Black Amazon of Mars (1951) by Leigh Brackett

“My name is Stark. Eric John Stark, Earthman, out of Mercury.”

 

From 1949 to 1951, Leigh Brackett wrote three short stories set on Mars: “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”, “Enchantress of Venus” and “Black Amazon of Mars”. They each featured her Mercury-born hero, Eric John Stark, and were published in the pulp magazine Planet Stories. Pulp adventure or space fantasy, “Black Amazon of Mars” is an entertaining adventure story that both tips its hat to, and outshines, the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.

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At the beginning of the story, Stark is travelling across the cold “Norlands” of Mars with Camar, his Martian friend. They are being pursued and Camar has been mortally wounded. He has stolen something of great value, a “talisman”, which Stark promises to return to his friend’s city of birth, “Kushat”. Camar is pleased but fears for Stark’s safety if he continues on alone. Continue reading

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RIPXII Challenge

I’m a sucker for a reading challenge, especially when it coincides with one of my own. The last two years in October, I’ve taken my own *All Hallow’s Read challenge (*from an idea by Neil Gaiman). I limit my October reading choices to tales of the supernatural.

Two years ago, I read Richard Matheson’s Hell House and Stephen King’s The Shining. Last year, I chose Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Bag of Bones by King, again, and Nightmare Magazine#37: Queers Destroy Horror!

This year, I am joining the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII Challenge which runs from September 1st to October 31st. Here is a link to the sign-up page. Continue reading

Acadie (2017) by Dave Hutchinson

“What if I were to offer you a way off this howling nightmare of a planet? Right now?”
     “You have some kind of magic spaceship that takes off through seven-hundred-kilometer-an-hour blizzards?”
     She wrinkled her nose and grinned coquettishly. “Oh, I have something better than that.” (Loc 219)

 

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Art by Stephen Youll

Back cover blurb: “The first humans still hunt their children across the stars.

The Colony left Earth to find utopia, a home on a new planet where their leader could fully explore their genetic potential, unfettered by their homeworld’s restrictions. They settled a new paradise, and have been evolving and adapting for centuries. Earth has other plans.

The original humans have been tracking their descendants across the stars, bent on their annihilation. They won’t stop until the new humans have been destroyed, their experimentation wiped out of the human gene pool.

Can’t anyone let go of a grudge anymore?


John Wayne “Duke” Faraday, president of “the Colony”, is recovering from his 150th birthday celebrations when he is rudely awakened. An unidentified probe has been picked up on the scanners; a probe which could be from Earth. This is not good news for the Colony as they have no intention of being found. Will they shoot first and ask questions later? Or is the probe’s technology too valuable to simply destroy?

Part of Tor’s “Summer of Space Opera”, Dave Hutchinson’s new novella “Acadie” explores themes including genetic modification, artificial intelligence, and the colonization of new worlds. Being a Dave Hutchinson story, it is replete with crisp, flowing dialogue and a biting sense of humour. Continue reading

What happened to Summer Reading?

Hello September! Where did the summer go? It’s finally cooling down at night over here on the west side of Japan. Which means autumn is just around the corner, I’m happy to say. I love the heat of the summer over here, but you can take the humidity, please, no really, please take it away! Can you imagine working at a school in 35+ degree-heat with over 70% humidity, without air conditioning? It’s like working in a sauna.

But enough moaning from me. I hope your summer was fantastic. Did you get a lot of summer reading done?..

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I didn’t. Continue reading

Fairyland (1995) by Paul McAuley

“The man runs in a desperate zig-zag scramble, waving his arms as if trying to swat something. People scatter – they know what’s about to happen. The man has been targeted by a hornet, a small, self-powered micro-missile guided by scent to a specific target.” (p.267) 

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Paul McAuley’s 1995 novel Fairyland had been on my radar for a while until a laudatory tweet by author Adam Roberts convinced me to buy a copy. It is the 150th title to join Gollancz’s SF Masterworks collection. It was also the first novel published by Gollancz to win the Arthur C. Clarke Award, back in 1996. Here is the author talking about the book in an interview posted on the SF Gateway website’s blog:  Continue reading

Hammers on Bone (2016) by Cassandra Khaw

“My face is older than I remember, the lines longer, more entrenched in coarse brown skin. Puckered flesh details a history in bullet wounds, knife scars, burns. Ugly but human.” (p.75)

 

Hammers on Bone is a 2016 novella by Cassandra Khaw, the creator of Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef. It’s her first story to feature John Persons, a private investigator based in Croydon, South London. You could describe Persons as a Transformer-detective because there’s more to him than meets the eye. To say any more would be to spoil a fascinating plot device that Khaw uses. His latest client is a ten-year-old boy who has an unusual job for the PI. Continue reading

Mightier than the Sword (2017) by K.J. Parker

“Speaking as a military man, I despise fighting against lunatics. I’ve done it once or twice, and it sets your teeth on edge. You can’t predict what they’ll do, …” (Loc 570)

 

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Cover by Vincent Chong

When the Empress is your aunt, you’ve got to do what she says, even if you don’t like it. K.J. Parker’s latest novella pits an unnamed narrator against “the Land and Sea Raiders”, a group of mysterious pirates who have been attacking the land’s monasteries. We are told a brief history of encounters with the raiders, but until now, no-one has been able to discover exactly who they are or where they’re from.

“Our first experience of them was seventy long, high-castled warships suddenly appearing off Vica Bay. The governor […] sent a message to their leader inviting him to lunch. He came, and brought some friends; it was sixty years before Vica was rebuilt,” (Loc 129)

Continue reading