alien base on one of the moons of Saturn. The engineering is more complex than in the first book, and I can’t figure out how some aspects of the new EU propulsion system are supposed to work.
        In the third book, Threshold ($7.99), our heroes and some of the survivors from the EU ship engage in intensive engineering problem-solving in the Jupiter system and eventually meet some modern descendants of the aliens from 65 million years ago inside one of Jupiter’s moons.

        For years I avoided reading Discount Armagedon by Seanan McGuire ($7.99) because I disliked the cover so much. But people kept telling me how good it was, and I finally gave it try in spite of the cover, and I loved it.
        This is the first novel in the InCryptid urban fantasy series (seven books so far). There are all kinds of supernatural beings out there, and they play an important role in the ecological system. Kill all the supernatural beings and the humans will suffer too. The Covenant of St. George is an ancient batch of fanatics that believe in killing all supernatural beings. Three generations back, a family broke away from the Covenant, moved to America, faked their death, went into hiding, and have been studying crypotozoology ever since, killing the most dangerous monsters but learning how the rest of them fit into the eco-system and trying to protect them from the Covenant. Members of the Covenant are ready to shot any members of the Price family on sight as traitors.
        The current generation of the Price family includes Verity (who has trained to be a killer, but would rather be a professional ballroom dancer), her older brother Alexander (working under an assumed name at the Columbus, Ohio zoo, studying crypto-amphibians and reptiles), and her younger sister Antimony (who loves to make deadly booby traps).
        Discount Armageddon and its sequel Midnight Blue-Light Special ($7.99) follow the adventures of Verity as she spends time in New York City, studying the cryptids of New York and trying to see if she can make a living as a ballroom dancer. She hopes that after a year in New York she will be able to figure out if she wants to follow her dream to be a professional dancer or if she will stick with the family trade. The books are delightful
        The next two books, Half-Off Ragnarok ($7.99) and Pocket Apocalypse ($7.99), switch to Alexander’s adventures at the Columbus zoo. While they are enjoyable, Alexander is a much less entertaining character than Verity.
        The next book, Chaos Choreography ($7.99) switches back to Verity as the main character. Verity and her new husband have returned to the family compound outside Portland, Oregon. She has given up on a dancing career and decided that she and her husband will take up the family trade of cryptozoology. A few years before, she had appeared (in disguise and under an assumed name) on a Hollywood reality series dancing competition and ended up in second place. The executive producer of Dance or Die has decided to do a reunion series, bringing back the top four contestants from each of the last five years. Verity updates her false IDs, digs out her disguise, and heads for Hollywood, with her husband pretending to be her boy friend. But strange things are happening on the set, with 2 dancers being killed after each episode. Verity, her family, and various secret cryptids who are also on the tv show must solve the mystery before they join the dead. This book is enormous fun.
        The latest two books, Magic for Nothing ($7.99) and Tricks for Free ($7.99), follow younger sister Antimony as the main character. I haven’t had time to read them yet, but they are high on my list.



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