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Agent Of Vega by James H. Schmitz

Telepathic agents fight esoteric bad guys in a galactic civilization. Includes one bad-ass grandmaw agent. Mildly recommended.

Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older

The New York Council Of The Dead has a little problem with gremlins, and assigns a cantankerous inbetweener to solve it. Carlos Delacruz may be a post-death amnesiac, but he's good at his job, until his past comes back to... trip him up. Recommended.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

A depressing look at the problems facing interstellar colonization by generation ship, as told through the eyes of a teen girl with more than a few problems of her own. Bleak, but filled with good science, and not entirely without hope. Recommended.

Beyond The Aquila Rift: The Best Of Alastair Reynolds

A collection of some of Reynolds' best stories, mostly in the transhumanist space opera vein. More than adequately mind-bending, recommended.

Planet Mercenary: The Role-Playing Game by Bahr, Tayler, & Tayler

Set in the world of the "Schlock Mercenary" space opera webcomic, this is an entirely serviceable RPG. Medium-heavy on skills, light on stats, with a card-based mechanic to encourage roleplaying, and a tactical element in the form of the fire-team your character controls (and, possibly, throws under a bus). It's not going to replace Traveller or Starfinder anytime soon, but it's entirely deserving of a place on my shelf.

Seventy Maxims Of Maximally Effective Mercenaries by Howard Tayler

Part of the "Schlock Mercenary" universe, this is a slim collection of pithy sayings, such as, "If the price of collateral damage is high enough, you might get paid to bring ammunition home with you," and, "If it will blow a hole in the ground, it will double as an entrenching tool." Fun, and occasionally wise.
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The Totally Awesome Hulk v3: Big Apple Showdown by Pak, Ross, et al

The current Hulk is Amadeus Cho, 6th-smartest person in the world, and slightly-testosteroney teen. In this volume, he teams up with other assorted Asian and Asian-American superheroes to A) inspire Asian kids, and B) fight cannibalistic aliens as the Protectors. (Members include Ms. Marvel (Pakistani-American), Silk (Japanese-American), Shang-Chi (Chinese), Jimmy Woo (Chinese-American) Jake Oh (Japanese-American) and Cho himself (Korean-American).) It's a lot of fun, and it's good to see comics talking about the importance of representation.

She-Hulk: Deconstructed by Tamaki, Leon, Milla

And speaking of things comics should talk about more, this volume is about how She-Hulk is dealing with PTSD. She nearly got killed by Thanos a few months back, and it's changed how her Hulk-ness manifests: It's no longer under her control, and she turns gray, angry, and reckless. As she tries to put together a normal life, she's teetering on the brink of major property damage every few hours. Recommended.

The Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Kraven's Last Hunt by Owsley, Michelinie, DeMatteis, Romita, et al

This volume contains 15 issues of story, including two excellent ones, Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, and Kraven's Last Hunt itself. They bookend the volume, with the bits in-between being the stupidly complex story around the unmasking of the Hobgoblin, which suffered badly from executive meddling. I'm a little disappointed that they used the original coloring for the Kraven story (instead of the recolors from the old hardcover reprint), but even with all those faults, there's a lot of good in here.

The Nameless City v1 & v2 by Faith Erin Hicks

These are the first two volumes of a wonderful fantasy series, set in a crypto-Asian city that's been conquered and renamed so many times, the locals no longer bother to remember the current name. Our heroes are a local girl (parkour-practicing street rat) and the son of one of the most-recent conquering generals, who forge an unlikely friendship, and get caught up in the complicated politics. Recommended.

Bandette v1 & v2 by Tobin & Coover

Fun comic series about a Parisian cat burglar who is a carefree teen girl, prone to quips, hijinks, and a reckless disregard for consequences. She and her assorted sidekicks steal from the best and the worst, but always have time for chocolate. Recommended.
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Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

A remake of the original "Fuzzy" stories by H. Beam Piper, this is an eminently readable tale, mostly a courtroom drama, which suffers from the main villain being really petty and stupid. (The villain of the original story, by contrast, actually had redeeming features.) On a new planet, rich in resources, the only thing that can stop the exploitation is the question of whether the cute little cat creatures are sapient. Pity that their paladin is an amoral disbarred lawyer.

