Book Review: Star Wanderer by Joe Vasicek (Four Stars)


Book Review: Outworlder (Star Wanderer #1) by Joe Vasicek

(Four Stars)

“’There’s a real live girl with me on this ship.’ Few thoughts had ever filled him with so much terror.”

Reads like a throwback to the Golden Age of science fiction. Short, young-reader innocent, reflecting values of fifty years ago. Well done.

“You sure make better company than the stars.” “Stars.” “Yes, stars. That’s good.”

Peculiar that two intelligent young adults are together for three months with so little Continue reading


Book Review: “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells (Three Stars)


Book Review: “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells

(Three Stars)

“One of those. Normally they wait until later in the conversation, when the fact that I’m not actually looking at them starts really getting on their nerves.”

Short. Entertaining romp with enough subtly and misdirection to engage any reader. Very short. Leavened with almost enough humor. Love the “cover” art.

“See you in a week, Nata.” “And I won’t see you, Kay-dee.”

Gratuitous profanity cost Wells a star. Lazy writers use expletives to establish character, but continually pouring in new Continue reading

Book Review: “Loss of Signal” by S. B. Divya (Four Stars)


Book Review: “Loss of Signal” by S. B. Divya

(Five Stars)

“If someone offers you a chance to cheat death, the sane response is to accept it, right? Maybe not.”

Nice. Very short: very focused; very powerful. Hard science fiction, but even firmer grasp on the emotions of being alone, unarmed, and … scared to death. Find it on Enjoy.

“The moon loomed, familiar and white, filling most of my view as I rotated toward it: my cratered dream; my harsh mistress. The blanched horizon terrified me.”

Nice artwork by Jun Cen, though the phase of the moon and the earth don’t match as they should.

“You act out the scenes in your head, and you’re always the hero.”


Book Review: “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon (Four Stars)


Book Review: “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon

(Four Stars)

“His grandmother had never been very good at being normal.”

A fun twist on the typical heroic fantasy opening. All the tropes one expects of a Star Wars-like farm boy ripped out of his normal by a magic sword and stranger to teach him its use. But … no. Even a touch of humor.

“Goats thought themselves extremely clever and it was always rather a surprise to them when they were wrong.”

Seem disingenuous to accuse an eight-page story of being wordy, but the preceding sentence could have said as much in half the words.

“Good earth knows when it is loved.”

(2018 Hugo Award novella finalist. Illustration is cover of magazine in which story appeared; has nothing to do with story.)

Book Review: When We Fall by Kameron Hurley (Four Stars)


Book Review: “When We Fall” by Kameron Hurley

Four Stars

“Nothing logical or sane about life. We have only this, each other.”

A sensitive, introspective story about a spacer injured on the job. The stranger who talks her through the wait for rescue is a bit … different. Cool.

“We understood each other as only two people alone on the edge of annihilation can.”

Great voice and storytelling; the mechanics were a bit rough.

“You’re not real.” “I’m not human. I am very real.”

Book Review: “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Three Stars)


Book Review: “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Three Stars

“They wanted to be left alone. Nobody believed it.”

Intriguing take on an old science fiction saw. Good character and story development. A fun read. 2017 Finalist for 2017 Hugo Award novelette.

“It’s your conscious mind that’s the slave master, always worrying about control. Your unconscious only wants to preserve you.”

Quibble: There is no way an RV could surreptitiously approach, load, and depart an alien structure in the District of Columbia. Dozens–no, hundreds of private, corporate, and governmental cameras would record it and track the RVs every move.

“They don’t live in an imaginary future like most people.”

Big behavior shift by protagonist at climax not well presented. Nice cover art, though it has nothing to do with the story.

“There’s no death if there’s no self to be aware of.” “No life either.”

Book Review: The Tomato Thief (Jackalope Wives #2) by Ursula Vernon (Four Stars)


Book Review: “The Tomato Thief” (Jackalope Wives #2) by Ursula Vernon

Four Stars

“When someone in the desert asks for water, you give it to them. There weren’t many rules in the desert, but that was one of them.”

Good use of Arizona native and desert history and lore to add depth to this short story, a 2017 Hugo Awards finalist for novelettes. Another story with a mature–very mature–female protagonist. There must be a special on them this year. (They’re special every year.)

“There’d been a time, when she was young and immortal, when [redacted] she could have danced in the track that they left in the sand. She felt old and mortal now.”

Excellent slow slide from the mundane into the supernatural.

“‘I ain’t dying yet,’ and that may or may not have been a lie. She wasn’t quite sure.”

Book Review: “Little Wren and the Big Forest” by Michael J. Sullivan (Three Stars)

Book Review: “Little Wren and the Big Forest” by Michael J. Sullivan

Three Stars

“That was the nature of the forest. Things went in and never came out.”

A brief excursion into the greater world of Sullivan’s First Empire. This short story appears in Unfettered II, but I got it separately, so I’m reviewing independently. Not up to the quality of most Sullivan fiction, but a fun read.

“Naive. Innocent. Dumb. Maybe, Wren thought as she followed the sheep, but I’m not a coward.”

A modern fairy tale heroine. Pretty introspective for an eight-year-old.

“The moment you thought of something terrible, that’s exactly what would happen.”

Book Review: The Story of Kao Yu by Jonathan Strahan (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle

Three Stars

“Our bodies tell the truth, if our mouths do not.”

Well-written and interesting, but there’s no payoff. The story ended as the reader knew it must: a sad, true-to-life emptiness, but no pleasure.

“He is like a vase or a pot that has been shattered into small bits, and then restored, glued back together, fragment by fragment. It will look as good as new, if the work is done right, but you have to be careful with it. We will have to be careful.”