Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Larry at Number 10, by E.C. Radcliffe (author), Dave Hill (illustrator)

Matador, January 2021

Larry is the famous Chief Mouser at No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence, of the UK's Prime Minister. This is a children's picture book about Larry's adventures.

Larry has been through a few Prime Ministers, but the newest official chief resident has committed an outrage; he has brought in a dog! Is this dog, Dilyn, good at mousing? Not unless it's a squeaky toy mouse! Does he do dutiful paw-trol with Larry? He does not! Is he even capable of sitting on a windowsill, keeping lookout? Of course not! On top of everything, instead of chasing mice, he chases sausage strings!

That's along with getting walks, tickles, and compliments on how adorable the silly dog is, while Larry is busy meeting Im-purrtant People.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 (Liaden Universe #stories), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miler (author), Kevin T. Collins (narrator)

Audible Audio, June 2022 (original publication June 2013)

This is a collection of seventeen shorter Liaden Universe stories, and it reflects all the different aspects of that universe. We have several Moonhawk and Lute stories. These feel very much like fantasy, but this is the world Priscilla, future lifemate of Shan yos'Galan. Val Con yos'Phelium, as a young Scout, meets his first Clutch Turtle. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Star Surgeon, by Alan E. Nourse (author), Scott D. Farquhar (narrator)

LibriVox, June 2007 (original publication 1959)

Dal Timgar wants to be a surgeon. He's dreamed of it most of his life, and he has the intelligence and the discipline to do it.

Unfortunately, he's a Garvian, an alien, humanoid, but not human. No non-human has ever studied medicine on Hospital Earth; Dal is the first. And he's mostly not welcome.

When Earth developed a faster than light space drive, they also discovered a thriving Galactic Federation, composed of myriad different races. Each of them contributes some particular talent or achievement. Dal's race, the Garvians, are merchants, and especially good at managing people.

Earth's specialty is medicine. Since having a valued specialty is the price of full admission to the Galactic Federation, Earth, now "Hospital Earth," is determined to protect the reputation of its doctors and medical technology. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Light from Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250789075, September 2021

Lan Tran is the captain of a spaceship, and has, with her family, fled a galactic war to the backwater planet called Earth. They have purchased the Starrgate Donut shop from the retiring Thamavuongs, promising they would continue to make donuts, and not tear down the giant white donut. In fact, Lan Tran has plans for that giant donut.

Shizuka Satomi is a violin player, a renowned violin teacher, and a woman who has a pact with a demon. Due to an error in judgment when she was young, she owes Hell seven souls in return for not being consigned to Hell herself. She has delivered six, and has just one more year to deliver the seventh. In the course of her search, she by chance goes to the Starrgate Donut Shop, and met Lan Tran.

Katrina is a young trans woman, who has fled San Francisco for LA, to escape the father who objects, quite violently, to her violin playing and her trans identity. Unfortunately, the friend she thought would give her a safe landing in LA proves to be less of a friend than she thought. She winds up homeless again--but she has met Shizuka Satomi in a nearby park, and Miss Satomi had, after hearing her play her violin, urged her to call.

Friday, June 24, 2022

My Evil Mother: A Short Story, by Margaret Atwood

Amazon Original Stories, April 2022

It was never easy being a teenage girl in 1950s suburbia,, even without your mother being a witch. Well, maybe a witch. Maybe she's just very weird. Maybe she's just trying to protect her daughter from the dangers of the world.

Possibly the three aren't mutually exclusive.

Regardless, her mother doesn't quite fit in, despite pearls and floral aprons. There are the quiet but not completely secret conversations with neighborhood women in distress, suspicious plants in the garden, and the stern warning to avoid a boyfriend lest she die in the car crash that's going to kill him.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (author), Wil Wheaton (narrator)

Audible Studios, March 2022

When covid hits New York City, and the rest of the country, Jamie Gray is stuck in a dead-end job, as a driver for food delivery apps. Barely scrapping by, Jamie is bearing most of the cost of an apartment shared with three roommates. The struggle to keep things together is about to fall apart, when an old classmate, now most regular customer, suggests that Jamie apply for a job at KJS, his own employer. He knows there's an opening, and Jamie can do the job.