Key Out Of Time by Andre Norton

A story of space and time exploration, I got partway through and realized I was really bored, and irritated by the sexism and racism. Didn't finish.

The Warlock In Spite Of Himself by Christopher Stasheff

On a planet colonized by humans, psi powers have come to simulate magic, werewolves, and the Fair Folk. A Space Scout arrives and beings messing with the local politics. Innovative, but tedious, and the scout's attitude toward the local queen is half misogyny, half inappropriate lust for a teenager. Didn't finish.

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp

A modern man is cast back in time to the tail end of the Roman Empire, and acts to preserve it lest darkness fall. Interesting premise, but absurdly Eurocentric, local racism is presumed to be identical to mid-20th century racism, and the book ends with the main character planning a preemptive assassination of Muhammad, before he's even born, to prevent alleged "barbarian conquests". In the end, kind of repellent.

A Private Cosmos by Philip José Farmer

Third in his "World Of Tiers" series, a mildly enjoyable romp through a space fantasy constructed world.

Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock

I read most of the Elric stories years ago, but since they started being grossly repetitive, I never got around to this one, the "climax". There's some interesting stuff in here about the arc of the universe and destiny, but it's basically more of the same: Elric gets pointed in direction of quest, Elric goes on quest, Elric does some awful things, Elric prevails.
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Despite my best efforts to pace myself, I tore through ten books in Robin Hobb's Fitz-verse, including The Tawny Man Trilogy, The Rain Wilds Chronicles, and The Fitz & The Fool Trilogy. The Fitz stories are my favorite, though they are also usually the most heartbreaking. F&F, in particular, was sad enough that I sometimes had to step away for a little while. The Rain Wilds stories, by contrast, were nice and all, but didn't quite get to me in the same way (and I seriously think it could have been three books instead of four). Overall, however, decidedly recommended; start with Assassin's Apprentice.
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The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (illus. by Shanower)

An interesting origin story for Santa Claus, though a bit vapid by modern standards. Pretty art, tho'.

Told Under The Christmas Tree, compiled by Frances Cavanah

A perfectly nice 1940s collection of Christmas tales, some religious, some fantastical, some historical.

By Spaceship To The Moon by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt

As mentioned elsewhere, my elementary school had a copy of this (pre-Sputnik) book in its library, and I must have checked it out a half-dozen times. The science holds up pretty well, though the assumption that we would build a space station before attempting the moon didn't come true. The art is marvelous (Google it!). Space travel art that is not intended to be fantastic, but also was created before actual space travel, is a small niche, and it's wonderfully one step to the right of the reality. (See also Chesley Bonestell.)

Weirdworld: Warriors Of The Shadow Realm by Doug Moench et al

Created to cash in on the Tolkien craze, this Marvel comic is an amiable fantasy about two naive elves and their grumpy dwarf friend dealing with assorted crises in Weirdworld. Marvel did not stint on the production values here; several of these stories came out in special editions including copious notes, text features, and maps. Nevertheless, it's all a bit silly, what with islands shaped like skulls and such.

Mister X: The Archives by Dean Motter et al

I bought the original Mister X collection back in the 80s, which included just the first four issues. I always thought it was a delight. This collection includes the following ten issues as well, in which things get increasingly incoherent to no obvious purpose but disorientation. If they're attempting to make the reader feel like one of the citizens of Radiant City, with its mind-altering architecture, well, have at, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the original story.

Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

I heard many good things about this novel. I understand why it gets the praise it does. Nevertheless, I don't think it's my sort of book. I made it halfway through before I admitted that I wasn't enjoying it enough to finish it. So, I skipped ahead, read the last two chapters, and I'm calling it done. Good book, but not for me.
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When I was in grade school back in the 70s, the school library had a pre-Sputnik nonfiction book on space travel. I borrowed it several times, and the pictures engraved themselves in my brain, as such things do.

