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Newsletter #116 December, 2016 February, 2017

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        Last issue I recommended Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor ($12.99), the first of the seven-volume British mad-cap time travel series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. I’ve now read the second (A Symphony of Echoes, $12.99) and the third (A Second Chance, $12.95). And they continue to be delightful. Each starts with “Dramatis Thingummy”, a guide to the characters, with descriptions like:
        Professor Andrew Rapson: Head of R&D. Should not be allowed to play with matches.
        Doctor Octavius Dowson: Librarian, Archivist, and matches-hider.
        9 lb Double Gloucester Cheese: An instrument if not of death, certainly of major concussion.
        The third volume includes visits to Isaac Newton, the Trojan War, the Battle of Agincourt, and the early years of the Gloucester tradition of chasing round cheeses down a steep hill

        Steven Erikson is primarily known for his huge, grim, complex, excellent fantasy novels in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Willful Child ($8.99) is totally different. It’s only about 1/4 the size of his fantasy novels, and is humorous space opera. Imagine Captain Kirk at his most macho, narcissistic and misogynistic, cranked up by about a factor of 10, done for laughs, and you’ll have a good idea of what this book is like. If you enjoyed Redshirts by John Scalzi ($15.99), you’ll probably like Willful Child. But I’ve talked to some people who couldn’t finish it. The sequel, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty ($25.99) just arrived.

        This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie E. Czerneda ($7.99) is the seventh book about the Clan, a race that can pass for human but are not. It is very good, but you should read the earlier books first.
        The first trilogy written was the Trade Pact, consists of A Thousand Words for Stranger ($7.99), Ties of Power ($7.99), and To Trade the Stars ($7.99). The Trade Pact is a segment of the galaxy full of intelligent races, including humans. I’ve recommended this series to many people over the last 19 years, especially to people who enjoy Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe series.
        Later, Czerneda wrote a prequel trilogy, Stratification, consisting of Reap the Wild Wind ($7.99), Riders of the Storm ($7.99), and Rift in the Sky ($7.99), telling the story of where the Clan came from, the planet Cersi, where three very different sentient species co-exist, and telling why and how they fled to the Trade Pact part of the galaxy.
        The first half of This Gulf of Time and Stars takes place within the Trade Pact, as the Clan is being hunted down and killed. The survivors are searching for a way to escape back to where they came from, without a clear idea where that was or how to get there. The second half of the book follows the survivors as they get back to Cersi, meeting with members of the Clan who did not flee and trying to understand the background of the Clan.
        The next book in the series, The Gate to Futures Past ($26.00), arrived a couple of months ago, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. The Clan and the planet Cersi were an experiment set up long ago by the legendary vanished high tech civilization of the Hoveny, and the characters from This Gulf of Time and Stars go searching for the home of the Hoveny and some answers.

        Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds ($9.99) is the third in the big universe space opera series that began with Blue Remembered Earth ($8.99) and continued with On the Steel Breeze ($8.99). The first book begins about 150 years in the future, with Africa as the world’s dominant technological and economic power, and mankind spread across most of the solar system. Eunice Akinya was a space explorer, inventor, and entrepreneur, but exploration was what really motivated her. Most of her descendants are happy to run the business empire she created and rake in the money, but a few of her descendants are interested in things other than wealth. Cranky old Eunice (in various forms) and her descendants are the common thread through the trilogy. The second book deals with generation ships to colonize other planets, genetic manipulation to uplift elephants to human level intelligence, humans becoming merpeople and other ocean-dwelling beings, human-developed artificial intelligences, hostile alien artificial intelligences, cloning, and many other technological wonders.
        In Poseidon’s Wake, the colony planet Crucible receives a cryptic message from Gliese 163, seventy light-years away, requesting that Nnege Akinya come. Crucible was building a couple of generation ships and sends one of the ships to investigate the source of the signal, but Nnege is too old to survive the trip. Her daughter Goma, a biologist, and her brother Mposi, a government official, join the crew.
        In the solar system, Kanu Akinya is the merman ambassador to Mars, where the artificial intelligences have taken over and banned human colonization. The Martian AIs have learned somehow of this cryptic message, and soon Kanu is also on his way to Gliese 163. When the Akinyas gather at Gliese 163 they have to deal with Poseidon, a planet created by an ancient alien race, which will only allow living beings to visit, and has been destroying all AIs that try to visit the planet for millions of years.

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