I'm going to stop right here and say that Jamie's gender is never identified. This can slip right by the
 reader or listener at first, because the story is told in first person, but Jamie's gender is never identified.

Jamie goes through a grueling screening process, which certainly makes it clear the job is in a remote location, in the tropics, requiring an improbably large number of vaccinations, and cut off from any contact with civilization.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Adult Assembly Required, by Abbi Waxman

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780593198766, May 2022

Laura Costello has left New York City and moved to Los Angeles, and is barely settled in to her new apartment when the building burns while she's out shopping.

And then it starts raining.

She takes refuge in a bookstore, and makes her first new friends. Nina the bookseller more or less adopts her, Polly decides she's the right person to fill the newly-empty room at the very eccentric rooming house she lives in. The cat that experiences her very wet clothing forgives her.

When they reach the rooming house, Maggie the owner accepts her, she gratefully accepts the room, and she meets some of her new roommates, including Impossibly Handsome Bob, who happens to have the room next to hers, and shares the bathroom with her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Crosstime (Crosstime/Blake Walker #1 & 2) by Andre Norton (author), Graham Rowat (narrator)

Tantor Audio, ISBN 9781666101126, March 2021 (original publication audio omnibus edition March 2008) (The Crossroads of Time original publication 1956) (Quest Crosstime original publication 1965)

Blake Walker was found as an orphaned or abandoned child, and raised as the child of the police officer who found him. He has no memories before that day, but while wholly human, he doesn't look quite like any familiar ethnic group. He also has a strange ability; he has a very reliable sense for when something seriously bad is about to happen.

Years later, in Crossroads of Time, he's in New York City, about to enroll in art school, when his sense of impending danger leads to him thwarting an attempted murder. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard, ISBN 9781250793270 February 2021

Thanh is a princess sent off at twelve as a hostage to another, allied nation Ephteria. Her experiences over the next ten years include falling in love with Princess Eldris, who will someday be Queen of Ephteria, and surviving a fire that destroys a palace there, and kills a lot of people. 

In the course of escaping that fire, she meets Giang, a servant girl from her own country of Binh Hai, who helped her get out of the burning palace, and whom she could never locate afterward.

Now she's back in Binh Hai, the least favored daughter of the Empress, and nominally responsible for managing negotiations with Ephteria. Ephteria has been growing stronger, a threat at least as much as an ally and trading partner, and negotiations will be tricky. Along with the more usual members of the delegation, Princess Eldris has come, and she has her own plans.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe (Great Discoveries), by George Johnson (author), Stephen Bowlby (narrator)

Blackstone Publishing, May 2022 

In the early years of the 20th century, a "computer" was a person, an actual flesh and blood human being, who was good at math. These computers were often women, because women were so much cheaper to hire. You could perfectly legally and openly offer much lower wages to women than to men, for the same work.

One of these women was Henrietta Swan Leavitt, employed by the Harvard Observatory to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical photographs.

There were two competing theories about the size of the universe at the time. One held that the Milky Way, our galaxy, was the entire universe, and the nebulae seen outside it were just wispy gas clouds. The other held that those nebulae were, in fact, other "island universes"--other galaxies like our own. It was Henrietta Leavitt who did the calculations that made it possible to answer the question. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250301130, July 2021

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this one. No question it's well-written, with some interesting characters.

It's set on a floating garbage patch after global warming has wiped out human civilization, as the rising oceans has drowned the land. The people surviving call the garbage patch the story is set on Garbagetown. Brighton Pier, the actual Brighton Pier, has been equipped with engines, and is traveling, apparently, among various floating garbage patch settlements. Early on, Garbagetown engaged in the Great Sorting, and one result is that, whatever you need, you know where to go to get it--assuming it's part of the wreckage of the civilization now called Fuckwits, that collected in this garbage patch.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (author), Amara Jasper (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250824776, April 2022

When we first meet Marra, she's building a bone dog in a barren, haunted wilderness. That's not where her story starts.