For decades, I've been idly trying to track down the book, which is tricky, given I didn't remember the title. It wasn't The Conquest Of Space or The Complete Book Of Space. Finally, I followed the right nostalgia-Tumblr, saw a familiar image, Googled it, got a name, and ordered a used copy off of Amazon: By Space Ship To The Moon by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt. Oh yeah, that's the stuff...
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The Last Convertible by Anton Myrer

A "great" American novel about the "Greatest" Generation, but it's mostly about people with poor communication skills making poor decisions. I made it through the war, but stopped reading shortly thereafter.

Worlds For The Taking by Kenneth Bulmer

Honestly, a lot of the reason I bought this was because of the use of the Function Display font on the cover (which Ace used occasionally in the 60s). A rather disturbing take on colonialism, with planets literally getting stolen and moved by the Terran Corps. Also prey to more-than-the-usual foibles of its era; I think I set the book down shortly after, in the middle of a firefight when allies are dying all around him, one of the POV characters takes a moment to sexually harass his communications officer.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

I love Huff's work, but the starting premise of this book involved generations of people being mind-controlled into forced sex, and I'm not spending any more time with that.
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Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise by Chris A. Jackson

The first two tales of Captain Torius Vin and the Stargazer, pirates of good repute in the world of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. Entertaining, and written by someone who actually knows his way around ships! I've introduced them as background NPCs in the game I'm GMing.

The abc's Of Model Railroading

A collection of articles from circa 1978, I picked it up for nostalgia purposes. (My father and I were briefly into model rail around that era.) Vastly out-of-date in many ways, and the variety of articles highlighted how I'm way more interested in some aspects of the hobby than others.

The Darksword Trilogy: Forging The Darksword by Weis & Hickman

I read the first two novels in this series in 1988 (while in Army job training), and never finished the trilogy. I re-read this one in part to see if it was worth finishing. While it's perfectly competent 1980s fantasy (with some imaginative worldbuilding), it doesn't quite cross that threshold. Brief synopsis: In a world where anyone born without magic is killed at birth, the emperor's son is born thus "Dead". An appropriate number of years later, a mysterious young man starts getting in the way of the plans of the powerful and treacherous, and learns the ways of "technology". Mildly entertaining.

Blades In The Dark by John Harper

A fantasy RPG, combing an adjacent-to-the-Apocalypse system with a Thief: The Dark Project setting. The system owes a great deal to Apocalypse World, including standard moves available to all PCs, and special playbooks for specific classes. Also, an emphasis on the GM rolling dice as little as possible, "success with cost" as a basic mechanic, etc. It also has some brilliant rules for handling capers and planning, preventing the time-waste of making a plan when you know something is going to go wrong. The setting is a dark fantasy city, in which the party are criminals on their way up through carefully organized tiers and structures of the underworld. Highly recommended.

D&D: Tales From The Yawning Portal

A collection of D&D dungeons across the decades, adapted for fifth edition. It includes four dungeons from 1978-1981, two from 2000, and one from 2014, which is an interesting spread. I'm dubious that literally nothing from the 90s deserved inclusion, but there are probably publishing realities I'm not privy to. Anyway, many of these are absolute classics Like Tomb Of Horrors and White Plume Mountain, and even the recent ones like Sunless Citadel have some claim to being classics. Recommended.
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Some thoughts on the fantasy genre, particularly loosely-Tolkienian stuff.

Fantasy stories are set on Earth, or not set on Earth. (There's certainly a gray area, especially prior to the 20th century, but anyway.)

If they're not set on Earth, the world nevertheless usually has a lot in common with Earth. E.g., humans, horses, breathable air, oceans, a day-night cycle of about 24 hours, a year of about 365 days, stars, and a sun.

Where the sticking point often comes is with the Moon. All those things above, while Earth-like, could just be "coincidental" similarities. The Moon, by contrast, is a unique object, and if the moon in the fantasy world is the same as Luna, then your setting is Earth.

However, if you make a big point of the moon being different, or absent, or having several of them, you've brought in the conscious awareness of the world as a planet, which gets people thinking of science fictional tropes. Which, ideally, you'd like to avoid in most fantasies.

(D&D settings are usually okay with this, because D&D has had science-fantasy in it since day two.)

I'm thinking of this while reading Robin Hobb's Elderling books, where there is a moon, but we get only vague hints about it, probably due to her awareness of the above issues.

Anyhoo, just noodling.
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Apocalypse World 2e by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker

This is the second edition of an influential roleplaying game. The setting is Mad Max-y, mixed with other post-apocalypse media. The system is strongly class-based, with such classes as the Chopper, the Driver, and the Battlebabe. Each class gets their own special powers, and the primary mechanic is rolling 2d6+stat, where "stat" can be either something resembling the stats from other games, or the strength of a relationship, or something else more situational. (To my tepid amusement, this edition never gets around to saying "the basic roll is 2d6". You have to deduce that from scattered hints.) Unusually, the GM never rolls dice; players roll to attack or defend, but the GM just declares situations. Recommended!
The core system of highly-specific-to-genre stats, class-based powers, relationships as stats, etc., has been adapted into other games, such as:

Dungeon World by LaTorra & Koebel

D&D, as Powered By The Apocalypse. This game manages to faithfully embody many of the cliches of D&D, while simultaneously making you look at them in all-new ways. Unlike old AD&D, where the rulebooks seemed to focus on whatever had caught Gygax's eye that day, this game narrows its gaze on the meat of dungeon adventuring. Its handling of "fronts" (the big threats that face the world) is incredibly useful and insightful. Recommended.

Farflung: Sci-Fi Role-Play After Dark by Wallebhaupt et al

This is a posthuman, end-of-time, high space operatric weirdness SF game, Powered By The Apocalypse. Its focus is more vague than the previous two games, since there's a lot of different ways to play SF, but it still brings some good insights to the table. It certainly doesn't stint on anything, including 11 base stats of various sorts (six proper attributes, three kinds of hit points, and two power pools), and a couple dozen classes. The attributes are named top, bottom, strange, charm, up and down, which I find simultaneously twee and inspiring. (I'm noodling a game where your stats are based on the seven operations of alchemy.) The art has a tendency to drift toward the kinky, which may be a plus or minus in your eyes. And, I rather like the underlying system of fueling your powers by turning future into history, which can then be used to inspire people you have a history with. Mildly recommended.

Scooby Apocalypse by Giffen, DeMatteis, and Porter

And what if Scooby was a genetic experiment, Velma was a mad scientist, Daphne was an investigative reporter, and the setting was Burning Man on the day the crypto-zombie apocalypse started? Calling this a darker and grittier reboot is vastly oversimplifying: It's weirder, and bloodier, and isn't afraid to look into the gang's souls. I'm on board for the ride.

X-Men: Lonely Are The Hunted by Thomas, Roth, Heck, and Tuska

This is a fat collection of late-1960s X-Men adventures, long before Wolverine and Storm, but after Lee and Kirby. It features the Factor Three saga, the first appearance of Banshee, and a couple sets of new costumes. Mildly recommended to fans.

Batman And The Outsiders by Barr and Aparo

Batman quits the Justice League and forms his own team of heroes, including Black Lightning, Halo, Metamorpho, and the brand-new character Katana, who has gone on to be DC's most prominent female Asian hero. She is both somewhat cliched — Japanese samurai with dark past, magical sword, strong sense of honor — and refreshingly different from so many other female heroes, in that she's fully dressed, her top isn't skintight, no-one spends any time ogling her, she's a widow, and her role in the team is "big sister". It was good to see the origins of this team, and the handling of Batman's secret ID is fun. Mildly recommended.

Reasons

Apr. 5th, 2017 10:49 am
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While I encourage people to investigate and discuss the new LiveJournal Terms Of Service, and come to their own conclusions about them, I decline to further discuss my own reasoning for switching from LJ to DW.

(This is why I closed comments on my last LJ post.)
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Well, after 14 years, the newest Terms Of Service for LJ have me switching to Dreamwidth.