Marra is the third of three royal daughters, the youngest, the least apt, both socially and politically, but she loves her sisters and her mother. We don't hear much of her father, the king, mainly because it's the queen who has the good head for politics, and he lets her handle things.

Marra is heartbroken when her oldest sister, Damia, is married off to Prince Vorling, heir of the large and powerful Northern Kingdom, which has designs on their little harbor-focused kingdom--because of that very valuable harbor, through which so much valuable trade flows. But Damia dies far too soon after the wedding, and in mysterious circumstances, and after a year of official mourning, the next sister, Kania, is married off to him. Marra is sent off to a convent, she assumes because she's useless and will be happier there. Her mother loves her, but she hasn't lost track of the fact that Marra, too, is a royal princess. She's being kept in reserve.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks, by David Rooney (author, narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705051788, October 2021

This is a history, not of time, but of timekeeping and clocks, and how clocks have changed our lives.

Rooney grew up with parents who were clockmakers, and pursued a career in the maintenance and history of technology generally and clocks in particular, and is a former curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

He's also very focused on how clocks and timekeeping have been politicized and weaponized. Sometimes this can be annoying; sometimes it's just weirdly ironic. He offers us at the start the story of KAL Flight 007, the Korean commercial airliner shot down after entering Soviet airspace on September 1, 1983.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Colors of the Immortal Palette, by Caroline M. Yoachim

Uncanny Magazine, March 2021

Mariko's mother was Japanese, and her mother French, and she has grown up in 19th century France, becoming an artist's model and an artist when Claude Monet and Èdouard Manet are active. She sits most often for the man she refers to as "the immortal artist," and by "immortal," she does not mean his fame will never die. She wants to be immortal as an artist, and also simply immortal, and persuades him to help her transition to the second sort of immortality.

We get episodes of her life, headlined by a dominant color, as she matures, transitions to immortality, loses friends to old age, and struggles for artistic fame. Her meetings with the immortal artist grow less frequent, as their ideals and values drift apart.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Bots of the Lost Ark, by Suzanne Palmer

Clarkesworld, June 2021 

Ship (the shipmind of an old, damaged, starhopping ship) and Bot 9, one of the bots that helps maintain and operate the ship, don't really trust each other, but they face some major problems that they can't solve without working together. We don't at first know where the human crew is, or why the ship has been traveling, or drifting, for 68 years.

What we learn fairly quickly is that most of the ship's bots are organized into agglomerations, or "gloms," attempting to replicate the personalities and functions of the crew. This could theoretically be very useful, if different gloms weren't competing to "be" the same crew member. In part because they're fighting each other, and stealing bots from each other, they're not really getting the job done. This is critical, because after all the years in normal space, they're approaching a jump point, and it's inside the territory of a species who deeply distrust artificial intelligence--and who will destroy the ship if they don't find biological beings firmly in control. This makes a real problem for Ship and Bot 9.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250768728, November 2021

Lynesse Fourth Daughter is not her mother's favorite daughter. Indeed, she's barely acceptable, not learning to be diplomatic, reliable, a potential leader of the nation of Lannesite, which her mother rules. Indeed, she has done shocking things, like walk up the mountain to the tower where the sorcerer, Nyrgoth Elder lives. The sorcerer hasn't emerged since the days of Astresse Once Regent.

Lynesse's first trip up the mountain was as a child, just to see the tower and possibly the sorcerer. Court functionaries etched her down, and she got in the worst trouble ever.

Now, as an adult, she has headed back up the mountain again, with serious intent, because something monstrous is attacking neighboring polities, sending refugees fleeing to Lannesite, and her mother the Queen, and her advisors, think it's just the normal contentions among the lesser polities of Ordwood. They'll take in refugees, but not mobilize to take any action against the claimed demon, who surely doesn't exist. Lynesse has gone to the tower to awake and summon the sorcerer.