I'm "woodwardiocom" over there, too.
woodwardiocom: (Me Back BW)
Thanks (predominantly) to changing my diet, and attendant weight loss, my A1C is now down to 5.8, which means I am no longer diabetic (in the sense that carbs and sugar won't send my glucose skyrocketing).

I still need to keep the weight off, or my insulin resistance will return, but it means an occasional splurge won't disintegrate my retinas...
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Octavia Butler's best work?
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Dehliah Dirk And The King's Shilling
All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant by Remender, Immonen
Swords Of Sorrow by Gail Simone and many more
Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé R. Monster
The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic
How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando
Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
Spacewreck: Ghostships And Derelicts Of Space by Stewart Cowley
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Dragon's Winter and Dragon's Treasure by Elizabeth A. Lynn (2 books)
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by L'Engle, Larson
The Emerald Key by Daigle and Sternberg
The Kobold Guide To Worldbuilding, edited by Janna Silverstein
Memories Of The Future by Wil Wheaton
A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman
The Burning City by Niven & Pournelle
Detour To Otherness by Kuttner & Moore
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Existence by David Brin
Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes
Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Bitch Planet by Deconnic & De Landro
Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson
The Compleat Enchanter by deCamp and Pratt
Under The Green Star by Lin Carter
The Gates Of Creation by Philip José Farmer
The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague deCamp
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Rise Of The Robotariat: Tales From The Front Lines by Jule Pattison-Gordon
The Art Of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
The Victorian Bookshelf: An Introduction To 61 Essential Novels by Jess Nevins
Off The Main Sequence by Robert A. Heinlein
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber
The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg
Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka
Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart
The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves
Unbound by Jim C. Hines
The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton
Snuff by Terry Pratchett
The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
Hoka by Anderson and Dickson
It's Superman by Tom De Haven
The End Of All Things by John Scalzi
Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)
Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin
Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell
The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys
Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

The raw count is 68. Rounding down a bit for comics and books unfinished, that's comparable with last year. (I'd forgotten how fast I tore through six Robin Hobb books. Better order the next trilogy or two...)
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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)

It's been long enough since I read this anthology that I don't specifically remember any of the stories.

Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin

Ditto.

Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell

Ditto, tho' this is a collection. (Abridged from the original collection.)

The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys

Nominally about freeing an occupied Earth, actually about Budrys' father and occupied Lithuania. Contains a lot of political philosophy, some minor action, and a complete unwillingness to deal with the multi-year journey from Alpha Centauri to Earth. (The story is explicit about it taking years, but skips over it like it was a week or so.)

Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

A re-read. Some good stories, some whose sexual politics have slid into "completely creepy" over the decades.
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The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Interesting post-apocalyptic murder mystery-slash-political drama, vaguely steampunky. Recommended.

Hoka by Anderson and Dickson

On its face, cute retellings of stories and history using sentient alien teddy bears as main characters. On a moment's reflection, it's about the destruction of local culture by colonists, and even uses the phrase "Earthman's burden", while trying to make it look cute. And the very first female character is introduced breast-first, which counts for at least two strikes with me, by itself. Yech.

It's Superman by Tom De Haven

Aggressively Depression-era retelling of Superman's origin. Different enough from the thousand other retellings to be interesting, and entertaining in its own right. Recommended.

The End Of All Things by John Scalzi

A climax, and probably conclusion, to the Old Man's War universe, with humanity tracking down plots and perfidy in an attempt to survive. Nth in a series, recommended.
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I remain terribly behind on reviews, so brevity is the soul of gettin' it done.

The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves

Sequel to The Shattered World, an imaginative not-derivative-of-Tolkien fantasy. Recommended.

Unbound by Jim C. Hines

The secret that magic comes from books is out, and it's causing oodles of problems. Third in a series, recommended, not least (nor most) for including polyamory.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton

I get a bit tired of Hamilton's tendency to include crypto-fantasy in the middle of his space operas, but the creepy reveal towards the end of this one makes up for a lot. Set in a multibook universe, recommended.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Far from the best Discworld novel, but I was entertained.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Steampunky first in a series of (possibly post-apocalyptic) fantasy, with nicely detailed airship battle tactics. Recommended.
woodwardiocom: (Me Turtleneck 1)
Consider, a retelling of Groundhog Day, in which our hapless protagonist, A) has a modern cell phone, which B) is affected the same way he is. (E.g., if he takes a photo on one day, it's still there the next.)

Speculate.
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Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg

Super-Science Fiction was one of the pulpiest of the pulps, and ran for 18 issues in the mid-1950s. Silverberg was a regular contributor, and was tapped to edit this collection. Many of the stories are fun, and many are mortifying. My rose-colored glasses and fondness for undersized hardcovers keeps it on my shelf.

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka

First in a long-running series of space operas (adapted into a long-running anime series, allegedly due for American release), this is a satisfying start to an epic of gray vs. grey battles, with some reasonably believable tactics (that aren't just wet navy tactics in space).

Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

An intriguing fantasy of palace politics, and the borderland between reality and myth. Memory, wax, and charcoal mix and merge.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A young girl is admitted to the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy, but it means giving up her family and dealing with the pervasive racism of the world outside. Then she is touched by the war... Well-deserving of its Hugo.

The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle

"The Horror At Red Hook" is one of Lovecraft's most racist stories, and that's a high bar. This is the story told from the other side, addressing and deconstructing the racism from the POV of the protagonist, a black entertainer who gets hired by the sort of fools who invite the attention of elder gods... Recommended.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Second in her Broken Earth trilogy, this volume is not quite as strong as the first, but it's certainly still good. The world is falling apart, and our protagonists are trying to hold together the last fraying bits of civilization, while also learning their real capabilities in the shards of their broken families. Entirely recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Heaven knows I tend to collect things, and letting go is a skill I'm slowly learning. A lot of the advice in this book is quite good, some is a touch twee, and I'm not yet able to apply it all, but it's still good stuff.

The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon

This novel drifted into our house by chance, and I gave it a shot. It's nominally about a historian doing some research on a classical composer, so as to clear up an issue of inheritance. The pace is slow, and little of actual interest happens. A lot of the book is a rather fetishistic depiction of Venice, in an "Oh god, how could I possibly live in Paris or London after having lived in Venice?" way. Not recommended unless you have a specific interest in the topic.

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.

At the end of the first volume, I still kind of liked Heinlein. By the end of this one, I wanted to shake him. As a military man myself, I think I've identified how he went wrong. Military training involves a lot of, basically, brainwashing. In particular, being told that because of your service you are set apart from civilians. They need your protection; while you are polite to them, you are their betters. Heinlein was a naval officer, which is all that to the Nth degree. His plan was to be the captain of a ship, and a captain of a ship at sea is as close to God as you get in terms of autocratic authority and power (in the eyes of naval officers, at least). Then, of course, he got sick, got kicked out of the Navy, and spent the rest of his life with a sort of stunted superiority complex. (His utter disdain for "getting a real job" is clear through both volumes.) Because he was both very smart and very talented, this was not always a problem, but I don't recall any point where he ever admitted to error without blatant reality smacking him in the face, and his willingness to accept propaganda from the US military led him astray an awful lot. He simply didn't have a mechanism for accepting constructive criticism, and he judged others (especially foreigners) by how well they served him. There's also a frequent refrain, regarding his more pedagogical books, that their tendency to be misunderstood was always failures of the students. Well, no, if the common factor in all these failures is the teacher...

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

The first volume of The Expanse, and a rousing adventure it is. A Solar System full of tension is pushed into war by assorted machinations and an awful little McGuffin. Our heroes are flawed nobodies thrust into prominence, and some handle it better than others. The TV series is quite faithful, and I recommend both formats.

Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart

We've long known Hellboy was the son of a devil, and here he finishes his strange journey past death into something resembling peace. I had the privilege of co-authoring the Hellboy RPG, and thus have a lot of fondness for Red. I'm going to miss him.
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