Nyrgoth Elder isn't a sorcerer. He's an anthropologist, second class, and when awakened from stasis, he's feeling very isolated, suspecting that the authorities that left him there may no longer exist.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

God's Science: Biology, Genetics, and Theology, by Paul Scherz (author, narrator)

Now You Know Media, ISBN 9781632515414, February 2018

Paul Scherz has a Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University, and a Ph,D, in theology from Notre Dame, and is an associate professor of moral theology at Catholic University of America. He's qualified to talk about the relationship between science and religion, and especially biology and genetics, and religion. He does so, as is probably obvious, from a Catholic perspective.

This set of lectures, just under five hours in total, is a very clear, understandable, and for me enjoyable listen.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

O2 Arena, by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Galaxy's Edge, November 2021

It's 2030, global warming has damaged natural production of oxygen, and our narrator and protagonist is entering law school, not because he wants to be a lawyer, but because he needs a career where he can earn enough O2 credits to live a comfortable life. He's prepared to cut corners and cheat if need be.

He has a friend, a woman named Ovoke, who is also entering law school. She's a better student and far more ethical, but they are very good friends, and he's the only one outside her family that she's told about her tumor, which is probably going to kill her. Her family is getting her the best care they can, but they simply do not have the O2 credits to afford the best care. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

L'Esprit de L'Escalier, by Catherynne M. Valente

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250824196, August 2021

In Greek myth, Orpheus, son of Apollo and Calliope, meets and falls in love with Eurydice. They marry and live very happily--for a short time, before Eurydice's untimely death. Orpheus descends into the underworld, and attempts to rescue Eurydice.

In this Hugo-finalist novelette, the story begins after Orpheus has succeeded, and he and Eurydice are living in the home where they were previously so happy.

Things have of course not worked out as Orpheus expected. The storytelling is delicate, sad, grim, merciless. 


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Rocket to the Morgue (Sister Ursula #2) by Anthony Boucher (author), F. Paul Wilson (forward)

American Mystery Classics, July 2019 (original publication 1942)

Police Detective Lt. Terence Marshall, of the Los Angeles Police Department, is home with his wife, Leona, feeding their new baby, while she asks about his day. Nothing interesting, he tells her. One dead drifter, though, shot dead in a very cheap hotel. A couple of odd things, though. He had $300 on him, that wasn't stolen, and an unusual rosary, with what seems to be the wrong number of beads.

It's a puzzle.

It's a bigger, more important puzzle, when they discover the dead man also has the private phone number of Hilary Foulkes, heir and literary executor of the late giant of science fiction, Fowler Foulkes, author the adventures of Dr. Derringer. Derringer has outlived Fowler, or would, if not for the fact that Hilary Foulkes charges extremely high fees for any use of Derringer's name, image, or adventures. He's killed many literary projects, original adventures, quotes of memorable lines as chapter headers, even audio records for the National Library for the Blind. A lot of people really hate Hilary Foulkes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Unseelie Brothers, Ltd., by Fran Wilde

Uncanny Magazine, May 2021

The Unseelie Brothers, Ltd., are the fashionable dressmakers everyone wants a dress from--and the men their evening wear, too. Unfortunately for those hopes, the Unseelie Brothers are rarely around. As in, not every decade.

When all the fashionable ladies' phones light up with a message announcing the return of the Unseelie Brothers, they all rush to locate where the venerable old shop is now. Not all will be able to find the shop. Not all who do will gain admittance.

Vanessa Saunders was one of the privileged few years ago, when she and her sister Serena wore Unseelie Brothers dresses to a ball, and met their husbands. Vanessa's husband was and is wealthy and socially prominent. Serena's, Sam Sebastian, was working the event as a busboy. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

That Story Isn’t the Story, by John Wiswell

Galaxy's Edge, November 2021
Anton is living in a spooky old house in New York City. The house belongs to Mr. Bird, and so do Anton, Pavla, Yoanna, and Mr. Bird's senior familiar, Walter. Mr. Bird bites them, each one in different places on the body. It's a dark, gloomy, unpleasant life, and they're all afraid to run away.

Anton has called an old friend, Grigorii, who has arrived to pick him up, while Mr. Bird isn't around. They go to Grigorii's home, and Anton starts living a very different life.

Them Mr. Bird and the other familiars come after him. and we learn what control he has over his familiars.

What I particularly like about this story is our growing understanding of how Mr. Bird's power works, and Anton's growing understanding, too.


I received this story as part of the 2022 Hugo Awards Packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Monday, June 6, 2022

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1) by Alix E. Harrow (author), Amy Landon (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250824486, October 2021

It's Zinnia Gray's 21st birthday, and she does not expect to have a 22nd. Due to an industrial accident when she was a young child, she has a rare genetic disease, and no one with this disease has lived past 21. She's become quiet and not outgoing, but she does have one good friend, Charmaine--or Charm.

Charm has planned a perfect birthday party for Zinnia, built around the story of Sleeping Beauty, in the tower of an abandoned prison. Zinnia is not too sure about the perfectness of this, especially when she sees the spinning wheel, and its spindle. Nevertheless, Charm persuades her to prick her finger on the spindle--and finds herself falling through the multiverse, seeing a long line of "Sleeping Beauties." She calls out to them, and one calls back.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Proof by Induction, by José Pablo Iriarte

Uncanny Magazine, May 2021, 

Paulie Gifford, a mathematician going for tenure at his university, the same university where his father was a Professor Emeritus until his death just before the start of this story. Paulie and his father had been collaborating on a proof of a mathematical theorem--and on top of losing his father, Paulie has just lost his research partner.

But, in this world, at an unspecified point in our future, there is a technology called Coda; it records a dying person's brain in the moments of death. The recording is interactive, and "knows" everything the deceased knew at the time of death. It can't form new memories, but family members can "enter" the Coda, talk to this recording of the deceased, and ask such mundane and important questions as, "Do you have an insurance policy?"

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Tangles, by Seanan McGuire

Art by Heonwha Cho, September 2021

  Wrenn and her tree, Seven, have been partners a long time, and now Seven wants to retire permanently to his own world. Wrenn, who is a dryad but not quite like other dryads, will need to find a new tree there. This won't be easy, because of the ways in which she is different from other dryads.

Teferi is a mage, traveling for reasons of his own. Most immediately, he has come into the Kessig forest, where Wrenn searches for the right tree, ostensibly to help the Cathars find the white witch rumored to be there, and really to escape the suffocating hospitality of the local townsfolk. He has quietly wandered away from the Cathars.

They encounter each other, and confront a threat, and then an even bigger danger.

This is apparently a Magic: The Gathering short story. I've never played the game, but very much enjoyed this story.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Sin of America by Catherynne M. Valente

Uncanny Magazine, March 2021, 

Sadly, I did not like this one.

It starts with what feels like a relatively long section of really drab, colorless detail, with no real reason to care about any of the people mentioned--most of whom, in the end, really do turn out not to matter in the story.

Then the story starts to get meatier, with one of the characters being identified as the chosen "sin-eater" for America, to eat all the sins of our history, in a diner in Wyoming. We learn some of the details of her life, of the people around her, and how she was chosen to be the sin-eater this time.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather, by Sarah Pinsker

Uncanny Magazine, March 2021

The form of this story is the comments on a site called "Lyricsplainer," discussing the lyrics and history of a folk song called, "Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather."

It appears to be a tragic romantic ballad, about a pair called Fair Ellen, and William. There is debate about what "fair" means with reference to Ellen. William might be the butcher's son, or he might have stolen something from the butcher's son, or he might be named William Butcher. Commenters make suggestions, downrate each other's suggestions, occasionally the moderator steps in.

Some of them are doing research elsewhere. One of the points of interest is a previous commenter, who went off to visit a likely location for the original story, but hasn't been heard from in a year.

The more they learn, or think they learn, the creepier it gets. Very absorbing, and quite well done.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Mr. Death, by Alix E. Harrow

Apex Magazine, February 2021

This is a sweet and moving story about Death, the celestial bureaucracy of death, and a junior reaper struggling with a difficult case.

The death he's supposed to witness, and the soul he's supposed to collect, is of a two-year-old boy. The reaper was among the living himself once, and suffered terrible loss, which usually makes him good at his job.

This case cuts especially close, and the reaper has a serious problem with going through the proper procedures, this time.

And that's all I can say, except it's sweet, moving, and carries a punch.